Monday, July 30, 2012
Star Wars (1977) - dir. George Lucas
Every now and then, there comes a series of films that completely shakes the world from its feet. Very recently, The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final installment of Christopher's Nolan's take on the story of Batman, brought in about $160 million worldwide. Just four years previous, its predecessor The Dark Knight set records in achieving a similar intake. Arguably, one of the most important things to note in perfecting an ideal series is to start with an initial film that sets it off with a bang. This is why the Harry Potter films and Lord of the Rings trilogy have been noted among the best of all time. Thankfully, I have finally been able to access an original VHS of the first film of this truly revolutionary trilogy; possibly even "the one that started it all".
By now, nearly everyone who is anyone is familiar with the story of Star Wars. Writer/Director George Lucas informs us from the very start that the setting is "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away". The story of the film is literally not of this world at all. Through the brilliant and infamous scrolling text introduction, the audience is informed that this current galaxy is in a state of civil war, between the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance. Rebels have managed to steal secret plans to the Death Star, an armed space station capable of destroying an entire planet, and passed them over to rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). We then meet a young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who is confronted by a couple of droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO. He finds out that Leia has been taken captive and must be rescued before it is too late. He leaves his planet with former Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), with help from Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookiee Chewbacca, to recapture the princess and eliminate the Death Star.
What impressed me the most about this film is just the extent of George Lucas' imagination, which is undoubtedly apparent in this intricately created universe that seems to be beyond the realms of any imagination. Every character seems to be so well thought out, and the accuracy of such a storyline is just downright amazing. The writing in general is crafted with such excellence that any film student could only dream of achieving. When phrases like "your lack of faith is disturbing" and "may the Force be with you" have been engrained in everyday modern society and culture, you know there's something truly special there. I would also like to give my highest of regards to the groundbreaking special effects that really make this film as breathtakingly brilliant as it truly is. The shots set in the dark outer depths of space seem so realistic, it's as if one was physically there witnessing the action. Not to forget that these, of course, are aided by the impressive work in cinematography. I would be perfectly confident in adding these sorts of scenes up with 2001: A Space Odyssey in levels of sci-fi amazingness.
I felt personally that the acting itself wasn't all too special. Of course, with a film as visually and narratively magnificent as this one, I think that to complain about the perfectly decent performances would be asking too much from a perfectly decent film. I would, however, like to acknowledge the talents of Alec Guinness, in his role as the wise Obi-Wan Kenobi. He conquered the role with such vigor and passion, and it's impossible to imagine another actor playing him nearly as perfectly. I have seen him perform in a number of other films, and there is only one other performance (Liet. Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai) that I would put above his work as Obi-Wan. I also must mention the flattering detail put into the character of Darth Vader, who surely must have scared the pants off of quite a number of children in 1977. I don't believe that too much of his character had been exposed in this first installment as I would have liked - but that's more of a reason to continue on with the series!
Now, I dare not close this review without even mentioning what I believe is one of the most important aspects of the film overall: the music. From the very first seconds of the film's start, the musical score by John Williams' orchestra booms with such epic vivacity that is uncommon in many similar blockbusters. The score, though similar in sound all throughout the film, has the versatility to change in tone, depending on the situation. It can go from downright epic, to intense, to heartbreakingly beautiful, driven by the simple change in scene. I think it takes a special kind of talent to achieve such abundance while, at the same time, embedding this music into relevance, even for those who haven't seen the films. John Williams is an absolutely giften composer, and for that, I give him a round of applause.
Since I've now finally seen this film, I can't help but feel saddened by the fact that George Lucas has become so big of a cash cow, using any excuse to make money off of what has now become a worldwide franchise. Even though I had not watched any of the films at the time, I was so upset when I learned about the languid editing done for the Blu-ray release back in 2011. Luckily, I was able to get my hands on the original cut, but I find it very disappointing that someone would tinker with what is obviously one of the most beloved films of all time. Having now watched it, I know that its place is very well-deserved. I only wish I'd be able to go back to 1977 and watch it in theaters, because I'm sure the experience would be worth tenfold in the already incredulous delight I felt watching it. For now, I can find pleasure in basking in the forever faithful fandom of this truly miraculous universe.
My rating: 4.5/5