This is the area of the reviews wherein I’m likely to start getting into some disagreements with those who may read it and fondly recall growing up with memories of the Original Trilogy the way I did. But the whole point of this is to be honest and stop looking at these films, no matter how iconic, through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.
A New Beginning
The greatest strength of this film is that everything old is new again when you watch it. It ages well. Unlike Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the styles are timeless and the technology nebulously referenced; like the real world, people here don’t care so much precisely how something works, they just care that it does.
The plot is very linear and progresses from point A to B to C to D with such conclusiveness that you don’t care for any leaps that it might take in logic. There are now-legendary scenes that were cut that fleshed out Luke and the political situation in the galaxy in such precise fashion that you see he really did have those ideas from the start.
Most importantly this is the film that redefines moviemaking for an entire generation. By taking older effects methods and perfecting them, Lucas and his team created a world so believable and interesting to watch that you could turn off the sound and just enjoy the visual story. It’s like a silent film, only who would want to rob themselves of such a terrific score, not to mention the immersive aural experience?
While the world may have known of John Williams previous to this film, Star Wars‘ theme will always remain his most enduring legacy.
Created In The Editing Booth
There’s a big reason the editing team got an Academy Award for this. It redefines how to tell a visual story. And according to newly released material, they taught Lucas a thing or two as well. The thrilling ending was edited by Richard Chew, adapted from a much-less-thrilling style that mimicked Lucas’ chase through the tunnels at the end of THX-1138.
It was a lesson Lucas seems to have struggled with on every one of the following films until Revenge of the Sith.
Special Edition Changes
Han fired first. It’s not that big of a deal.
The rest of the changes were cool, though obviously the first tentative steps into a new digital realm until they re-tooled them for the 2004 DVD release. I maintain that had the changes been held until then, and looked as they do now, they’d have gone over much, much better.
The remaining beef with Han and Greedo’s “sloth draw” is that it wasn’t staged that way and no fancy editing is going to make it look intentional unless they go back, make Greedo stand instead of sit, and play the scene more like Lee Van Cleef gunning down the father at the beginning of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. And until Lucas is dead, that change may happen still.
The Final Analysis
Much like the later film Die Hard, what this film lacks in polish it more than compensates through a vigorous desire to entertain. Like Revenge of the Sith, nothing really doesn’t work here, with the exception of the somewhat-laborious wandering through the desert at the beginning. But it’s a small sin and the rest of the film more than makes up for it.
Yeah, hard to find too much wrong with this film. Everything just works.