After finishing the Mandalorian, Laura and David insisted I watch the first of the original trilogy, the movie that marked the beginning of the phenomenon that is Star Wars. As far as I am aware, I’ve never seen it. (Maybe I did when I was young, but I don’t remember having done so.) So here are my first impressions of A New Hope.
TLDR: Right off the bat, I’ll be honest, this movie failed to capture me. It was a fun adventure, the world building was exceptional. But the story and characters just fell too flat for me. I can logically understand why this movie was so inspiring to people, and why it spurred the fanbase it did. But having come into this late, with no childhood attachments, I’m not personally excited about the franchise from this movie alone.
My Thoughts in Depth
There are a lot of things that I loved seeing in New Hope mostly because of how they fit into the Mandalorian and Rogue One. I enjoyed the introductory scenes. I loved seeing the aftermath of what the events of Rogue One bought, with Leia’s primary objective to convey the Death Star plans to the Rebels. I loved the droids in the desert, getting picked up by Jawas. Luke and Obi Wan getting accosted by Sand People. There’s even a giant snake corpse in the desert that I am going to assume is a sand dragon like the one in the Mandalorian.
The world building was exceptional, and inspiring. I’ll give the movie that. The whole thing with Luke’s family buying the droids off the Jawas was fantastic, realistic, and interesting. Their desert house was a really well thought out piece of world building. Having studied a tiny bit of architecture in the past, I appreciated how practical it was, because, that IS how people would build on a desert planet. I loved the scene in the bar with all the aliens. Another brilliant piece of world building. It’s fun and cooky and foreign, but also a completely relatable trope, because taverns are just universally like that. I also loved the main conference room in the Death Star. It felt more like a real corporate / bureaucratic room that I can imagine actually existing and being in. It was again futuristic but in a completely believable and realistic way. I could go on, but in general the set design was startlingly impressive and immersive, and did so much to enhance the world building. The world building was was my favorite aspect of New Hope.
I enjoyed C3PO a lot more than I thought I would. I always thought he would be an insufferable twit, only there for slapstick comic relief. And he was, but he was delightful in that role. C3PO had pretty much all of my favorite lines in this movie, and his relationship to R2D2 was a joy. There was so much character built in R2D2 just from C3PO’s dialogue alone. I also really enjoyed how beat up his costume was. It wasn’t shiny and new, there was awesome texture and wearing, and grease all over him, and I appreciated how real it made him seem as a character.
The trash compactor scene (one of the few specific scenes I had prior knowledge of) was my favorite part. I love when characters make plans (lets brace the walls with this metal pipe) that don’t work out, and they are forced to improvise. It feels very natural and real to me. I loved the thing living in the trash compactor that mysteriously disappears. Another great piece of world building. You don’t need to explain that, it explains itself like rats living a sewer. The very best bit was C3PO “Oh they’re dying, listen to their screams!” when they are shouting in joy. Hilarious. My favorite moment of the movie.
I had very little emotional attachment to any of the human characters. This is the main thing that made the movie fall so flat for me. There are a few key moments that contributed to my overall feeling of the people as plot devices rather than as actual humans.
When Luke finds out his family has been killed he barely seems to care! If anything it’s cause for celebration because an obstacle has been removed, and now he can go and fulfill his dreams of leaving the farm. There was no moment of grieving. No growing pain in that step of the Hero’s Journey out of the nurturing womb of home, and into the arms of destiny and adventure. Luke’s survivor guilt is swept under the rug with one line from Obi Wan. It was unnatural and unbelievable to me.
Obi Wan to me was just an exposition character. I cannot remember him having any lines the purpose of which was not to give backstory or context about the world. As a result, I felt very little at his loss to Darth Vader, because he wasn’t a person. He was a history book. At least there was a scene of Luke being sad about Obi Wan being gone, that was more than his family got. Also, did Obi Wan … die? I really don’t even know. He just disappeared into the ether. It’s hard to be sad about him being gone when I don’t even understand what happened to him.
I didn’t feel very much fear of Darth Vader. I’m not sure if I was even supposed to. The thin cheeked admiral guy who blows up a planet out of spite was more frightening than Vader was, which in context of everything I know about Star Wars, feels wrong.
Ok. Alderon getting blown up. This is the place where New Hope falls so flat I am just taken out of the story all together. Aside from Obi Wan commenting on how he felt a disturbance in the force of all the voices crying out in fear, there is no grieving for Alderon. We’re flying through a space debris field where Alderon used to be. Huh, it’s not here anymore, oh look the death star. Really! Aside from ‘Noo!’ Leia doesn’t even get time to grieve about her home planet. There was so little weight on the fact that the death star had destroyed an ENTIRE PLANET, that I hardly cared. No wonder I didn’t know about this from all my pop culture knowledge. They give it so little importance in the context of the movie, it may as well have not even happened.
Why were all the rebel pilots so happy before they fly off to destroy the death star? They know they’re flying off to war, right? They know most of them are going to die, right? Yet everyone is so excited and positive in the scene in the hangar. I guess false joviality in the face of death is a thing, but the way it was executed in the movie just made the pilots sound like ignorant innocent idiots. It ruined the gravity of the situation for me.
When Luke, Leia and Han are all buddy buddy at the end hugging each other and laughing, it struck me as a bizarre moment. I understand they went through a big ordeal together. But I couldn’t help but think ‘where the hell did this come from?’ It felt forced to me. It didn’t feel like something their characters would do, but something plot devices would do.
Lastly, I know from Laura that all the terrible CGI was added later, so I won’t hold that against the movie. I just gotta say though, it is astonishingly bad. Even coming into it from an outside perspective, I wish it hadn’t been there. The puppets and costumes were brilliant. The CGI ruined every scene it was in, and brought me out of the experience.
I am really surprised that the Death Star got destroyed in the first movie. I honestly have no idea what the other two movies in the trilogy could be about. Unless they make another Death Star, or unless Vader goes on a killing spree and the Jedi decide ‘it’s time to stop Vader now’ I have no idea what the central conflicts/motivations of the other two movies could be. I suppose they need to find Yoda, and Luke needs to train to become a Jedi, but I don’t see that as a central conflict that could drive the plot of a movie. I suppose I’ll find out.
A friend pointed out that it was funny I knew someone got frozen in carbonite, but not who. So I’m going to take a stab at guessing. I think Han Solo is the one who gets frozen in carbonite because of his debt to Jaba. From context in the Mandalorian, you freeze bounties in carbonite. And Han had bounty hunters after him. So someone finally got Han, froze him in carbonite. David and Laura said “What about all the money Han got at the end of New Hope? Wouldn’t he use that to pay off his debt?” I don’t think so. Han totally spent all that dough. Probably on his ship seeing as he loves souping it up and customizing it so much.