A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 69 – Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – May 8th, 2010

Ah, the originals. Except we’re watching the “updated” versions, because, as we promised to in our rules, we watch the longest version we have. I can live with that though. It’s a small price to pay for watching a fantastic movie. And make no mistake, as much as the prequels hurt my soul, the originals are a balm to it. In fact, I think I’m going to transport myself back in time to when I was a kid and saw this for the first time and pretend the prequels never happened. Or haven’t happened yet. Or maybe that I’ve slipped into a parallel reality where Lucas just never got around to making them. Pity, that, isn’t it? And as a side note, I remember talking about the possibility of prequels back in middle school during a play rehearsal. We debated what the story would be like and agreed it would be awesome to see Vader’s origin and gee, too bad it’ll probably never happen. Yeah. Too bad.

I first saw this movie when I was pretty small. A school friend’s mother took her and myself to see it at a local community center. They projected it onto a small screen in a rec room. I was too young to remember it in great detail years later, but I know I saw it. Several years after, my brother rented it on VHS one day while I was at camp. I got home and all he could talk about was how awesome the hyperspace visual was. We sat down to watch the second movie and… You know the Falcon’s hyperdrive is borked in the second movie. What a disappointment.

Anyhow, this movie is most definitely not a disappointment. Right off the bat you get the good stuff. A space battle and holy crap a tall dude in a black cloak and that helmet. Menacing and dangerous and he’s obviously got it in for our lovely be-bunned heroine. Darth Vader is the very picture of an archetypal villain. The all-black costume against the bright white of the diplomatic ship and Leia’s costume doesn’t hurt for reinforcing the whole good vs. evil deal either. Sure, when we meet our hero he’s a whiny little twerp at first, but Mark Hamill did a good job making him fairly likable. The movie does a lot of things right. Even though we know more than Luke does about Leia at the time, coming into this the first time, we don’t know who Obi Wan is or what’s going on with the rebels or what Luke’s destiny will be. There’s a good sense of potential right from the outset, and the movie eventually delivers.

In fact, the movie delivers a punch as soon as Luke’s aunt and uncle die. Those are the stakes here. There’s the Empire and the Rebel Alliance and with Leia being interrogated by the obviously evil Darth Vader, there’s little question as to who we’re supposed to root for. The Empire sends teams of faceless soldiers down to hunt for Leia’s droids. They kill whoever gets in their way. Luke barely makes it off the planet with Obi Wan and the droids and one of the best parts of the entire trilogy: Han Fucking Solo. Han and Chewbacca and the Millenium Falcon. I won’t deny that the presence of Alec Guinness elevates this movie a good deal, but Harrison Ford makes the role of Han Solo in the same way Robert Downey Jr. made Tony Stark in Iron Man last night. It makes the whole movie better to have him in there. And maybe that’s part of what was missing in the prequels-that-don’t-exist – There wasn’t the right knight/rogue dynamic that the originals do so well with Luke and Han. Anakin and Obi Wan don’t quite hit the right notes for it. But those movies don’t exist so whatever. The knight/rogue thing is really key to this movie. You’ve got the straight man, the knight, who does the Right Things and makes the rogue act for a reason beyond his own benefit. But then the rogue keeps the knight from taking things too seriously and getting bogged down. Luke and Han are a perfect example. They’re my classic example. And it doesn’t hurt that you’ve also then got Leia not just playing The Girl, but also playing The Badass.

This movie also serves as a great quest story. I know it’s been written about all over the place, so I won’t retread that ground, but it really is fantastic. Our naive hero – his family destroyed – sets off on a quest to save a prisoner from an evil empire and ends up joining a greater cause, aiding in the struggle to destroy the empire. That there is the basis of a good story. It’s not bogged down in complicated politics or too many plot lines. It’s clear who you’re supposed to care about and who you’re supposed to despise. There are fun space battles, a lightsaber duel, a Wilhelm scream and the dialogue and acting are fine in most places and great in others. This movie is so widely loved for good reason: It’s a good movie, and even when it’s silly (Imperial Storm Troopers are precise with blasters? Really?) it’s still worth loving.

A final small note: Take a moment and head over to Star Wars Uncut, a fantastic fan-driven project to refilm the entire movie. The trick is that it’s been cut into 15 second bites and each section has been redone by different people. Regular people. There’s animation, bad acting, music videos. It’s a wonderful display of how the people who love this movie can still love it while poking fun at it.

May 8, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,


  1. One of the greatest westerns ever filmed. My definition of a western is a contest between good and evil. (http://sxxz.blogspot.com/2005/06/classifying-movies.html) That is why the prequels are so weak: No “good”, and kind of weak “evil”. Black vs. white is good. Too much gray and you just get a muddle. A contest between cute and vaguely threatening is not a solid basis for an entertaining movie.

    Comment by David | May 8, 2010 | Reply

    • I thoroughly agree with that making the prequels weak. I’ll probably go into it more in my reviews of the next two movies, but I touched on it a little. I vividly recall being told in a creative writing class that “good vs. evil” is the most common story, and even stories that don’t seem to follow it end up doing so. I don’t know if I’d use the term ‘western’ for all good vs. evil stories when that term has so many more very specific genre connotations to me (I see Betsy made a similar comment in the entry you link to), but Star Wars really is basically a Western in space. Or not even in space for a good portion of it.

      Comment by ajmovies | May 8, 2010 | Reply

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