Star Wars opens in the middle of space. Two droids, C3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2D2 (Kenny Baker), are escaping from a recently overrun starship, led by Darth Vader (David Prowse as the body and James Earl Jones as the voice) and his army of Stormtroopers. The two crash-land on the desert planet of Tatooine, and it's here that we meet our hero, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Luke uncovers a secret message inside of R2 from Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who's requesting the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). Luke, aided by his two new droid companions, goes out in search of Obi-Wan, and his search leads him on an adventure to rescue the princess and take down Darth Vader, and helping him on this journey are two smugglers named Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). They, of course, need no introduction.
It's in this opening scene that we're introduced to a lot of the key characters, including the trilogy's primary antagonist, Darth Vader. We're given a taste of what he's capable of, and throughout the course of the film, Vader becomes the single greatest villain of all time. He's menacing, but likeable, and as the trilogy goes on and he's given more screen time (he's only in this original film for a mere 12 minutes), he just becomes better and better and better. You can't top Darth Vader. Not only is he the greatest villain of all time, but he's one of the greatest characters of all time. Period. James Earl Jones just has the perfect voice for a character like this and any other casting wouldn't be nearly as perfect.
Luke, C3P0, R2D2 and former Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, must make their way into the Death Star, a space station capable of destroying entire planets, and it does just that to Leia's home planet, Alderaan. How do they get there, you ask? Why, they only enlist the help of Han Solo, a cocky, fast witted scoundrel, and his beloved wookie friend, Chewbacca. Star Wars has introduced audiences to a lot of my all time favourite characters and, like Vader, Han and Chewie are amongst them. They're both just so likeable and entertaining, and their banter always brings a smile to my face. The two are not only partners, they're best friends, and their friendship bursts off of the screen, despite Chewie not speaking a word of English. Also, Han shot first. Don't even argue against that. Greedo, I love you, but you never fired a single bullet.
In my reviews for the Star Wars prequels (here), you'll notice that I was frequently mentioning how outdated the visual effects look in those films. With Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, a film that came out decades earlier, the effects are still impressive. Why? Because not everything was made digitally. A lot of the film, including the opening crawl, was done completely practically. No CGI needed. Some of the scenes, obviously, look fake in comparison to today's standards, but for it's time, everything was groundbreaking. This film was a massive risk and it was a risk worth taking. It really payed off.
There's just so much going on in this one movie, but it's so worthwhile. Nothing is rushed, nothing is skimmed over and all the characters are interesting. My absolute favourite sequence in this entire film is where they enter the Death Star for the first time to rescue Leia. It's a lengthy sequence, but it's so much fun. There's one liners, action, humour and a tragic moment in which Obi-Wan faces his old apprentice, Darth Vader, for the first time in years and he meets his untimely death. Obi-Wan is such a great character and while his death is tragic, it's very much needed. It's one of the most iconic moments in movie history. Don't worry, though. This is not the last we've seen of Obi-Wan. Well, it is in this film, but, just like he warns Vader, he will become more powerful than you could ever imagine.
This final battle, just like the rest of the movie, is a lot of fun. A New Hope is undoubtably the most light hearted and fun of all the Star Wars movies and it's the one I come back to most often, despite Empire Strikes Back being a far superior film. This one is just the easiest one to watch. But back to the final battle. It's a thrilling, unpredictable and digitally whimsical sequence that's just so exciting to watch. All of these X-Wings are flying in to battle and none are working out, yet here comes Luke Skywalker, shooting his way to victory and blowing up the Death Star. It's a scene that makes me cheer every time I watch it, and that's saying something because I've seen this movie more times than anyone could possibly count to. I honestly don't think there's a number big enough to describe how many times I've seen this masterpiece of a film.
To sum up, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope is a fast paced, action packed and visually stunning riot of a movie with some of the most memorable characters in the history of cinema. It's just a perfect movie, and the same can be said about it's follow up, which I will be reviewing very shortly.