STAR WARS (1977)
(Written and Directed by George Lucas)
(Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher)
Plot: In the far future, a corrupt Government has taken over the universe. It’s up to a young Jedi-in-training (Mark Hamill), a retired Jedi (Alec Guinness), a roguish pilot (Harrison Ford), a Princess (Carrie Fisher) and other assorted characters to destroy their new weapon: The Death Star, a space station that destroys planets.
“Star Wars: Episode VII” has finally been made and this has caused geeks from all around the world to either ejaculate in elation or defecate in rage all over the project, even though very little material has been released so far. It brings out so many powerful reactions because Star Wars is not just a popular series of films, books, TV shows or other forms of merchandise- it’s almost a way of life. Who didn’t grow up wanting to wield light sabers, pilot X-wings, hang out with Han Solo or be Jabba’s sex slave? When the prequels were released, people weren’t just disappointed, they were BETRAYED. Part of me suspects that nostalgia has driven much of the legacy of the original trilogy, as they shared many of the same flaws that were more prominent in the prequels, but I won’t comment any further until I revisit them. My biggest concern was the inclusion of JJ Abrams, which is strange on paper because I am a pretty big fan of his. Yet I remember all the Trekkies complaining about how his “Star Trek” movies weren’t accurate representations of the source material. As someone who isn’t a big fan of the TV show, I thought the films were highly entertaining, so did not care. Yet the dissenters are right: The TV show was science fiction, focusing more on ideas. The movies were traditional summer blockbusters with nonstop action. Would JJ Abrams just produce a normal, albeit fun, action flick with “Star Wars Episode VII“? I don’t know, but the arc of this review will be why “I” love Star Wars. Before I begin though, the Special Edition sucks…The CGI additions are only distracting, the new scenes clog up the pacing and that Jabba the Hut sequence was just terrible. If you can, try to watch the original version of Episode 4…In fact, I’m just going to refer to this as “Star Wars“, because “Episode IV: A New Hope” was added much later.
It’s easy to overlook the story and character writing when the special effects were ground breaking for the time. Even now, as of 2015, the imagination of the SFX keeps them feeling fresh and exciting. “Star Wars” tells a simple story, but it tells it with gusto. The narrative is strong because there aren’t any wasted scenes, but the pacing is steady- allowing the spectacle to breathe without interfering with the characters and plot. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was created using an obvious template of the ‘heroes journey’- which most works of fiction borrow from- but his character development felt natural. He’s a relatable youngster, complete with all the obnoxious traits prevalent within his age group. But his flaws never made him annoying and by the end of the movie, he has grown without any scene blatantly telling us this. Even better, he will continue to develop throughout his trilogy, making the character arc more satisfying in the long run. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is a lovable rogue, self centered but secretly suffering from a heart of gold. What made his development click with me was how he interacted with the others. He seems to like Luke and has an obvious- if chaotic- chemistry with Leia (Carrie Fisher). His bond with them allows him to grow and adopt a more heroic side, even if he pretends otherwise. Leia is cool because even though she’s a ‘damsel in distress’, she is arguably more competent than her male counterparts. Her bad-ass moments are awesome and her relationships with Luke and Han are interesting for different reasons. George Lucas might have written Jar Jar Binks, who has been lauded as one of the most despised characters in anything that has ever existed. But he also wrote other iconic characters like Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Darth Vader (David Prowse, but voiced by James Earl Jones), C3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker; R2-D2 had a voice actor?!). Everyone somehow manages to stand out amidst a cast where everyone somehow manages to stand out. Vader is arguably the greatest villain ever thanks to his menacing and mysterious presence. Obi Wan Kenobi is one of the most memorable mentors of all time and Lucas would eventually SURPASS himself in this regard with the creation of Yoga in “Empire Strikes Back“. Even bit players like Wedge (Denis Lawson) have developed cult followings. Strangely, not as many viewers tend to remember Grand Moff Tarkin, despite him arguably being the main villain and played by the great Peter Cushing. I attribute this to Darth Vader’s popularity, even though Cushing is very intense and effective. Some of the acting can be amateurish, maybe because some of the dialogue is a little weird, but the better lines do stay within our memories. “Star Wars” also stands out amidst the remainder of the films for being the only one to have a conventional narrative structure. Everything is building up to the Death Star, a story-thread that is resolved by the time the end credits roll. “The Empire Strikes Back” exists primarily to build up to “Return of the Jedi“, which is almost episodic in its presentation. This is neither a praise or criticism, but I do like how “Star Wars” gives you a satisfying conclusion while promising more. It tells a big story, set within a bigger story.
If I could use one word to describe “Star Wars“, it’s ‘imaginative’. I’d even argue that it might be the most creative film of all time, although that doesn’t mean that it’s especially original. It’s common knowledge that the filmmakers borrowed from a lot of sources, the most notable being “The Hidden Fortress“. But it takes these familiar elements, added new twists to them and re-organized them in such a way that “Star Wars” feels more original than it really is- and that IS a praise. So instead of swords, characters wield light sabers, which are swords if you replaced the blades with…lasers…The inner child in me still continues to squee whenever I think of that! “Star Wars” delivers unique worlds, races, vehicles, weapons, uniforms and everything. Seriously, there isn’t a single mundane object in the entire damn picture! Even the names of the characters and the various sounds of creatures and machines sound distinct and cool. The special effects hold up mostly well, even if there are a few crude moments…presuming you don’t get any annoying CGI additions in your copy…I find it amusing that the 1990’s CGI effects have aged worse than the 1970’s practical effects. George Lucas was never what I’d call a stylish director, but he did develop some innovative techniques and knew how to excite his audience. He’d get superior directors to finish the trilogy, before…eh, it’s too early to start on the prequels. But there was a time when he was an exceptional storyteller and his ego wasn’t destructive. Many claim that Lucas was never a good director and his early successes were thanks to him getting advice from his cast, crew and fellow directors- he was friends with everyone important during this era. I’ve always thought that is unfair to him, because to his credit, he did accept their advice. In my eyes, a good director is always willing to consider other peoples suggestions. Unfortunately, as he got more control over the Star Wars property, his ego increased and…eh, prequels. Finally, how can we talk about “Star Wars” without talking about the legendary score by the even more legendary John Williams. Every theme is perfect in that you want to buy the soundtrack, but it also perfectly fits the tone of every scene. It is a major part of the identity of “Star Wars“.
Lucas ultimately created the perfect merchandise machine, but did so without sacrificing his artistic integrity. While I obviously don’t know his intentions, “Star Wars” feels like it began with a real narrative. Lucas likely began with writing the characters and the plot and had a firm story with an exciting gimmick (space!). Only after the core of the movie was in place did Lucas start focusing on developing aspects of this universe- planets, uniforms, vehicles, races, weapons, etc. These helped separate the film from everything else and it just so happens they would be perfect for selling toys. Contrast this with the prequels, where it feels like the movies were conceived to peddle merchandise and that the narratives were built around those ideas. I’ve literally spent over a week writing this review, making “Star Wars” arguably the most challenging film I’ve ever critiqued. I think I struggled because I didn’t want to spend the entirety of this review saying ‘”Star Wars” is awesome! SQUEEEE!‘ over and over again. Did I need to talk about the character development? Nah, but I do believe it is a major reason why we remember Luke, Han and everyone else so well. I hope JJ Abrams doesn’t just create a neverending stream of (admittedly awesome) action sequences. I hope his movie paces itself, allowing us to take in all the little details that this Universe offers, while not getting hung up on anything boring. If he should be inspired by any Star Wars feature, it should be the original. “Star Wars (1977)” is the perfect introduction to a franchise because it has limitless potential, while also being an exceptional science fiction based adventure. I suppose there are some awkward moments, like how Luke barely reacts to the deaths of his own family…and how he seems to have the hots for Leia…who we later learn is his sister. But “Star Wars“, at its core, is a light hearted but exciting space opera filled with so much imagination and creativity that it is easy to remember every little detail and not be a total nerd…and things would only get better…
before getting worse…
and worse again…
but then it would get better, but not to where it was before…
and then “The Clone Wars” happened and I never watched that…
And hopefully it will return to it’s former glory in December, 2015…
Although the “Star Wars Holiday Special” came out shortly after the original, so I guess it actually got worse before it got better before it got worse again…
Violence: PG-13 worthy, even though it is officially rated PG.
Overall: “Star Wars” is awesome. I loved it as a kid and love it as an adult.
DISCARDED MATERIAL: The original Review
NOTE: My original review is obsolete because it’s crummy and I’ve actually changed my mind on certain points. C3PO didn’t annoy me this time around for some reason. I’ve also increased my rating.
STAR WARS EPISODE 4: A NEW HOPE (1977)
(Directed by George Lucas)
I’m not really sure why I should review this film. After all, there is a 99% chance you have seen it, and a 98% chance that you liked it. However, for the sake of my site, I’m going through all the movies I own and this was next on the list. Interestingly, this was recorded from a TV special where Carrie Fisher hosted, and I think was done in the early 90’s. It’s weird to see commercials for “Super Nintendo”, and I had never even heard of “3DO”, so that was pretty fun.
As to the movie itself, what can I say? It’s arguably the most creative, inventive, clever adventure film ever made. George Lucas isn’t a great director, but he keeps the movie going with spectacular effects(it was spectacular for its time, and they still hold up to today) and a lightning fast pace. The action scenes are handled adequately and he generates suspense whenever he needs to. There are some truly stunning moments, which are mostly absent in Lucas’s more recent Star Wars films. He does a very good job here.
One thing that I always liked about this movie was not only all the creative concepts and ambitious settings, but the movie also supports many well rounded characters. What many people don’t know about this movie is that it is a very loose remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress”. Personally, I thought the film was just average, although I can see why it would have been big during this time. I also wasn’t always a huge fan of the characters in that movie, so Lucas really updated all the concepts from that movie and brought them into space.
I did have a few issues with the film. For one, I thought C3PO was kind of annoying at first(he did grow on me). I also thought some of the acting(especially the minor characters) was off, not helped by some awry dialogue. I also had difficulty buying how badass Luke becomes with his blaster. The movie is also pretty cheesy, but oddly it works in the films favor.
This review may be somewhat unsatisfactory, but it’s kind of pointless to go into an in-depth review of a film that has been reviewed millions of times and that everyone has seen.
For the record, a lot of the acting felt off and even sometimes the leads faltered. Mark Hamill (Luke) handled his character arc perfectly and carried the film admirably. Harrison Ford (Han Solo) has a lot of charisma and is fun to watch. Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) brings class to the role and will always be remembered. James Earl Jones(voice of Darth Vader) definitely made an icon out of the character while David Prowse (Darth Vader) did fine with what he had to do. I had forgotten Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) was in this movie, and he does great as always. Carrie Fisher(Princess Leia) had a few off moments, but made up for it by having some great moments. It’s always cool to see a badass princess. Anthony Daniels(C3PO) was kind of annoying, but he also made an icon out of the character.
Violence: The main highlight is a cut off arm, which is fairly graphic for a PG rating.
Nudity: None, but considering Luke and Leia are siblings, there is some unintentional incest implications that had me laughing like crazy.
Overall: If you like adventure at all, then you will like “Star Wars (episode 4)”. If you haven’t seen it, then you must be living under a rock that resides under another rock. It’s a movie that will constantly be remembered among the generations. Imagination, creativity and talent is what makes it, which sadly, movies seem to ignore these days.