Friday, March 27, 2009

MOVIES: #5 Star Wars IV- A New Hope

Let's get some business out of the way. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is THE Star Wars movie. The one that started it all. The movie that ended the almost decade-long darkness that was the early seventies for science fiction movies. The original.

Of course, not a lot of Star Wars was original, even back in 1977. Evil empires, beautiful princesses, callow youths, aged mentors, pirate captains etc. But the mix was great and Star Wars is the only movie I've ever seen three times in a movie theatre.

I saw it opening weekend when word of mouth wasn't quite as massive as it would be today. I knew about the movie because I subscribed to Jim Steranko's Comixscene magazine. I even knew Luke Skywalker was originally to be called Luke Starkiller. So I entered the theatre full of hope and was happy to report that. that hope was not dashed. Peter Cushing and the voice of James Earl Jones were perfect representations of the Evil Empire. Carrie Fisher was perfect as the combative princess, although she might have taken to wearing skin-tight spandex rather than an evening gown and ear-muffs (she made up for it later). Mark Hammil was a great callow youth and you can't do better than Alec Guinness for the mentor. Harrison Ford hadn't become a walking cliche yet, in the cliched role as pirate captain. And as a bonus, we got Anthony Daniels as the charming, iron rod up his butt, robot and Peter Mayhew as the big furball companion to all.

George Lucas mixed it all up to offer up a movie for its time and for the next three decades. So many industry-wide standards came from the movie. The font for the titles, the use of his own in-house special effects magicians (eventually spun off into a separate money-making machine), the merchandising of the movie into an unimagined number of licensees. It was that good.

So I went to see it again. This was about three months later. I was at the North American Bridge Championships at the time and my squad was about to play a team with Omar Shariff. The rest of the team hadn't met him and I had. So I opted to sit the round out and go kill time at the movies. Nothing appealed to me and the idea of seeing Star Wars in a bigger, better theatre seemed like a good idea. So I queued up. The line inched its way towards the ticket window. I was standing behind a couple who were in earnest discussion with the seller. "We only have one ticket left, do you want it or two for the next show," said the ticket-seller.

I waited, sizing up the couple. Was the guy geek enough to ditch the girlfriend for what was probably his first viewing of the movie? Would he suggest SHE take the ticket and he'd catch it later with the guys? I was hoping for eternal love of course. And I uttered a "YES!" under my breath when the guy said they'd take two for the later show. I then hopped up to the window and snatched that last ducat.

And once again, I was enthralled by the sheer majesty of the tale. It was a fable come to life and I enjoyed it immensely. My team lost back at the bridge table, but I'd come up a winner.

Cut to earlier this decade when Lucas brought out the new and improved version of the movie in a re-release to beat all but Disney's re-releases. Things were different and that's why Patrick and his son dragged me out to sit in the last row and take in the revised classic.

Let me tell you, it didn't matter to me originally that Han Solo shot first. And the Leia-Luke smooch really only got icky because of later stories in the series. Well ALL the rest of the stories, but I digress. Still, the enhanced graphics did make this a worthy trip to the cinema.

I'd been to several movies twice, including tomorrow's entry on the list. But this was the only movie I've ever handed over hard-earned cash to see thrice. Plus, I think I have four different copies of the movie on tape or disk. Or five. Which seems appropriate, considering it's place on my favourite movies of the twentieth century.

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