A long, long time ago (1975-76) in a galaxy far far away (London and Tunisia) a film was made. Back then it was known as Star Wars. It cost in the vicinity of $11 million dollars and changed the world for those of us who loved, or were about to learn to love, science fiction and fantasy. It also seriously changed the movie merchandising industry forever.
There are probably very few households in the developed world that don’t have something with a Star Wars image on it (and that number will diminish even more with the release of the seventh film in the series this week).
These days the “original movie” is known as Star Wars: A New Hope (though if you were alive back then when it was the only movie and not part of a series, it’s still Star Wars--just plain Star Wars). It sits in the middle of the story of the downfall and redemption of a Jedi named Anakin Skywalker.
At the time of its release there was talk that it might eventually be one of nine with director George Lucas wanting to re-create the Saturday morning serialised movies of his childhood–the westerns and adventure stories of his youth.
It’s history now that he captured the imagination of not just one generation but several, and the stories continue to grab new fans.
But what is the magic of Star Wars? Why does this franchise attract such (life-long) devotion from its fans? The original movie didn’t have a cast of stars, Sir Alec Guinness was the only one of real note back then, so why did we all flock to see this movie when it came out?
The simple answer is it was something very different to anything out there. The moment that crawl, with those now famous words, rolled across the screen and the spaceship flew over our heads and that amazing music by John Williams flared up, we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.
The story is simple (though not simplistic) and universal. A young farm boy, Luke Skywalker, dreams of adventure, a world outside of his isolated farm away from the backwater that he lives in–like we all do. This is perfectly captured in the melancholy scenes with Luke and the two suns setting behind him, haunting music in the background. They are indelibly etched in the minds of fans–one of the iconic images of film-making over the past century.
Even before he can search it out, adventure finds Luke in the shape of two robots that crash on the isolated planet of Tatooine and bring the war, raging on the other side of the galaxy, to Luke’s doorstep. From there he suffers loss (of both his adopted parents and his first mentor), but he also gains friends (and family but he doesn’t know that yet) and a place in the wider universe. We, through Luke, are introduced to Princess Leia, the evil Sith Lord Vader, Han Solo and Chewbacca–all of whom will become major players in Luke’s life (and in ours). Through the magic of this movie, like Luke, we get to leave our own planet and go on an adventure across space and time (an adventure many of us still love to take and imagine).
Plot and acting wise, this is not my favorite of the movies (that would be Empire Strikes Back where the characters and storyline are more developed and complex and the bad guys win the day), but this is the film that allowed a young farm-girl from an isolated country town to dream, and it’s hard not to feel sentimental towards it. Sure it had its faults but 40 years after it first started filming, the moment that music flares and those spaceships fly, you are still instantly catapulted to that Galaxy Far Far away and you stay there well after Luke and Han have saved the day and received their medals and the credits have rolled.
This movie really was a New Hope–a new hope for movie lovers everywhere.
So is a New Hope your favorite of the original three? What is your favorite moment from this iconic film? When did you first see A New Hope? Was it your first or your fourth movie in the franchise to watch? Let us know all your feelings below. And tomorrow, we get down to the last films in the saga–prepare for a double review of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi!