Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
We have finally arrived.  We took up the task of watching all of the Star Wars films, starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace… which we have to admit was a bit of a struggle… but we made it through the prequels and have finally arrived at the one that started it all, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.   Allow to me tell you that A New Hope is not my favorite movie, it's not even my favorite Star Wars movie, that film being 'The Empire Strikes Back' which I firmly believe is one the three greatest movies ever put on film.  But I maintain that Star Wars is the most important film of the second half of the twentieth century.  This is the movie, along with Jaws, that changed the movie theater to the multi-plex.  This is the movie that shattered the boundaries of imagination.  Almost all modern filmmakers working today, who saw this movie as a child, I was nine when I first saw it theaters, are influenced by Star Wars.  This is the one that changed everything.

But here was my personal dilemma.  Do I watch the laserdisc version which I have on DVD, or do I watch my altered Blu-Ray version?  I so badly wanted to watch the laserdisc version, almost identical to the 1977 film, but about ten minutes in… I just couldn't do it.  The video was grainy, the sound was awful and while this would've been more than acceptable on my old 27" Magnavox, on a 60" Panasonic mated to a Pioneer surround system, it wasn't working, not even a little bit.  So I succumbed to the whims of George Lucas and put in his constantly altered vision of his movie, hell if I know which version this is, but I know that Gredo and Han shot at the same time.  Guess what?  'Star Wars' is still terribly awesome.  There are some things which clearly do not belong in this altered version, but it doesn't change the core of the story.

You know the story, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and whatnot.  Many years have passed since the events of Episode III, the Empire is firmly in control and now exists to stamp out the remaining rebels that litter the universe.  I would like to tell you that in charge of this operation was Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones)… but no… Vader is inexplicably taking orders from
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Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) who is running things on his newly created Death Star.  Still, Vader with his unique skill of choking people, either with his bionic right arm or by thinking real hard, knows that the freshly captured Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is behind some of these rebel shenanigans, and she will talk… one way or the other.

Eventually we meet our star Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a young farmer who stumbles upon an image of Leia needing to deliver a message to old Ben Kenobi (Alec Guiness) via the R2D2 Droid.  Their adventures will eventually lead us to the scurillous smuggler and ace pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his right hand beast Chewbacca the Wookie (Peter Mayhew) and now adventure is afoot.

Our heroes get sucked into the Death Star, rescue a very angry and bitter princess, Luke seems to be kind of sweet on the princess, which in retrospect is super uncomfortable knowing what we know now, and old Obi Wan Kenobi will meet his former pupil Darth Vader once again.  What we need to do is find a way to stop that invincible, super huge indestructible death star… but that's just not going to happen… unless you can say 'design flaw'?

Books upon books upon books written, and more documentaries have been filmed about this movie have than you can shake a stick at, and such I have nothing I can possibly add to this except my own personal opinion… so that's what we are going to do.

Watching the Special Edition Blu-Ray, my goodness does it look and sound good.  Criticize George Lucas if you must, but think the man knows a little something about image and sound?  Yes he does.  Now there are some things as you watch this special edition that clearly just don't look like they belong, and I think that would almost be the case even if this altered version was the first version of Star Wars that you have ever seen.  When the Jawa's get on that odd beast with the Ram's horns, it's fairly obvious that there were a couple of guys in that thing making it move, a nice old school efffect, which completely flies in the face of some random storm trooper riding CGI dinosaurs, or CGI Jabba or more CGI robots.  In those moments, those are obviously modern effects shoehorned into a 1977 film, and they really don't fit, but the doc 'The People vs. George Lucas' went into deep detail about all of that, which we discuss on this site as well, but we will admit that more than a few of the enhancements just look plain wrong.

But I will maintain that these alterations do not take away from the film itself which is just as rousing an adventure as it always was.  Just hearing the hum of a lightsaber or the squeal of a tie fighter or the asthmatic wheeze of Darth Vader still sends chills down my spine.  Almost everything in this movie seems to just work right.  No one would ever accuse Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher… heck, even Harrison Ford at that point in his career of being great actors, but they fit these parts perfectly.  The dialog was cheesy and sometimes clunky, but completely effective.  The narrative wasn't too terribly original but because of the sense of excitement that was brimming throughout almost every frame of this classic, you hardly noticed.  And it doesn't hurt to have a John Williams score in the background driving everything relentlessly forward.

Are there spots I can whine about?  Sure there are.  Blowing up the Death Star for instance.  Luke pretty much murdered thousands upon thousands of people, most of whom were just poor storm troopers doing their jobs.  Secretarial staff, IT pros, Janitorial and cooks... all freaking dead.  That, if anything, should've sent Luke to the Darkside.  And good luck finding a brown face among the non-alien cast.  I guess minorities weren't invented yet a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  At least in this movie.  Future movies will rectify all of that.

The difference between the prequels, compared to this film as I work my through them, is that after watching a prequel, I knew I would get around to watching the next one… eventually.  I had to, because it's a project.  After watching 'Star Wars', I have to actually force myself to hold off on watching 'Empire' because that's how good this movie is, and 'The Empire Strikes Back' is even better.  For my money.  But there is no Empire without this one, if not the greatest film ever made, certainly one of the most important.
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