Whoever could have imagined that a movie that came out 40 years ago would have such a massive impact, not just on movies in general, but pop culture as well. Certainly not the director, as George Lucas felt sure that the movie would be a flop. Never-the-less, this is the movie that would start an empire. Supposedly, I saw this when it was in theaters, though since it came out 5 days before I was born, I’m guessing it was when it was re-released the next year. Either way, the first time I remember seeing it was after I had seen The Empire Strikes Back in theaters (which I definitely remember seeing) and immediately enjoying it. Since then, I was hooked, as I remember getting dozens of the toys and action figures as a kid, then buying the books, comics, and video games later in life. I have probably given George Lucas hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars over the years and don’t regret a single bit of it. I had copies of the original trilogy on VHS and wanted to upgrade them to DVD but the only version released was the Special Edition versions that came out in 1997. I kept waiting and waiting for the original theatrical versions to be released and finally, a 2-disk set came out that had the original version of the film, albeit from the 1993 LaserDisc release, but it was probably the best I would get to owning the theatrical versions so I happily bought them up. Now let’s sit back and watch an adventure in a galaxy far, far away in today’s movie, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
The plot: During a period of galactic war, Rebel spies have managed to steal plans for the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star. As the Rebel ship makes it’s way back to the Rebel base, they are pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer, which eventually disables their ship. As the Rebel soldiers prepare to repel boarders, C-3PO, a protocol droid, and his astromech counterpart R2-D2, find themselves caught in the crossfire and quickly make their escape. 3PO loses sight of R2 momentarily but soon finds him with Princess Leia, who gives R2 something and sends him away. As Darth Vader boards the ship and begins to interrogate the prisoners, R2 and 3PO board an escape pod and R2 jettisons it, where it heads towards the nearby planet of Tatooine. Meanwhile, Leia is captured by some Stormtroopers and taken to Vader, who doesn’t believe her claim of being on a diplomatic mission and, after hearing that an escape pod had been jetisoned during the fight, sends a squad down to see if the plans were inside while he takes Leia to the Death Star for interrogation. On Tatooine, 3PO and R2 get into an argument when R2 says he has a mission to perform and they end up going their separate ways but they both end up being captured by Jawas, a species of desert scavengers, and taken aboard their massive Sandcrawler. Fitted with restraining bolts, 3PO and R2, along with several other droids, are taken outside to be displayed for sale. Owen Lars, a moisture farmer, buys 3PO and another droid, R5-D4, but when R5 malfunctions, he takes R2 instead and has his nephew Luke Skywalker clean them up. As Luke is cleaning them, he finds a hidden message in R2 memory banks from Princess Leia, asking someone named Obi-Wan Kenobi for help. Luke wonders if the Leia is talking about Old Ben Kenobi, a hermit that lives out in the desert, and tries to replay all of the message. 3PO tells him that R2 says the restraining bolt might be interfering with his playing all of the message so Luke removes the bolt but the message disappears and R2 says that his memory banks are malfunctioning. Lukemis called away to dinner and he talks with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru about the droids and the message but Owen tells him to ignore it and have the droids memory erased. Luke then mentions about his signing up for the academy and Owen tells him to wait till after the harvest, which disappoints Luke and he leaves the room. After he leaves, Beru tells Owen he can’t keep Luke here forever as he is too much like his father, and Owen tells her that is what worries him. Luke returns to the maintenance pod and finds 3PO hiding behind some crates and R2 has run off. The next morning, Luke and 3PO go looking for R2 and eventually find him but R2’s scanners detect some creatures approaching. Realizing that they might be Tusken Raiders, commonly referred to as Sand People, Luke goes to investigate and sees some Banthas, a large creature the Sand People ride, and a lone raider when he is attacked and knocked unconscious by another raider. The raider drags the unconscious Luke to his airspeeder, where some other raiders are preparing to loot it when they are startled by a loud noise and an approaching figure waving his arms, causing them to quickly flee. The figure bends over to check on Luke and, sensing R2 watching him, motions him to come forward. Luke regains consciousness and, after recognizing Ben, tells him about the droid. Ben admits that he is Obi-Wan but doesn’t recall ever owning a droid and as they hear more raiders approaching, they quickly gather 3PO and head to Obi-Wan’s house. As Luke works on repairing 3PO, he learns that his father had served with Obi-Wan during the Clone Wars, and then gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, the weapon of the Jedi Knights. Luke, who has no knowledge of his father, asks Obi-Wan how he died and Obi-Wan tells him that a former pupil of his, Darth Vader, killed him. They then play the entire message and Obi-Wan asks Luke to accompany him to Alderraan but Luke says he can’t go as he has too much work to do here but offers to take him to Anchorhead so Obi-Wan can head to one of the space ports. Meanwhile, Vader’s Star Destroyer arrives at the Death Star, a moon-sized battle station, and accompanies Grand Moff Tarkin to a meeting of several high ranking officers, where Tarkin informs them that the Emperor has abolished the Senate and that the regional governors will now control their sectors of the Empire. Back on Tatooine, Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids find the remains of the Jawas’ Sandcrawler and when Obi-Wan says that Stormtroopers did this, Luke realizes that they could have traced the droids back to his home and he races back there only to find it destroyed and his Aunt and Uncle have been reduced to skeletons. Luke returns to Obi-Wan and the others and tells him that he will go with him and asks him to teach him the ways of the force so he can become a Jedi like his father. They travel to Mos Eisley, where Obi-Wan uses the force to convince a Stormtrooper patrol to let them pass, and head into the cantina. Inside, Obi-Wan and Luke meet with Han Solo and his Wookie co-pilot Chewbacca and they bargain for passage on his ship, the Millennium Falcon. As Chewbacca leaves to get the ship ready, Han is confronted by a bounty hunter named Greedo, who is there to collect the bounty that Jabba the Hutt placed on Han, but Han manages to shoot him first and quickly leaves. Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids meet up with Han and Chewbacca and board the Falcon but an Imperial spy followed them and alerts some Stormtroopers and tries to stop them from leaving but they manage to take off, then avoid a pair of Star Destroyers before making the jump to light speed. Meanwhile, Leia has proven able to resist the mind probes so Tarkin has the Death Star head to Alderraan, then threatens to blow it up unless Leia reveals the location of the Rebel base. Left with no choice, Leia tells him that the base is on Dantooine but Tarkin goes ahead and has the Death Star destroy Alderraan, as a show of force to dissuade other planets from joining the Rebellion. As they travel through hyper space, Obi-Wan feels the destruction of Alderraan but doesn’t know exactly what it was and tells Luke to continue his training with the lightsaber. When they reach Alderraan, the come out of hyper space only to find the planet is gone and nothing but planetary debris in the area. When an Imperial Tie-Fighter flies by them, they follow it and end up being captured by the Death Star’s tractor beams and brought inside the station. The group hide in Han’s smuggling compartments to avoid being detected and after the majority of soldiers leave the hangar, they knock out the scanning crew and it’s guards. Han and Luke then don the Stormtrooper armor as disguises and they take over the control room. R2 heads over to the computer and locates the tractor beam control console and Obi-Wan makes his way their to power it down so they can escape. After he leaves, R2 says that he found Leia on the station and Luke convinces Han and Chewbacca to help him rescue her, leaving 3PO and R2 in the control room. Pretending that Chewbacca is their prisoner, Luke and Han escort him to the detention and, under the cover of Chewbacca’s escaping, manage to shoot all of the guards and cameras. Han heads to the control panel and tries stalling the Imperial reinforcements while Luke goes to get Leia out of her cell. Meanwhile, Vader senses the presence of Obi-Wan and tells Tarkin, who finds it impossible to believe that he is still alive. When they receive word of the disturbance in the detention center, Tarkin orders his men to stop them while Vader goes to confront his old master. Inside the detention center, Stormtroopers blast through the door, cutting off their escape so Luke radios 3PO but they are unable to help them as Imperial troops are attempting to get into the control room. Finding themselves trapped, Leia grabs Luke’s gun and blast the hatch off the garbage chute and jumps down into it, followed by Chewbacca, Luke, and Han. As they try to figure out how to get out of there, they hear a strange roar and Luke is suddenly grabbed by a tentacle and dragged under the trash-filled water. He briefly surfaces and Leia and Han try to help him but is dragged back under when a clanking sound is heard and Luke surfaces, saying the creature just disappeared. Suddenly, the walls start moving towards each other and as Han tries to brace them with debris, Luke tries calling 3PO for help but gets no response. In the control room, Stormtroopers open the door and find 3PO and R2 trapped in a closet, claiming that the intruders locked them in there. After 3PO points them in the direction of the prison, he convinces the guard to let him take R2 to maintenance for servicing, then they duck into a corridor on the landing dock and contact Luke, who tells him to shut down the garbage chutes on the detention level. Obi-Wan makes it to the tractor beam power center and lowers the power to the tractor beams, then heads back to the Falcoln, using the Force to distract some troopers who are in the area. Meanwhile, Han and the others exit the garbage chute and head towards the Falcon but when they run into some Stormtroopers, Han fires at them and starts chasing them, with Chewbacca following behind him, leaving Luke and Leia to make it to the Falcon on their own. As the two pairs head to the Falcon, Obi-Wan encounters Vader and the two begin dueling with their lightsabers. As their fight takes them close to the hangar, it attracts the attention of the guards, leaving Luke and the others free to head to the Falcon. As they are getting on board, Luke sees the fight and Obi-Wan notices him, then allows Vader to strike him with his lightsaber, causing him to disappear leaving only his lightsaber and his robe behind. Luke cries out and starts shooting at the Stormtroopers when he hears Obi-Wan’s voice telling him to run and he quickly boards the Falcon so they can leave. As Luke grieves over Obi-Wan’s help, Han has him help man the Falcon’s quad cannons so they can take out the Tie Fighters that are chasing after them. The Falcon makes the jump to Hyper Space but unknown to them, Tarkin and Vader had a homing beacon placed on the ship so they could follow them to the Rebel base. As they head to the Rebel base, Han and Leia get into an argument over his helping only for a reward and Han later messes with Luke’s obvious attraction for Leia by asking if he thinks she would go for a guy like him (Han). The Falcon reaches the Rebel base on Yavin 4 and they analyze the plans that were inside R2 to discover the weakness to the Death Star; an exhaust port that leads to the main reactor. A briefing is held to explain the battle plan, as they know the Death Star is on it’s way to Yavin and Luke joins up to fly into battle. Before he leaves, he tries to convince Han to stay and help but Han tells him that he has to pay off some debts and asks Luke to come with him but they admit they have their own paths to follow and wish each other luck. The Rebel fighter groups take off in their X-Wings and Y-Wings and approach the Death Star, taking fire from the turrents that are on the surface of the station. When the turrents have little effect hitting the smaller fighters, Tarkin has Tie Fighters released to combat then while Vader heads out in his own personal fighter with two fighters serving as his guards. Gold group heads into the trench to make a run on the target but they are attacked and killed by Vader and his group. Red leader and two members of Red group head down into the trench to make their attack run, telling Luke that he will make the next run with Wedge Antilles and Biggs Darklighter. Red Leader loses his cover ships but manages to make the shot only for it to miss the exhaust port. Red Leader orders Luke to make his run right before he is killed so Luke heads down into the trench, with Wedge and Biggs staying behind to cover him. Wedge’s X-Wing is damaged and he is forced to leave the trench while Biggs is killed. Luke begins to target the exhaust port but he hears Obi-Wan’s voice telling him to use the Force so he turns it off, causing the Rebel base to be concerned. Vader fires on Luke and manages to hit R2, damaging him, but before Vader can destroy Luke’s X-Wing, Han and Chewbacca arrive in the Falcon, destorying one of Vader’s flanking ships while causing the other to crash into Vader, destroying it and sending Vader careening into space. Just as the Death star gets into range to fire at Yavin, Luke takes his shot and the proton torpedoes go in the exhaust port, destroying the reactor and causing the Death Star to explode. As the surviving fighter return to Yavin, Leia is there to greet the triumphant Luke, Han, and Chewbacca as the Rebel forces all cheer their victory while 3PO worries about the damaged R2 and begs that he be repaired. Some time later, an awards ceremony is held with Leia giving Luke, Han, and Chewbacca medals, while 3PO and a repaired R2 cheer from the side.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was highly praised by the critics,receiving a certified fresh rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster film making and things have never been the same.” The Krayt Dragon skeleton that C-3P0 walks by in the desert was left in the Tunisian desert when filming was finished and when Attack Of The Clones was filming, the film crew went to the site and discovered it was still there. While Lucas was filming in Tunisia, the Libyan government was concerned about the massive military vehicle parked outside their border, so the Tunisian government asked Lucas to move the Sandcrawler further in country and away from the border. Contrary to Lucas’ belief, the movie was a massive box office hit, earning $775.4 million off of an $11 million budget, surpassing Jaws as the highest grossing film of all time and, when adjusted for inflation, is the third highest grossing film in the world. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning 7 of them, and was one of the first films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry while the soundtrack was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2004.
No two ways about it, I love this movie. The acting was great, with Mark Hamill (Luke), Alec Guinness (Kenobi), Harrison Ford (Han), and Carrie Fisher (Leia) were all fantastic in their roles and the chemistry between them was great. I also liked Peter Cushing as Tarkin, who made for a great bad guy though almost everything I have seen him in since he has played the good guy. The story was fantastic, bringing a sword and sorcery element to a sci-fi movie the likes of which I don’t recall seeing before. While Luke probably had the most character growth throughout the movie, I thought it was good that they also showed more depth with Han and Leia, instead of making them simply two dimensional characters. At the time, the special effects in this movie were incredible and, while dated, still hold up to quite a degree and are part of the reason this movie became the hit that it was. Without a doubt, an iconic movie that everyone should see.
Rating: 5 out of 5