“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away……” begins writer-director George Lucas’ space adventure. The story is simultaneously simple and complex, with a wealth of backstory that has been explored in a trilogy of prequels and various other media. During an intergalactic civil war, naive farmboy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) stumbles across plans to a large scale weapon of the Galactic Empire (yes, those are the bad guys.), whose figurehead is a black shrouded villain named Darth Vader (played by bodybuilder Dave Prowse, unforgettably voiced by James Earl Jones). When Luke decides to join in the fight against the Empire, he is taken under the wing of Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a former Jedi Knight, who fought alongside Luke’s father in the past. After they enlist the services of a cocky smuggler (Harrison Ford), they set off to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), a leader of the Rebellion (yes, those are the good guys) who, despite being held captive byt the Empire, is anything but a damsel in distress.
The performances are suitable, for the type of film this is, meaning that they’re passable, but nothing spectacular. Hamill starts out whiny, but you can see his character mature as the film progresses. The best performances come from Guinness, who manages to give meaning to lines that would sound like nonsense coming from any other actor, and Ford, who manages to make a despicable mercenary into a likable character. Lucas borrows elements from “The Seven Samurai”, “Flash Gordon” serials, and Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” (tell me that Kenobi is not based on Gandalf and I’ll call you a liar.) and imaginatively twists them into his own ideas. Not to mention John Williams’ iconic score. It’s impossible to imagine the film without it.
On the technical side, the film is a true landmark. The visual effects, which were revolutionary at the time of release, are extraordinary, but never overwhelm the story. Despite that fact, in 1997 Lucas created a “Special Edition” of thee film with extra footage and updated effects. The film is a fun adventure that can be enjoyed by just about anyone, whether you’re a fan of the genre or not. May the Force be with you!
Running Time: 2 Hrs. 1 Min. (Special Edition 2 Hrs. 5 Mins.)
Special Achievement Oscar: Sound Effects Creation
Oscar Winner (6): Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score
Oscar Nominations (4): Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Guinness), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay