Twentieth Century Fox, 1977. Rated PG.
Synopsis: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the star systems are ruled by the Imperial Empire and kept in check by the villainous Darth Vader. Vader is after some stolen plans to the Empire’s greatest weapon, the Death Star, supposedly intercepted by Princess Leia on her way to Alderaan. Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker has just come into the possession of two droids, R2D2 and C-3PO, who are seeking Obi-Wan Kenobi, whose last known residence on the desert planet of Tatooine. When Luke and Obi-Wan are pursued by Imperial troopers, they form an alliance with smuggler Han Solo and his first mate Chewbacca to rescue Leia and find the Rebels fighting to restore order to the galaxy.
Though the film was first released in 1977 as the first in a trilogy, my first encounter with this particular geekdom was when the films were re-released in 1997. I was pretty much engrossed the first time I watched it and I’ve watched it at least once a year since. And really, if you are going to start in on Star Wars, I’d start here. Also, do yourself a favor and try to find the original 1977 version – it’s highly entertaining in large part due to the fact that a) the special effects are giggle-tastic and b) the DVD versions they re-released after the prequels came out changed a number of little elements in the film that don’t mean very overall but I personally think takes away from the story.
It’s a story and a series that borrows from a number of different sources, but George Lucas’ combination of elements makes for a cinematic masterpiece that continues to engage fans both old and new. Luke is an unlikely hero, and spends the first twenty or so minutes of his screen time whining and complaining. But he’s clearly very clever and wants to do something more with his life than be a moisture farmer like his uncle, and his contact with R2D2 and C-3PO is the beginning of a much greater journey. Han Solo is clearly along for the money and couldn’t really care less for Luke or Leia, but his sarcasm and devil-may-care nature make him a popular supporting character. As a heroine, Leia blur the line between a strong female character and a damsel in distress – she can clearly look after herself and defend herself, but needs some help to be freed from her captors. However, as the only primary female character in the original trilogy, she does fill a sort of role model role in a male-dominated cast. As a villain, Darth Vader is perhaps one of the most sinister in all of science fiction. He has the command of the entire Empire’s battle fleet, has no qualms about taking lives to ensure the Empire stays in power, and the perfect example (among others) of how corrupting power can be. Engaging characters, a fast-paced story, and probably the most recognized score of any film combine to form cinematic excellence that continues to draw in fans (despite the prequels, but that’s another post…).