Early on in the new Star Wars film, one quickly realizes that, in twenty-two years, George Lucas still hasn't learned to write dialogue. Whether this will affect a person's ability to enjoy A New Hope, or the individual in question has already been pre-conditioned to accept a universe where people say things such as "I've got a bad feeling about this" with aplomb, is something everyone will have to decide for themselves.
Our story picks up twenty years after the events of the previous trilogy. Young farm boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) dreams of adventure among the stars, going so far as to pilot a toy ship around the shop the way young boys have been doing in bedrooms and backyards across America for the past twenty years. Even little Anakin wasn't so far gone in the original Star Wars. He, of course, didn't need to pretend. He had the real thing out in his backyard: a podracer. That podracer is sadly missing in this film, but more on that later.
Two droids (the familiar and fan-friendly R2-D2 and C-3PO) have escaped the evil Empire (managing a lot better than all the Jedi could, apparently) with the plans to an awesome space station called the Death Star. As the familiar opening scroll tells us, this space station has the ability to destroy an entire planet; which we witness up close and personally. And if parents have any qualms about taking their children to see this movie, this element will doubtlessly be the deciding factor. Though we do see an entire planet blown up, it is not exactly in gory detail. Michael Bay doubtlessly would have shown close-ups of the citizens cowering as the evil ray burrowed through the sky, burning a path through the clouds, into the earth, and slowly, chaotically obliterating all life. Die-hard fans of the original trilogy will doubtlessly be missing said close-ups, as it would provide one last glimpse at familiar faces. But, thankfully, Lucas spares us this ultimate sadness, which is perhaps just as well. This is not your father's Star Wars movie. On the other hand, the fact that an entire planet is destroyed certainly qualifies this film as having the highest body count in film history, and is something that parents should keep in mind.
On the technical side, there is very little here that sustains the tension or impressive duality of the original trilogy. There is no podrace. The geriatric lightsaber duel is so slow and tedious that fans will likely be squirming in their seats, longing for the good old days of Darth Maul. The vocal barbs that Darth Vader and Obi-Wan (oh, I'm sorry, Ben) Kenobi hurl at each other during their anti-climactic duel carry more weight than any swing of the saber.
The performances are sadly lacking in the film as well. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, coming off as a combination of a short Katie Holmes with a Janet Reno attitude, does a fine job, but anyone looking to deck whiny Luke Skywalker will likely be forgiven. As Ben Kenobi, Alec Guinness, not even trying to sound like Ewan MacGergor, also turns in the standard work we've come to expect from him over the years, but for him this performance is merely adequate. His late entrance and quick departure from the film is also odd, considering the character's strong presence in the original trilogy. It's as if Lucas were deliberately trying to distance himself from those films to the point of erasing everybody.
Gone is Yoda. Don't even bother to search for him. He isn't here. Gone is Jar Jar. Instead we get something even worse, a large, shaggy "walking carpet" named Chewbacca who barks in a language only Dr. Doolittle could understand. You'll long for the days of Jar Jar's broken English. Gone is the Emperor himself: he is only once vaguely referred to in passing. Gone, also, is Amidala, and her absence, nor very existence, is ever once referred to. Nor is the fact that Luke and Leia are byproducts of the big bad guy himself, Darth Vader. Which leaves one wondering why this film was made at all. It does nothing to progress the story. (The one brief moment of semi-contact between Vader and his son is wasted. Indeed, the very fact that Luke is Vader's son is never once referred to, except in a vague allusion that could easily qualify as a lie.) You have Luke incestuously chasing after his sister; a rogue named Han Solo (a wasted Harrison Ford) who, while interesting, comes in too late to save the dragging Tatooine sequence (if you thought you saw too much Tatooine in the original Star Wars film, you haven't seen anything yet. The first half of A New Hope is spent almost entirely on the characterless planet); and Obi-Wan is unceremoniously tossed aside as if Lucas had suddenly become bored with the character. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the film is that we get more screen time with the droids, but that's hardly worth $8.
The effects are also particularly lackluster. The big opening shot of a Star Destroyer cruising past overhead seems underwhelming compared to some of the effects we saw in the previous films. The end battle goes on for much too long as well, leaving one wishing for the short, to the point space battle of the original film. Gone, also, are the beautiful fashions and the magnificent art direction of the original trilogy. Here, everything is sparse, cold, antiseptic. Princess Leia's lone white robe leaves one desperately longing for the golden olden days of Amidala's 12+ costume changes per picture. The donuts strapped to Leia's head don't exactly help matters.
Whomever Lucas was trying to please with A New Hope, the end result can only be that he has pleased himself. It is not entirely Lucas's fault. In today's crowded marketplace where every other weekend features a new event movie, a new Star Wars film just doesn't carry the same impact that it did twenty years ago, when everything looked so new. The amount of emotion a person takes away is equal only to the amount he puts in, and, in this day and age, we may all either be too jaded or perhaps are expecting too much to be anything but disappointed. Still, it would have been nice if Lucas could have put a little more thought into the story and worked on pleasing some of the old fans. At least then someone would enjoy the movie.
Guest Editorial by Dehrian
January 11th, 2001
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