As we move into this new era of Star Wars, I want to take a look back at the saga films, how my perceptions have changed over time and the ever-changing canon of Star Wars.
Everything changed in May of 1977. A small and pioneering science fiction film released in various theaters across the country. Of course, we all know what happened next. This film by a young filmmaker named George Lucas changed the landscape of our popular culture, and changed all of us. Initially just known as Star Wars. Subsequent releases re-titled it Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. Whatever you call it, this is the one that started it all.
I was born in 1979, so I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. I still find myself using the generic term Star Wars to refer to this original movie, although now I try to be more specific and use the proper title A New Hope.
A New Hope is my favorite film of the Star Wars saga. It’s no coincidence that all three of my 501st Legion costumes come from this film. When I was first building my Stormtrooper armor, I watched this movie nearly daily, analyzing and over-analyzing every frame, soaking in the details for the costumes. To this day, every time the Stormtroopers come on-screen they pull my focus. It’s amazing that after nearly 40 years and countless viewings I can still find new details in the movie that I never noticed before.
The Phantom Menace may be Episode I, but this is the true start for the saga. If someone has never seen the films before, I always recommend that they start with A New Hope. First, it has a complete story. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. All of the other films leave out pieces and require more knowledge. Everything you need to know about Star Wars is given to you in A New Hope. Second, of all the films this one best establishes the mythology for the rest of the saga.
Of course, we can’t talk about the movie, without talking about the various revised editions that have transpired over the years. I have owned nearly every variation of the film that has been released from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray. I even have a theatrical edition that was released as a bonus disc for the DVD release. Out of all the variations and changes, the Blu-ray is my favorite. It looks and sounds incredible. I even like most of the changes that have been put in over the years. For the most part, I believe the changes improve the film. To me, changes like Greedo shooting or Jabba are not the travesty that some would call them. Greedo shooting is a sloppy edit in my eyes, not an assault on my memories. I like the inclusion of the Jabba scene as it sets up the pay off in Return of the Jedi, but I think most will agree with me when I say that the Jabba model still needs some work. It has improved since prior versions though.
Looking at the films in episodic order, you can see just how simple A New Hope is. Viewing the films I-VI, you come out of Revenge of the Sith with it’s expansive view of the galaxy and elaborate planet hopping battle scenes. In contrast, A New Hope is the story of a much smaller group of characters going from a planet to a space station to another planet. But, that doesn’t mean the story is any less gripping. It’s a laser tight focus on this core group. It’s a testament to George Lucas as a filmmaker to show what he can do with so little given.
Nearly 40 years old and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope holds up extremely well. It’s more than just a cult classic enjoyed by us die-hard fans. It changed the game, it broke the rules. Our culture will forever be altered, by this silly science fiction movie that everyone expected to be a spectacular failure.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!