My fellow Star Wars and MCU enthusiast, Ashley, enters the blogathon with the first non-host entry. If you are unfamiliar with Ashley, she runs Box Office Buzz, reviewing all sorts of films, creating lists, and examining the movie industry as a whole. If you don’t follow her already, do yourself a favor and give her site a look, after you finish up here of course! Now let’s get to her review of the film that started one of the most popular film franchises in cinema history.
Few film franchises have had as widespread or lasting an impact as Star Wars. For over 40 years and counting, the franchise has continued to draw in new fans to a certain galaxy “a long time ago” and “far, far away.” It’s hard to imagine a time when Star Wars wasn’t a part of pop culture, so it’s interesting to think that back in 1977, Star Wars was just this unusual little space adventure from up-and-coming director/writer George Lucas.
We all know the story well by now, from the film that started it all. We meet Luke Skywalker, a seemingly ordinary farm boy from the desert planet Tatooine. He learns from mysterious hermit Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi that his father was once a powerful Jedi Knight, and that Luke can have that power too. They team up with roguish smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee copilot, Chewbacca, to rescue Princess Leia and end up becoming a part of the Rebellion against the evil Empire, led by the Emperor and the menacing Darth Vader. The Rebels blow up the planet-destroying Death Star and celebrate what seems to be a decisive victory (though the later films reveal it wasn’t quite that simple).
It’s challenging to evaluate “A New Hope” as an isolated film, because I’m used to discussing it as simply one chapter in a still-expanding franchise. People watching it for the first time back in 1977 didn’t know about that huge plot twist still to come — that Darth Vader is Luke’s father — or that 40 years later we’d still be telling stories about the Skywalker family, who continue to struggle with that pull to the dark side.
However, on its own “A New Hope” was (and still is) a fun, rousing adventure. Though technically science fiction, it’s really more of a space fantasy/western. It’s less about science and more about the power of myth. The universe of “A New Hope” feels authentic and “lived in”; it’s not slick and shiny and futuristic like some sci-fi. This grit and grime make it feel more real, yet there’s also plenty of “magic” to fill this universe with mystery and wonder.
The pioneering special effects of “A New Hope” still hold up pretty well today, and helped pave the way for a lot of other beloved blockbusters. And of course no Star Wars discussion is complete without mentioning the amazing soundtrack from John Williams. At this point, Williams’ score is as much a character as Han, Leia, or Luke, and is a vital part of what makes Star Wars “work.”
And speaking of Han, Leia, and Luke… this film (and the whole franchise, for that matter) wouldn’t be nearly as fun without Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill leading the way. They became such a part of their characters that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in these roles.
When I recently put together my ranking of the Star Wars films and animated TV shows, “A New Hope” actually ended up at No. 7 on the list, which surprised me a little bit. It seems almost wrong to put a beloved film so far down the list, especially since without it we wouldn’t have any of the other movies. I love “A New Hope,” and it will always have a special place in my heart. However, I do feel the later movies were able to add more emotional depth, which resonates with me more. Though you can’t have “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” without “A New Hope,” I love those two movies’ themes of redemption and sacrifice.
Even as a fan, I must admit that the Star Wars franchise isn’t flawless, and “A New Hope” is no exception. There are little inconsistencies, and a few moments where George Lucas could have done something different or better. The special editions, where George Lucas returned to and tweaked the original trilogy, are a whole different topic of conversation. Some of the additions don’t bother me, though that awkwardly edited Han/Greedo shootout is rather obvious.
People will undoubtedly be discussing the legacy of Star Wars for many more years to come, especially as the saga continues to develop. Yet it’s always worth returning to the very beginning, where the franchise got its start. Interestingly, both George Lucas and the original studio, Fox, had doubts about “A New Hope’s” box office performance. They needn’t have worried — it quickly broke box office records, and continues to delight new fans today.
If you’ve missed any of the entries, you can find a list of them all here.