Dante's film, for all its laughs, is an important satire about suburban living in America during the 1980s.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. 1977. Directed & Written by George Lucas.
Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Jack Purvis, and James Earl Jones. Lucasfilm/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Rated PG. 121 minutes.
Even though I do like certain novels and films in the science-fiction genre, mostly it isn’t one I’m huge on overall. Not knocking it. I prefer horror, of many kinds, dark dramas and thrillers. Yet that’s the thing about Star Wars, its appeal crosses over regular genre boundaries. It reaches out on many levels to different audiences and draws them together. People act like the franchise’s fans are strictly a ton of sci-fi nerds. Wrong. There are so many people who love Star Wars that come from different backgrounds, in terms of their genre preferences.
Above all else, George Lucas’ first Star Wars film, fourth in the timeline, A New Hope is an incredible achievement. It breaks us into a massive space opera story, throwing us into its middle in an ambitious move by a somewhat beginner filmmaker (yes I know he made films before but c’mon – this is way bigger than anything else he’d done before). The way Lucas fleshed out a massive franchise by putting us into Episode IV as the start of the films released, it’s pretty damn impressive. The ambition is strong in this one.
With a ton of interesting and innovative effects, alongside fun performances from relatively unknown actors at the time, and a truly interesting overarching story, Lucas was able to birth one of the most influential franchises in film history, as well as one nobody who’s a fan will or could ever forget.
I won’t waste time explaining any of the plot, as I usually do with my reviews. If you haven’t seen this yet you probably already know a good deal, having heard much about Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and his often times pessimistic companion C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels), as well as the handsome smuggler with an attitude Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Even those who’ve never seen a single film in the entire franchise know many of these names. Very hard not to, especially in today’s age of social media.
So instead of recounting the plot a little, I’ll dive in.
Immediately, the first few scenes of A New Hope always grab me. I particularly love the Stormtroopers and their gun fighting, lasers going everywhere, pew pew pew. But it’s the white, sterile sort of spaceship in which they’re fighting that grabs me, then in the middle of it all Darth Vader (played by David Prowse; voiced by James Earl Jones) strolls past in his stark black costume, the iconic helmet shaped like an old Rolls Royce. There’s something about the visuals in the beginning which continually gets me. No matter how many times I see it, no matter that I know what’s coming, there’s a quality to the beginning of the film that catches me and from the start keeps me wanting more. Of course, more comes. Even better is the fact everything outside the spaceships looks so rustic, from the planet Tatooine itself with its desert feel to the cantina, to the Millenium Falcon with its lived-in sense of atmosphere, as if everything is old, used, and the battle between the Empire and the Rebels has decimated almost everything wherever anybody goes. So what really impresses me off the bat about Star Wars: A New Hope is the production and set design, the art department, and more. Once you get further into the story, the special effects impress. And after finding out the origins of the many iconic sounds – lightsabers in battle, the firing guns of the spaceship and so on – it’s all the more interesting because you can see the innovation it took on the part of Lucas and his entire team. They didn’t half-ass a single second.
From the look of the film physically, in terms of set and design overall, we also need to remember the magic cinematography of Gilbert Taylor. His amazing credits include Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Roman Polanski’s harrowing Repulsion and his later film Cul-De-Sac, as well as The Omen, all of which saw him in the role of Director of Photography. And because of this, we have him to thank – as D.P. once more – for the gorgeous look of how A New Hope was filmed. Then, you add in the massively talented John Williams, whose score is one of the most iconic bits of film history; even if you don’t know the movies, you probably could recognize the theme and other portions of the music.
Moving on, the editing is also a large part of why the movie works, from its wonderful sideswiping transitions to the excellent cuts between the action. Several editors worked on the movie, including an uncredited bit of magic from Lucas himself. However, Paul Hirsch is the one I find myself most interested in, as his work spans many genres, many amazing filmmakers: several Brian De Palma masterpieces such as Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise, Carrie and Blow Out; then there’s also his work on Creepshow (“The Crate”), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, one of the funniest films ever Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Falling Down, another excellent De Palma adaptation on Mission: Impossible, plus several more recent films that are pretty fun and interesting. So Hirsch brings all that talent to A New Hope – one of the first half dozen movies he worked on. Moving past his efforts for Lucas, which also include the sequel The Empire Strikes Back, he’s become a sought out editor having done one of the latest Mission: Impossible sequels, as well as the upcoming Warcraft movie. Most of all, you can tell even in this movie, at the early stages of his career, Hirsch was talented. The editing could’ve easily been shoddy in A New Hope, but his work, plus the work of the others involved in the editing room, makes this piece of science fiction a masterwork. The transitions between scenes has a remarkable feel, which makes you often forget you’re watching a supposed space opera. Instead, it feels like any other classic, well-made film of its era. Perhaps even better. All due to so much great technical work behind the scenes, elevating all the other work out front.
But without the power of the actors starring in A New Hope, even the most amazing work in terms of editing, cinematography and score would all fall short. Carrie Fisher plays Leia as both a strong yet still vulnerable person, as does Mark Hamill; the parallels between there characters exists in the fact they’re both natural leaders, however, they’ve not yet realized it in this first film. At the end of the movie, both Luke and Leia appear to us now more mature, changed, ready to take on whatever else comes.
Further than that, once Harrison Ford’s Han Solo comes on the scene there is an extra dimension of charisma and swagger not yet present in the filmic universe of Star Wars. Not only does Solo give us a bit of comedic relief at times, there’s also an intensity to his character, the rebel who is not actually a Rebel, if you get my drift. Him and Chewbacca are the two inseparable friends whose job takes them from one end of the galaxy to another. Moreover, Han plays the part of the disbeliever – the one whom Luke, mainly, must convert. So what I like is that Solo also brings in questions of faith, of belief, and this gives us a nice counterpoint to someone like Skywalker who believes deeply in the force, certainly once he starts to discover his Jedi connections. Truly, though, if Ford didn’t play the character, I’m not sure who could’ve done the job. Definitely sure there aren’t many, if any, who could have come into their own as Han Solo and look as good doing it as him. It’s hard now to imagine anyone playing either of these main parts, but seriously: these actors brought a ton of emotion and charisma to the entire movie. The most important of these elements? They bring heart and soul.
This has always been a favourite of mine, specifically in the science fiction genre. While it’s not as leaned towards science as other movies, in regards to authenticity, that does not matter. You know, I love Neil deGrasse Tyson, but following along closely with actual science isn’t something I care about when watching films.
For a long time, I considered this a great film. Nowadays, after watching it more than several dozen times in my life, I consider A New Hope perfect. Not to say there aren’t any little mistakes or flubs along the way. But to me, personally, this is a 5-star film. This has a beauty and grace about it, and also contains work above and beyond the call of duty in terms of its technical aspects. Not to mention I still get chills now and then whenever I put the Blu ray on. The influence of A New Hope is vast, it will never ever die. And with Episode VII The Force Awakens recently rocking the box office, continuing to do so, the legacy of George Lucas and his original work from 1977 endures. Its light won’t ever, ever go out.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 2015. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Screenplay by Abrams/Michael Arndt/Lawrence Kasdan.
Starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Max Von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, Gwendoline Christie, Simon Pegg, and Mark Hamill. Lucasfilm Ltd./Bad Robot/Truenorth Productions. Rated PG. 135 minutes.
I’ve always been a big Star Wars fan. The originals, Episodes IV-VI obviously are the ones I love. Not going to waste time hating the others, there were some good ideas, but mostly it was a failure, all three; other than acting and some of the writing, in terms of plot, everything else was dismal, to me anyways. But A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and yes Return of the Jedi though it’s not as great as the other two, they’re amazingly solid works of cinema. With bits of everything from action to fantasy bred with science fiction, George Lucas really had something going in that initial trilogy. Obviously. If not, we’d never make it to this moment.
Three decades since Return of the Jedi, finally one of the greatest franchises to ever grace the screen comes back. J.J. Abrams, of whom I’m personally a fan and have been since Lost, along with the help of many others including Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back+ a bunch of other awesome things), an amazing crew including the young stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, the returning John Williams with iconic and new music, as well as people like cinematographer Daniel Mindel (whose credits as D.P. include Enemy of the State, The Skeleton Key, MI:III, & Abrams’ Star Trek 2009 reboot) and a boat load of special effects wizards to long to name individually.
Did they deliver? I’m inclined to believe they did, and then some. Seeing The Force Awakens brought me back to being a kid and seeing the original three films. Only thirty, but I’ve been an avid film fan since an early age, so it’s probably been 22 years since I first watched them. Well sitting in the theatre – which for a cinephile I actually hate because of my anxiety – watching this movie in 3D – another thing I’m not huge on – I was beyond blown away. The effects, the dialogue, the blend of fun new things and a healthy dose of tribute to the old, it all made the wait worth it. Maybe others feel differently, I’m positive they do. But me? I could’ve sat down and watched The Force Awakens a second time, back-to-back.
I don’t personally want to spoil anything, so I’ll only say a little about the plot. Little as possible, spoiler-free.
Initially, I went in sceptical about this film. Excited as anyone, I worried the writers might not use this opportunity to introduce some new blood into the plot and overall story of the Star Wars universe. Episodes I-III had good stories, or good bits of story in them at least, but it felt there was too much rattling around; parts that should’ve been added were there, alongside others things that felt disconnected with Episodes IV-VI. But Lawrence Kasdan came back to help Abrams and Michael Arndt craft a script that felt organic coming out of the three originally released films. For instance, I thought Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) was an amazing character. The story behind him, which I won’t reveal obviously, is very intriguing. We get lots about his backstory, though, it doesn’t come through a ton of exposition right away. Slowly we piece together bits and pieces. Driver makes Ren a foreboding presence in almost every single scene in which he’s captured. Then there’s Rey (Daisy Ridley): an excellent addition. Not only is she a solid female character, she’s just solid all around. The whole introduction her character was great fun and immediately I knew I’d like her. More than that, Rey and Finn (John Boyega) had good chemistry. NOTE: some reviews, albeit amateur ones, claim there’s a forced romantic angle in this film, but certainly not between Rey and Finn; while it may be hinted at slightly, there’s nothing overt. Mostly they seem like friends, bound together because of life threatening circumstances.
Not only the leads are incredible. Domhnall Gleeson does a fine job with his brief scenes as General Hux. Under cover of CGI and motion capture, as usual, Andy Serkis was killer as Supreme Leader Snoke, whose menace and intimidating features + stature are impressive. And there are more; lots of tight roles played even tighter by the actors. Oscar Isaac is another classic, a talented actor who brings his talents to this film with a solid performance.
Even more than that, the aesthetic of the original movies wasn’t present in the prequels, which is what hurt them in part. Here, The Force Awakens preserves some of the gritty, grimy feel of A New Hope/The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi. The special effects are beyond impressive: I saw it in 3D, and I don’t even like 3D, yet it made everything that much more wild. But it’s the way things look dirty and worn: the design of the sets especially on Jakku and then later in the big place where Maz (Lupita Nyong’o) lives, and so on. Even the Millenium Falcon – it was fairly rough back in Episodes IV, V, and VI, so here they made it even better, more rundown and dusty, rusty, et cetera. This just connects the films more closely, it doesn’t put a big disparity between the look and feel of the three episodes right before it. Part of why I didn’t like the prequels is the look – I know that things on other planets are different, yadda yadda, and then all the destruction the Empire brought upon so many different places, but the look of the first three episodes ended up feeling SO FAR from where we pick up in A New Hope, that it all throws me off. I understand there’s reasoning for it, I just find the whole aesthetic problem troubling. With a massive team, Abrams makes The Force Awakens feel like “coming home”, as a friend of mine said after seeing it twice.
Without spoiling any plot, the big shock nearing the end was incredible. Fits perfect into the story. Not just that, the entire world of the characters is shaken up. Some say they saw it coming. Others were pissed about it. But why? I saw it coming a little while before the event in question happened, and still found it powerful. Everyone in my theatre, including myself and my partner, sort of gasped. Very good move.
Aside from the big things, I thought Rey and Finn coming together randomly, with BB-8 at the center of it all, was lots of fun. It gave things action and adventure from the start. In the opening Stormtroopers sequence, including Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the ever epic Max Von Sydow, John Boyega did so well with his character. Even underneath all the Stormtrooper gear. But the shots of the troopers together on their way down to the planet, the white helmets and the bits of black here and there rocking from side to side, then the KICKER which gets things moving fast plot-wise: a perfect way to begin the film. From there, Rey and Finn end up in the same place eventually making things very action oriented. And later the return of Han Solo and Chewbacca brings more adventure their way. In fact, the combination of these four is something to behold. A ton of chemistry, lots of wit. To say anything further would do an injustice to anyone reading, and the film itself. See it.
All in all, I have to give Star Wars: The Force Awakens a 5-star rating. Not a moment went by I wasn’t fixated on the screen. It even made me love the whole thing in 3D, that’s saying something. But above all else, I found the writing fun, exciting, and it brought the new together with the old, fusing them in the right places. Plus, it also sets things up nicely for Episode VIII from Rian Johnson, which I am looking forward to like you wouldn’t believe.
Here, you’ll find lots of action, tons of adventure, and that wonderful fantasy/science fiction hybrid the Star Wars universe provides. Maybe you can pick apart bits and pieces. Me, I dig every last frame, every bit of dialogue. I’m not even the most hardcore fan out there, not by a long shot. Yet this new film does justice to the originals. It also carves out a new niche for talented directors of this day and age to explore territory so many of them grew up admiring, daydreaming in and imagining themselves as characters in. Abrams did a great job in my mind and I think he should walk away satisfied with his contribution. Get out and watch this in the theatre because it’s a truly special experience, a one in a lifetime thing. Plus, you’ll probably have a ridiuclous amount of fun.