Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Star Wars (Lucas. 1977)

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.."


It would be silly to try and say something original or groundbreaking about one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons in the history of the world. What I can do, as a critic, is tell you how a great movie like Star Wars makes me feel. I can tell you what is great about it, and I can tell you why you should see it - assuming that you haven't already.

Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) is still unlike anything that cinema has ever seen before. It has become a standard for comparison in science fiction, adventure and action films. After 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), audiences were waiting for the next great showing of special effects. George Lucas is, arguably, the only man who could have pulled off a movie on this type of scale. The 1970s was mostly about the personal filmmaking styles that brought us The Godfather (1972), Rocky or Taxi Driver(1976). With Star Wars, Lucas left personal and went for the largest scale imaginable.

Looking at this film is like looking into the imagination of an adventurous artist. Every single setting is meticulously thought out and complexly put together. There is no guessing for the audience - they can see exactly what they are meant to see. This makes the film easy for people to follow and understand even if they do not enjoy science fiction. Planets are formed and presented with so much seriousness that it is impossible to not believe in what is being shown. Every long and wide camera shot is outstandingly realistic and beautiful.

The state of the art technology may be the best thing about Star Wars, but the movie is probably most memorable for the iconic characters. Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, is the quintessential hero in science fiction. He is young, naive and ready to see the world outside of his meaningless farm life on a seemingly deserted planet. Princess Leia and Han Solo do not reach a romantic relationship quite yet, but there is enough chemistry between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to make the audience want to watch them together. C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca add a non-human element of humor and plot-pushing antics.

It would be difficult to claim that any Star Wars character is more famous than the dreaded Darth Vader. This is the audience's first introduction to the now legendary figure of what seems like pure evil. His voice is breathy and deep (James Earl Jones), and his look is incomparable. Is he a robot? A man? It is impossible to be sure, but we know that he is a bad dude. He famously chokes people without touching them at all. We know that he uses the same ancient religion, "the Force", that Luke is being taught throughout the story. There does not need to be any more information. Everything will be explained in due time.

What I love most about Star Wars is that it sweeps you off of your feet and into a completely mind-blowing universe. It is easy to see that Lucas is a fan of mythology and old legends. He wrote and created such a thick and rich mythos that the audience is almost immediately swept away. His screenplay is one of the most ambitious examples of creative writing that the world has ever seen, but it remains audience inclusive. The story is simple (good vs. evil), and it is perfectly complimented by the story's unsimplified surroundings.

What George Lucas and Star Wars did was kick-start Hollywood's new obsession with the blockbuster action picture. In some ways, this is responsible for many films including Blade Runner, Terminator (1984), Jurassic Park (1993) and maybe even The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003). From John Williams' fantastic original music to Academy Award winning art direction and special effects, Star Wars is a brilliant movie. It will never fall from the cinematic vernacular - even a long, long time from now...

Star Wars (Episode IV: New Hope): A

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