STAR WARS, 1977
Directed by George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford
Review by Andrew Kosarko
As the adventure begins, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), an impulsive but goodhearted young man who lives on the dusty planet of Tatooine with his aunt and uncle, longs for the exciting life of a Rebel soldier. The Rebels, led by the headstrong Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), are fighting against the evil Empire, which has set about destroying planets inhabited by innocent citizens with the Death Star, a fearsome planetlike craft commanded by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and the eternally frightful Darth Vader (David Prowse, with the voice of James Earl Jones). When Luke's aunt and uncle are murdered by the Empire's imperial stormtroopers and he mysteriously finds a distress message from Princess Leia in one of his androids, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), he must set out to find Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a mysterious old hermit with incredible powers. On his journey, Luke is aided by the roguish, sarcastic mercenary Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his towering furry sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) as they run into a host of perilous situations while trying to rescue the princess--and the entire galaxy.
A long time ago, in a Hollywood far, far away…..George Lucas was an innovative film maker. Well, I’m a little shocked. I can’t believe this film series has been reviewed yet. So I’m doing it before anyone else beats me to the punch. I also think it’s kind of interesting seeing as I’m one of the few people to “review the first Star Wars Film” after the prequels have come out. So lets get into it, shall we?
The Story: The perfect depiction of “the heroes’ journey.” Anyone who has an interest in storytelling should study this film along with the ideals of the Heroes’ Journey. The structure is perfect. There’s never a boring moment, the story is always pushing forward and revealing more and more about our characters. Those characters are also, near perfect with defining attributes that you would never question their purpose of involvement. Luke Skywalker is at the start of his journey under the guidance of Obi-wan Kenobi. Accompanied by our outside eyes and ears, the druids of C3PO and R2D2, they join forced with the rugged pirate Han Solo and his furry side kick, Chewbacca. Not only does Lucas have excellent stories to tell, but he tells it in a masterful of ways. Chewbacca never speaks a word of English, nor has subtitles and yet we understand everything he’s saying by others’ retorts. Same with R2D2. Obi-wan is wise and mysterious, teaching without teaching. Han Solo, well, one of my favorite words in my reviews is “badass.” And there is no other word that can describe him. And last but not least, we have our strong heroin who is just as tough, if not stronger, than her farm boy brother. The real strength in this film is the story. Luke progresses from farm boy, to new adventurer to growing hero, to a savior of the rebellion. And of course, no one can forget the greatest villain of all time, Darth Vader. It just doesn’t get more evil and sinister than him.
Acting: In the documentary, “Empire of Dreams” which I would suggest to anyone after they’ve seen the Original Trilogy, Carrie Fisher speaks of George Lucas’ dialogue; “You can write this stuff but you can’t speak it.” Which is why the acting is so extraordinary in this film. It’s the same dialogue in the new prequels, but notice how it’s not hard to listen to when Luke or Leia speak it, opposed to Hayden Christianson.
Mark Hamill / Luke Skywalker – Now, Star Wars, in a sense, is “before my time.” I know absolutely nothing of Mark Hamill’s early work. All I know is he did a Christmas episode with the muppets and later went on to portray the voice of the Joker on Batman the animated series. Nevertheless, Hamill is the perfect casting for the young farm boy with a heart of gold and the naďve courage to march into a detention center.
Carrie Fisher / Princess Leia Organa – Now I wasn’t around during the feminist era, but I’m sure this was a product or lightning rod of it. Fisher plays the role strong and intelligent. She’s a damsel in distress, but she fights back instead of waiting for the hero to come save her. She is the personification of the Rebellion.
Harrison Ford / Han Solo – I know this role has lead to so many other things for Ford, but I don’t think he’s had a better role. Blade Runner comes close, but still. Han Solo is his defining role. He’s smart, charming, clever, bold, head strong and selfish. I can’t think of a more enjoyable role to play without being a bad guy.
Alec Guinness / Obi Wan Kenobi – The man delivers every line like it’s Shakespeare, and it was just what was needed seeing as these films are the closest we’ve gotten since Billy-Bob Shakespeare put his pen down. Guinness is strikes us as honorable, wise and trustworthy from the second he shows up. Although, to this day I still wonder how he made that weird ass whistling noise to scare off the sand people.
Directing: “Faster and more intense” was Lucas’ main direction to his cast. Which I wish he could have resurrected that phrase when directing the slow prequels. He’s at his best here with the limitations that he had to deal with. This was hard, dirty, gritty rough hands work. Which is one of the strengths of the film. It’s realism in it’s production design and even in the visual and special effects. Lucas did the best he could with what he had.
Cinematography: Old school 70’s cinematography. While there isn’t any really ground breaking shots or techniques in the realistic shots, it’s still well covered.
Production Design: Very strong. It’s futuristic, er, well, in this case, historic. Well, it’s far more advanced than what we ever, at the time of it’s release, thought possible. Or even dreamed. Yet it has a slightly gritty look to it. Not a Bladerunner look per say, but still, not sterile either. It really helps establish the world(s) that we’re playing in as believable.
Editing: For the most part it’s sufficient for what it does. I still don’t know how the shot of the storm trooper bumping his head on the door when they bust in and find C3PO and R2D2 was left in, but ok, whatever. Where I do have to give it some credit is covering the lightsaber duel between Vader and Kenobi. Guinness being his age and only instructed in proper swordsman ship was limited in what he could do (Check out some of the special features and the footage from it all). The edit makes it look like he still has some fight in him.
Score: One of the truly remarkable aspects of the entire film. It lifts the material from the scale of amazing to epic. John Williams hit two big scores (no pun intended) in this era with both Star Wars and Jaws. He establishes himself as one who doesn’t resort to gimmicks and remains with the classical approach to music writing, while keeping in tune with the emotional context of the story.
Special Effects: Now this is what’s groundbreaking. There’s a great collaboration between the production team and the visual effects team. The ships combined with the green screens and compilations of layers create some of the most realistic and invigorating elements in the film. The shots and editing can’t really be complimented, seeing as most of them are ripped off from old stock footage of dog fights.
In closing: The beginning of great film making starts here, and ends in the same place. George Lucas both created the most amazing aspects of the film world and then bastardized them by abusing them too much. Letting them spew out into other films and basically demolishing the “aww factor” in movies. The work done in this film was earned and hard done. Lately the cinema business has become lazy and cheaper with the same mind set. Sadly, it takes all the fun out of the movies. Regardless of it’s lasting effects in movies, this film still stands the test of time. It’s engaging, entertaining, interesting and fun. And it’s got a little bit, ok, a LOT of moral lesson whipped into it. But it’s neither preachy nor too subtle. Star Wars is the movie of our century. It still effects film making today, and will remain to for many years to come.