Damn, it’s one awesome movie. Not perfect (I imagine I don’t need to detail the weaknesses), but given how many times I’ve seen it, I’m amazed how much I enjoy it. And not in the nostalgic sense of remembering how awesome it was to see it the first time, but to really enjoy it. Producer Hal Wallis once said the definition of a great movie was three good scenes, no bad ones. By that standard, A New Hope is terrific. I don’t think there was a single scene where I didn’t find something to keep me watching—no scenes that made me want to check email or do anything but watch (okay, maybe the added scene with Jabba where Han has the same conversation he just had with Greedo, but otherwise).
James Earl Jones’ voice. Darth Vader’s look. Alec Guinness’s acting. The cantina. The final assault on the Death Star. “I find your lack of faith … disturbing.” Peter Cushing’s acting. Han Solo’s snark. John Williams’ score. Light sabers. The death of Alderan. The big floating ball that interrogates Leia. And lots more.
I still love the film. Apparently so does JJ Abrams, judging how much he borrowed heavily from it for The Force Awakens.
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked this film. I like Rey and Finn, I loved seeing the original cast return, I was despite still being sick solidly entertained for over two hours. That’s a good thing.
But at the same time, the debt to New Hope was way more than necessary (I had the same problem with Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness, although Force Awakens is much better). We have the opening shot of a huge spaceship. Rey as a young adult on a desert planet, eager to get off. Another planet-killing weapon in the Empire’s—er, the First Order’s—hands (run by an arrogant commander who apparently fills the Peter Cushing shot), and another climactic race against time to blow it up by getting a bomb into a tiny little weak spot.
And more than that, the whole IV-VI series could almost not have happened. Everything seems to have rebooted to IV: the Jedi are gone, an evil empire is sweeping over the stars, Han Solo is a rogue and a smuggler, an armored Sith dressed in black is hunting the good guys, a droid is carrying a vital message to the Resistance … while I didn’t follow the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, at least they took things in new directions. I wish Abrams had tried, at least a little—this is playing it very safe.
And speaking of the Sith Lord, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) isn’t much of a villain—I got very impatient with his constant Darth Emo performance. I’ve seen arguments this is intentional—he’s a Vader wannabe rather than the real deal—but that doesn’t make him any less annoying.
Despite the pluses—black people, a good female lead (as this article says, she’s not a Mary Sue, just your basic better-than-ordinary-folks hero), I don’t think I’d put the new film up with A New Hope. However I am looking forward to the next film, which I can’t say for the Star Trek film franchise these days. Good job, everyone. Keep it up.
(all rights to image with current holder)