Watching the first two installments in the series again (Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, also the two best films in the series), the most noticeable thing about them is all the ideas that went into them. Lightsaber duels, the Force, model spaceships, Darth Vader's heavy breathing, droids that deliver annoying repartee, aliens that look like Sasquatch and giant frogs, and wisecracking antiheroes like Harrison Ford's Han Solo -- all these things have entered our cultural consciousness. But the makers of the original Star Wars had to think up all these things (or borrow them from non-sci-fi genres).
The other amazing quality of the first Star Wars is its pacing. All action movies since Star Wars have emulated Lucas' flawless direction and the script which perfectly blended action and romance, blaster battles and backstory. As for the acting... well, it wasn't great, with the obvious exceptions of veterans Peter Cushing and, especially, Alec Guinness, who created a remarkable character in Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Supposedly, Guinness thought the whole thing was silly, but he was too much of a professional not to bring his trademark dignity to the role.) The acting wasn't supposed to be great -- the Star Wars films were a homage to a genre which was not high art, and not supposed to be.
Watching the two installments from the more recent trilogy, the obvious question is how Lucas lost his touch. The childish touches of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones didn't bother me. After all, kids are a big part of the audience, and it's not Lucas' fault if some of his adult fans take his movies a lot more seriously than he does. (In the interim between the first Star Wars movies and the second trilogy, a huge literary industry grew up around the saga, apparently leaving Lucas behind.) The problems with Lucas' recent movies, ironically, are errors that Lucas shouldn't make: They are poorly directed, poorly plotted, and the pacing and tone are off. And the computer-generated special effects aren't believable -- they actually look less real than the cheesy animated models and plastic models of the first trilogy!
In fact, the first sign that something was wrong was Lucas' re-release of the original trilogy, including this film, on VHS/DVD with CGI effects added. The new additions are mostly backgrounds, such as the Tatooine spaceport and the Bespin cloud city, but they still manage to destroy the precarious effect of a galaxy far, far away that the original films achieved.
In spite of that caveat, the original Star Wars movies are one cultural phenomenon that are worth the hype. They are better than their imitators, and it will be a long time before people get tired of watching them.
Aka Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 121 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 25th May 1977
Box Office Worldwide: $775.4M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 66 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 8.7 / 10
Director: George Lucas
Producer: Gary Kurtz
Screenwriter: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa, Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Kenny Baker as R2-D2, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, David Prowse as Darth Vader, Phil Brown as Uncle Owen, Shelagh Fraser as Aunt Beru, Jack Purvis as Chief Jawa, Alex McCrindle as General Dodonna, Eddie Byrne as General Willard, Drewe Henley as Red Leader (as Drewe Hemley), Denis Lawson as Red Two (Wedge) (as Dennis Lawson), Garrick Hagon as Red Three (Biggs), Jack Klaff as Red Four (John D.), William Hootkins as Jek Tono Porkins (Red Six), James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (voice), Malcolm Tierney as Lt. Shann Childsen, Angus MacInnes as Gold Leader (as Angus Mcinnis), Jeremy Sinden as Gold Two, Graham Ashley as Gold Five, Don Henderson as General Taggi, Richard LeParmentier as General Motti, Leslie Schofield as Commander #1, David Ankrum as Red Two (voice) (uncredited), Mark Austin as Boba Fett (special edition) (uncredited), Scott Beach as Stormtrooper (voice) (uncredited), Lightning Bear as Stormtrooper (uncredited), Jon Berg as Cantina Alien (uncredited), Doug Beswick as Cantina Alien (uncredited), Paul Blake as Greedo (uncredited), Janice Burchette as Nabrun Leids (uncredited), Ted Burnett as Wuher (uncredited), John Chapman as Drifter (Red 12) (uncredited), Gilda Cohen as Cantina Patron (uncredited), Tim Condren as Stormtrooper (uncredited), Barry Copping as Wioslea (uncredited), Alfie Curtis as Dr. Evazan (uncredited), Robert Davies as Cantina Patron (uncredited), Maria De Aragon as Greedo (uncredited), Robert A. Denham as Hrchek Kal Fas (uncredited), Frazer Diamond as Jawa (uncredited), Peter Diamond as Stormtrooper / Tusken Raider / Death Star Trooper / Garouf Lafoe (uncredited), Warwick Diamond as Jawa (uncredited), Sadie Eden as Garindan (uncredited), Kim Falkinburg as Djas Puhr (uncredited), Harry Fielder as Death Star Trooper (uncredited), Ted Gagliano as Stormtrooper with Binoculars (uncredited), Salo Gardner as Cantina Patron (uncredited), Steve Gawley as Death Star Trooper (uncredited), Barry Gnome as Kabe (uncredited), Rusty Goffe as Kabe / Jawa / GONK Droid (uncredited), Isaac Grand as Cantina Patron (uncredited), Nelson Hall as Stormtrooper (special edition) (uncredited), Reg Harding as Stormtrooper (uncredited), Alan Harris as Leia's Rebel Escort (uncredited), Frank Henson as Stormtrooper (uncredited), Christine Hewett as Brea Tonnika (uncredited), Arthur Howell as Stormtrooper (uncredited), Tommy Ilsley as Ponda Baba (uncredited), Joe Johnston as Death Star Trooper (uncredited), Annette Jones as Mosep (uncredited), Linda Jones as Chall Bekan (uncredited), Joe Kaye as Solomohal (uncredited), Colin Michael Kitchens as Stormtrooper (voice) (uncredited), Melissa Kurtz as Jawa (uncredited), Tiffany L. Kurtz as Jawa (uncredited), Al Lampert as Daine Jir (uncredited), Anthony Lang as BoShek (uncredited), Laine Liska as Muftak / Cantina Band Member (uncredited), Derek Lyons as Temple Guard / Medal Bearer (uncredited), Mahjoub as Jawa (uncredited), Alf Mangan as Takeel (uncredited), Rick McCallum as Stormtrooper (special edition) (uncredited), Grant McCune as Death Star Gunner (uncredited), Geoffrey Moon as Cantina Patron (uncredited), Mandy Morton as Swilla Corey (uncredited), Lorne Peterson as Massassi Base Rebel Scout (uncredited), Marcus Powell as Rycar Ryjerd (uncredited), Shane Rimmer as InCom Engineer (uncredited), Pam Rose as Leesub Sirln (uncredited), George Roubicek as Cmdr. Praji (Imperial Officer #2 on rebel ship) (uncredited), Erica Simmons as Tawss Khaa (uncredited), Angela Staines as Senni Tonnika (uncredited), George Stock as Cantina Patron (uncredited), Roy Straite as Cantina Patron (uncredited), Peter Sturgeon as Sai'torr Kal Fas (uncredited), Peter Sumner as Lt. Pol Treidum (uncredited), John Sylla as Cantina Voices (voice) (uncredited), Tom Sylla as Massassi Outpost Announcer / Various Voices (voice) (uncredited), Phil Tippett as Cantina Alien (uncredited), Burnell Tucker as Del Goren (uncredited), Morgan Upton as Stormtrooper (voice) (uncredited), Jerry Walter as Stormtrooper (voice) (uncredited), Hal Wamsley as Jawa (uncredited), Larry Ward as Greedo (voice) (uncredited), Diana Sadley Way as Thuku (uncredited), Harold Weed as Ketwol / Melas (uncredited), Bill Weston as Stormtrooper (uncredited), Steve 'Spaz' Williams as Mos Eisley Citizen (special edition) (uncredited), Fred Wood as Cantina Patron (uncredited)