Movie Review | Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Why this order? In the build-up to The Last Jedi, I'll be working my through the films in what I believe is the best order to experience them: namely, Machete Order. There are two differences: 1) Rogue One has to fit in there, and 2) I'll also include The Phantom Menace for completeness.
A New Hope obviously comes right after Rogue One, effectively forming one huge story across two films. As impressive as Darth Vader's introduction already was, his slaughter of the rebels at the end of Rogue One means that we have already seen evidence of his power and fully understand why everyone - even his own officers - is terrified of him.
We also know how powerful the Death Star is, but the destruction of Alderaan is still remarkable as a major step up from levelling a city, and are fully aware of how ruthless Tarkin can be in chasing his goals.
The major shift in tone is the main difference for these films going forward, being a little lighter and allowing for more comedy than the gloomy mood of Rogue One. That film may have been served well by being as dark as it was, but the rest of these films would never have become as iconic as they have if they had been made with the same atmosphere. That's not to say the antagonists aren't menacing, but allowing events to get a little lighter means that the more serious, emotional beats hit all that much harder.
Movie Summary: Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader. (IMDb)
First off, screw calling it ‘A New Hope’ – it’s Star Wars and that’s how I’ll be referring to it throughout this review, even if there is very little that I can actually say that hasn’t been said before in the forty years since it was released.
The best thing to do is to address what I feel are deserving criticisms that tend to get overlooked because it’s just agreed by everyone that Star Wars is an all-time classic. It’s definitely one of the most influential films of all time, but there are still some issues that keep it from being quite as good as its own sequel.
Firstly, there are quite a few cheesy lines peppered throughout that really just don’t work when spoken although they may have looked fine in the script – something Harrison Ford apparently told George Lucas while filming, but still making it into the final product.
Also, though it may well be sacrilege to say, but Mark Hamill is a little wooden in his performance, being comfortably outshone by Ford and Carrie Fisher. He’s not distractingly bad, but neither is he quite good enough at this point to elevate some of the material above its level.
Now, these are the main two criticism I have for Star Wars and the main reason they don’t really affect the film is that it can easily be pointed out that it’s supposed to be a little cheesy and wooden. After all, Lucas was inspired by the likes of Flash Gordon and other Fifties pulp sci-fi to create something similar, so it should almost be expected.
And that’s really all there is to say in criticism of the film. All that’s left is to praise how fantastic the film looks, the all-time great orchestral score, the incredible world-building, and more iconic moments in a single film than plenty of Oscar Best Picture winners combined.
There may be some who would want to criticise the fairly simple story, but I don’t view that simplicity as a negative – especially when executed this well. A simple story also allows anyone who has never seen a Star Wars film before to enjoy the film just as much as someone seeing it for a tenth time. Complex plots can be great, but they aren’t a necessity for making a great film.
I will point out that it’s actually Han who serves as the audience surrogate character, being a normal guy just trying to make his way from job to job who ends up getting swept up in something greater rather than someone born with what are effectively superpowers.
George Lucas may have intended Luke Skywalker to fulfil that role, but Ford’s superior performance and lack of ‘chosen one’ specialness are what elevates Han Solo to be the crowd favourite. I’d also say that it was the lack of a similar character that caused such a negative reaction to the prequel trilogy.
Then there’s Carrie Fisher’s incredible turn as Princess Leia. She was five years younger than Mark Hamill, but her performance is filled with such energy and emotion that it has rarely been matched since – if at all - by someone so young (Fisher was 21 when Star Wars was released).
And then we come to Darth Vader, one of the all-time great cinema villains. Everything about him is just perfect, from his look, to his voice and mechanical breathing. You only need to watch Star Wars once to see just why people love this particular villain as much as any of the heroes.
That design excellence carries over to the rest of the world, with the Millennium Falcon, X-Wings, TIE Fighters and the Death Star all instantly recognisable as coming from this film. Hell, their looks are so perfect that they were barely altered for The Force Awakens because they are the ideal visual cues to let immediately tell anyone they are watching Star Wars.
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope still stands up as a fantastic film four decades after it was released, with its timeless designs, iconic villain, and some of the best music ever heard in a film ensuring its place in cinema history.