Friday, August 16, 2019

Green Phoenix - Star Wars: A New Hope Review

Image result for A New HopeIt's Star Wars.

I don't think I need to go into too much detail as to the cultural and historical significance behind the first episode in this cinematic saga. It is the first true blockbuster and the film which, along with Jaws, helped to create the modern summer movie season.

After last week's editorial on the Machete Order, I thought it would be fun to examine all of the films in the Order from a critical standpoint. I will be skipping every other week (with the occasional literary suggestion or editorial) and will also have to give myself some time in October for the "Halloween" review season.

So let's start our Star Wars run with the first film in the Machete Order, Episode 4: A New Hope.

  • Directed by George Lucas
  • Produced by Lucasfilm
  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Running Time: 121 Minutes



A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The evil Galactic Empire has completed the construction of a power super-weapon known as the Death Star, capable of destroying an entire planet. With it, their grip on galaxy could become absolute.

But before the weapon comes online, plans of the weapon make their way into the hands of Princess Leia, a leader of the Rebel Alliance (an organization which stands in opposition of the tyranny of the Empire). But before she can get those plans to the Alliance, her ship is captured and she is arrested by the villainous Darth Vader. She sneaks the plans inside a pair of robots which eventually wind up in the hands of a young farmer named Luke Skywalker.

Determined to rescue the princess and get the plans to the Alliance, Luke employs the help of a powerful warrior named Obi-Wan Kenobi and a pair of smuggler's named Han Solo and Chewbacca to stop the Empire and destroy the Death Star.



Star Wars is a classic, full stop. Even after all these years, and numerous re-releases, special editions, and director cuts, the fourth episode of this amazing series remains a beautifully concise, sharply written, and emotionally compelling introduction into this universe.

If you have to watch any episode of Star Wars to introduce the universe to new viewers, this is the best one to start with.

VISUALS - 7/10

Star Wars came out at an incredible time. When the quality of practical effects was beginning to reach its apex, with the Spielberg blockbusters. The original Star Wars was made on a shoestring budget and in some places, it shows, in all the right ways.

The cantina scene is just hilarious in retrospect since essentially, George Lucas told the visual effects guy to basically fill the cantina with anything he could find. As a result, that scene is just a hodgepodge of various movie masks and makeup. It really reflects the passion and drives that everyone had for this film, despite its lack of budget (the thought of Star Wars being made on a budget now seems hilariously ignorant).

And the introduction of the Death Star and the destruction of Alderaan remain iconic images in cinematic culture.

Of course, if we talk about the visuals of Star Wars, we do have to discuss the additions and CGI of the special editions and re-releases. On the whole, I feel that A New Hope suffers the least from the infernal meddling that characterizes much of Lucas' oeuvre in the years following the original trilogies release. Most of the additions are generally harmless fluff, meant to add to the depth of the world with random aliens and space creatures.

There are, however, two additions to A New Hope that fundamentally harm the overall narrative and theming of the story. The Greedo/Han fight, and the introduction of Jabba. The "Han Shot First" critique is so infamous at this point and I don't feel like I have to go into it any further (though maybe I could write an editorial about it later on?) and the introduction of Jabba ruins all suspense that the next two films build up regarding the Hutt gangster (leaving aside the CGI which still looks absolutely awful).

While the film largely continues to hold up, these changes and alterations over the years do unfortunately diminish the elements of the visuals. It's still good, but not as good as it used to be.


I mean...come on! The Star Wars soundtrack is just iconic.

Everyone remembers the opening theme, right?

I don't think I know a single person who does not remember this absolutely iconic score, and the rest of John Williams' score still remains some of the best in cinematic history.

The Imperial March is still haunting and a central example whenever someone wants to characterize totalitarianism and evil in musical form. The themes of Luke and Leia are hauntingly beautiful and speak to the hopes and tragedies of their characters that will follow them throughout the Star Wars saga.

The cantina music is enjoyably catchy, even after all these years, and the Death Star trench run is equally nailbiting and exhilarating because of the incredible musical score.

I say go listen to the soundtrack, but let's be honest with ourselves here. You've probably already listened to it a dozen times by now.


Luke Skywalker.

Darth Vader.

Princess Leia.


Image result for darth vader
Darth Vader probably has cinema's greatest introduction.
These names have gone down into the cultural zeitgeist. Like everything else with this film, the characters are just iconic, although I will say that most of them do not come into their own truly in this film, but in succeeding films.

It is fascinating to watch the beginning of Luke Skywalker's journey, but the best parts of his character are those moments which occur after the destruction of the Death Star, rather than before it. In A New Hope, Luke is less mature and more taken to images of self-grandeur, like those of a child. Much more interesting to watch is his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the interplay the two possess throughout the first half of the film. Alec Guinness remains a wonder even after all these years. Obi-Wan is as iconic a role for Guinness as his work in Lawrence of Arabia.
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia is a much more minor role than her later appearances and the faux-British she utilizes (kinda) is hilarious in its absurdity, especially given Fisher's real personality. And Harrison Ford as the irascible and scrupulous Han Solo has always been a pleasure to watch, even in the first film before his golden heart shines through.

But of all the characters, Darth Vader is, far and away, the best part of this film in terms of characters. He immediately presents as an unforgettable force of will from the moment he steps on the scene, and the voice of James Earl Jones remains a hauntingly iconic part of the character's ethos.

In summation, for as much as I love the world of Star Wars, it is the spectacular characters that bring that world to life and A New Hope is an inspired introduction to those same individuals.

STORY - 9/10

The story of A New Hope is deceptively simple. A young man, with powers he has little comprehension of, is called to save a Princess and overcome a powerful sorcerer. Alongside his roguish friend, a wise wizard, and powerful and honor-bound warrior and his comic relief, he will uncover his powers and defeat the wizard and his weapon which will doom the galaxy.

Despite this relative simplicity, A New Hope is also tremendously slim and tight. Everything introduced in the film eventually builds up to the finale, or is otherwise answered in the succeeding films. In an age before the guaranteed sequel, A New Hope managed to perfectly encapsulate not only it own story, but build up the narratives that will be explored in its sequels without detracting or distracting.

Watching the film is an immediately satisfying experience because even though the story is typical and simple, it's so well-shaped that watching it continues to entertain and inspire, even after you catch the twists. Though not my favorite of the Star Wars movies, Lucas was right to begin his story here.


A New Hope was built to be the beginning and introduction to the Star Wars universe. The iconic characters, story, and visuals, coupled with a truly inspired score give the viewer just about the most perfect introduction that anyone could ask for. Though the next film in the series is perhaps more widely regarded and adored, without A New Hope, nothing else in the franchise would exist.

  • 7/10
  • 9/10
  • 9/10
  • 9/10

 FINAL SCORE - 8.5/10

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