Director: George Lucas
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Cushing with Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones as Darth Vader
Plot: The Galactic Empire build a planet-destroying super-weapon in order to control the galaxy, unaware that a young boy on the backwater planet of Tatooine has the power to rise up and stop them.
I have been dreading reviewing this film for some time. It is a definite classic, amazing in every sense of the word. I do not know a single person that doesn’t like this movie in some form and the franchise it has created commands respect and praise. However, when watching it after taking up my hobby as a movie critic, I realised that A New Hope is terribly flawed in certain places. Therefore, as a blogger who is sitting down to review this movie, I feel compelled to condemn A New Hope for some of the reasons below, while the fan-boy in me, who has grown up a Star Wars fan from the moment I saw the AT-ATs storming Hoth, wants to label this film as perfect. It has taken me a long time to summon up the courage to get my feelings for A New Hope into writing and share it with everyone.
Let’s start with the biggest slap in the face of them all: the acting is terrible. People criticise Hayden Christensen for ruining Anakin’s corruption into power (rightly so too), but I have always found it ironic that those same people are totally oblivious to how awful the actors in the original trilogy are. I am not calling anyone here a bad actor, because most of them are incredible in other things, but here they set themselves a low bar. Anyone who has listened to Mark Hamill voice Batman’s the Joker knows that Hamill is great at what he does, but his portrayal of Luke Skywalker is frustratingly poor. He almost has no charisma, blandly sprouting his lines, his mouth agape like a chimpanzee that has just been slapped with a pair of stockings. He is meant to be the hero to this great saga, yet Luke Skywalker is annoyingly hard to summon up much feeling for. We recognise him as the hero, but he brings no back story to his rebel figure, other than ‘fish out of water’. Anyone else could be added to the story other than Skywalker and the movie would have the same effect. It’s not just Hamill though. We must admit that Harrison Ford has been much better in other things. Han Solo is a great character, yes, and Lucas writes him a lot better than he does Skywalker, but he cannot shake the melodrama of the movie. Alec Guinness too, while probably the best actor here, is given little more to do than sprout exposition. A nice, cheeky swag to Obi Wan is added (something Ewan Macgregor used when he had to reboot the character), but otherwise, he too, is nowhere near as effective as he should have been.
But then, I think to myself, screw it! Because sure, these characters need some work, but at the same time, they are more than characters: they are symbols. Star Wars, when we strip the fantasy and Sci-Fi tropes away, is a story about good versus evil. The Empire are bad; the Rebels are good. We don’t need any more information. Luke Skywalker succeeds as a blank slate, because we can instantly imagine ourselves in his shoes. In another lifetime, we would be the rebel hero, brought from a meaningless life of nothing and thrust into the role of hero. Hamill doesn’t need any characterisation here, because he is giving us an empty pair of shoes to imagine ourselves in. Han Solo is the cocky smuggler, punching way above his weight with a Princess. Obi-Wan is the mentor. Darth Vader is evil incarnate (at least, for this chapter of the trilogy). As a story, Star Wars might be a little thin on the ground, but that has made this movie timeless, which is something I can’t say for a lot of other movies around. Looking at Star Wars and trying as hard as you can to forget that it is Star Wars, makes you wonder how any of this works. The poor special effects, the slapstick humour… but it really would be a crime to take any of that out. We want the irritating R2-D2 beeping, we want the terrible dialogue. It is all a part of the mythology.
George Lucas get a lot of hate these days. Sure, he might have created Star Wars, but some people would argue he came really close to killing it too. Sitting an elitist fan in front of Phantom Menace will result in his name being reduced to foul curses. However, at the same time, he deserves some love. He created this. This! Lucas was the guy, who ignored every film-maker who told him he was throwing his fame, power and money away on a doomed project, and gave us Star Wars. I can sit here on my laptop, complaining that Mark Hamill dropped the ball with the acting and how the story is so basic that, on a narrative level, it covers no new ground, but, no matter what way I look at it, Star Wars will always be here. It is a monument of cinema, a legend that anyone can appreciate. This movie, despite its age, is inspiring not only people who watched the premiere, not only the modern viewer whose parents introduced the world of Stormtroopers and Sarlaccs to us, but is inspiring people who haven’t even seen it yet. People who have yet to discover this amazing trilogy. And I can already tell you that they are going to love every moment of it.
Final Verdict: Sure, I can criticise a bad script and hollow characters, but this movie is Star Wars. Star Wars! And nobody can sway me on giving this film any less than full marks.