1977 Twentieth Century Fox
Before the series was diluted by walking glassy eyed teddy bears, rehashed story elements, juvenile humor, and a sixteen year break there was the first Star Wars. Not A New Hope but Star Wars, we didn’t go around asking people if they saw A New Hope back then (still don’t really).
I saw this movie on opening night in 1977 with one of my brothers and my parents and I loved every bit of it. I was eight years old and already a huge fan of science-fiction and fantasy due to my love of Star Trek, Space:1999, Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes, and many of the genre movies WPIX channel 11 out of New York would play. Here we are thirty four years later and I still love it.
Star Wars is not unique in the story it tells but in how it updates various elements from past genre movies and stories. Basically this is a Flash Gordon serial from the 30’s brought to the modern world with the same basic story of good fighting evil this time with a rousing music score and far more advanced special effects. Underneath all the flash and simple but compelling story there are some great characters played by a group of then mostly unknown actors who just happened to have great chemistry together. Luke, Leia, Han, Obi-Wan, Chewie, Vader, R2, and 3PO are all classic characters brought to life by actors who also manage to make the sometimes iffy dialogue sound not quite so iffy. When Ben Kenobi tells Luke of a long ago war and a force that binds the universe together Alec Guinness and Mark Hamill make it work.
Unlike many science fiction movies that came before Star Wars also succeeds because the universe created is very believable (comparatively). The pilots don’t wear tight silver space suits with goofy round helmets and fly pointy rocket ships with sparks flying out the back. The gritty lived-in look and feel of the dusty planet of Tatooine, the rebels hand me down beat up spaceships, and the polished shining imperial hardware all are masterpieces of film design.
In addition to the story, production design, and special effects the editing is terrific and the old style cuts between scenes are creative and fit the tone and feel of the movie perfectly. The music by John Williams is exceptional as well. All of these elements and more are mixed into a very enjoyable two hours of terrific entertainment.
After the frenzy the movie caused fans everywhere were hankering for more and we got it, which reminds me of the old proverb that says be careful what you wish for because you just might get the painfully bad Star Wars Christmas Special. I can still remember watching this wondering what the hell I was watching. The Christmas Special was a nightmare but a genuine sequel was also on the way and the geeks of the world looked forward to 1980 with great anticipation.
Well just about everything.
A lot has been said about the opening scene of this movie. It really is well done and it had a big impact on movie goers back in the primitive dark ages of the 1970’s.
Beautiful set designs. This set the standard for the next two movies in the series.
Great special effects by Industrial Light and Magic. They really created something special with this movie.
The special effects have held up quite well over the years.
The not so good:
The fact that the original theatrical cut is not available in HD.
Random thoughts and observations:
I always wondered what my father was thinking when he went to the theater to watch this with us. He always considered the movies and TV shows my brother and I watched to be the lowest of the low especially that Star Trak (yes that’s the way he pronounced it) crap. I guess Hee Haw was far more intellectually stimulating.
I will not watch the supremely non-special Special Edition. I watched it a couple times and did not enjoy the additional footage and tampering with the original cut. I have no problem if a director wants to fix a mistake here or there or update some special effects but to change the intent or content of scenes is deplorable. Trying to bury the original cut is pretty lame as well.
If you have a space station capable of destroying a planet why do you need to take the time to go around one planet to reach its moon where the rebels have their base? Strange and ultimately fatal choice.
Ben says the blast points on the destroyed sand crawler are too precise for the Sand People. Since when are the Imperial Stormtroopers precise?
What is Biggs looking for when he yells “Wait, wait” before he’s blasted into oblivion, the magic escape button?
“That’s no moon it’s a model!”
Greedo changes appearance and location just as Han fries him.
Vader locks onto Luke in the trench…
…and fires quite a few shots after locking on. Why isn’t Luke dead?
No it wasn’t a kids movie. Kids movies didn’t have severed limbs in the ’70’s.
The Special Edition:
I watched it a couple times and did not enjoy the additional footage and tampering with the original cut. I have no problem if a director wants to fix a mistake here or there or update some special effects but to change the intent or content of scenes is deplorable. Trying to bury the original cut is pretty lame as well.
Alderaan goes boom. Just fine without the added shock wave.
The Death Star goes boom. Just fine without the added shock wave.