Star Wars, also titled Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), is the first film in the Star Wars saga and was originally a major risk for 20th Century Fox. Much to their surprise, this film became the highest-grossing film of all time at the time of release. Directed and created by George Lucas, this film stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in what would be the first of their many performances as these characters in this world. In A New Hope, it is the job of Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and Han Solo (Ford) to save Princess Leia (Fisher) from Darth Vader (played by David Prowse) and to destroy the Death Star.
What made so many people love this franchise, including myself have an appreciation for this film and the series overall, is the incredible world-building. Even from the start, so many aspects of the universe this is set in are established. The political climate, the characters and species that exist, the planets and worlds that are visited, they are all fully realised and explained right from this first film. We are openly invited not only on a particular journey, but this world to explore and fall in love with right from the start.
What seems like a simple journey and narrative is fleshed out by the character development of our lead protagonists. Luke Skywalker is our main hero here, who goes through not just a physical journey but also an emotional one as he is forced in a situation he never could have seen himself in. This film sets up his pathway and makes it clear that he is the chosen one of this franchise for good reason. Han Solo does not feel like any typical character, instead having so much personality in him that emphasises his own journey and purpose in the film. Princess Leia is a well-written female character for a film of this time and does not just feel like a heroine that needs saved, rather having her own story and personality as well.
All of the side characters in this film are also incredibly loveable and charismatic. It is very hard not to love characters such as Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO that join along with the journey. Darth Vader here can come off as a typical villain here, almost just being bad for the sake of having a villain here, but he is incredibly powerful as a villain and his character certainly does get fleshed out throughout the saga, as everyone is well aware of at this point.
What is important to note about the Star Wars trilogy and, particularly A New Hope, is how classically Hollywood the narrative style is. In terms of the story itself, there is nothing particularly refreshing or extraordinary about the narrative style. There is a hero, a heroine, a villain and a helper guiding the heroes to exist. There is a journey that the film takes, taking a hero from a safe environment to an uncomfortable situation. There is a clear beginning, middle and end to this film. However, this is done purposefully and works effectively. There are so many risks being taken about the format of the film and the sci-fi elements, that it is nice the film can breathe by being simple narratively and pay homage to the classical Hollywood narrative.
Due to this being the start of a completely original property of the time, there was no way to predict how successful this franchise was going to be. The team behind this film had serious doubts about its potential success. Therefore, a solid conclusion had to be set whilst allowing the opportunity to expand on the film in case of it being a box office hit. This film wraps up really nicely, in a way that having both a sequel and no sequel option works well. This would have still been a satisfying film if it never did as well as it has done, but the characters and world had so much potential that a series has also been left satisfying for the most part.
With this being a film made back in 1977 and also the first of a brand new property, there are certainly practical elements that do not hold up with today’s technology. In comparison to the films made recently, such as The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it certainly doesn’t look as great visually. However, it had a certain charm to it because of that and I would certainly not want them to try and improve on it and re-edit it with CGI for a new audience. It is almost great to look back on films like these and see how far we have come in only a few decades.
To conclude, there is a reason why Star Wars picked up so much momentum and love after the release of A New Hope. From the characters to the story-telling, it is hard not to get sucked into this world that George Lucas created. This series will continue to become tighter and more innovative throughout this particular trilogy, but this is a film that is beloved by many and rightfully so. It is a strong start to what may be seen as the most iconic trilogy in film history.
What do you think of A New Hope? Is it your favourite film in the Star Wars saga, or is it just a fantastic set-up for better things to come? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.