It all starts with a fanfare, a blast of trumpets that’s almost a literal slap in the face. “PAY ATTENTION” it sceams, “Your world is about the change.”
And it does. After THAT theme, THAT crawl and THAT opening shot of a immense Star Destroyer rumbling the speakers into oblivion, you are then cordially invited to bear witness to the greatest feat of cinematic world building in history.
What more can possibly said about George Lucas’ space fantasy that hasn’t already been mention a hundred times over? It would be too obvious to point out the bleeding edge effects work and sound design so I won’t waste our time on that but what IS worth a mention is how incredibly solid it’s basic foundations of filmmaking is.
We’ll disregard the dialogue before we get started because even though the leads work overtime to make those clunky lines fly, let’s face it, big George has a tin ear for speech. However, the storytelling is second to none, mixing and matching various classic legends and folklore to make a story and characters you are already familiar with before the movie projector even gets warm.
Examples? Luke Skywalker’s farmboy hooking up with a sage, kindly “space wizard” in order to rescue a princess is straight out of Arthurian legend, whereas Han Solo is a smirking, quick on the draw, rogue right out of the old west. Hell, he even has a furry, intelligent sidekick in Chewbacca who might as well be the Lone Ranger’s Silver or Tarzan’s Cheetah. The insanely iconic droids – our guides through this brave new universe despite interestly, not being human – are a classic, tall and short comedy double act, Laurel & Hardy with gold plating or Abbott & Costello with internal wiring. Even the bad guys are instantly recognisable with the Imperial officers striding around in grey like the space Nazi’s they obviously are, Christ, their soldiers are even called Stormtroopers for God’s sake with even the space battles echoing World War II dogfights. And then there’s Darth Vader, sporting quite possibly the greatest character design of all time, the very second he strides onto the screen, clad entirely in black with his respirator wheezing like an asthmatic in an orgy, there is literally no question as to who this guy is and what he stands for.
It’s also easy to under estimate how much the actors bring to their roles, with Hamill Ford and Fisher all somehow bringing a natural air to such out-there roles. You think it’s easy to come across as charismatic as Harrison does when you’re playing off a 7 foot dog monster? Or a bleeping pedal bin? And yet even the dog-monster and the pedal bin are so well written that they are timeless, beloved characters 5 minutes after you’ve first met them.
Not that anything in the film could be considered a low point (even Luke’s incessant whining is vehemently in character) but even if their was, John Williams’ peerless score would effortlessly paper over any cracks with literally every theme he produces a stone cold classic, complimenting those indelible images perfectly. And what images…. The binary sunset, the trench run, the photo op final shot, Star Wars may not have officially started the modern phenomenon known as the blockbuster – that’s technically thanks to my main man Jaws – but everything you’ve just read about helped cement it.
A legitimate all time classic. Feel the Force.