Almost twenty years after I as blown by the sheer majesty of STAR
WARS, my seven year old son Jeffrey has turned from The Power Rangers
to STAR WARS. This means I got to see it again for the first time
through his young eyes. In all of the thousands of movies to which I
have gone, STAR WARS is the only one where I was so pumped up when I
saw it originally in 1977 that I told my wife we had to see it again
immediately. I got her to move up with me to the fifth row at our then
local (Paramus, New Jersey) monster screen house so that I could be
right there in the thick of the action with the rebel warriors.
Since I originally saw it before I became I movie critic, I have
never written a review of it. I will correct that omission now, but I
will stick more to commentary and just highlight some of my favorite
scenes. To be fair to both of the people on earth who do not know the
story, let me sketch it out for them first.
The rebel alliance is fighting an evil Empire. The Empire is
building a Death Star so powerful that it can blow up an entire planet.
They must get the Empire's plans for the Death Star before it becomes
fully operational. The rebels hope to analyze the plans and find a
weakness that will allow them to destroy the Death Star before it
destroys the rebel's home planets and bases. Lord Darth Vader (David
Prowse acting with voice by James Earl Jones) and Grand Moff Tarkin
(Peter Cushing) are on the side of the Empire whereas Luke Skywalker
(Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia Organa (Carrie
Fisher), Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Chewbacca (Peter
Mayhew), C3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2D2 (Kenny Baker) end up fighting
for the rebels.
Who would have guessed that young Harrison Ford would become the
only big box office star out of the lot other than Alec Guinness who
already was one? I incorrectly expected Mark Hamill to cash in on his
fame, but other than the sequels, he basically vanished. Who were your
I was and still am fascinated by the hinted at but never fully
developed chemistry between Luke and Princess Leia. I was impressed by
the way Fisher played the princess as so tough and yet so regal a
figure. She is also beautiful and very sexy. Jeffrey commented out of
the blue on how pretty she is. Ford is hilarious, and it is still the
funniest part he has ever done.
Guinness approached his role as if it had religious significance,
and the monks robes he wore added to that dimension. Certainly the
directing by George Lucas turned a band of mainly neophyte actors into
an ensemble cast much as a new football coach might take a bunch of
rookies and convince them that they were destined to win the
championship their first season.
For evil, James Earl Jones's voice and the eerie sound effects of
the pumping oxygen made for a forceful villain in Darth Vader. Most
movies lose it in inappropriate villains, but George Lucas's script
crafts just the right contrast and blend of good and evil. Moreover,
the script, as I will demonstrate shortly, is funny and downright
brilliant. The two best parts of the show were the special effects and
the script. The effects are no longer quite so impressive, but the
script is as strong today as it was then.
Let me now answer my original question. The best characters in
the show are C3PO and R2D2. If you don't fall instantly in love with
both of them, check yourself into the Ebenezer Scrooge Clinic to have
your heart checked out.
The sets are so imaginative (John Barry, Leslie Dilley, and Norman
Reynolds). From small details like the shiny black metal of the Death
Star to the larger ones like the design of all of the weapons which are
a mixture of the mechanical, the electrical, the old, and the new. Han
Solo's ship the Millennium Falcon, for example, has weapons that have
more in common with a B52 than what you will probably find in a future
The best and funniest scene of the show has to be the bar scene.
I could not imagine more effective designs than the costumes (John
Mollo) and make-up (Stuart Freeborn) in that scene. I still laugh when
I think about it.
Now back to the most important part, the script. Let me show some
of what made this a seminal film in cinematic history while at the same
time absolutely delighting its audiences. The mysterious force that
pervades the universe is claimed to have ultimate power. As Darth
Vader puts it, "The ability to destroy a planet is nothing next to the
power of The Force."
When Luke first lays eyes on this expense spaceship they have
rented, he explodes to Han Solo with, "What a piece of junk!" Han
confidently defends her with, "She'll make .5 past light speed. She
may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts." When Luke
begins to panic later, Han puts him down with, "Traveling through
hyperspace it not like dusting crops, boy." Han is not impressed by
this Force rubbish saying, "Hokey religions and ancient weapons aren't
as good as a blaster at your side." Even Princess Leia gets some funny
material. Getting angry at the Abominable Snowman sized Chewbacca, she
tells the others, "Will somebody get this big walking carpet out of my
The quasi-religious figure of Obi-Wan has sayings with biblical
rings to them. He advises Luke when they are in a seemingly hopeless
situation that, "You can't win, but there are alternatives to
fighting." When Han tries to put Obi-Wan down, Obi-Wan says, "Who is
more foolish? The fool or the fool who follows the fool?"
The music by John Williams is incredible. It has your adrenaline
pumping in almost every scene. Most musical scores are lucky if they
have a single decent number. Williams's score is a cornucopia of
musical wonder. I hope they will release STAR WARS again to the
theaters soon. It seemed almost a sacrilege to watch it on merely a
large TV screen with speakers not powerful enough to raise the dead.
STAR WARS runs 1:57 with perfect editing by Richard Chew, Paul
Hirsch, and Marcia Lucas. It is correctly rated PG. There is no sex
or nudity, and since this was before even PG movies felt obliged to
include some bad words, there are none. There is cowboy level violence
where people are shot with laser weapons called blasters and die
bloodlessly and immediately. There are a couple of mildly scary
scenes. One is of a brief shot of a severed and bloody arm and another
is a shot from a distance of the charred remains of Luke's relatives.
I think only kids under 5 will be scared by the show. Certainly
Jeffrey (age 7) was not frightened, and he adored STAR WARS. I give it
my top recommendation and rating of ****.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes