Celebrating Star Wars: ‘A New Hope’ – “A Lived Cinematic Experience”
Every time I watch a Star Wars movie, I think of it like a family reunion. Reunions may not happen often, but there is a comfortable familiarity about them that makes life feel manageable. It has been years since the last time I have seen Luke, Leia, and Han. And yet, I feel as if I have known them all of my life like old family friends. Watching Star Wars is in some ways, like hearing their old childhood stories; stories you have heard countless times before, but never get bored of because they reveal the intimacies of the ’70s. This intimacy that we all share with Star Wars speaks volumes to its gentle way of handling epic stories. While there are no guarantees that our loved ones will make it to each reunion, stories like Star Wars will last for as long as there are people to listen.
And what a joy it is to listen. It only takes a few seconds of John Williams’ score to transport you to the strange, brilliance of the stars. The Main Title theme is triumphant; it leaves you with the sense that nothing is more important than giving yourself entirely to this world. The brass thunders with the weight of entire planets and the strings float as weightless as zero gravity. Although A New Hope might have been the first installment, it does not lose its grandeur when compared to any other future entry. It still is a visceral experience after all of these years. We feel the immensity of ships flying overhead, so immense that they cannot fit in the entire frame. We feel a shrinking intimidation at the sight of Darth Vader. There is not a frame in this movie that does not fill us with wonder.
A New Hope follows the humble beginnings of Luke Skywalker, as he sets out from his provincial life in Tatooine to become a rebel. Essentially, he carries out the legacy set from those in Rogue One. Rebellion leader/Princess Leia has successfully retrieved the master plans, and needs to execute them before the Death Star destroys any planets. However, she has been captured by the Galactic Empire. And it is up to Luke, and his ragtag crew to save her. Though, Leia is not so much in the need of saving as our heroes.
Princess Leia is not a damsel in distress, she is far from it. I would like to think that she is the most well-written character of A New Hope. While much of Star Wars can be traced back to archetypes of the journey, where would a character like Leia fit in? She has no ties to the past, she is her own character. Only she, could ever stand up to the most powerful men of the galaxy with enough gusto to make it a beautiful performance. Lucas may not be the best screenwriter, but he deserves some credit for bringing Leia to life. Not a day goes by where I do not miss Carrie Fisher. She showed audiences that a princess could give the orders to save the entire universe. Princesses do not need bedazzled tiaras and dresses for that.
One of the few weaknesses of A New Hope is that it brushes its shoulder to real, insurmountable tragedies. It is impossible to fathom the destruction of a blown-up planet. Worse still, the anonymity of those billions of nameless lives lost restrains our empathy. It leaves us feeling as empty as a vacuum of space. And yet, Lucas does not give us any chance to reflect on what the loss of Alderaan might emotionally mean. Some might even forget it ever happened after the spectacle of the rebel squadron taking flight at the Death Star. Obviously, Star Wars has every right to let us escape from reality into the galaxy far, far away. But sometimes this escape can feel like reaching a dead end. Especially if we cannot reconcile the realities of the world we have left behind.
Despite this single complaint, I have to commend A New Hope for not seeming to be a movie. Most movies feel like people and places held in the boundaries of a square frame. Those types of movies begin and inevitably end, only capturing the imagination for as long as they last. Tears are shed, kisses are kissed, and we cover our eyes at the scary parts. A New Hope is different. This is one of the few movies that we do not watch, but experience. It is more like an event. The square frame might still be there, but it only serves as a blueprint for our imagination to sprinkle dark theaters with twinkling stars. This is a beautiful joy, and proves just how important Star Wars can be in our lives together. No arguments required.-Daniel Hrncir
Star Wars: A New Hope is available on Digital HD, Blu-Ray, and Disney+.
The film stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness.