Welcome to the first in a new regular weekly Star Wars column. We'll be revisiting the movies, exploring the characters, looking at the games, comics, novels and everything else in the Star Wars universe. Starting at the very beginning, as Martin Rayburn looks back at Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
What can be said about Star Wars that hasn't been said a million times since
1977? It's one of the most popular films of all time, and has likely filled more column inches on more blogs than any other movie. I don't think there's any denying that Star Wars changed cinema history. At the time of its release, science-fiction was considered a dead genre, with the only major recent Hollywood films being the work from Stanley Kubrick and cheesy, yet still fun, movies like Logan's Run. Hollywood, as we know, follows trends, and clearly science-fiction was not putting bums on seats so Star Wars was a huge gamble to produce. Would there even be an audience for it?
But George Lucas achieved something quite spectacular. Star Wars transcended all genres. Yes it's essentially a science-fiction movie, but possibly more so it is 'event cinema', a must see experience. When Star Wars arrived in theaters it wasn't a case of "have you been to see Star Wars?", but more of a "how many times have you seen Star Wars?". No other futuristic movie before or since has wowed audiences quite like George Lucas's space opera. From that infamous opening scroll, featuring that amazing heart-pumping score, through to the end credits, people were gripped. Star Wars was the very first movie I remember seeing at the cinema (I believe a re-release of Bambi was the second, can you imagine the disappointment?), there were cheers, raptured applause and gasps, people stood and clapped at the end, it really was 'event' viewing, and nothing, nothing ever again has come close.
For all two of you out there who haven't seen Star Wars we should revisit the plot. After two droids crash-land on the desert planet of Tatooine, they are immediately captured and sold to a young farm boy called Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Luke, who desperately wants to leave the rock he lives on with his aunt and uncle, is fixing one of the droids when he finds a message from Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) requesting the help of an Obi-Wan Kenobi. So, looking for adventure, Luke sets off to find 'old' Ben Kenobi (Alec Guiness) to see if he knows Obi-Wan, only to discover they are one and the same.
Ben has been living as a hermit in the mountains, Obi-Wan was his Jedi moniker, but it had been a very long time since he'd gone by that name. Ben tells Luke of his family history, Luke's father was also a Jedi Knight, killed by the evil Darth Vader. He then decides it is time to take Luke under his guidance and teach him the ways of the Force. After Luke finds his family home destroyed by stormtroopers looking for the two droids, he, Ben and the droids enlist the help of space pirate Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to escape from Tatooine. On the way, they find the Death Star, a giant space station run by Darth Vader, with the ability to destroy any planet in the solar system. Now, they must enter the Death Star, find and rescue the Princess, encounter Darth Vader and destroy the station before it produces anymore harm.
George Lucas has been criticised for his so-called lack of direction and screen writing abilities, but I don't think many people could deny that Star Wars packs a mean punch in terms of solid entertainment. Whilst the film is playing all eyes are on the screen savouring every delicious moment, whether it be a fantastic lightsaber duel or a quiet scene between Luke and Obi-Wan. The visual effects (including those in the special editions) are seriously some of the best in motion picture history, as they manage to make the viewer believe they're in space, surrounded by various creatures and flying ships.
Lucas has gotten a lot of negative criticism for the fact that he believes the updated version of Star Wars is the ultimate way to see the film, and you know what? It's not a popular opinion but he's got a point. The special effects are better and they certainly do add to the experience. Depending on what mood I'm in I'll happily watch either. And before anyone brings it up - Greedo shooting first? Well it's such a quick minor scene which goes by at such a fast rate, that I doesn't really bother me. I understand where some of the die-hard fans are coming from, but for the casual viewer it's practically nothing. Me? I don't let it ruin an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Adding to the impressive technical delight of Star Wars is John Williams's magnificent score. I truly believe it is the best in any Hollywood film, and I think Star Wars wouldn't be as highly regarded as it is if it wasn't for the fantastic music. But I think the main lasting appeal of Star Wars has to be down to the characters. Every boy growing up in the Star Wars generation either wanted to be like Luke Skywalker, the young Jedi who just wants to save the universe from destruction, or like Han Solo, a character that represents the coolness of Star Wars. And then there's Darth Vader, possibly the most famous character and definitely the most chilling villain of the 20th Century. The stature of David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones come together to create an intimidating icon. A constantly breathing menace with a past of many hidden secrets. Even the stormtroopers tremble in his wake for fear that he will force-choke them to death.
Whilst more adventures were to come I don't think any of those sequels
(and certainly not the prequels) have managed to come close to the
original Star Wars. It practically defined a generation. Watching
the film again recently, I am still impressed by the awesome power of
the movie and the fact that nearly forty years after its release
Star Wars still gets me more excited than the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Sorry
Michael Bay but you're no George Lucas, that's for certain.
With thrilling action, impressive visuals, lovable and frightening characters, plus a universe full of fascination and adventure, it's really hard to go wrong with Star Wars, the epic journey of our hearts and inner wants.
Star Wars is a masterpiece of cinema, plain and simple.
By day, an ordinary bloke in a dull 9 to 5. By night, a tired ordinary
bloke. Martin still hasn't worked out what he wants to do when he grows
up. He is currently 46.