A creative and unique take on storytelling
It's hard not to love Star Wars. The film that started it all, Episode IV is a visionary piece of cinema. Episode IV can lay credit to many elements of film making we take for granted today. For example, it's hard to deny that Episode IV and George Lucas created the modern special effect that we see in every movie ever today. (Not to mention the effects used in this film laid the groundwork for computer-generated animation, aka Pixar, but that is another conversation for another time.) While this film is one of only a few films I would say is necessary to fully grasp the history of cinema, it is not without some flaws. So, let's talk about the one that started it all, shall we? Just a reminder again I will be taking a look at these films in machete order, so after this there will be a review of Episode V, followed by II, III, and finally I will conclude with VI. Well, I mean the next day I'll have a review of VII so I guess technically I'll have one more after VI.
First off, let's praise the good. Because there is a lot of it. First off, the universe created by George Lucas is absolutely gripping, and there are a few reasons for that. First off, somehow in only 121 minutes of film we actually get to see lots of it. We start on an interesting desert planet, Tatooine, with multiple different non-human species, each with their own set of behaviors and characteristics. For example Jawas are a small and hooded creature that scavenge the planet for parts then sell them to the various other species. (And, on a nerdy note, sound remarkably like Ewoks-but I don't know that yet since I don't know what an Ewok is in this review.) There's some serious depth to this planet alone, and you really want to learn more about it after the film is done. That is some damn fine storytelling. Then of course there are the films other locations: the Death Star and Yavin. While Yavin is not as fleshed out as Tatooine, we do get to see a lot of the Death Star, which is also pretty well fleshed out despite some rather bland hallways. Moving on, there's the special effects, which I really can't praise enough. Really there's the entire technical side of this film, which still somehow holds up relatively well today. Keep in mind that in 1977 none of these effects had ever been done before, so Lucas had to do everything from total scratch with no guidelines whatsoever. And he combined the classic "smoke and mirrors" Hollywood techniques with some crude computer-generated effects to create the groundbreaking effects of Episode IV. This is the best part of the movie, which is saying something because this film also has one of the best scores in the history of cinema. I certainly found myself focusing on the technical/musical side of this film, (this is a space opera, after all) which is good because the acting department certainly left something to be desired.
Pretty much the only flaw of this film is the acting. While there are some phenomenal performances from veteran actors (at the time) like Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan and Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, and the voice-overs from James Earl Jones and Anthony Daniels are some of the best voice-overs in any film, the acting from the core three left a lot to be desired. I'm probably gonna get some gripe about this, but I really feel like Harrison Ford and ESPECIALLY Mark Hamill really struggled to create an identity for their characters throughout most of the film. Well, ok. Let me take that back. Mark Hamill specifically struggled to create an identity for his character, Luke Skywalker, and it was somewhat distracting during the film. (Before you rage on me, I will break "character" and say he absolutely found this identity in Episode V.) Harrison Ford I think struggled in the second/third act to show he was actually torn about leaving the Rebellion. Were it not for his parting line to Luke before the battle, he wouldn't of even remotely earned the last second rescue at all. And Princess Leia was pretty much a one-note character all throughout the film. That single note was....fine, but I'm doing my best to deliver a non-fanboy review of this film, because as much as we don't want to admit it, guys, let's be real: the acting from the core three in this first film is undoubtedly the weakest acting out of these three in the original trilogy. But, other than that? I have no complaints. This is marvelous film, one that is certainly worth watching over and over.
The Critique: A pillar of American cinema, Episode IV is a technical masterpiece. Creative, gripping, and unique, it is easy to see how this film began the Star Wars frenzy we see today.
The Recommendation: This is the definition of a must-watch. But you already knew that.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great