Here’s the next in our series of articles looking back at the Star Wars Saga. Today we look back at the one, the only, the ORIGINAL, STAR WARS EPISODE IV A NEW HOPE. This excellent article is written by our very own Ryan McDonald and it is not to be missed. With respect to all of my other fantastic writers, I think this may be my favorite article in our Star Wars series. Enjoy!
Star Wars EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE written by Ryan McDonald
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the first time I saw Star Wars, (I can remember the copied VHS tape I had) but I really can’t remember the exact moment I saw it. I feel ashamed being as Tim called me in his Phantom Menace article, a “Star Wars Guy”. I wish I had some great “blown away” story about seeing it as a kid and it changing my life forever. What I can always remember though is, how it felt, or should I say how Star Wars makes me feel. Having watched Episodes I to VI in a single day (ladies, I’ll post my phone number in the comments) I know if someone had never seen a single Star Wars movie, I would definitely have them start with Star Wars Episode IV New Hope. A New Hope has a timeless quality to it that makes it feel brand new every time I see it and I keep getting sucked down the rabbit hole again and again every time I watch the movie.
I think what gives the movie this unique quality is how you’re just immediately thrown into this world. Most movies that take a place in a fictional universe tend to take up a lot of screen time, or even whole movies, setting up the history of the world before they can tell story they actually want to tell. I think George Lucas brilliantly began the Star Wars saga in medias res, with what would later learn was the fourth movie, right in the middle of a chaotic shoot-out between the Rebels and the Imperial army. He has you follow C-3PO and R2-D2, two seemingly unimportant characters as they escape from this conflict, unintentionally find Luke Skywalker and along the way uncover Princess Leia’s secret mission for R2 to find the mythic Obi-Wan Kenobi, thus our first steps into this larger world.
Let’s highlight Princess Leia Organa for a minute here. In my opinion she’s truly the first female bad-ass in science fiction movies. One moment I absolutely fucking love, is when one of the imperial Stormtroopers finds her during the aforementioned shoot-out and says “there’s one, set for stun” like she’s just some defenseless little thing who poses no threat, so I’ll just stun her and BOOM she just blows him away. She seems to have this stigma of being a damsel-in-distress. Yes, the fact that she did have to be rescued and the “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi” message doesn’t really help my case here. I love that she was hurling insults as Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin took her prisoner, tortured her and eventually blew up her home planet. She would later go on in the trilogy to have some truly great moments, like killing the Al Capone of the Star Wars universe, Jabba the Hutt. Princess Leia was a trailblazer in film. I think future sci-fi heroines like Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor owe Leia some kind of gratitude or at least their creators do.
Leia’s rescuers are our two heroes, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Han was what every fan wanted to be, smooth, all the best lines, coolest ship and he had the best partner-in-crime ever, Chewbacca. Luke was who every fan actually was, the kid stuck in a rut, longing for more. Luke gazing off into the binary sunset on Tatooine with John Williams’ music doing what it does best is the epitome of that Star Wars feeling for me. I whole heartedly believe that a huge part of the success of these films is the Incredible music of John Williams. He’s carved out some of the best themes in movie history, but his music for the Star Wars Saga, is the playbook on how to score anything. Literally every character, moment and scene has some kind of musical acknowledgement. They never felt repetitive or feel copied and pasted from one scene to another, they just felt right. Williams is so fucking good he even makes the background music in the Cantina bar scene memorable.
Speaking of the Cantina, let’s talk about something I never saw before in any sci-fi movie, a dive bar. Filled with every awful looking creature you can think of: yeti-thing, thirsty-rat, butt-face, satan-guy etc. they’re all just hanging out, drinking like regulars you would see at any dive.
One of these scumbags makes the fatal mistake of messing with Luke and attacking old Ben Kenobi resulting in Ben cutting its fucking arm off. The band stops playing and all the patrons are just staring at Ben, Luke and the severed arm on the floor, only to immediately go back to what they were doing, the band continues to play, not giving the slightest shit, CLASSIC DIVE BAR, I love this place.
I obviously can’t talk about A New Hope without mentioning is main antagonist, the one, the only Darth Vader. Without the influence of the prequels, we only knew Vader as the half man/half machine Imperial Commander, who could strangle people with his mind and stuck to his belief in the long forgotten Force. To me, Vader is at his coldest in this installment, strictly business, trying to locate that damn Rebel Base. The only tiny crack we see in his armor is when he sees Obi-Wan for the first time in very a long time. What I love is just how much I felt their history, in the way these two characters felt each other’s presence in this moment. I love how the shot lingers on Old Ben as he walks down the quiet Death Star corridor then comes to a slow stop. We see Vader standing there with his lightsaber drawn, just waiting for him and of course, that breathing.
Their duel that follows is barely a duel really and I don’t think it was meant to be either. Their dialogue during this scene is almost unnecessary; the sound of the lightsabers, Obi- Wan’s facial expressions, Darth Vader’s body movements and the lack of music does it all, you know shit just got real.
Obi Wan sees Luke and the gang escaping, that stirring force theme whispers its way into the foreground again, he holds his lightsaber up to his face, closes his eyes in moment of Zen and Vader takes him down. I remember being full-on panicked when Old Ben died “what the fuck are they gonna do now?”
A New Hope’s final act is Luke in his X-Wing with his fellow Rebel pilots, against Darth Vader and his TIE Fighters in a dog fight along the crevice of the Death Star. Han, who bailed earlier, shows up just in time to knock Vader out of the fight and give Luke a clear path to destroy the Death Star, stopping the Empire…for now.
When I saw the Death Star explode in theatres during the 1997 Special Edition re-release, I think the entire audience reacted as if something had actually blown up inside the theatre, everyone screamed and immediately began laughing and clapping when the scene ended.
The movie of course ends with a medal ceremony for Luke and Han (not for Chewbacca though? I call bullshit) bestowed upon them by Leia and the Rebel alliance leaders. The recipients turn and face the audience as they are applauded to one final reprise of the Star Wars theme and cut to stars in space…and cut to me buying hundreds of toys, making friends who also love these movies, seeing every episode after with these friends and feeling it every time.
May The Force Be With You…
P.S. A note from Paul, our Editor In Chief…