It’s hard to believe the original Star Wars (1977) is almost forty years old. What’s not so hard to believe is how well it’s held up over the years, as it practically oozes its classic status through every scene and piece of dialogue. There’s something for movie-watchers of all ages and stripes to love, and whether it’s exciting duels, ship-to-ship battles, or a dramatic tale told with just the right amount of humor, Star Wars has it all.
That very humor is present throughout, as the movie opens with C-3PO and R2-D2 already getting into their shenanigans. Yes, that is still a word. A choice bit of dialogue includes, “Don’t you call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease,” and it’s a blast watching 3PO begrudgingly follow R2 around as if he has any clue what’s happening. Then, there’s the scene where 3PO forgets he’s holding the communicator while Leia and her rescuers are about to be crushed inside a giant trash compactor, which ends with him mistaking their elation for becoming “a lot thinner,” as Han puts it. ”Listen to them, they’re dying, R2! Curse my metal body, I wasn’t fast enough! It’s all my fault,” 3PO says, while everyone rejoices on the other end of the communicator. Han and Chewy have their own fun, such as chasing a band of Stormtroopers down a hallway only to do a complete 180 when they run directly into a room full of them just waiting around to shoot back at them. There are quite a few like moments keeping the atmosphere from becoming too heavy, at least for the opening of a trilogy, and as a point of contrast, go ahead and think of all the genuinely funny parts in the entire prequel trilogy. I’ll wait.
Just kidding; we’ll be here forever. Moving on, if you’ve read my reviews for each entry in that prequel trilogy, you’d know a little something about the overall plot of the series. By the time episode IV (Star Wars) opens, evil has conquered the galaxy and there are just about no more Jedis left. It’s been nineteen years since the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and Anakin Skywalker is fully immersed in the dark side as Darth Vader. While trying to recover stolen plans for the Death Star, a space station capable of literally destroying planets, Vader comes across Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Chewbacca, who are on a mission to rescue Leia Organa (Carry Fisher), the diplomat responsible for stealing the station’s plans. It becomes a race to defeat a weapon of mass destruction, and from there, lots of blasters are fired; Han calls Leia every version of “Your Worship” he can think of; Obi-Wan becomes one with the Force like a badass; and a Stormtrooper somewhere gets a free Jedi robe to sell on Inter-galactic eBay.
Other than that, it’s a story about finding the hope to keep your dreams alive. Though we all know what he becomes, Luke begins the story as a 19-year-old farmer who’s never been off-planet. Han is an untrustworthy smuggler of semi-ill repute who eventually leaves that behavior behind in favor of loyalty, friendship, and doing what’s right. As for Chewy, just let the Wookiee win. Luke, on the other hand, is particularly relatable as a young man looking for more in life. The character is sold through Mark Hamill’s believable performance, which is my favorite of the film. It’s probably a combination of him being awesome in his own right while simply not sucking the life out of every scene like Hayden Christensen did as Anakin in the prequels. I would have liked to see some more emotion when Luke found his aunt and uncle burned to a crisp, but that smacks more of direction than acting ability. I promise that will be my last and only subtle Lucas dig in this review.
Everything I’ve mentioned so far is important to the success of Star Wars, but I’m not sure the movie would have taken off as much as it did without the music of John Williams. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s responsible for some of the most iconic film scores known to man. Next time you catch yourself whistling the themes to Superman, Indiana Jones, or Jurassic Park, silently thank Williams for his efforts. The rest of his body of work speaks for itself, so that’s all I have to say about that.
Something I’ve always liked about the original movie is that there are hardly any light sabers. For how popular and synonymous they are with Star Wars, it’s interesting that they’re only used three times and never for very long. The slow-burn in terms of revealing the Force and its uses is admirable and, in my opinion, the best course of action. At least in this case, it allows the full measure of things to seep inside my brain, which in turn keeps me coming back for more.
Star Wars isn’t perfect, of course, which means it’s time to talk about what’s wrong with it. As it turns out, there’s not a whole lot I can find serious fault with except for the reasoning behind hiding Luke with Anakin’s step-brother. It makes absolutely no sense. Nobody, including Anakin himself, bothered to check there just in case? Really? Remember, in Revenge of the Sith, it’s Yoda’s idea to split up Luke and Leia, and he also decides where they go. Fast-forwarding to Star Wars, the very fact Luke is on Tatooine is what leads the Empire straight to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in the first place, so I congratulate Yoda on failing the only job he had. To balance that out, I’m sure he has nightmares every night of all the younglings he couldn’t protect when the Sith took over, so that at least gives me some measure of satisfaction.
It’s funny; my reviews tend to vary wildly in length, and the longer ones are usually in the service of bad movies. Thankfully, I guess, this one is on the shorter side. Having hardly anything to complain about is foreign territory for me these days, so it’s nice to be able to fully enjoy something again. If you’ve somehow never seen any Star Wars film, this is the one to start with. I don’t want to hear any grumbling about how old it is or how crappy it looks. Just watch it. You’ll thank me in the end.
Read more from George Bell at Knights of Mars Roundtable