Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Star Wars: A New Hope

directed by George Lucas

Star Wars: A New Hope poster  
When Star Wars: A New Hope was released in 1977 it soon became the benchmark against which all other space opera was measured. It's hard to pin down its popularity to any one individual element. This is a movie that owes its success to the way a lot of different things came together in all the right ways.

Stylistically this film is a total mishmash. Part western, part fairytale, part Nazi movie, part shiny and futuristic, George Lucas has borrowed copiously from other genres to create the Star Wars look. And as far as appearances go, it's something special. For the time the special effects were astonishingly good, particularly when it comes to the space battles.

The story is essentially about rebel underdogs struggling against the oppressive Galactic Empire. Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) is the towering and merciless bad guy, embodying the ultimate expression of the Empire's evil. Masked and clad entirely in black, he's an imposing figure even before you consider his ability to use the Force, the mystical power that binds all living things. In the midst of a high-tech world he's like a sorcerer, able to kill with little more than a thought.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is living as a bored moisture farmer on the desert planet of Tatooine when a couple of droids arrive. They lead him to seek out an old Jedi warrior, Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). When Imperial forces arrive and wreak destruction, Luke sees it as his cue to leave the planet. Luke and Obi-Wan join forces with the roguish Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) in order to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and help the rebellion.

It's no accident that the faceless ranks of Imperial troops are all dressed in white and known as stormtroopers. They are meant to contrast with the more colourful uniforms of the rebels, who embrace a much wider variety of races. At least on the level of its symbolism, the movie is a treatise against Nazism and the evils of racial hatred.

For the most part, though, Star Wars: A New Hope is a rip-roaring adventure full of excitement, wonder and romance. Its planets abound with colour since the action is set in a galaxy that teems with a wide variety of intelligent alien life. The bickering droids R2-D2 and C-3PO seem to exist mainly to provide child-friendly comic relief, and for droids they show an awful lot of loyalty and human emotion, although they do lighten the mood.

John Williams' excellent score is the icing on the cake, its dramatic and classical movements heightening the impact of the whole film. This is just one of the aspects that makes the whole Star Wars package so much greater than the sum of its parts. For pure atmospheric escapism, this epic space opera is hard to beat.

Film Details

Decade: 1970s

Categories: Films

  Kids     Science fiction

Classification: U

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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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