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I'm sure that many of us have some sort of fictional work, a movie perhaps, that's had a major impact on our lives. Something that we love to death and that we never get tired of. Something we grew up with and that potentially shaped us as a person. For me, that would be the Star Wars films. I've been a fan ever since my mom and dad introduced me to the franchise at an incredibly young age with A New Hope (I wouldn't be surprised if it was the first movie I ever saw, this series is huge in my family). With Rogue One on the horizon and my annual watching of the films (which I should really start doing more than once a year), I thought that it'd be fun to share my thoughts on each of them as I watch them. I don't know if I'd really call this a review; I'm sure most of us have seen at least one of these movies at some point. It's really just a way of sharing my personal feelings on this incredible series, hence the quotation marks around the word "review" in the thread title as I had no clue what else to go with. My plan is to watch one of them a day starting today: I'll be doing the Original Trilogy, Prequel Trilogy, and then end off with The Force Awakens. If possible, I'd absolutely enjoy doing a little write-up for Rogue One after I see that one as well. Now, without further ado, let's go back a long time ago, to a galaxy far, far, away... Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) The very first Star Wars movie, originally given the simple title of Star Wars but later given the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope to fit in with the five other planned episodes of the saga, was a massive hit. Being born 20 years after its release, I didn't get to experience its roots first-hand, but even today, this film is incredibly iconic and popular. Inspired by prior science-fiction, Western, and Japanese Samurai films, A New Hope was able to successfully garner the attention of the masses and spawn two trilogies, two additional upcoming trilogies, and a massive Expanded Universe of content. To think that so much came out of this one movie is incredible, but every time I watch it, I'm reminded of just what makes it so great. To clarify for the purposes of this "review," The version I watched was the 1995 VHS release, which was the final release before George Lucas put the Special Edition into circulation and stopped producing the original cut. While none of the home releases were the exact same as the original theatrical release, any version released prior to the 1997 Special Edition set is about as close as you'll get. I'm not going to go into detail on the differences between the older releases and the Special Edition cuts, but for those unfamiliar, the Special Editions were George Lucas' way of expanding upon the films after their release through the usage of CGI. These editions of the movie are controversial among die-hard Star Wars fans (The most popular example being the "Han shot first" debate that's still raging to this day), but if you pick up a DVD or Blu-Ray release, it's going to be the Special Edition. I personally found these VHS copies over the Summer at a local Goodwill for $1 a piece, so if you're looking for them, thrift stores would be my recommendation. Now, with that out of the way, let's get to talking about the movie itself! For anyone who's been living under a rock for the past 39 years, let me give a quick synopsis of A New Hope's plot. The film tells the story of Luke Skywalker, a young man living with his uncle and aunt on their moisture farm on the desert planet of Tatooine. One day, he comes across two droids named R2-D2 and C-3PO, both of whom had been caught in the midst of a war between the oppressive Galactic Empire and the Rebellion. R2-D2 contains a message from Princess Leia, an important leader of the Rebellion: the message's intended reciver is a man named Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke and the droids meet Ben Kenobi, an old hermit living in the Dune Seas of Tatooine, and learn that he is actually Obi-Wan, a former general in the Clone Wars and a Jedi Knight who knew Luke's father. This chain of events sets the four off on a journey across the galaxy where they meet smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and the evil Darth Vader. The film ends with the climactic battle between the Rebellion and the Empire to destroy the Empire's space station; while it ends in victory, Darth Vader is blasted away in his TIE Fighter beforehand, allowing him to survive... One of the greatest things about this film is the characters and their team dynamics. Each character develops: Luke goes from being a farm boy uncertain about his future to a courageous hero of the Rebellion, while Han begins as an uncaring smuggler who's only in it for the money but later decides to stay and help the team in their final battle, and those are just a couple of examples. Their interactions are genuine, and every major character feels important. In addition, the villain, Darth Vader, is an intimidating, cruel, and terrifying man. He doesn't get a whole lot of screentime, but every time we see him, he proves how threatening he is. Every character in this film is portrayed in an excellent way. The world-building is another one of my personal favorite aspects of the series, and it all begins here. Despite only really taking place on one planet, a moon, a space station, and a ship, the world itself feels expansive. The alien technology and terminology, the varying settings, and the vast shots of how huge this galaxy is really show how fleshed out this world feels. There are all sorts of alien species, from the Jawas to everyone's favorite Wookie, and no place brings this out as much as Mos Eisley. All sorts of varying aliens, people, and droids show up here; the cantina especially is filled with all sorts of interesting characters, even though many don't even speak a line of dialogue. It makes the world feel incredibly expansive and alive. This is probably what gave me a love for expansive, fleshed-out worlds in the first place: the world of Star Wars is massive and it's easy to get that sense. The special effects were yet another thing that made this movie incredible when it first came out, and still to this day. Back before CGI was such a widespread effect, the Star Wars team had to rely mostly on practical effects; the droids and aliens are all puppets or people in costumes, and this helps them seem more alive than they would be if they were simply CGI; for comparison, the CGI aliens added in the Special Edition just feel out of place. The ones in the original cut feel natural. Of course, the effects for the battles also worked. The smooth flight of the space ships, the bolts of blasters, and the iconic lightsaber were impressive for their time, and still look fantastic today. Even though their age shows a bit more these days, the effects still hold up very well. The sound effects are memorable as well: every shot of the blaster, the screech of a TIE Fighter, and the crackling of the lightsaber are sounds that are impossible to forget for fans of the franchise. The effects, visual and sound-related, made the movie even more alive. Of course, going off of the sound effects, it's impossible to give a detailed opinion piece on the paper without going into the music. John Williams' composition for the film is fantastic; the iconic main theme I included above is obviously the most memorable piece, but the entire soundtrack is incredible. The character themes fit their characters perfectly, the battle themes are just as tense or exciting as they need to be, and the concluding fanfare is the perfect piece to end the movie off on. There's probably a lot more that could be said about this movie, but I've gone on for long enough already. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is a cultural icon and one of the most influential and important films of all time; it's amassed many sequels, prequels, and a huge following, one that I'm proud to be a member of. Looking back on this movie, it's easy to see how it created such a massive franchise: all of its individual elements come together in a way that's unique, fun, and mesmerizing. How could anything possibly follow up after this movie? Well, we'll find that out tomorrow when I discuss Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back!