Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope


Originally entitled Star Wars George Lucas's film was not an expected success. A 'sci-fi western' with a barely known principal cast (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher) Fox executives were so convinced it would flop that they gave Lucas the merchandising rights for free. Clearly they didn't realize the film's massive potential and never expected it to lead to two sequels (1980 and 1983), three prequels (1999, 2002 and 2005 - hence the subtitle of A New Hope added over twenty years later), an Ewok spin-off, cartoons, video games, all merchandise imaginable (anything and everything from action figures to lego and even food) and vast sales of video and DVD copies of the film.

The film that cost $11 million to make and went on to gross over $775 million in its box office lifetime (which made it the most successful film in history until the release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial five years later) probably didn't sound like a potential blockbuster, let alone the start of the third most successful franchise in history (behind only Harry Potter and James Bond). After the death of the aunt (Shelagh Fraser) and uncle (Phil Brown) who raised him headstrong 19-year-old Luke Skywalker (Hamill) teams up with old Jedi knight Ben 'Obi-Wan' Kenobi (Alec Guinness), creaky robots C-3PO (Anthony Daniels and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), cocky spaceship pilot Han Solo (Ford in a star-making performance), and Solo's furry Wookie best friend Chewbacca (giant Peter Mayhew) to rescue Princess Leia (Fisher) from the evil Darth Vader (David Prowse, with the voice of James Earl Jones).

Star Wars could have ended up being quite daft and even sloppy, particularly considering that people in the '70s considered 'sci-fi' the wobbly sets of Star Trek and effects on par with those low budget sci-fis of the 1950s. However, nearly two decades before CGI was used to create outer space and fantasy worlds Lucas created the opposite of what sci-fi fans of the time expected using incredibly detailed models, very artistic photography and excellent set locations - for example scenes set on Luke's desert like home planet of Tatooine were filmed on beautifully built and very detailed sets in Tunisia - to tell the story of a universe ruled by the evil Empire, led by Darth Vader, but where a rebellion is being formed to bring down the Empire. Couple these things with the very careful and, frankly, very skillful editing and you would need a very fine toothcomb to find anything daft or sloppy about this film.

The film uses top-notch effects in those scenes in outer space which are truly eye-catching and beautiful to look at. However, despite the wonderful effects, the film is carried by the characters and their actors. Hamill is perfect as the kid searching for his destiny. Fisher is equally as good as the first ever damsel-in-distress with attitude. Ford makes Han Solo cocky, yet charming at the same time, and makes a great comic double-act with Mayhew's Chewbacca. Guinness plays the wise old man with great power at the tips of his fingers to perfection and has inspired many masters of things such as martial arts, sword fighting and magic in numerous films since. And Darth Vader is the perfect villain - spine-tingling, cold and truly dominating his scenes.

As well as creating various creatures from his "galaxy far, far away" Lucas's good-verses-evil storyline introduces us to objects and people that have become part of the English language, such as the 'Millenium Falcon' (Solo's spaceship), 'light sabers' (sword like weapons Vader, Skywalker and Kenobi all use), 'Imperial Stormtroopers', and (most obvious of all) 'Jedi Knights'. The fighting skills and use of the Force that Jedis utilise throughout this film and all subsequent Star Wars films have rightfully had such a big impact that on censuses and social networking sites millions are putting 'Jedi' under 'Religious Views'.

In Star Wars Lucas not only created a film, he created a phenomenon, a legacy and an unforgettable outer space world that has never been topped, despite numerous imitations.

Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Peter Cushing, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Denis Lawson.

Oscars: Best Art Direction (John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian), Best Costume (John Mollo), Best Visual Effects (John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, Robert Blalack), Best Editing (Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew), Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound Mixing (Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball), Best Sound Editing (Ben Burtt).
Oscar nominations: Best Picture (Gary Kurtz), Best Director (George Lucas), Best Screenplay (George Lucas), Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness).

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