1977. With everyone afraid of going into the water because of some shark movie that came out a couple years earlier, things finally started looking up. Way up. Way, way, way up to outer space, when a young filmmaker named George Lucas released an incredibly visionary take on the science-fiction genre, complete with its own version of wizards and even princesses that fight back. A movie known back then simply as Star Wars.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) works on a moisture farm on the desert planet of Tatooine. When his Uncle Owen buys two droids to help with the farm, one of those droids turns out to be carrying a message by the beautiful Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) with plans to stop the evil Galactic Empire. After delivering the message to the former Jedi Knight Obi-wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Luke’s adventure begins, leading them to hire a smuggler named Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to fly them out to space, stop the Empire, and save the princess.
What can be said about this movie that hasn’t been said in the last 38 years? It’s like a classic fantasy story, but set in outer space. It has good wizards, bad wizards, a princess, and even a pirate. There are strange creatures, faceless soldiers, and ancient mysticism that connects the universe. And so what if George Lucas not-so-subtly named the main character after himself? (“Luke S.”) It may not be for everyone, and it may have its minor flaws, but it’s the kind of classic that created its own audience via its immense originality. 38 years later, the continued excitement for new entries further prove that to be true.
If it had any notable flaws, it would be in George Lucas’ relentless changes in the last 18 years. First there was the 1997 Special Edition, which included that awkward Jabba the Hutt scene as well as new CG effects. Then there was the 2004 DVD, which changed the krayt dragon scream as well as minor cosmetic adjustments. And lately we’ve had to settle for the 2011 Blu-ray release, which made more minor changes as well as revisions to previous changes. But nothing is more controversial than the “Greedo shooting first” scene, which completely changes the tone of Han Solo’s character. That change also seems to get re-edited with each new release, drawing even more attention to something that didn’t need fixing in the first place. And it’s these constant little changes that pull viewers out of the classic movies of their childhood. Come on, George! Make all the versions you want but at least give your fans the option!
But regardless of all those changes, Star Wars remains the same movie it’s always been. Darth Vader is still a supremely evil villain, the Millennium Falcon is still a badass ship, and lightsabers will always be cool. And this movie is also the only truly self-contained entry in the franchise, not dependent on any of the sequels or prequels. One has to wonder how it would have been remembered had it never become a franchise. But as it stands, it’s the first entry in a highly-successful franchise that’s lasted 38 years and counting, which means the Force is definitely strong with this one.
5 out of 5