THE 28: #6, STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE (1977)
Mark Hamill: Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher: Princess Leia
Harrison Ford: Han Solo
Alec Guiness: Obi Wan Kenobi
Peter Cushing: Grand Moff Tarkin
Anthony Daniels: C-3PO
Kenny Baker: R2-D2
Peter Mayhew: Chewbacca
David Prowse: Darth Vader
James Earl Jones: Darth Vader (voice)
Written & Directed by George Lucas
It's always just been STAR WARS to me.
Before all the sequels, prequels, episodes, spinoffs, novelizations, animated TV series, and blathering about what is canon and damning Rian Johnson to fiery eternal grave for the absolutely wonderful THE LAST JEDI, a young boy of 9, soon-to-be 10 sat in a movie of theater in the summer of 1977 unprepared to be transported to a galaxy far, far away. He read the opening crawl that spoke of empires and rebel spaceships and something called a Death Star. Later, that boy would learn the opening crawl was inspired by the old serials of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. For the first time, he was watching something that so completely captured his imagination he spent most of the movie leaned forward, head resting in his hands. Wide-eyed. Awe-struck.
The boy was me and STAR WARS was the movie that changed everything. All the imagination, wonder, and adventure of playing in my vast backyard, pretending my bike was a spaceship and old cap pistol was actually a laser, was there on a big screen being played out in front of me. I knew I loved storytelling, whether it be books, movies, or television and I knew somehow I wanted to tell my own stories, but STAR WARS was teh first time I can remember being completely and utterly transported. Yes, I had seen some STAR TREK episodes, both the original and animated series. I had seen B movies and read stories and comics. I knew the world of science fiction existed and held me under its spell, but STAR WARS was life-changing. I didn't leave the cinema caught up in the merchandising hype. I didn't get all the toys or immerse myself in its specific universe, although I was very much drawn to it. I just knew I had my stories to tell and George Lucas's vision told me they could be shared just how I imagined them.
The story itself is pretty simple and ageless. Luke Skywalker, young man longing for adventure far from the lonely planet he lives on unwittingly receives a transmission from a beautiful princess named Leia pleading for help from a guy who turns out to be an old hermit named Ben Kenobi. From there, Luke is whisked into a galactic rebellion against an evil empire lorded over by the evil Darth Vader. We meet the swashbuckling Han Solo and his trusty sidekick Chewbacca. These are achetypes. This is the quintessential hero's journey with a few tweaks. Leia is perfectly capable of handling herself. She's feisty and driven and suffers no fools. Even at that tender age I knew she was something else and I liked her. I was of that era that taught boys rescued girls. I began to wonder if perhaps Leia could rescue me.
I'm not going to analyze camera angles, editing strategies, or even the film's remarkable practical special effects that give the film a wondrous feel of verisimilitude. They do, indeed, seem like places far away and long ago. Nor do I wish to debate where Episode IV stands on a ranking of STAR WARS films from first to last. They all have their virtues - even those prequels. I've not read any of the books. I've not watched the animated series. I have little passion for debating about how The Force works or whether Han shot first (he did). Boba Fett is just Boba Fett, ya know? Perhaps I'm not that much of a die-hard STAR WARS nerd. I wonder if maybe the vastness of the STAR WARS canon has pulled its focus away from the beauty of its simple premise. A hero. A princess. A gunslinger. A mysterious force. A rebellion. The latest episodes get this right.
I only know this universe from what is captured on film and with every iteration (which will include this summer's Han Solo prequel), I still get goosebumps when John Williams' opening theme starts and that crawl creeps up. Once again I'm that little boy sitting in a theater ready to be transported to place of vivid and wondrous imagination and adventure. Right now, as I type this, I'm listening to Meco's silly disco take on the theme song with a goofy grin on my face.
No matter what, it will always just be STAR WARS.