I honestly cannot recall a time in my life when I didn’t love Star Wars. I have no memories of my life before I knew about Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader. Star Wars was released in 1977, the same year I was born. (It has since been retitled: Star Wars: A New Hope.) I have no idea when I first watched it, but it feels like the film has been intertwined with my reality since birth. This won’t really be a review. My guess is, there are thousands of those online if you really want a proper review. This is more of a celebration of Star Wars and why I love it so much.
As a kid, Star Wars was the pinnacle of artistic achievement in my mind. Nothing could surpass it. I loved everything about it, but held a special love for the characters. Luke Skywalker was my hero. Here was a young man, a moisture farmer by trade, though I had no idea what that meant, who was thrust into an epic story of good versus evil. He didn’t choose this path but once he was placed on it, he stepped up and helped the good guys defeat the forces of darkness. In my young mind, nothing could be cooler or more important than that.
Star Wars had everything I wanted in a movie: Action, awesome special effects, humor, and the coolest looking bad guy I had ever seen. Writer and director George Lucas had created an entire world for us to enjoy. From Death Stars to X-Wing Fighters, Wookies to droids, the film was bursting with creativity, energy, and passion. It required very little from the audience to dive in to this amazing and colorful world. Frankly, what was there not to love?
Does it still hold up?
Flashforward 40+ years and dozens of viewings and Star Wars continues to amaze and delight. Sure, some of the effects are dated, the acting and dialogue are a bit clunky at times, and Darth Vader’s lightsaber fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi is pretty pitiful in retrospect, but the film still delivers when it counts.
I still get chills when Luke (Mark Hamill) blows up the Death Star. (Spoiler?) I still smile and laugh when Han Solo (Harrison Ford) chases a large group of Stormtroopers down a hallway. The character dynamics haven’t lost a step, particularly once the trio of Luke, Han, and Leia are together. Their interaction is the stuff of legends.
(A side note for current writers and filmmakers: take a good look at Princess Leia. She is in need of rescue but she’s not a helpless damsel in distress. Needing to be rescued does not mean one is helpless, it just means they need help in that particular moment. We don’t need female characters who are too strong and too awesome for help. The world needs strong female characters who accept help when it’s offered but who can also stand on their own two feet and lead when needed. Princess Leia is the blueprint. Pay attention.)
For my money, there aren’t many perfect sequences in film history. To name a few, The Mines of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring. The final minutes of The Shawshank Redemption when we slowly watch Andy Dufresne’s plan unfold. And the rescue of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) on the Death Star in Star Wars.
Everything we love about Star Wars is captured in this sequence: Tension, humor, great character moments, action, and tragedy. Included in this section of the film you get the trash compactor scene with all it’s tension and humor, the jail break with Han’s awkward and hilarious attempt to talk his way out of a problem over the intercom, Luke and Leia’s swinging to escape from the Stormtroopers, and Obi-Wan’s heroic sacrifice. Plus, John Williams’ epic and pitch perfect score make everything better.
Star Wars changed everything for the movie industry. There are some who probably think that’s a bad thing. In some ways, they are not wrong. Too many studios have tried to replicate what Star Wars did and it hasn’t work like they had hoped. As for me, I’m grateful for the film and how it shaped the entire industry. I love going to the theater to watch the latest movie. It is a wonderful and captivating experience. And while I love intimate dramas or goofy comedies, the giant blockbuster has a special place in my heart. Those types of films are able to transport us to new worlds and Star Wars is the primary reason why.
Movies have the potential to move us in ways than nothing else can. They combine story, visuals, and music and create something wholly unique and powerful. I love sitting in a theater full of other equally expectant film lovers as we watch and celebrate a new story together. It is a wonderful communal experience and very little can match it.
So, on this May 4th, Star Wars Day, let us remember the film that started it all. Let’s celebrate worldbuilding, creativity, and inspiration. Take some time today to revisit Star Wars with us. And may the Force be with you.