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9. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Star Wars: A New Hope

November 15, 2018

 Director: George Lucas
Screenplay: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones
Runtime: 121 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1977

 

★★★★☆

 

After the initial failure of THX 1138, and the breakout success of American Graffiti, George Lucas set his sights on a more personal project.

 

Star Wars is an attempt by Lucas to recreate the melodramatic space opera serials of his youth, with the budget, scope and ambition of a major studio behind his back. Though plagued with delays and production issues, as well as rewrites and an extensive overhaul in the editing department, Star Wars went on to become a milestone in the history of filmmaking and one of the most influential and memorable films of all time.

 

The story unravels like a traditional fantasy story, following the lowliest characters in a large universe, and the ignoble farm boy who must rise to the challenge and save the princess from the clutches of an evil dark lord with mythical powers.

 

In fact, it’s kind of a miracle that the film even exists. This strange blend of westerns, space opera, samurai films and story book fantasy. Taking totems and signifiers of well warn tropes and figures that audiences recogniser, and reinterpreting it as an original creation that leaves it feeling fresh and new, all while carrying a distinctly 70s method of shooting with an ambition to its presentation unlike anything seen before.

 

The remarkable design and detail to the film is still astonishing to this day, and while the startling visual effects on behalf of ILM are still somewhat remarkable, it’s the genuinely excellent model and set designs that still carry some of the biggest and best sequences of the film.

 

The screenplay might be sometimes basic in ambition, but the style is what lifts the material higher than the sum of its parts. The devotion to character, humour, lore and swashbuckling adventure is what keeps people coming back to this picture over and over again, with a spectacular cast of both old stature and new blood.

 

As stated, the film was saved in editing from Lucas’s hands, who shoots most dialogue exchanges in flat and uninvolving manners allowing the dialogue to dictate the cuts as opposed to the cuts propelling things forward. As a result, the film moves at a much faster clip – made even better thanks to a lavish score by John Williams, doing what he does best and nailing the thundering brass and grandiose excitement of the adventure.

 

Echoing the traits and imagery of many different properties of older cinema and television, Star Wars still pours its own uniqueness into every second.

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