How exactly do you review the first Star Wars movie? Everyone has seen it, or at least knows most of the plot. Still, I can’t NOT review it, even if its hard to look at the film from an outside perspective. Let’s give it a go!
It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.
During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armoured space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….
Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!
Cast of Characters:
I wonder if these guys are bad guys….?
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – Your classic naïve farm boy who becomes a hero, despite being a bit of a whiney prick, so sort of the opposite of his father, who became a villain despite being a bit of a whiney prick… (retroactive continuity!)
Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) – High-ranking member of the Rebel Alliance who has been captured by the Empire and has to watch the destruction of her home planet… but isn’t that bothered.
Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) – The former Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader is now “more machine than man” and very much into the killing and enslaving. Whatever makes him happy, or unhappy I guess? (if Sith gain strength through pain and suffering…)
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) – One of the last Jedi alive, Obi-Wan had the genius idea to hide himself and Anakin’s son on the planet of Anakin’s birth and change his name to “Ben Kenobi”… Hmmm… maybe it’s not so surprising the order fell…
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) – The old lovable rogue type, Han Solo is everything you like about anti-heroes: self-cenered, cocky, funny and willing to do the right thing if surrounded by the right people…
Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) – Han’s large Wookie companion, Chewbacca is a man of few … grunts and roars, but can get the job done in most tricky situations.
R2-D2 and C-3PO (Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels) – The droids you’re looking for, if what you’re looking for is amusing dialogue based around the idea of two droids acting like a bickering old couple.
Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) – The man in charge of the Death Star, the Empire’s planet killer. Takes no pleasure in committing genocide, it’s just part of the business… nice bloke!
Is there a more iconic scene than this? Well… a few, but this is right up there!
Han Solo is definitely the scene stealer of the film, instantly likeable in his rouge-ish ways, along with his large hairy ally Chewbacca. Any interaction between Han and Leia is instantly fun, it’s no wonder they became the love focus later on, and Luke is a decent, albeit straight forward, leading hero. C3PO and R2D2 are a good comedy duo on top of that, and of course of the other side of the coin you have the brilliant Darth Vader (voiced with great booming fear by James Earl Jones) and Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, a great smirking commander. When you look at it, it’s truly a great cast and it’s a wonder how such an unknown film and filmmaker managed to assemble it.
Everything is so well plotted here. Given that, at the time, no one knew the lore of the film, it does a great job of slowly showing the world, from a small band of rebels fighting a clearly superior foe, to a naïve farm boy finding out that he is descended from some sort of magical knights who use laser swords called “Lightsabers” and use “the Force”. By the time Obi-wan and Darth Vader are having their duel you already know all you need to know in order to route for the good guys, and by the time of the final scene where Luke “uses the Force” you don’t think its weird or out of place at all, the fantasy is well ingrained into the sci-fi.
Now, where to begin on the designs? The look of the TIE fighters, X-Wings, Star Destroyers, and the Death Star are all still brilliant, and unlike some of the CG in the prequel trilogy, the model shots look great on blu-ray. The designs are truly timeless. The same goes for the famous cantina scene, full of alien criminals of all varieties. Do I even need to mention the John Williams musical score? Classic doesn’t do it justice.
This is the only Star Wars film that doesn’t end with a lightsaber fight, instead ending with Luke and the rebels attacking the Death Star with the famous “trench run”. It’s odd to think really that Luke and Darth Vader’s first duel was in two ships rather than against each other in more traditional Stars Wars fashion. The whole attack on the Death Star, complete with the return of Han Solo, is great edge of you seat viewing, and given this was made in ’77 I can only image what this all must have been like the first time on the big screen.
Now here’s a controversial screen shot…
Not much! It’s fair to say that Luke can come across as a bit of a whiney brat in the first few scenes (like father, like son!), but lucky he seems to adjust to becoming the likable hero pretty quickly. In fact the death of what was essentially his parents in Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru effected him surprisingly little, he just sort of look at their burning bodies for a bit and then turned to Obi-wan and went “well, no reason for me to stay here now! Off we go!” On that note, Princess Leia is also seemingly unphased by the complete destruction of her home planet and everyone she held dear. By the time Luke came to rescue her she was already in smirky joke mode and never mentions it, or even looks sad at any point.
Also, although it isn’t fair to do so for a variety of reasons, the Obi-wan v Darth Vader lightsaber duel does look a little… tame, even compared to the fights we see in Episodes V and VI, let alone the prequels.
The blu-ray (and hell, even the DVD I had before it) is unfortunately the remastered version, and while I’m not as peeved as some are, the added CG monsters in the background of some shots are obnoxious, and let’s not even get started on making the likable rouge Han Solo “more honourable” by having Greedo shoot first in the cantina. I know it’s one of the oldest memes of all time, but the original version makes so much more sense for the character, making him aware of what Greedo was planning and acting before he could do anything.
“What do you mean ‘where’s your medal’, Chewie?”
It’s not hard to see how this launched the entire franchise. It’s so fun to watch, even now I’m in my 30s and I’ve seen it 100 times (not literally). The characters, setting, soundtrack and story are all top-rate. While I’d probably rate Empire Strikes Back above this, it’s a close run thing. Given the time in which it was made makes it even more amazing. If you somehow haven’t watched it yet, go do it! NOW.