This week was the first time in ages that I watched one of the original Star Wars films. It’s not something that I’ve done purposefully but because I have so many other options now. Between all of the streaming services that I’m subscribed to and my own film collection, I just have too much choice. So much choice that I rarely go back to beloved classics. I’ve probably seen the prequels more often than any of the other films in the franchise. Not because I prefer them (although, I do think they have their positive points) but because they don’t demand my attention. Watching one of the original trilogy should be an event. You should be watching it and not doing anything else. These days, I’m rarely able to just sit and watch a film. I’m either writing, taking photos or just distracted by something. Not this time. When I turned on A New Hope on Star Wars day, I was determined to watch this as it deserved.
It’s difficult to review certain films. They can be so tied up in nostalgia and your childhood that you can’t see it as anything other than perfect. Something that has made it really difficult for fans of George Lucas’ films to accept the more recent offerings. In their heads, these films define their childhoods and the new films were only trying to destroy their fond memories. It’s all nonsense, of course, because no amount of additional material can change your connection with something. But, in a lot of cases, these are people who have spent the last 44 years reliving the moment they watched a film for the first time. How can you expect them to see anything clearly?
I’m not saying any of this to suggest that the original trilogy aren’t good films because they are. Yes, they are very of their age but that only makes them better. The special effects that Lucas and co. pulled off are spectacular. They managed to create fantastic worlds without the resources given to contemporary filmmakers. It’s incredible. My only real criticism in this respect is about the lightsabre fights. They just aren’t very exciting. Darth Vader was supposed to be one of the most fearsome people in the galaxy but he’s just a bit stiff.
I guess there’s also the fact that really, this is quite a basic concept. The characters are all archetypes and they don’t have a great deal of depth. Yes, we learn something about them as the trilogy goes on but there’s not a great deal to work with in the first film. Add to that the fact that our main hero is kind of irritating and says some really stupid things. In fact, once you remove all of the memorable quotes, the script is quite dodgy in some places. I mean Luke criticises Han for not believing in the force about 5 minutes after he first found out about it. For every outstanding line, there are at least 10 dodgy ones.
But, does any of that really matter? The fact is, this film manages to work with these slight flaws and create something spectacular. They create a story that appeals to so many people. A film that resonates with people despite taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. This film has something for everyone. It has good guys to root for and bad guys to book. It has romance and princesses. It has scruffy looking nerf herder and walking carpets. There is so much to enjoy about this film that none of the tiny flaws matter. It’s a film that just brings comfort and joy.
It’s also fun. I think the main issue with prequels is that they care less about having fun and entertaining people. Instead, they try too hard to be something important. They’re too concerned with being technically brilliant or addressing important issues. They get too bogged down in trying to be clever that they just lose a bit of the magic of this franchise. These were always stories that knew what they were. Star Wars is a Western movie set in space. It’s family melodrama and soap opera with aliens. The refreshing thing about the original trilogy is that they don’t pretend to be anything else. They’re unashamedly themselves and that’s why they’re so easy to love.
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