Star Wars Week: A New Hope–The One That Started It All

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.

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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.

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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?

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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).

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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! 

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One thought on “Star Wars Week: A New Hope–The One That Started It All

  1. If I had low expectations going into the Prequels and found that I was pleasantly surprised, the opposite was here with ANH.

    There’s so much good in the film, but it’s just not as good as I remembered it. The story is slow to start (I really do wish they had kept the Tosche Station scene establishing Luke earlier), and so I feel like there’s a second beginning to the film when Luke enters the scene. Due to this, it feels like the movie has barely gone anywhere by the time Kenobi is dead and we’re entering the final act. The Pacing just feels really wrong when looking at it as Luke’s story.

    I can’t critique it too much though. Having watched the Prequels, Luke is less whiny and annoying than I remembered him, perhaps because he reminds me of his Father. The two are a lot alike. Guiness is brilliant as Kenobi, and Leia is commanding once she joins the group and we finally have our golden trio of characters together.

    My biggest complaints about the film are probably the lack of female characters other than Leia and Aunt Beru, and the failure to actually use Anakin’s lightsaber in the film. Luke gets this MacGuffin that he trains with a tiny bit, but never uses in the rest of the film. In hindsight, it’s less noticeable, since he uses it extensively in EPV, but it’s an odd quirk of this film. The film feels like a complete Hero’s Journey, Campbellian style (as it was made to be), and yet, at the same time, it also feels like Luke has only begun his journey. Too many films treat major change and development of heroes as something that can happen within a short period of time. People fall in love within the span of the 3 days featured in the story. A character goes from a nobody to the conquering hero over the same time period. That’s what this film sort of implies. We now know that Luke has no idea what he’s doing and feels lost without Ben Kenobi to guide him. But at the time, the destruction of the Death Star could have been the great victory. We also now know that no huge victory like that is truly the end…

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