Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) leaves his home planet of Tatooine, along with his Jedi mentor Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and the smugglers Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones (voice)). Together, they hope to stop the Empire and destroy the world-destroying Death Star, commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing).
Star Wars is one of those things that has always been there for me. I couldn’t tell you the first time I saw Star Wars: A New Hope, I was too young to remember, but it has stuck with me all these years. When I was younger, I liked to watch it for the action and fantasy, but much like Jurassic Park, I have come to appreciate it for the story and for what it has done for the movie industry. It is also a rare film that manages to hold up today, over thirty-five years later.
Darth Vader has the best entrance of any villain on screen. Like, ever. The guy just waltzes in after a gun fight, then picks up someone a foot or two into the air like it is nothing and chokes him out. Then later, he is willing to kill one of his officers, simply because he was talking back (normal bad guy behavior, I know, but still). If that’s not bad-ass, I don’t know what is. Vader’s appeal for me is that you don’t know what’s under his mask; He show’s no expressions. You have no idea what he is thinking or planning until he does it. And his suit simply screams ‘menacing villain,’ just so there is no confusion who he is.
A New Hope introduces one of the best movie duos in cinema: C-3PO and R2-D2. R2 (Kenny Baker) can’t speak, so it is up to 3PO (Anthony Daniels) to help decipher what he said. However, most of the time he doesn’t directly translate. Instead he reacts to it, leaving the audience to infer what was said themselves. It makes for some great moments. Although the pair is used mostly for comedic relief, they never become too much or over the top. They strike the right balance between humor and seriousness.
At the time, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and (to a lesser extent) Harrison Ford were relatively unknown actors. It was a great casting call because it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the parts. Hamill captured the boyish wonder of Luke’s character spot-on. Fisher’s Princess Leia was snarky yet confident and strong. No one could have fit Han’s roguish charm and charisma like Ford. They were all perfect. And I haven’t even mentioned James Earl Jones’ awesome voicing as Darth Vader. That dude seriously has one of the best voices in film.
One thing I would have liked to see more is Biggs (Garrick Hagon) fleshed out more. Luke mentioned him several times in the beginning as his best friend. Then their reunion before their attack on the Death Star was one of old friends seeing each other again after a long time away (which it was). But that is all the exposure he gets. If he and Luke were as good of friends as he suggests, his character should have been explored more.
There is no questioning the influence Star Wars has had in cinema. Special effects, and what a movie was visually capable of, were revolutionized. It was one of the first films to incorporate computer generated images, kick-starting the larger-than-life effects seen on screen today. Star Wars and George Lucas are also indirectly responsible for creating computer animated movies, such as Toy Story and How to Train Your Dragon (Pixar started as a branch of Lucasfilm). Not to mention the cultural significance it has had. It is hard to come up with a movie that has impacted so many facets of film and culture the way Star Wars has.
Star Wars: A New Hope is great for so many reasons. It gave cinema one of its best villains in Darth Vader, as well as its best duo in C-3PO and R2-D2. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, mostly nameless actors at the time, were excellently cast and perfectly fit their parts. There were a few flaws with the film, but those are easy to overlook given what the rest of the film does well. The cultural and film impact of A New Hope is undeniable and I will never lose the wonder and awe I felt as a little boy, wishing I could be a Jedi in a galaxy far, far away.
Cast & Crew
George Lucas – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer
Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford – Han Solo
Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia Organa
Alec Guinness – Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
David Prowse – Darth Vader
James Earl Jones – Darth Vader (voice)
Peter Cushing – Grand Moff Tarkin
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Kenny Baker – R2-D2
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Phil Brown – Uncle Owen
Shelagh Fraser – Aunt Beru
Denis Lawson – Red Two (Wedge)
Garrick Hagon – Red Three (Biggs)