Movie Review: "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope"

Updated on December 6, 2019
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

Theatrical Release: 5/25/1977
Theatrical Release: 5/25/1977 | Source

Synopsis

After Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a young farmer on Tatooine, uncovers a secret message stored on an astro-droid, he sets out to find the person for whom the message was intended. Luke believes the message, a call for help by a princess in danger, was intended for the mysterious Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The mysterious old man claims to have been a Jedi, who were once the protectors of peace across the galaxy. However, that was a long time ago, before the Empire rose to power. After getting the message to Ben Kenobi, the two meet with a couple of smugglers, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), with the hopes of hiring them to take Ben and Luke to Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).

Unfortunately, getting to the Princess will not be so easy. She has been captured by the Empire, and is being held on the super weapon known as the Death Star. The Death Star is a massive space station with the firepower to destroy whole planets. Rescuing the Princess is an impossible mission, as the Death Star is swarming with Imperial Storm Troopers, but Luke knows they need to try. However, there is more than just Imperial Storm Troopers on board the Death Star. If they plan to sneak onto the space station and save the Princess, they will need to avoid detection by the dark presence on board, one who is extremely powerful in the ways of the dark side of the Force, the evil Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones).

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
The Group (+10pts)
Whining Luke (-2pts)
Darth Vader & Old Ben Kenobi (+8pts)
The Duel (-1pts)
The Death Star (+6pts)
The Weakness (-4pts)
All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.
Source

Pro: The Group (+10pts)

This movie has such an iconic group of protagonists. There is Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, "Ben" Kenobi, Princess Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO. These characters are iconic, and this movie was a large reason why. With Luke, you have a coming of age story, but it is a story that is filled with science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. Luke comes from a small moisture farm, but has always dreamed for more. He has never been outside his small town, so we relate to him, as we are discovering the galaxy through his eyes.

Then there is the excellent group of supporting characters. R2-D2 is a droid that is full of tricks and plenty of personality. C-3PO is a scared protocol droid who translates characters that do not speak the common language (for the benefit of both the main characters and the viewers). Han Solo and Chewbacca are the smuggler duo who have a really entertaining friendship with one another. Ben Kenobi is the wise mentor and teacher. Princess Leia is the "damsel in distress", although you come to find out that she can very much handle herself. It is such an awesome group of characters, which made it so easy to get invested in this world.

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Con: Whining Luke (-2pts)

This is a part of the movie that really has not aged well. In a time of more over-the-top acting, this may have worked just fine. Now, however, Luke's whining comes across as really annoying. I get that he is supposed to sound like a teenager, and I get that he is longing for more purpose in his life, but the way the filmmakers brought this to the screen felt like too much. I think this character would have worked a lot better if his hopes were conveyed more subtly. However, this was really only an issue while the character was still on Tatooine, so it did not have a huge impact on my enjoyment of this movie.

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Pro: Darth Vader, Old Ben Kenobi & The Force (+8pts)

This movie really only scratched the surface with any of these things, but I really liked how the filmmakers set them up. First of all, the Force was established as a "force" that connects all beings and things within the galaxy. For most life-forms, they do not notice it. However, special individuals are "Force sensitive" and have special abilities through their use of the Force. This allows them to move objects with their mind, improve their physical ability, sense things that are happening in the galaxy around them (without having to see them), improve their reflexes, and do countless other things that others within the universe see as "magic". It feels a little silly having to explain the Force, but this was the first movie in which the Force was introduced, and I really enjoy the concept, as well as all of the possible applications of it.

Now for the two expert Force users in this movie. Ben Kenobi was the Jedi Master that took Luke under his wing, and Darth Vader was the menacing dark side user that has captured Princess Leia. The two characters were opposite sides of the same coin, but it was clear that the two had a long history together. Their confrontation was emotional, and went a long way in establishing the conflict between the light side and the dark side of the Force. Again, this movie only scratched the surface with these characters, but it set them up really effectively and left me wanting to see so much more of both of them.

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Con: The Duel (-1pts)

This is a very minor issue, as I understand that it was a product of the time that this movie was made. However, while the duel in this movie was emotional and suspenseful, the choreography definitely did not age well. This is especially true if you have seen any of the more recent Star Wars movies. I get that this duel does not feature two characters in their prime, but knowing the physical capabilities of older Force users in the prequel movies, that argument does not justify this issue. I am very forgiving of this issue, because it was the first Star Wars movie, and that it only seems to have aged poorly because of how greatly lightsaber duels have evolved since. However, it is definitely noticeable when watching the movie today, which made it worth mentioning.

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Pro: The Death Star (+6pts)

The Death Star was such an effective concept for Star Wars, that the filmmakers went back to recreate it multiple times. The Death Star was so effective because it is intimidating, it is a symbol of fear, and it forces a small scale battle. By being built to handle large fleets, the Rebellion determines that a small scale attack would be more effective. This forces an underdog story, in which the protagonists have a chance of success, albeit a very small one.

My point is, this was a really effective setting for a movie such as this one. Getting inside the massive space station gives the movie an almost heist vibe for a bit, but then the space battle would go on to become an iconic piece of cinematic history. The battle is epic, it is personal, it is suspenseful, and the stakes are high. Earlier in the movie, it was fun to watch the protagonists trying to infiltrate the space station, but the final space battle just made for a really entertaining climax.

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Con: The Weakness (-4pts)

Okay, I understand that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story would go on to rectify this issue, but that does not change the fact that this was a convenient plot device for the filmmakers of this movie. They wanted the small scale assault by the Rebellion to have a purpose, and they wanted the protagonists to have some "hope" during the climactic battle. However, the obstacle that the protagonists had to overcome was a massive, heavily weaponized space-station, in which the Rebels should have had no "hope" of success. The filmmaker's solution was to throw in an oddly convenient (for both the protagonists and the writers) weakness in the design of The Death Star, one that the Rebels would try to exploit. Part of me likes this silly plot device, because it resulted in the creation of great movie to rectify it. However, this does not change the fact that, at the time of making Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, this design flaw was some lazy filmmaking in an otherwise great movie.

Grading Scale

Grade
Category
Points
A+
Amazing
95-100
A-
Great
90-94
B+
Good
85-89
B-
Decent
80-84
C+
Average
75-79
C-
Watchable
70-74
D+
Bad
65-69
D-
Terrible
60-64
F
Garbage
45-59
Source

Grade: A- (92pts)

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was the first Star Wars movie to be released, so it makes sense that it was a good one, as there was clearly a reason why the filmmakers would go on to make a whole franchise of movies, video games, television series, action figures and so much more. The movie was a hit, but it was not perfect. Neither the choreography in the duel sequence, or Luke's whining aged very well, but these things are somewhat forgivable as this movie was made in a different time. Then there was the "design flaw" in The Death Star, which was really just lazy writing by the filmmakers.

Fortunately, these issues are very minor in the grand scheme of this movie. I enjoyed this movie a lot, and enjoyed the galaxy that the filmmakers setup within it. The main characters were incredibly easy to get invested in, as they would each go on to become cinematic icons. The Death Star was a great setting, as it provided an interesting heist-like sequence, as well as an epic climactic space battle. Finally there was Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the Force. These two characters were really interesting, clearly had a lot of history with one another, and their use of the Force left me wanting to learn a lot more about these two characters, where they came from, and what their respective roles would be going forward. Again, the movie had some minor issues, but it would go on to create one of the biggest franchises in cinema history, and that is a testament to how great this movie was.

Best of the Star Wars Franchise

Rank
Movie
Points
1
Star Wars: Episod V - The Empire Strikes Back
95pts
2
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
92pts
3
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
89pts
4
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
87pts
5
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
83pts
6
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
79pts
7
Solo: A Star Wars Story
78pts
8
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
77pts

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