(United States, 1977)
Forget all the A New Hope crap – when this movie premiered in 1977, everyone knew it as Star Wars. I'm not going to get involved in the debate about whether the early prints of the film contained the words: "Episode IV: A New Hope" atop the opening crawl, because, quite frankly, I don't remember. What I do recall, however, is the exhilaration I felt after seeing the movie. At the age of nine (nearly 10), I became an instant, passionate Star Wars fanatic, gobbling up merchandise like it was about to be taken off store shelves, entering contests, and seeing the film repeatedly during its initial release and its (first) re-release. Of course, the current Star Wars of record is somewhat different from the original, due to George Lucas' effects-laden reworking in 1997. I happen to believe that Lucas has every right to do what he wants with the movie – it is, after all, his film. Nevertheless, perhaps for nostalgic reasons, I prefer the unaltered version, warts and all. (No, I don't mind the little boxes around the space ships.) Star Wars has become a cultural icon, but, underneath all of the hype, it's worth remembering that there exists one of the most grand and glorious of all the motion picture space operas – entertainment of the purest sort. Great special effects (especially for the era), tragedy, comedy, action, an unforgettable villain, and a slam-bang ending – what more could a viewer want? As a stand-alone picture or a chapter in a longer series, it's hard to beat this for unfettered enjoyability.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
At its heart, Star Wars is about the quest of young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to join the battle against evil. He doesn't want to be just another bystander while the struggle for freedom goes on all around him -- he wants to be a participant. And, when two droids carrying a secret message from a beautiful rebel princess (Carrie Fisher) fall into his hands, his chance arrives. Amidst of the dunes of Luke's home planet of Tatooine, the young man meets the aging Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), who teaches of the mysterious Force, a mystical energy field that binds together all things in the universe. Obi-Wan convinces Luke to join the droids and him on a mission to rescue the princess. Accompanied by a cynical smuggler, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and his first mate, the hairy Chewbacca, the odd little group blasts off into space with agents of the corrupt Galactic Empire in pursuit. Their destination: the dreaded Imperial Death Star, a confrontation with the evil Darth Vader (David Prowse; voice courtesy of the inimitable James Earl Jones), and motion picture immortality.
Star Wars borrows from numerous sources, but the most obvious inspirations are the serialized adventures of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, Arthurian legends, Greek mythology, and Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. Like all great craftsmen, creator/director George Lucas has managed to fashion this material in a manner that not only honors the original sources, but makes it uniquely his own. Since 1977, there have been many science fiction movies, but none has managed to equal Star Wars' blend of adventure, likable characters, and epic storytelling. Like some indefatigable King of the Hill, it stands alone and triumphant, regardless of the many imitators that assail its position. Star Wars will endure long after its creators (and its original fans) are gone.
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