“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ….”
How many times have you heard that line over the past 40-plus years? It does seem like a long time ago that George Lucas first introduced the world of “Star Wars,” which he had a hard time selling (later leaving many studio executives kicking themselves for turning him down). It all started with what would be renamed “Star Wars: A New Hope,” which TNT presents — along with several other films in the series — Sunday, June 14.
Many an analysis has been made of the franchise over the decades, but one of the pleasures of the first picture is that it lays out the premise so simply and clearly, with the good Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) determined to dismantle the empire of the evil Darth Vader (David Prowse, with distinctively deep voice supplied by James Earl Jones).
That means infiltrating brigades of well-armed Stormtroopers to launch an assault from inside and outside the orbiting fortress tellingly known as the Death Star. The impulsive Luke needs help in achieving the attack, and he gets it from several sources including the wise Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and droids R2-D2 and C-3PO (Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels).
And, of course, there is Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) … whose hologram’s appeal for help draws Luke into the conflict before he knew his deeper connection to her. And also of course, there is Han Solo (Harrison Ford), the adventurous rebel who brings along his Wookie companion Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and his rickety but serviceable Millennium Falcon vessel as extra assets.
The sum total is immense fun that still holds up wonderfully, in no small part because it’s so timeless, creating its own history that has fueled prequels, sequels and offshoots aplenty since moviegoers first learned what an X-wing fighter or a lightsaber was.
Now knowing that “A New Hope” is the fourth “episode” in the overall “Star Wars” sequence makes it even more logical that the film plunges viewers right into the already-in-motion action, with John Williams’ brilliantly appropriate, Oscar-winning music underscoring an intergalactic battle. The picture would take five additional Academy Awards that largely acknowledged the technical expertise behind it.
A sign of the success of “Star Wars: A New Hope” was how influential it was on other projects pretty immediately, from the James Bond-in-outer-space caper “Moonraker” to television’s original “Battlestar Galactica.” Still, Lucas’ creation remains utterly unique, rightfully accumulating new generations of fans as the years go on.