star-wars-1977

Star Wars A New Hope (Episode IV) Review: The Force Was Strong With This One

Star Wars A New Hope is a film many of us did not see until the sequel trilogy. The story’s direct continuation compelled us to experience it alongside understanding its cultural impact. The lore has been the most deep-felt among all sorts of audiences, and the characters immensely cherished. 

Mark Hamill wouldn’t be the Joker if he weren’t Luke Skywalker. Harrison Ford wouldn’t be Indiana Jones if he wasn’t Han Solo. And the Late Carrie Fisher wouldn’t be a considerably higher revered veteran actor she became if weren’t for her role as Princess Leia. 

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George Lucas devised a story that genuinely changed movie making to a wholly different level. His experiment in the sci-fi genre invented blockbuster filmmaking, which later evolved to franchise films. But watching this film, not counting its colossal success and cultural impact, doesn’t impress you as much as you expect.

It is undoubtedly fun – in many ways. But the movie is neither wholly original in terms of story (Frank Herbert’s Dune was a huge inspiration), nor is it as technically bewildering compared to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s merely an amalgamation of both, which happened to be made at a very reserved budget ($50 million adjusted for inflation). And that’s where it actually stimulates.

Watch the trailer of Star Wars A New Hope (Episode IV) below.

At present, there is the right formula for making blockbuster films, which, when applied with good marketing, does more than enough to make decent profits. Disney movies do it all the time. Their narratives are akin to one another. Yet, people flock in numbers to watch them. However, it wasn’t the case with George Lucas in 1977.

Star Wars A New Hope was intended to be one of its kind space-opera that would encourage moviegoers to return for sequels and the numerous twists and turns. It had a lot of world-building to do, with plenty of non-human characters that were totally uncommon at that time. Hence, making this film was a massive risk.

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Just look at Darth Vader. The highly talked about villain that he is now; back then, he was nothing but a tin-man. It was so brave and cool of George Lucas to create a character like him who would be such a badass. Each time he is on screen, he has this “HOHHHHHHH…” breathing sound, and it’s uniquely creepy. In fact, uniqueness is the strength of this film.

There are so many beautiful set-pieces that are entertaining to watch in their own right. Whether it’s the phenomenal opening shot of an Imperial Star Destroyer or the massive Space Station (famous as Death Star), this film’s artwork is pioneering. Even 43 years later, having seen all sorts of sci-fi films, which are hilariously inspired by this movie, its easy to respect the grand ambition of George Lucas. 

His concept of FORCE itself is trailblazing. There is never any mention of religion. Everything about god is boiled down to one word – force – the energy that binds the whole universe and powers those who believe in it. The believer – Obi-Wan Kenobi (an excellent Late Alec Guinness), and the one who has succumbed to darkness, Darth Vader (David Prowse). Their contrasting personalities provide a rare clarity to good and evil.

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This spiritual angle of the story makes Star Wars so damn influential. And it actually coats a lot of its problems, forgiven by the majority of the audience, but frankly unignorable for anyone seeing the film for the first time. 

The writing lacks depth. This is essentially a chase film, and for a larger portion, the lead characters are hunted by the Empire. Lucas was perhaps aiming for a fast-paced adventure, considering the budget. The way he developed the various planets and unique set-pieces are unquestionably great. But he repeatedly butchered vital character moments that could have lent emotional weight.

Multiple characters die in the film, but none of their deaths have any impact. They are incredibly hurried and unemotional. Mark Hamill’s performance is totally bland in all those scenes, as is Harrison Fords’. His climactic appearance, particularly, didn’t feel as surprising as it was intended. 

Along with Fisher, the duo has some good moments in the second act, which are genuinely fun (campy, but fun). However, none of them succeed in emoting the despondency with sincerity. It is instead apt to say that if the film is to be seen without John Williams’ outstanding music, a lot of it falls flat.

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There is also no logical reasoning for one of the main characters’ death other than some shock value and the revelation saved for the sequels. You can defend this nitpick by saying it was a fresh ‘episodic’ way of storytelling – hence, Star Wars Episode 4. But you hardly get enough to chew on plotwise. In fact, the film takes a while to properly engage you in the story.

I can’t comment on the experience of the people who saw Star Wars when it was released, for films used to be slow-paced at that time. But even at the slow pace, the cinematography and dialogues used to hold our engagement. This film accelerates only once Han Solo, and the Wookie shows up. 

It is actually the best way to summarize my thoughts on this film after a ruminative rewatch. Star Wars A New Hope is a film that may not have been as important as it turned out to be. Its merely a campy space adventure. It entertains through its brilliant art direction and set-pieces but fails to fully exploit its ‘force-sensitive’ characters. 

It is just a matter of luck (or should I say force) that completely altered this film’s course and made George Lucas a multi-billionaire, giving Star Wars a historical significance for Hollywood and the USA on the whole.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

You can stream Star Wars A New Hope (Chapter IV) on Disney+ Hotstar. Share your thoughts below in the comments section. 

Mayank Nailwal
Passionate about films & filmmaking since 2002.
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