Review — Star Wars IV: A New Hope

I think it’s sort of ridiculous that I saw A New Hope for the first time this past Sunday. The youngest of a family of nerds and the only movie I’ve seen in its entirety is Revenge of the Sith. Truth be told the prospect of critiquing this movie makes me a bit uncomfortable. I’m effectively going to be pointing out the flaws of a classic twice my age, and while I’ve critiqued classics before, it’s hard to touch one as big as Star Wars. Still, I’m going to give it a shot.

Now, while I’ve never seen the movie proper, it’s hard to live the life I’m leading without knowing the plot. It was sort of a strange feeling to recognize nearly every scene in a movie without having seen them enacted in a cohesive order before.

As far as the actual movie goes, it could be internal bias, but I actually did find it very entertaining. It does have its problems, and I’ll get to that. This being, as I’m told, the first “space” movie, it handled so many things remarkably well. It is an incredibly bold move to start off with a rolling text for exposition, and iconic as it is, I would actually take points off for that. A “better” movie would be able to include that exposition in the movie. I would argue that much of it was in the movie, or at least implied, but perhaps that could be attributed to the fact that I’m already familiar with the Star Wars universe.

The thing I liked most about this movie is how the Force is viewed in this world. I’ve played Star Wars games and stuff, but never before have I truly experienced the part of the timeline where the Jedi Order is extinct. At first I thought it was stupid that everybody considered the Force as remnants of a dead religion rather than the very real and prevalent phenomenon it is, but then it was explained to me that to most of the denizens of these worlds, the Force is just a religion. Nobody has seen proof of its existence, and the few that are left that can use the Force are already of mythical status so anything they say or do can’t be readily perceived as “the way of the world”.

This movie has real charm. All of C3PO’s interactions, as annoying as he can sometimes be, are enjoyable. I like the dichotomy between him and R2-D2, and I’m impressed at how well it panned out with only one of the two being able to speak. Leia is a strong female lead, and though I’m not surprised on that front, I do want to point it out, because by my understanding that was extraordinarily uncommon, especially in this sort of genre. As a side note, the special effects were actually amazing for 1977. Of course, a lot of it was done with models, but it really shows how far the industry can go without the use of adding in almost real looking CGIs (cough cough).

I did have two larger issues with the movie, however. The more minor of the two was that in some parts, the audience is blatantly lied to. Obi-wan tells Luke that Vader killed his father. I get it. Obi-wan is hiding the truth and it’ll be a big reveal later on, but you can’t lie to your audience like that. This makes it impossible to anticipate the ‘truth’ because we don’t know Obi-wan well enough to see him as anything other than this almost divine master with magic powers. We can’t see the possibility of him lying. This scene should happen later so we can see there is more going on than what we’re being told (though of course I realize Obi-wan “dies” in this movie so my suggestion is moot. Besides all the other reasons it would be moot.)

Lastly, the final scene of “The Battle of the Death Star” is hard to follow and anticlimactic. I had no idea how well the battle was going, how many fighters the Rebels had left, or if anything had to happen before Luke was able to go in and snatch victory from the jaws of probability. It was just the same scene over and over: Three rebel ships swoop into the trench, they die. Sometimes at the hands of Vader. This happens three or four times before Luke himself actually goes down into the trench, and at no point was I able to readily discern how well this battle was going. The only basis I had was the fact that since more Rebel ships are blowing up than Empire ones, the Rebels must be losing. Hard to follow.

All of that being said, I know very little about the next two movies. I know they go to Hoth in the sequel and a bunch of stuff happens there, and of course Yoda happens at some point, but that’s pretty much all I know about them, so that should be fun. Stay tuned for next week!

5 thoughts on “Review — Star Wars IV: A New Hope

  1. Thanks for a fun review! It’s always nice to read how people react to these old classics when seeing them for the first time. I have a comment, though, about your criticism of the opening crawl: Star Wars was largely George Lucas’ homage to his favourite film serial Flash Gordon from 1936. In the serial, each episode opened with a text crawl that looks just like the one in Star Wars, explaining what had happened in the previous episode. It’s worth noticing that Lucas also named the movie “Episode IV”, although at the time he had no serious intention of making episodes I-III. He actually wanted to make it look like the film was just one chapter in an on-going adventure saga, as well as tipping his hat to Flash Gordon. So it wasn’t that he couldn’t fit the information in the movie – he deliberately wanted to copy the Flash Gordon opening crawl.
    And I don’t really understand your point about Obi-Wan lying to the audience. People lie all the time in real life, why shouldn’t movie characters?

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    1. In general, I think I would agree with the point about lying to your audience. It’s a cheap trick to throw people off your trail and surprise them later. But it makes *this* movie stronger. You are not supposed to suspect the truth. It isn’t supposed to be something you figure out ahead of the characters in some sort of “A-HA!” moment. You are meant to believe it. It’s meant to punch you in the gut. It’s supposed to sideswipe you. It’s just impossible to see it that way now, after all these years.

      It’s been a long time, but I think it will become much more clear after watching the second movie.

      Also – I hadn’t known that about the opening crawl JO_Wass – cool!

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      1. I do see your point, Devon. There is credence to that argument, but I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. Working with a lot of plot structure and literary criticism, I still don’t feel like it’s entirely justified. I would say it could have been done the same way without throwing your audience off like that. I just don’t know how. So for now, you win.

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    2. Ah! Thanks for the insight, Jo_Wass! I was unaware of the reasoning behind the text. I suppose it does add an air of that “adventure piece”. I’m not saying it’s bad, however. My point was that it seems a bit odd to require your audience to read something to understand what’s about to happen. This could probably be attributed to the fact that these movie were made in a different time, though.

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  2. I agree with your sentiments about the final dog-fight, though. It is very messy. I have read somewhere that it was edited completely differently in an earlier version – much more linear, where you would follow certain pilots for longer stretches of time. The test audiences allegedly found it very slow-moving, and thought it lacked energy, so they rearranged it to become more chaotic, like what you would actually feel in a battle. I don’t really have a problem with the chaotic structure of the sequence, but I agree that it feels the filmmakers ran out of ideas and re-used the same ones perhaps once too much.

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