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Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope back to product details

The beginning--er, fourth entry of the greatest space opera epic ever!
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written by JTurner1 September 2, 2005 - 3:26 PM PDT
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

From the moment these words filled up the screen to ecstatic audiences in May of 1977, a legend was born. That's a pretty cliché way of putting it (since, chronologically, this happens to be the fourth chapter in the saga), but there is some serious truth behind the impact that this, the original Star Wars, left upon many viewers. It's hard to believe that this movie ever got made, too. It was George Lucas's brainchild project since childhood, but when shooting this movie, he ran into production problem after problem after problem--many executives predicted that Star Wars would die at the box office. And now look at what place it has in the history of moviegoers. If Star Wars had not been the megahit that it was, there would be no sequels, no prequels, no fans going around reciting memorable quotes from the movie ("May the force be with you!"), and, well, all that it is.

Looking upon Star Wars, or should I say, Episode IV: A New Hope, it really is not hard to understand why this film became such a status of pop culture. Sure, it doesn't have the flashy graphics of today's big, loud and noisy CGI films (although this reincarnation does; more on that later)--but what makes this movie such a classic is simply because, at heart, it is great fun. The storyline is epic and action-packed (those starship battles and the climactic Death Star Trench fight are always fresh every time), the atmosphere that Lucas created is imaginative and engaging, and, best of all, it has a cast of characters that have quickly become household names--eager, earnest young hero Luke Skywalker; dashing, courageous Captain Han Solo; tempestuous yet regal Princess Leia; furry Wookie Chewbacca; wise, saintly Obi-Wan Kenobi; ruthless helmeted villain, Darth Vader; and of course, those lovable robots (sorry, droids), C-3PO and R2-D2.

It helps, too, that talented performers bring this eccentric cast to life. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a better trio than Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher as the three human leads, Alec Guiness as the elderly Jedi Master, Anthony Daniels as the golden, worrisome robot, or even James Earl Jones' memorably stentorian voice as Vader (one of cinema's greatest vocal performances ever). Say what you will about George Lucas' directing abilities, but these guys bring an infectious, lasting appeal to their roles that it makes those in the prequels pretty stiff by comparison.

Equally memorable is John Williams' soundtrack, the title fanfare has been used in every Star Wars movie to date, and of course, the motifs Williams creates for the characters fit them to a T. One can only imagine the atmosphere of Star Wars had it been scored by someone else....

With all this, and more, it's no wonder that Star Wars's impact is still going strong, and, at the risk of causing controversy, the original trilogy can easily hold its own against some of the more cinematically complex and impressive trilogies of our time such as The Lord of the Rings, The Godfather, and Back to the Future.

However, George Lucas wasn't satisfied with his original version of Star Wars (the miniscule budget he received could hardly be enough to develop some of the story's more ambitious scope), so in 1997, he and his company, LucasFilm Ltd., re-released the film as a "Special Edition". This version consists of some added-in and/or altered scenes as well as some more enhanced visual effects. Purists have opposed these additions, especially since Lucas has not decided to release the original print of Star Wars on DVD. While this is a valid argument, Lucas himself has stated that this revamp of A New Hope is his vision. But I don't want to get into the fan controversy about the Special Editions. On this account, I will say that watching this more beefed-up version is a treat in and of itself; it's interesting (and fun) to pinpoint the differences between the original and the new incarnations. Admittingly, some of the added-in stuff isn't really necessary (in particular, I could probably have done without the altered scene where Greedo shoots first at Han, although I'm not nearly as anal about it as others are), but they hardly affect the flow of the story and just add another level of enjoyment to the experience.

For this DVD release of A New Hope (which coincides with the DVD release of the original trilogy), the movie has been tinkered with yet again, this time to fix some of the more glaring flaws that were present in the Special Editions. Although it's not completely perfect (I did notice some matte-boxing around some of the starships in some shots), this version is about as good as it can get. Yes, I would like a chance to own the original on DVD as well, but this presentation is still excellent--the hard work that went into the visual and aural restoration is very commendable and is especially spectacular if you have a widescreen TV or state-of-the-art sound system.

No matter which version it is presented in, though, Star Wars is still, well, Star Wars.

caveat emptor
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written by alexjb November 26, 2004 - 12:58 PM PST
3 out of 5 members found this review helpful
though this film has been corrupted by lucas' revisionist history team, it remains a classic.

the performances, by the then-unknown main cast are a bit rough and raw - the characters are still a bit new and everyone's still getting used to them; the production values are less than mind-blowing (though at the time perhaps they were) - even with the DVD remastering, you can see the cut-outs of the flying spaceships as they move across the spacefield. but those things aren't distracting unless you're in a really critical mood. the cinematography is such that your focus is on the people, not the lasers and gadgets. unlike the later-produced films, special-effects are used very minimally as far as storytelling.

the story itself is as old as time, and it's well executed. tightly edited (at least before it was revised for the special- and DVD-editions) so that there are no gratuitous or unecessary scenes, the movie flows well and takes itself seriously, which draws you in to the point that suspension of disbelief is not a problem. it's got a little mysticism, a dark and imposing villain, a love triangle, and you get to cheer for the underdog!

if this is (somehow) the first time that you're seeing the film, please ignore the scene where han solo talks to jabba the hutt. this scene was cut from the original, and should never have been put back into the film, as the dialogue and plot points that it provides were already covered by a previous scene. it's redundant, less believable, and has more subtle impacts on the film's character development (jabba becomes significantly less ominous a threat). other edits/additions are easily noticed because they involve pointless, often slap-sticky and effects-laden scenes that don't add to the flow of the plot. but thankfully, even in edits, a relatively light hand was applied.

this remains a very well done science-fiction/action movie that should be enjoyable for a long time.

The best of the Series
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written by ebbutterfly September 24, 2004 - 11:32 AM PDT
0 out of 7 members found this review helpful
A great intro film to the StarWars Universe. But, the Empire strikes back was better.


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(Average 8.18)
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