Director: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Peter Mayhew, Alec Guinness
Runtime: 121 minutes
Not very long ago, in a galaxy very much like our own, a little film called Star Wars opened to theatres across the world. A simple heroes tale of a young man named Luke Skywalker, this wholly original adventure captivated the imagination of millions, sparking one of the most infamous sagas in cinema history.
Nearly 40 years on from its debut, and only a few months away from the latest instalment in the series it spawned, I revisited George Lucas' original Star Wars to see how it stood up today. This is my review...
As soon as the opening title crawl begins to fade into the deep darkness of space, director George Lucas puts us right into the action; we've had the backstory, now it's time for the adventure to begin. Right from the off, Star Wars delivers on its title - we've got a Rebel starship pursued by an evil, looming Imperial Destroyer atop an alien planet, complete with flashing lasers and explosions.
We're soon introduced to a raft of iconic characters; loveable droid duo R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO waddle onto screen, bickering and bemoaning their lot in life. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), the defiant Rebel leader stands firm against Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones), her villainous pursuer. On the planet below, young farmboy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) gazes up at the twin suns of Tatoonie dreaming of a far off adventure with the Rebels. Along with Harrison Ford's Han Solo and Alec Guinness' iconic Obi-Wan Kenobi, this is a cast that isn't thrust onto us all at once, as were introduced to new characters and storylines naturally as the story evolves and escalates. What first starts as a simple game of cat and mouse grows into a rescue mission, a high stakes chase and then, finally, a last ditch assault to save the day.
Hamill, Fisher and Ford make for an enigmatic and electric trio whose on-screen chemistry make this film an entertaining romp; far from a weak damsel in distress, Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia is a fierce and authoritative warrior who isn't afraid to speak her mind, or offer a caring shoulder to cry on when things get tough. However, it's the snappy one liners and sizzling tension between herself and Ford's Han Solo that makes this cast so darn likeable.
Honestly, the funny and clever dialogue in general makes this film extra special - whether its Han's endless wit to Obi-Wan's serene musings on the Force or Threepio and Artoo bickering in the desert ("Don't call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease!"), everything about this script is timeless and memorable.
It's practically impossible to pick a single best line, or performance in this film, but I'll give the latter a crack; Harrison Ford goes without saying, so I'll give Alec Guinness a shout out for his iconic portrayal as the mystic Obi-Wan, and Peter Cushing as Grant Moff Tarkin, a thoroughly under appreciated villain in my opinion. Everyone remembers Vader, but Tarkin was the one who destroyed Alderaan.
My personal favourite sequence in this film is the finale; with Tarkin's Death Star looming large above their hidden base, the Rebels launch a last ditch assault on the battle station using the data recovered from Artoo. It's brilliantly pieced together - one by one, the Rebels are picked off by Vader and his TIE Fighter wingmen. As the X-Wings swoop across the grey surface of the Death Star, it soon becomes clear that Luke is their best hope of landing the shot they need.
Barrelling through the trench towards their goal, Luke, Wedge and Biggs are pursued by Vader, and Lucas has every frame and cut pieced together to perfection. Interspersed with shots of Leia and Threepio looking nervous in the control room creates this heart-pounding sense of anticipation; it's pure movie magic, right down to the ticking clock and last second reversal that saves the day.
Throughout the entire film, John Williams delivered one of the, if not the, most quintessential film scores of all time - from the blaring intro to the formidable entrance of Darth Vader or the stirring 'twin sons' moment that signals that this series is going to be something special, every note is gorgeous, emotive and powerful.
This is as close as it gets to a 'perfect' film - except for one small niggle. In the interest of fairness, I have to mention that I can only review the copy I have, which is the 1997 remaster with added digital trickery from Lucas. Scenes like Luke and Ben's arrival at Mos Eisley and the infamous Greedo/Han altercation make my version of Star Wars a weird Frankenstein version that feels meddled with and 'unauthentic'. Plus, it gets lumbered with a forgettable and clunky subtitle, 'A New Hope' (which I've chosen to omit from this review for all you purists out there). However, unnecessary tweaks aside, there's nothing I can fault this film on. It's a bonafide classic, and a milestone in cinematic history that revolutionised how we watch and talk about films.
Timeless, unforgettable and still thrilling to this day, Star Wars everything I love about cinema compressed into a two-hour adventure. If you're one of the dozen people on this planet that hasn't seen it, you're in for a real treat.