Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa
Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan/Ben Kenobi
James Earl Jones and David Prowse as Darth Vader
Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Phil Brown as Owen Lars
Shelagh Fraser as Beru Lars
(I didn’t expect to show half as large a cast up there. One of these things that you go in expecting it to be short but when you sit down and work, you realize that there’s a lot more than you realized).
What can I say about Star Wars that hasn’t been said already? Arguably the most popular and indisputably the most mainstream of all the sci-fi brands, Death Stars, hyperspace, and jedi are also winners with fantasy fans. And the first true sequel (unless you count the books) since 1983 is about to come out. So I take you back to where it all began.
OK, continuity-wise, this isn’t where it all began. But for almost all fans over the age of sixteen, this is the beginning. And although the number of those who started with the earliest point in the story is increasing, there’s a certain credibility associated with the original. Just like the original Star Trek.
Another notable thing about this movie is that it’s the only movie in the entire series that more or less works as a standalone movie. You don’t have to have watched any of the others to be comfortable with this one. It has a heroic Rebel Alliance, after years of being no threat to the Galactic Empire, the Rebels have stolen the plans for the Death Star, a space station designed to able to destroy an entire planet. The Empire does capture the ship whose crew is attempting to get the plans to Rebel headquarters, but C-3PO and R2-D2, the droids (robots) carrying the plans take an escape pod to the planet Tatooine and meet up with humans who join the struggle against the Empire.
While the dialogue isn’t the best in the world, the acting is reasonably solid and helps redeem those lines. This is especially true of Alec Guinness, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford (the only one in a major role to not be hopelessly typecast after this), and of course, James Earl Jones. In particular, Ford’s performance as Han Solo has always been a fan favorite because this character is an antisocial criminal who nonetheless does the right thing in the end. In the decades that have followed, he has been often imitated, rarely duplicated.
And then, of course, there are the special effects. While primitive by today’s standards (the lauded lightsaber duels seem particularly slow-paced), they were nothing less than revolutionary for the time. I remember Leonard Maltin interviewing director George Lucas and asking, “How do you find the kind of people (who could) invent things which is what they had to do?” And it’s true. The laser gunfights and especially the space battles were brand new things.
If for some mystifying reason you have never seen the first Star Wars ever to be made, now’s the time, before the next one comes out. Just one thing, though. If you buy this movie, be mindful of the version. This series likes to try to trick you into buying multiple versions like few others.
Overall: 9 out of 10