Star Wars: Episode IV

Viewed – 19 October 2011  Blu-ray

A New Hope

The movie that started it all, and one of the most beloved fantasy-science fiction movies of all time.  Laying down a critique on this classic is not going to be easy.  But I’ll try … Set a number of years following the down beat ending of Episode III, we are reunited with droid buddies C3PO and R2D2 aboard a star ship when it is attacked by an imperial battle ship, lead by Darth Vader.  Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is taken captive but not before she can store secret plans inside R2, who along with his golden buddy escape to the desert planet of Tatooine.  Soon they come into the possession of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who discovers the Princess’ message and quickly seeks out Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) who turns Luke’s humble farm boy life upside down and promises to train him in the ways of The Force.

This is classic storytelling, something that made this first Star Wars movie all those years ago strike such a cord.  An innocent boy, an epic adventure, an elderly wise wizard-type, and a scary bad guy.  What more can someone ask for?  And most importantly, thinking back, what more could a child ask for?  Star Wars was my childhood, and even though at times it can feel a touch dated, more through familiarity than anything else, there’s something magical about Episode IV that few movies since have replicated.  That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have a few issues.  The first half drags and things don’t really get going until Luke & Co put their rescue mission into action.  Oh, and a planet destroying space station is just ludicrous, although I don’t recall having any issue with it when I was younger.  Yet the biggest gripe is pointed in the direction of George Lucas and his insistence on tinkering with the movie over the years.  Greedo shooting first is a travesty, but unless overly familiar with the movie, it’s easy to ignore – what isn’t is the awful scene between Han and Jabba The Hut; poor CGI and terrible dialogue, and it just stops the movie dead – which shows why it was previously cut.  That being said some of the additional effects, like a more bustling Mos Isley and better effects for the Death Star attack, are welcome, and do enhance the movie.  Also the final attack on the Death Star must be one of the most exciting sequences ever put on film, culminating with arguably the most feel good ending of all time – delivered brilliantly with the addition of John Williams’ timeless score.

In comparison to the newer movies, yes it’s all a lot simpler visually and even in story and tone, but this is a plus and works well.  The casting overall is better with nothing that resembles the cringe-worthy supporting characters like Jar Jar Binks or (shudder) Anakin’s mother.  Names like Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford lend the movie real weight, and even at the time newcomers Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are perfect.  Much should also be said for the set design, considering the movie’s age and how good it all still looks goes a long way to show just how well-thought out the ideas were right from the start.

Star Wars is timeless then, and Episode IV regardless of what your thoughts may be of the new trilogy, is a classic.  Nuff said.

The Blu-ray is a mixed bag.  Overall it looks acceptable, but the scenes set on Tatooine are very smudgy and the sky at times looks full of noise.  Close-up detail is pretty good and things begin to really improve once the movie reaches the Death Star.  The added effects shots are showing their age and could have done with a bit of work too.  Sound-wise John William’s score sounds great as does any light sabre or blaster noises, and the final attack on the Death Star is a real treat.  That being said dialogue at times sounds quite rough and can’t hope to match the clarity and definition found in the newer movies.  Extras again consist of two commentaries with a wealth of documentaries and additional footage on a separate disk.  A worthy tribute then to one of the most famous movies of all time.

Verdict:  4 /5

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