Review: Star Wars – Episode IV

This is my first review in english language, but I thought, I´d give it a try.
English is not my native language, so please forgive me, if there are some grammatical mistakes here and there.

What´s the thing about Star Wars? Why do fans all over the world go nuts, whenever a new movie is being announced after what felt like 12 billion years? And why the hell are kids crazy about every single toy that has the Star Wars-Logo on it, even if they haven´t seen a single one of the movies?

The Star Wars-brand is everywhere and even IKEA sold a lamp, that looked like the deathstar and it was marketed as such. So I made it my goal, to shut down some parts of my brain (which probably won´t be too hard) and rewatch the original trilogy, trying to see it, as if I was watching it for the first time. I´ll try to avoid all my childhood memories and all the nostalgia about it, to be as objective as I can be.

If there should be anyone out there, who hasn´t seen those movies yet, be warned: This one will be spoilers galore!

Here we  go!

The story:
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

Even this first sentence gets me a little confused. A long time ago? Aren´t they flying around in spaceships and shooting blasters and stuff? And that was a long time ago? Unusual, but cool. And it probably doesnt really matter at all.

There is some yellow text, giving us some exposition about a civil war and about good rebels fighting an evil galactic empire. Tell it like it is, George Lucas! There is no grey in Star Wars. The empire is evil and that´s it.

A princess has stolen the plans of the empires secret superweapon and tries to escape with them, but the empire is already on her tail. Once again I´m a little confused about the existence of royalty in space.

And then, there it is… One of the most famous opening shots in movie history. A little spaceship dashes through space, green and red lasers are flying everywhere and the huge hull of an imperial stardestroyer is rolling onto the screen. There really can be no doubt about the power structures in the galaxy.

The little ship is getting banged up pretty good and gets drawn into the belly of the stardestroyer. At this point, we´re meeting the droids C3PO and R2-D2, who are making their way through the strangely sterile looking hallways of the ship, looking pretty ridiculous.
One is slender and golden with the voice of a british butler, while the other is short, covered in blinking lamps, rolling around on three wheels and constantly making beeping noises, which everyone seems to understand, which is probably the strangest thing of all.
Yes, we´re in the late 70s.

Imperial troops, wearing cool white armor and helmets, which make them look they´re constantly frowning, are rushing the ship in search for the deathstar-plans.

Is it me, or does the empire hold a grudge against stars? Stardestroyers, deathstars… Why do they compulsively need to blow up stars? Whatever…

At some point R2 gets touchy-feely with a woman in white, before rejoining with his golden buddy and escaping the ship with an escape pod. Meanwhile the woman, princess Leia, gets stunned by the stormtroopers and the main villain has his entrance: Darth Vader.

While the stormtroopers sport squeaky clean white armor, Vader is wearing black from head to toe. He´s got a nasty mask, looking like a scary mixture of a gasmask, a skull and a samurai-helmet. And fittingly, he even makes some gasmasky breathing noises, making me wonder, what kind of monster might be hiding underneath that mask.

Vader arrests the princess and is really pissed, that the plans are not aboard the ship. They aren´t? No, R2 has them stored away somewhere in his memorybase and has just ejected himself and C3PO to safety.

Well… That kind of more or less safe safety, I guess. They land on some kind of desert-planet that is so barren, that it makes the Sahel-Zone look like an oasis. And sand isn’t probably the best thing for droid joints either.

The two robo-rebels have a rather amusing little fight and part ways directly after the crash, only to find themselves in some sort of wandering block, habitated by a race of squeaking little, hooded mouse-people, who are scavenging the desert for scrap metal. Because it´s common knowledge, that you can find tons of old metal in any desert… ?

They reach a moisture-farm (do really wanna know what that is?) and a good half hour into the movie, we finally meet our hero, Luke Skywalker, a blonde, whiny boy, who is somewhere around 18, but acts as if he just turned 13. Luke dreams of leaving that desert-planet one day (who wouldn’t?), to go to the academy and become a pilot, but his uncle Owen has more grounded plans for him on the moisture farm.

I keep hearing criticism about Luke being such a pussy at the beginning of the movie, but for me, it’s a classic part of a hero´s journey. Ideally, the events of the story are changing the protagonists, making them grow in a way.

Anyway… Owen buys the droids from the mouse-people, because you can always find good use for a butler and a pilot in the middle of the desert, I guess.

When Luke is cleaning them up, scrubbing away on R2, he accidentally triggers a holographic message of princess Leia, asking some General Kenobi for help. Luke remembers some old guy named Ben Kenobi, who lives somewhere nearby. What a coincidence, huh?
To add to the confusion, R2 claims to be the property of that Kenobi-guy and runs off at the first chance he gets, making Luke and C3PO chase him down and they´re getting attacked by a bunch of mummed desert-dudes, riding on walking flokati-rugs.
In the last moment, they´re getting rescued by no less than the strange hermit and animal-impersonator Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi.
Did I tell you, that there are some strange coincidences in this movie?

Ben takes Luke home for a drink, hands him his father´s lightsaber, tells him, that he used to be daddy Skywalkers best buddy and that they´ve fought in some clone wars together. But Lukes dad was betrayed and killed by a guy named Darth Vader, who in turned used to be the apprentice of Ben. Whew… Now things are starting to get complicated.
Ben goes on, telling Luke about the Jedi, some sort of galactic peacekeepers, who were eradicated by the empire, because they were able to wield the strange powers of the force, which has a dark and a light side and is able to grant you some sort of magic powers.

They finally play back Leia´s message and find out, that she wants Kenobi to bring R2 and the plans to a planet called Alderaan, where there is supposed to be someone who can make some kind of use of them.

Then the old guy asks Luke to come to Alderaan with him and let him teach him the ways of the force. Waitaminute… Let´s summarize: A strange old man, living on his own in the desert, picks up a beaten up, blonde, young boy, takes him home and gives him presents, before asking him to stay for a while longer. Am I the only one, who thinks, that this is a little creepy?

Luke isn’t convinced right away as well and prefers to go home to his aunty and uncle, but unfortunately the empire was a little quicker, followed the tracks of the droids and turned his foster-parents into crunchy kebap, because… well… um… because the empire is evil and, they do evil things.
If I was a stormtrooper, searching for some droids and people told me: “Yeah, we bought them, but they´ve gone out with Luke and should be back by noon.”, I probably wouldn’t whip out the flamethrower right away and invite myself for tea instead, to wait until the blonde youngster returns.
But no! Stormtroopers may be extremely skilled marksmen (*cough*), but they´re certainly not the brightest and so they´re already gone, once Luke returns home.

Obviously, his career as a moisture-farmer has met an abrupt end, so Luke quickly decides to reskill, to become a Jedi under the tutelage of old Kenobi. They head out, to find a ship, that can get them to Alderaan and the hottie-princess, and end up in a shady bar with groovy music.

This is where we meet Han Solo and his furry friend Chewbacca (fantastically dubbed by Sylvester Stallone), who make a living as smugglers and don’t even feel guilty for shooting green, pop-eyed debt-collectors.

Yes, Han shot first!

They find an agreement and the trip to Alderaan is booked.

Meanwhile, the empire is losing its patience with princess Leia. The royal hottie remained silent, even after an intense acupuncture-session with some sort of flying imperial torture-soccerball and the evil Grandmoff Tarkin, who seems to be the big guy on the deathstar, threatens to blow up her homeplanet of Alderaan, if she doesn’t give him the location of the rebel´s base.

Not wanting to be responsible for the death of millions, as well as her parents and her favorite pet, Leia quickly makes up some lie, but Tarkin gives the order to fire anyway, because he´s a bad guy and he has a big toy he finally wants to try out on something.
So Alderaan is turned into an Asteroid field and Leias pet is now a cloud of spacedust.

At the other end of the galaxy, our heroes are boarding Solo´s ship, the “Millenium Falcon”, which is a piece of junk, according to Luke. But the junk is flying quite well and they can escape the grasp of the imperial stormtroopers in the last minute.

One quick jump through hyperspace later, they surprisingly end up in an asteroid-field, when there was supposed to be Alderaan. But instead of the planet, theres now just a small moon.
Wait! That’s no moon! It´s a Mega-Maid! It´s a space station! And before they know, whats happening, they are being sucked into one of the deathstars hangar bays.

Our heroes hide in some kind of luggage compartment, to avoid the imperial search-party and once again, I´m impressed by the intelligence of the imperial army.
“Hey, boss! We´ve just tractorbeamed ourselves a new spaceship, but there´s nobody in it. Isnt that a little…Uh…  Nevermind.”
At least, they´re putting two guards in front of the falcon, but those poor little soldiers are knocked out, robbed of their armor and never heard of again. They´re probably still tied up nakedly in the falcon´s luggage compartment.
“Hey Chewie, what´s that smell?”
Poor guys.

Perfectly disguised with the new stormtrooper armor, our heroes can now move freely about the deathstar and their plan is, to deactivate the tractorbeam, but before they can do that, they need to take a look in the stations computersystem, to find the controls for the damn thing.

So… any stormtrooper without the slightest bit of education (obviously!) can access the deathstar-systems and take a look at its plans? Well, I guess Darth Vader is gonna choke some IT-guys to death, when this comes out.

While looking for the tractorbeam-controls, the heroes find out, that princess Leia is being held prisoner here (What a coincidence!) and agree to free her, while Obi-Wan wants to take care of the tractorbeam, which doesn’t seem so hard at first, since he has found the on/off-switch rather quickly, but unfortunately, some idiot built that thing on the back of a column, which stands in some bottomless pit. Usability anyone?

Luke, Han and Chewie find the deathstars prison-cells (That was easy…), take out some guards (Okay, not THAT easy.), find the princess, have a shootout and escape by jumping into some garbage chute after blasting of the grating in front of it.

I´m absolutely no pro, when it comes to the construction of space stations, but why do you need a garbage chute in the middle of a corridor in the prison-section? And even if you need it, why did they put a grating there to protect it? Is there a garbage-manager-stormtrooper, who has the key for that thing?

Whatever… They end up in some trash-compactor, escape the thing and fight their way back into the hangarbay, where they were about to meet up with Obi-Wan. But the old Jedi is being confronted by his old apprentice Vader, they draw their lightsabers, fight and… what?!?

“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”, Obi-Wan says, feels pretty damn smart for a moment and lets himself be cut down by Vaders saber, pulls of some David Copperfield-thing and vanishes into thin air, leaving only his robe behind. Do I get that? Nope…

Im not sure, if Im supposed to cheer or feel sad now, but there isn’t much time to think about it anyway, because, there is still a daring escape to be made.

Luke and Han quickly get rid of a few chasing Tie-Fighter and they flee to the rebel base, to finally hand over the deathstar´s plans.

But before that, Leia in being nice and comforts Luke for losing his mentor.
Um… she has just lost her homeworld and pretty much everyone she ever knew and loved and she comforts Luke, who just witnessed some old guy, he met about two days ago, pulling of some magic-trick? Wow… that’s empathetic.

At the rebel base, they don’t waste no time and come up with a killer plan. The deathstar seems to have a ventilation shaft, which leads directly to the stations reactor-core. And if you shoot a torpedo into that shaft, the whole thing would blow up and they could have a party.

I´d like to point out here, that even the garbage chute in the prison-corridor had a grating.

Who built that thing?!?

To approach the ventilation shaft, the rebel smart-guys recommend a trench, located at the deathstars equator and at its end is said shaft. So… hop into your space-fighters and go for it!

I didn’t really get the whole trench-run-thing. Couldn’t you just fly directly towards the ventilation shaft without having to maneuver through the narrow trench while avoiding turbolaser-fire and Tie-Fighters?

To make things a little more dramatic, clever old Darth Vader put a tracking device into the falcon and managed to sneak the deathstar into firing range of the rebel base, so its probably good, to hurry things up a bit.

The final showdown is going down, X-Wings and all other sorts of alphabetical wings are buzzing through the trench, followed by Vader in his personal Tie-Fighter.
In the end, only Luke is left, hears Bens voice cheering him up and hits the shaft with his torpedoes, which oddly make a 90° turn, to go in and the deathstar blows up.
Everyone is happy, they´re celebrated heroes and receive some medals (except Chewie, because he´s a hairy monkey-thing). The End.

The story is pretty damn simple and paints a clear picture of black and white. And that’s great. That’s exactly what I want my space-opera to be. Star Wars is absolutely no science-fiction, even if there are starships and laserblasters and stuff like that.
It´s a fantasy-story set in space. There are old, wise wizards, a black knight, a young apprentice, swordfights and princess in peril. Great stuff to make my inner 13 years old self happy. Captain Coincidence has a lot of things to do here and there, but that’s really not too bad.

The characters:
This movies is full of great characters, who have become icons of pop-culture by now. Luke, the naive boy with big dreams, Han, the scoundrel with the heart of gold, Obi-Wan, the wise teacher, Leia, the damsel in distress, who is actually quite tough, the great Droid-duo and of course, the king of mouthbreathers, Darth Vader.

The actors are doing an okay job, even though Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher have been far from being the greatest actors of all time, back then und some lines of dialogue feel a bit forced.

The look:
Im referring to the special edition here, since the original theatrical version isn’t officially available on BluRay. When you compare Star Wars to other scifi-classics of that time, it looks nicely dirty. Every location feels like it’s a place where people actually live. Some of the alien-masks look as rubbery as they probably were, but somehow that’s okay.

The reworked material in the special edition is a mixed bag really… In many cases the CG-additions aren´t necessary or even too much, while in other scenes they look great. Overall, the movie still looks great and is aged pretty well.

The verdict:
Star Wars is a great space fairy tale, full of  loveable and hateable characters and a story that takes you on a journey through a universe full of strange creatures and wondrous places.
It has a lot of action, but it also takes its time to introduce characters or places and I really like that.
The showdown is – even compared to modern standards – extremely well made and thrilling.

I can´t really get my inner fanboy to shutup, but I think even without all the nostalgia, Star Wars is a damn good movie.

 

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About Uebelator

Filmfan, Videospieler, Nerd.

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