Let the countdown begin! We’re now about three weeks away from the release of the new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” and I’m super excited (but you probably knew that). ;) I had a lot of fun with my Marvel blog-a-thon earlier this year and thought it might also be fun to try the same thing with Star Wars, revisiting the previous films in the weeks leading up to the new one. For this blog-a-thon, I’ve decided to just stick with the original trilogy, since the new movie will have the closest ties to them, but I may take on the prequels at a later time. So, over the Thanksgiving break, I re-watched “A New Hope.”
Star Wars has been a pop culture staple for so long that I often forget just how groundbreaking these movies were. The special effects set a new standard for Hollywood and paved the way for future blockbusters. And regardless of how you feel about George Lucas and the prequels, Lucas did create wonderful, timeless characters and a good overarching story: a farm boy who becomes a great warrior and redeems his father from the dark side.
Although Star Wars is classified as science fiction, it’s really more of a space fantasy/Western, and that might be what helps it stand out. “Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away”—it’s a fascinating concept, giving the world of Star Wars a sense of ancient grandeur and also otherworldly technology beyond our current creative capabilities. You have futuristic spaceships but also old-fashioned “knights” with a strict code of honor (a.k.a. the Jedi) and the Western archetype of the wandering, gun-slinging loner (Han Solo). The world of Star Wars isn’t shiny and slick and new; it’s a little bit grimy and worn. It feels like it could be a real place people lived in.
There are also plenty of great characters introduced in the first film. Luke Skywalker is easy to identify with. He’s a dreamer who fears he’ll never go anywhere or be anything, and he’s a stubborn idealist. It’s a fact that greatly annoys the more cynical smuggler Han Solo, who was my hero growing up (and OK, maybe still is). ;) You’ve got Han’s Wookie sidekick Chewbacca, the bickering droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and also the wizened warrior Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’ve heard that Alec Guinness hated playing Obi-Wan, which is a shame because he was such a great fit, and the character brings a lot to the story. Princess Leia also is a great character and I think deserves some credit for helping to change how women are portrayed in action movies. Leia isn’t just a damsel in distress; she’s a leader, and she can hold her own in a fight.
And, of course, there’s also the villains. Darth Vader is my all-time favorite movie “bad guy”; he’s a powerful wielder of the dark side of the force, but there are more layers to his character than you first imagine. And the stormtroopers are pretty cool too, even if they aren’t always the most accurate shooters and are easily persuaded by Jedi mind tricks. ;)
The films are accompanied by what are arguably some of the greatest soundtracks of all time, thanks to John Williams. The music in “A New Hope” is both epic and beautiful, and elevates the cinematography. That iconic scene of Luke watching Tatooine’s double sunset just wouldn’t be as powerful without John Williams’ score.
“A New Hope” is an entertaining, rousing adventure, with the promise of even better things to come. The special effects still hold up very well almost 40 years later, though occasionally you catch some costumes/hairstyles that are just a little too reminiscent of the ‘70s and ‘80s. And yes, there are some errors, such as the alien’s arm bleeding after Obi-Wan slices it off with a lightsaber (the lightsaber blow should have cauterized the wound, as it does in the other movies), and some frustrating changes in the revised version (it really is OK that Han shoots first). We also don’t really get to see a full-on, elaborately choreographed lightsaber battle until the next movie.
I once read a comment from a reviewer that said while the Star Wars films may not be the best movies ever made, they are universally well-loved. Despite some of their flaws, they have plenty of hope and heart, and a grand sense of adventure. Star Wars is my personal favorite film series, and no matter how many times I watch the movies, I still feel the magic. I’m hoping “The Force Awakens” will be a worthy addition to the saga.