Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

With this review, I’m two thirds of the way home. It occurred to me that I (and probably many others like me) have not seen the original cut of any of the original trilogy. Lucas and his team of spineless, submissive boffins have been tinkering with the films practically since they were released. So, I’m reviewing the versions on the recently released Blu-ray boxset. As with nearly all of these changes, they stick out like a housebrick in your morning cornflakes, so I’ll set aside a paragraph to comment on any changes that improve, or more likely, denigrate the film. Anyway, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

It has been scientifically proven that one cannot say anything new about Star Wars. It’s got to the point where even commenting on the fact that you can’t say anything new about Star Wars is passé. It had a huge impact on science fiction, blockbusters and special effects, the tremors of which can still be felt today. It’s very difficult to review Star Wars with fresh eyes. This trilogy was an intrinsic part of my childhood, probably the first films I loved and re-watched over and over again. Fret not though. This shall not be a chin-stroking retrospective nor an awkward, indulgent fanwank. This is just what I think.

“Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”

Simple farmboy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is trapped working for his aunt and uncle on the desert planet of Tatooine. However, this changes when he comes into possession of two robots, named R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C3PO (Anthony Daniels), who lead him to a mysterious old man named Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). Along the way, Luke and Obi-Wan encounter roguish smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his right-hand Wookiee, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The group end up going on an adventure to save a princess (Carrie Fisher) from the clutches of the evil Empire and their intimidating employee, Darth Vader. The story is as classic as they come. Typing that synopsis made me realise that it actually sounds a bit lame, but in practice it’s cinematic gold. The actors are all fine, but Harrison Ford is the standout. This is a star-making turn and you can see why the guy is still working in Hollywood today. The dialogue at times is shoddy as fuck, with Lucas famously being told by Ford: “George, you can type this shit,  but you sure as hell can’t say it!”

A New Hope blends so many elements together it’s a wonder it works at all. The film shares DNA with a vast array of things, from old samurai movies and World War II dogfights to Saturday morning serials like Flash Gordon. To me, the backbone that holds all these elements together is the strong characterisation. You actually care for these characters. You empathise with Luke, being stuck on his rock of a home planet when his friends have moved on. The film is brave enough to have you dislike certain characters initially. Hell, I don’t particularly like Luke in this film, at least for the first half. He’s a bit of a whiny ponce with a silly haircut. Luckily, he does become likeable. Even fan-favourite Han Solo comes across as a bit of a douche the first time we meet him. We see he’s got a dark side to him when he shoots the bounty hunter Greedo in the Cantina.

Speaking of which, those changes. I don’t know why Lucas is doing this. Some of the computer tinkering is to fix stuff you wouldn’t even notice was there. For instance, some time ago, Lucas actually paid someone or a team of someones to CGI the Death Star crews badges onto the correct side of their uniforms. Some of the most out of place stuff though is in Mos Eisley, where added CGI creatures are pasted into the frame. There’s even an awkward non-comedy bit with two robots that is so fucking unnecessary, it hurts my brain. There’s even added nonsense in the Blu-ray release where some rocks have been CGI’d in front of R2 when he’s hiding in the canyon. Check out the original here, and the new version here. Who is that bothered by rocks? It doesn’t make any sense. I can understand updating certain effects (sort of) but this needless altering is incomprehensible. Especially considering the fact that all this stuff drags me out of the film.

The funny thing about Star Wars is that its so ingrained in our collective memories, we have sort of forgotten it is a slightly hokey ’70s sci-fi that has had its formula imitated, expanded upon and bettered by films since. After a lengthy discussion with one of my friends about Star Wars, we concluded if we ever had kids (not together, that’d be weird) we’d make sure they saw the original Star Wars trilogy first, before something like the Lord of the Rings films. Kids just wouldn’t be as blown away with lightsabers and the Death Star exploding if they’d seen the epic battle of Helm’s Deep or a fully-fledged CGI character like Gollum. However, there are some things about Star Wars that will always have an impact like the classic story, the characters and the amazing John Williams score. I still get chills during the final Death Star assault when Luke hears Obi-Wan’s voice, the Force theme swells and he switches off his targeting computer.

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope.”

Practically every frame of A New Hope is iconic. It’s unfortunate that practically every comedy TV show or film still feels the need to reference it to this day. However, all the shite Big Bang Theory jokes in the world cannot dull the original brilliance of the first Star Wars film. It’s the rarest of things to me- a childhood favourite that still holds up now. It’s a fantastic film, I just hope that in a decades’ time when we all have on demand films projected onto the inside of our eyelids, Lucas won’t have replaced Han Solo with a Gungan or decided that the Cantina scene needed another musical number.

I have to give it my rarely seen rating of the yellow five stars i.e. a personal favourite to which giving the normal red five stars seemed like an insult.

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