I know this blog has very few readers as it is, but I’m pretty sure this review will drive away those same very few!
Written By: George Lucas
Directed By: George Lucas
Here we go, this is my moment of eternal damnation, the moment when I will utter a sentence that will turn most sentient beings, and definitely every franchise (by the way for the purposes of this review I will refer to the Star Wars franchise simply as “the franchise” to avoid confusion with the actual movie title) fan, against me. I do not like Episode IV: A New Hope! I never have really, even if I did have a two or so year period where I lied and tried to convince myself that I had to like it, I couldn’t be a franchise fan and not like this film, right? But, I am who I am and the more I thought about it, the more I watched it, the more it became obvious to me that I do not like Episode IV: A New Hope.
There are certainly elements of Episode IV: A New Hope that I like, nay, love. The entire sequence of the break from the prison cell on the Death Star up until right before the showdown with Darth Vader is primo, primo stuff. The same is true of the first appearance of Vader and the Stormtroopers, or of the final battle sequence over Yavin. I wish I could distill a film out of those sequences and those sequences alone, because everything else is so, so grating to me. Episode IV: A New Hope is a clear case of a movie that is on when it is on and off when it is off.
I won’t deny that in terms of sound, world design , and special effects, Episode IV: A New Hope is a great film. It’s easily the best pre-1980’s film I’ve seen in regards to those three categories, and there are films to this very day that can’t come close to matching Episode IV: A New Hope at those aspects.
The question then becomes, what didn’t Bill like about Episode IV: A New Hope? I’ve written some praise, some very high praise in fact, so what exactly is it that irks this Chicagoan so much about Episode IV: A New Hope?
Let’s begin with possibly my biggest pet peeve in the entire film, it never makes me care. I had no emotional investment with any of the characters because the film was so busy with plodding exposition about what made up the fantasy land of Episode IV: A New Hope instead of giving time to its characters. Ben Kenobi should matter, but his death is a nothing event for me, he’s just an old man that Luke knew for a few days and the movie never did a single thing to heighten him in my eyes so when he does bite the dust I could care less. I firmly believe that Vader became iconic based on image alone, because outside of his image and one Force choke the movie spends as little time as possible giving his character any meat. Sure, Han is cool, the Princess is pretty hot but kind of annoying, and Chewbacca is Chewbacca. But, that leaves us with a protagonist in the form of Luke Skywalker who is a whiny bitch and annoying to boot. I didn’t want to root for him, about twenty minutes into the film I wanted Vader to swoop in from the skies and kill the little fucker, that’s how much he annoyed me in this film.
As you will recall in my Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith review I lauded praise upon the lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The duel between Vader and Kenobi in Episode IV: A New Hope gives me the chance to go in the opposite direction. My problems with this particular duel are twofold, 1) as previously mentioned there’s no investment in either character, so despite the build-up to the duel being kind of okay the actual duel fails to draw me in because of said lack of investment. But mostly my problems reside in 2) it’s two old guys standing still and gently moving their lightsabers towards one another. It’s not dramatic, it’s not exciting, it looks atrocious. I don’t need flips and acrobatics, or the best duel ever put to celluloid, but I do need some sense of action and something to pull me into the battle, the duel in Episode IV: A New Hope had neither and is easily the worst duel in all of the franchise saga.
I know I sound like a depressing hit parade by this point, just as I know that most of you have balled your hands into fists and proclaimed me an idiot twenty times over already. Sadly, I am not done, although we’re almost there. If I had to pick out the one facet of Episode IV: A New Hope that has always bugged me it is the frivolous nature of the entire film. This goes back to the lack of investment in the story and characters, these are supposed to be matters of import that are taking place but the film glosses over every event so quickly that they feel far too light and happenstance to be worth much of anything.
Wait a minute, hold the presses, forget everything I’ve said before this, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I have fallen asleep every single time I’ve tried to give Episode IV: A New Hope a go. It has some great action set pieces, but it frames those set pieces around so much boring exposition. The film is content to move at a snail’s pace, overloading the audience with a lot of unnecessary information, and by the time it gets to something designed to wake the audience up I am usually legitimately asleep. I know not a lot of people are fans of the boring complaint when it comes to films, but I don’t think a sci-fi adventure film should bore me, yet Episode IV: A New Hope does and that is why above all the other reasons I have never been a fan of Episode IV: A New Hope.
Each and every time I watch Episode IV: A New Hope I want to love it, I want to be an Episode IV: A New Hope fan. Yet, it’s apparently never to be, with each viewing I move further and further away from even liking the film. I know I am intensely in the minority, but I know what I like and I know that I don’t like Episode IV: A New Hope. All I can say is thank goodness I saw Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back first.
Check out Edgar’s review at Between The Seats.