It’s the film that built an Empire, gave us a rebellion and created a franchise, spawning now seven sequels and franchise films, but more than that, it’s one of my favourite films of my childhood. Rewatching Episode IV was a pleasure. With the Galactic Empire’s new weapon, the Death Star, finally finished, our young hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) teams up with a roguish pilot (Harrison Ford), a wise old Jedi (Alec Guinness) and two reliable droids (Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels) to rescue the captured rebel Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and help her destroy the Death Star.
Though it starts off pretty slow, as we follow the galaxy’s favourite droids just wandering around Tatooine and finding a whiny teenager, it really gets going once Luke meets Old Ben Kenobi, and goes straight to lightspeed from there. It’s then that we get to learn and experience Lucas’ original mythology on everything: the spiritual Force, Ben’s mysterious past as Obi-Wan and his relationship with Luke’s father, and Darth Vader’s origins. Already we can sense a world that presents itself fully formed, and as we discover the ways of the Force and the reach of the Empire, we know there is so much more to come in the films to follow. Yet almost nothing feels short-changed or unexplained and the film on its own is incredibly immersive. Coming from a time when the prequels didn’t exist, these stories must have seemed so legendary and mystical, and seeing Luke learn about his past for the first time is still a special experience, especially since Obi-Wan was such a strong character in the prequels. His return in the form of Alec Guinness is reverential in this film, completing his story beautifully.
Speaking of strong characters, our first meeting of Han Solo in the Cantina scene is iconic, with Harrison Ford really setting him up as a charming, devilish character, charismatic but could double cross you at any moment. His beloved Millennium Falcon and best friend/first mate Chewbacca also make their first appearances, in some brilliant scenes that would be echoed in films to come. The Cantina scene, which is a feast for the senses, is in stark contrast to our introduction to Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin on the Death Star, which is so wonderfully tense and threatening, thanks to James Earl Jones’ commanding voice and Peter Cushing’s harsh features, and it gives the Empire an immense presence. One brief mention of the Emperor also reminds us that a greater power is looming, ensuring the continuation of the tyrannical Empire.
On the flip side of leadership is Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, her kind wisdom balanced out by her strong, sassy presence. She doesn’t take any crap, but also stands strong in the face of the destruction of her people, and is a great role model and strong character. Our beloved droids C3PO and R2-D2 also make their debut appearance, bringing much of the humour to a film that is as lighthearted as it is action-packed. The odd couple share some of the great underestimated one-liners of the series in this film, such as “I’m sure it must be your fault”, but the entire ensemble contributes to the comedy. The hilarious yet high stakes trash compactor scene is also one of my favourite scenes in Star Wars, and of all time, but A New Hope is full of many iconic scenes that are just one of the reasons why it is a great film.
The Empire Strikes Back may be considered the best Star Wars film, but A New Hope will always hold a special place in my heart within the original trilogy. It is a great introduction to many of our favourite characters, as well as our first fleeting look at one of the universe’s greatest characters, and with iconic scenes, award winning music and fantastic performances, it successfully sets up the brilliant world in which one of the greatest franchises of all time grew.
Do you share my love of A New Hope? Or are you just keen for me to finally get to the Empire Strikes Back? Let me know in the comments!
Photos taken from IMDB.com: