Star Wars (1977)

reviewed by
Chad Polenz


Star Wars Chad'z rating: **** (out of 4 = excellent) 1977, PG, 121 minutes [2 hours, 1 minute] [fantasy] starring: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi), James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader), produced by Gary Kurtz, written and directed by George Lucas.

The basic purpose of all forms of entertainment, especially fiction, is escapism. If ever there was a film that fulfilled that need for escapism, "Star Wars" is it. All stories must establish and make real the atmosphere in which they take place, but this movie doesn't just establish an overall setting, it creates an entire universe! The battle between good and evil is the basic premise, but because it takes place in an completely different reality, it is unlike any story ever told before.

As the story opens, we watch a small spaceship be taken over by a much larger one. We learn this small ship is part of a rebellion against an evil, oppressive government. When the evil leader Darth Vader (voiced by Jones) appears, we learn something about secret plans a cute princess named Leia (Fisher) has stolen. The mood is then set and you can tell a grand adventure is going to take place.

Just before her ship was captured, Leia hid the plans in the memory banks of R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C3-PO (Anthony Daniels), two "droids" (robots) who escape the rebel ship and crash-land on a desert planet. They are later captured and sold to a farmer and his nephew Luke (Hamill).

Luke Skywalker is a young man who, from his presence alone, represents some kind of salvation or freedom. This is proved true during an encounter Luke has with an old man named Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi (Guinness). We learn more about his father - he was an important person in the rebellion, and he, like Ben, were mystical masters of "The Force." The Force is an invisible energy field that binds the universe and those that can expand their mind and can use it to become powerful Jedi Knights. This element is probably the most significant and original aspect to the film, as it resembles Zen philosophy but takes it one step further and adds a supernatural power to it. This makes the film even more interesting because it seems somewhat secretive. Ben encourages Luke to learn the ways of The Force as he could be (and will be) a powerful warrior against Vader's tyranny.

The first half moves slowly as it takes the time to establish and define many details. We witness the power of the Galactic Empire when its primary space station, the Death Star, destroys a planet. Meanwhile, Luke and Ben, along with their escorts and new friends Han Solo (Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), find themselves in a real jam. En route to return the droids to the rebels, they are captured by the Death Star's tractor beam. Harrison Ford steals the show as the cocky space smuggler Solo, and we also get great camaraderie between him and Luke.

As if the grand adventure had not been potent and fluid enough, it becomes the definition of excitement when Luke, Han, and Chewie attempt to rescue the princess. Much action ensues as the heroes attempt to escape and save the princess, but it doesn't always seem as if they're going to succeed - now that's what makes for good suspense.

Perhaps one of the greatest moments in movie history is the entire third act of the film. When the rebels prepare to attack the Death Star it is not just an adventurous battle, but a symbol of the powers of good versus evil. Lucas's script builds the tension dramatically, his direction, along with the outstanding special effects, work together so perfectly it doesn't seem like a movie but a journey to a place where the events are actually happening.

In retrospect, "Star Wars" is a pretty simple story of adventure, but it never presents itself in such a manner. Everything about this movie is perfect: the story is detailed but not confusing; the characters are well defined; the actors all deliver outstanding performances; and the final payoff gives one a sensation that is almost undescribable.

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