With the release of the seventh Star Wars film this Friday, this week is more appropriate than ever to look back at the iconic film series that brought us here. From the memorable highs of The Empire Strikes Back to the laughable lows of Attack of the Clones, join us as we recap the Star Wars saga in preparation for The Force Awakens.
Filled with timeless moments and incredible charm, Star Wars (later retitled Episode IV: A New Hope) lives up to its reputation as the classic that started it all.
Set more than two decades after the Republic’s fall in Episode III, the galaxy is in a state of civil war between the Rebel Alliance and the tyrannical Galactic Empire. Matters become extremely dire for the Alliance as the Empire unleashes its planet-shattering weapon: the Death Star. Before being captured by the imperial Sith lord Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) Princess Leia of Alderaan (Carrie Fisher) assigns a little droid named R2-D2 to recruit the help of Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness) to stop this cosmic weapon of mass destruction.
R2 — with an easily annoyed protocol droid, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), in tow — are launched into the planet of Tattooine, where Kenobi resides. However, through sheer luck, both instead stumble upon the company of adventure-seeking farm-boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). After finding Leia’s message within R2, the trio seeks out Kenobi, who reveals to Luke that his father, Anakin Skywalker, was also a powerful Jedi Knight. He requests that Luke join the mission given his potential power and ambition.
Needing a worthy spaceship for this quest, the group also recruits the services of bold-talking smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his beastly Wookie partner Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). Both of them are the pilots of the notoriously speedy starship, the Millennium Falcon. What follows is an adrenaline-pumping adventure filled with garbage compactor monsters, lightsaber duels, a smart-mouthed Alderaan princess, and of course, some legendary space dogfights.
The plot of Star Wars is a relatively straightforward adventure film — heroes band together, save the princess, blow up the giant death machine and save the galaxy. Despite its simplicity, there is so much crowd-pleasing fun and charm waiting around every corner. This is especially thanks to a cast of characters brimming with personality. This is not only because of the all-round charismatic performances from the actors, but also a script that prioritizes emotion rather than complex seriousness. Whether it`s the witty banter between our heroes or Darth Vader’s intimidating actions, Star Wars never fails to keep you properly interested in its cast. This is also considerably odd given the script was written by director George Lucas, who is also responsible for the sub-par writing of the prequel trilogy.
The action set pieces are also well executed and strike a perfect balance. They are neither too dull, nor too excessive. More importantly, rather than relying on special effects, these sequences mainly use the energy coming from its characters. From a broader perspective, the climactic attack on the Death Star is not that big; it only consists of a few Starfighters from both sides attacking each other. However, it is still one of the most memorable scenes in the franchise because it prioritizes what is at stake for our heroes rather than the actual spectacle. Tensions become high as we see Alliance fighters slowly picked off by Darth Vader, and we frequently cut back to Rebel base staff as the Death Star gets closer to obliterating them. When the imperial battle station is finally destroyed, this makes the celebration all the more satisfying. That’s how blockbuster climaxes are done.
The special effects and world-building within the film is also noteworthy thanks to the creative use of conventional sets and diverse costume designs. It makes for a unique and immersive experience also due in part to being tamer than other crazier designs in seventies’ Hollywood sci-fi. Unfortunately, this aspect is severely affected by director George Lucas’s decision to add more “updated” CGI effects and alterations to this film — and its subsequent sequels — in the decades following their release. Today, these are the only versions officially available; the original theatrical cuts are very rare to find. These new additions are not bad for the most part, but can be jarring to watch. One minute you’re watching conventional effects from the 1970s, the next you’re seeing CGI from 2004. It ultimately detracts from what was already working fine within the film.
Nevertheless, Star Wars remains an iconic cornerstone in Hollywood cinema that sparked the imagination of a generation. It may not be perfect due to its simplicity or its recent alterations, but it is still an exciting piece of classic sci-fi that cannot be missed.