Before the immense merchandising juggernaut, before the nonsensical prequel trilogy, and before even the concept of blockbuster cinema, there was this refreshingly simple, yet explosively ambitious film that, back in its day, saw scores of people lining up around the block to see it. Though it certainly wasn’t the first blockbuster film, it may as well have raised the bar for the heights such films could achieve, and its mixture of sci-fi and heroic fantasy opened the door to new possibilities for both genres, and is only one of the special ingredients that made it an instant pop culture phenomenon. In every sense, this was a very visionary film, and that would only be a short description.
The film tells the now-familiar story of Luke Skywalker’s journey to assist the Rebel Alliance in its struggle against the Galactic Empire. It presents the classical conflict of good versus evil, echoing the time-honoured traditions of the heroic narrative, and yet presenting that in what was then a totally new context (with the Force being a new dynamic that makes it stand out). By now, pretty much everything about the story of Star Wars is so familiar that it’s almost like a folk tale that’s been passed down for centuries. That’s the power of Star Wars. Even if you hadn’t seen it, you’d know what the score was, and perhaps that’s partly because of its simple and very straightforward narrative. Put it simply, if you’re a student interested in studying narrative, I’d strongly recommend studying this film first.
Of course, I think the greatest part of the film is its characters – the classic cast of familiar characters. We all know them by now. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and all the rest. They all perform spectacularly, thanks to the well-selected cast of actors, which includes the magnificent James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader, the late Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan, and the prolific voice actor Mark Hamill as Luke. These characters have given us some of the most memetic quotations in movie history, and I think we all know why. It’s because the characters were so utterly memorable and likeable, and we’ve familiarized ourselves with this first Star Wars film over and over again. Of course, it’s also down to the nature of the performances. The characters are serious, but that’s not to say that it’s always that way. In fact, there’s a lot of humour going on as well, even if much of that comes from the film’s instantly recognizable droids.
The film also displays superb visual clout, and I say this not just because of the fantastic special effects, but also because of the world George Lucas had created. The deserts of Tatooine alone look like fine art, especially during that iconic scene where Luke gazes at the setting suns. While I’m talking about atmosphere, the music for the film is a fantastic compliment to overall tone of the film, which I’d say is comparable to an epic fantasy film. The special effects really come into play when it’s time for action. There are lights and explosions abound in this action-packed space opera, which at times, plays out like a comic book on screen.
If there’s anything at all I might criticize about this film, it’s that it leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and that’s probably because George Lucas had more than one sequel in mind. Perhaps it was a good thing that the film didn’t explain everything, because in the end, the audience wanted more. If anything, the only other thing I could criticize is the fact that George Lucas kept editing the film. There’s a version of the film where Jabba the Hut was digitally inserted into the middle of the film, and it’s almost as though Lucas wasn’t happy with it. Then again, most of the people producing it thought it fail, and thankfully they were proven wrong. Whatever its very minor faults, Star Wars is and shall remain a masterpiece of cinema, and a reminder of why film is such a powerful art form.
- Score: 95%
- Grade: S