Monday, October 15, 2012

The Force is Still With Me: "Star Wars" (1977)

Anyone out there NOT know the story of this science fiction classic? Okay.

In a nutshell, Luke (Mark Hamill) lives on a dead end desert planet when two androids on a secret mission fall into his possession. They must get a message from Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) to a former Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The resistance is battling the empire, and the empire's main baddie Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is looking to destroy the resistance with a giant moon shaped ship called the Death Star that can annihilate entire planets. With the help of mercenary Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke and his fellow pilots try to destroy the Death Star before it can blow up a rebel base.

What is in between the lacking plot summary above? State of the art (for 1977) special effects. A cast of heroes you can cheer for, and a cast of villains you want to hiss at. Funny comedy relief, and sad moments. Basically, "Star Wars" has everything you could hope for in a film. I was slack jawed when I first saw the film over twenty-five years ago (Good God, has it been that long?), and it still bowled me over now.

George Lucas wrote a marvelous screenplay whose magic he has not been able to capture with the two prequels released so far. In the original film, there seems to be no pressure to top one's self. The entire story is self-contained, no sequel worries that the average movie goer in 1977 needed to worry about. Looking at the original version now, some of those magical effects ain't so magical anymore, but they are still fun. Lucas' direction is great, reminiscent of the 1950's serials like Flash Gordon. His art direction and set decoration are stunning in their scope. Even John Williams' eternal musical score deserves another listen, one of the most perfect uses of music ever put on film.

I cannot imagine anyone not seeing "Star Wars" unless you are my mother and just don't like watching movies with aliens and creatures in them. This is one of the greatest movies of all time, despite its prequels, and a film that is truly treasured by young and old alike. (* * * * *) out of five stars.