When Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope came out in 1977 it marked a new era in cinema history. Using pioneering special effects and starting its story in the middle of a saga, it cleared the way for decades of sci-fi flicks and epic sagas. The opening scene, where a space ship slowly comes into view overhead, mixed with the now infamous ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far far away’ blurb are all Star Wars trademarks and made way for an endearing legacies fans would still love almost forty years on.
The story, set some twenty years after the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, follows Luke Skywalker as he tries discover the true meaning behind a message carried in his new droid R2D2. His detective work leads him to Obi Wan Kenobi, now a wizened old Alec Guinness, who, in turn, leads him on a life-changing journey. They soon travel to Mos Espa where they encounter Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and his hirsute shipmate Chewbacca who agree to take them into the depths of space on their ship.
As entertaining as this part of the film is, the main appeal of A New Hope lies in the presence of Darth Vader. Sinister and mysterious he prowls the corridors of the Death Star and evokes fear in those who surround him. Whilst his battle with Obi Wan (who gives Luke a crash course in the force) is a little lack lustre in comparison to the later prequels, it did give audiences their first taste of a proper lightsabre duel. With Obi Wan disappearing into thin air eyebrows are raised (we think Vader might have raised his too under that mask).
The actors have, since 1977, gone on to be icons thanks to the success of the franchise. Although harbouring rather incestuous feeling for Carrie Fischer’s Leia, Mark Hamill still embraces his Skywalker roots whilst Harrison Ford has gone on to become one of the biggest names in Hollywood. The casting of James Earl Jones as the voice of Vader was a stroke of genius as his immortalised booming threats voiced between his raspy breaths have become infamous.
The feel of the film itself has creator George Lucas written all over it. From the cuts between scenes to the directorial style of the piece, A New Hope set the benchmark for the following five Star Wars episodes. John Williams’s soundtrack provides perfect accompaniment to the film and adds tension where tension is due (The Imperial March perhaps one of his best works) whilst his soaring scores add a hopefulness to the cheery finale. The jaunty jazz vibe felt experienced in the bar in Mos Espa goes well with the barrage of alien encounters portrayed.
Although being digitally restored in the 1990’s, A New Hope still manages to charm with its 70’s brilliance and is still much-deserving of its critical acclaim.
Best line: ‘Use the force, Luke’.
Best character: Darth Vader, again.