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Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (originally released as Star Wars) is a 1977 space opera film, written and directed by George Lucas. It was the first of six films released in the Star Wars saga: two subsequent films continue the story, while a second trilogy contributes backstory, primarily for the troubled character of Darth Vader. Ground-breaking in its use of special effects, this first Star Wars movie is one of the most successful films of all time and is generally considered one of the most influential as well.

Set far in the past in a distant galaxy, the movie tells the story of a plot by a group of freedom fighters known as the Rebel Alliance to destroy the flagship space station/weapon of the oppressive Galactic Empire. The plot follows the tale of farm boy Luke Skywalker who is suddenly thrust into the role of hero when he inadvertently acquires the robots carrying the schematic plans of the station. He must accompany retired military general and rebel sympathizer Obi-Wan Kenobi on a mission to rescue the owner of the robots, rebel leader Princess Leia Organa, deliver the plans to the rebels' secret base, and help destroy the station before it reaches and destroys the rebel base.

Inspired by films like the Flash Gordon serials and the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, as well as such critical works as Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Lucas began work on Star Wars in May 1973. Produced with a budget of $11,000,000 and released on May 25, 1977, the film went on to earn $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, and receive several awards, including 10 Academy Award nominations. It was re-released several times, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions are the 1997 Special Edition and the 2004 DVD release, which were modified with computer-generated effects and recreated scenes.

Plot

An opening crawl reveals that the galaxy is in a state of civil war. The Rebel Alliance has stolen plans to the Galactic Empire's Death Star: a space station capable of annihilating a planet. Rebel leader Princess Leia Organa has possession of the plans, but her ship is captured by Imperial forces under the command of Darth Vader. Before she is captured, Leia hides the plans in a droid named R2-D2, along with a holographic recording. The small droid escapes to the surface of the desert planet Tatooine with fellow droid C-3PO. The two droids are quickly captured by Jawa traders, who sell the pair to moisture farmer Owen Lars and his nephew, Luke Skywalker. While Luke is cleaning R2, he accidentally triggers part of Leia's holographic message, in which she requests help from General Obi-Wan Kenobi. The only "Kenobi" Luke knows of is an old hermit named Ben Kenobi who lives in the nearby hills; Owen, however, dismisses any connection, suggesting that Obi-Wan is dead.

During dinner, R2 escapes to seek Obi-Wan. Luke and C-3PO go out after him and are met by Ben Kenobi, who reveals himself to be Obi-Wan and takes Luke and the droids back to his hut. He tells Luke of his days as a Jedi Knight and explains to Luke about a mysterious energy field called the Force. He also tells Luke about his association with Luke's father, also a Jedi, who he says was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader, Kenobi's former pupil who turned to evil. Obi-Wan then views Leia's message, in which she begs him to take R2 and the Death Star plans to her home planet of Alderaan, where her father will be able to retrieve and analyze them. Obi-Wan asks Luke to accompany him to Alderaan and to learn the ways of the Force. After initially refusing, Luke discovers that his home has been destroyed and his aunt and uncle killed by Imperial stormtroopers in search of the droids. Luke agrees to go with Kenobi to Alderaan, and the two hire smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca to transport them on their ship, the Millennium Falcon.

Meanwhile, Leia has been imprisoned on the Death Star and has resisted interrogation. Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, the Death Star's commanding officer, tries to coax information out of her by threatening to destroy Alderaan and proceeds to do so even after she appears to cooperate as a means of demonstrating the power of the Empire's new weapon. The planet's destruction is felt by Obi-Wan aboard the Millennium Falcon while he is instructing Luke about the Force. When the Falcon arrives at the Alderaan's coordinates, they find themselves in a field of rubble. They follow a TIE fighter towards the Death Star, which they mistake for a moon, and are captured by the station's tractor beam and brought into its hangar bay. The group takes refuge in a command room on the station while Obi-Wan goes off by himself to disable the tractor beam. While they are waiting, R2-D2 discovers in the station's computer that Princess Leia is onboard and is scheduled for termination. Han, Luke and Chewbacca stage a rescue and free the princess. Making their way back to the Millennium Falcon, their path is cleared by the spectacle of a lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and his former master, Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan allows himself to be struck down as the others race onto the ship and escape.

The Falcon journeys to the rebel base at Yavin IV where the Death Star plans are analyzed by the rebels and a potential weakness is found. The weakness will require the use of one-man fighters to slip past the Death Star's formidable defenses and attack a vulnerable exhaust port. Luke joins the assault team while Han collects his reward for the rescue and leaves, despite Luke's request for him to stay. The attack proceeds when the Death Star arrives in the system, having followed the Falcon to the rebel base. The rebel fighters suffer heavy losses and after several failed attack runs, Luke remains piloting one of the few remaining ships. Darth Vader appears with his own group of fighters and begins attacking the rebel ships. Luke begins his attack run with Vader in pursuit, as the Death Star approaches firing range of Yavin IV. During his run, Luke hears Obi-Wan's voice telling him to use the Force, and he turns off his targeting computer. As Vader is about to fire at Luke's ship, the Millennium Falcon appears and attacks Vader and his wingmen, sending Vader's ship careening off into space. Luke fires a successful shot which destroys the Death Star seconds before it fires on the rebel base, killing everyone still aboard instantly. Later, at a grand ceremony, Princess Leia awards medals to Luke and Han for their heroism in the battle.

Cast

  • Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker: Skywalker is a young man who lives with his aunt and uncle on the remote world Tatooine and who dreams of something greater than his current position in life.
  • Harrison Ford as Han Solo: Solo is a self-absorbed smuggler whom Obi-Wan and Luke meet in a cantina and with whom they later travel. Solo, who owns the ship Millennium Falcon, is good friends with Chewbacca, the ship's co-pilot.
  • Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa: Organa is a member of the Imperial Senate and a leader of the Rebel Alliance. She plans to use the stolen Death Star plans to find the station's weakness.
  • Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi: Kenobi is an aging man who served as a Jedi Master during the Clone Wars. Early in the film, Kenobi introduces Luke to the Force.
  • Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin: Tarkin is the commander of the Death Star and a Regional Governor. He leads the search for the Rebel Base, hoping to destroy it.
  • David Prowse as Darth Vader. Vader is a Dark Lord of the Sith, and a prominent figure in the Galactic Empire who hopes to destroy the Rebel Alliance. He was voiced by James Earl Jones.
  • Anthony Daniels as C-3PO: C-3PO is a protocol and interpreter droid who falls into the hands of Luke Skywalker. He is rarely without his counterpart droid, R2-D2.
  • Kenny Baker as R2-D2: R2-D2 is a mechanic droid who also falls into the hands of Luke. He is carrying a secret message for Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca: Chewbacca is the Wookiee co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon and a close friend of Han Solo.
  • Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles: Antilles is a starfighter pilot who fights alongside Luke in the Battle of Yavin. In the ending credits, Lawson's first name is misspelled "Dennis".

Lucas shared a joint casting session with long-time friend Brian De Palma, who was casting his own film Carrie. As a result, Carrie Fisher and Sissy Spacek auditioned for both films in each other's respective roles. Lucas favored casting young actors without long-time experience. While reading for Luke Skywalker (then known as "Luke Starkiller"), Hamill found the dialogue to be extremely odd because of its universe-embedded concepts. He chose to simply read it sincerely and was selected instead of William Katt, who was subsequently cast in Carrie. Lucas initially rejected the idea of using Harrison Ford, as he had previously worked with him on American Graffiti, and instead asked Ford to assist in the auditions by reading lines with the other actors and explaining the concepts and history behind the scenes that they were reading. Lucas was eventually won over by Ford's portrayal and cast him instead of Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken, Billy Dee Williams (who would play Lando Calrissian in the sequel) and Perry King, who wound up playing Solo in the radio plays. Virtually every young actress in Hollywood auditioned for the role of Princess Leia, including Terri Nunn, Jodie Foster and Cindy Williams. Carrie Fisher was cast under the condition that she lose 10 pounds of weight for the role. Aware that the studio disagreed with his refusal to cast big-name stars, Lucas signed veteran stage and screen actor Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Additional casting took place in London, where Mayhew was cast as Chewbacca after he stood up to greet Lucas. Lucas immediately turned to Gary Kurtz, and requested that Mayhew be cast. Daniels auditioned for and was cast as C-3PO after he saw a McQuarrie drawing of the character; struck by the vulnerability in the robot's face, he instantly wanted to help to bring the character to life.

History

Writing

Elements of the history of Star Wars are commonly disputed, as it has been shown that Lucas frequently makes statements about it that have changed over time. George Lucas completed directing his first full-length feature, THX 1138, in 1971. He has said that it was around this time that he first had the idea for Star Wars, though he has also claimed to have had the idea long before then. One of the most influential works on Lucas' idea to make a space adventure was the Flash Gordon space adventure comics and serials. Lucas actually made an attempt to purchase the rights to remake Flash Gordon at one point, but could not afford them.

Following the completion of THX 1138, Lucas was granted a two-film development deal with United Artists at the Cannes Film Festival in May of that year; he describing to them both American Graffiti, and an idea for a space opera he called The Star Wars. He subsequently turned in the script for American Graffiti, but they passed on the film. Instead, Universal Studios picked the film up, and Lucas spent the next two years completing it. Only then did he turn his attention to The Star Wars. He began writing in January 1973, unsure what would come of Graffiti, and still very much in debt.

Lucas began with small steps, inventing odd names and assigning them possible characterizations. Many of these would be discarded by the time the final script was written, but several names and places were included in the final script or its sequels (such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo), and some were revisited decades later when Lucas would write his prequel trilogy (such as Mace Windy, renamed Windu). He used these ideas to compile a two page synopsis titled "The Journal of the Whills", which bore little resemblance to the final story. The Journal told the tale of the son of a famous pilot who is trained as a "padawaan" apprentice of a revered "Jedi-Bendu". Frustrated after being told that his story was too difficult to understand, Lucas started again on a completely new outline, this time borrowing heavily from Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress to the point where he considered buying the rights to the film at one point. He relied on a plot synopsis from Donald Richie's book, The Films of Akira Kurosawa and wrote a 14-page draft that mainly paralleled Hidden Fortress with alternate names and settings of a science fiction nature.

Both United Artists and Universal passed on their options for the film later that year, citing the potentially high-budget project as too risky. Lucas pursued Alan Ladd, Jr., the head of 20th Century Fox, and closed a deal to write and direct in June 1973. Although Ladd did not grasp the technical side of the project, he believed that Lucas was talented. Lucas later stated that Ladd "invested in me, he did not invest in the movie." The deal afforded Lucas $150,000 to write and direct.

Later that year, Lucas began writing a full script of his synopsis, which would be completed in May 1974. This script reintroduced the Jedi, which had been absent in his previous treatment, as well as their enemies, the Sith. The protagonist, a mature General in the treatment changed to an adolescent boy, with the General shifting into a supporting role as a member of a family of dwarfs. The Corellian smuggler, Han Solo, was envisioned as a large, green-skinned monster with gills, and Chewbacca was inspired by Lucas' Alaskan malamute dog, Indiana, who often acted as the director's "co-pilot" by sitting in the passenger seat of his car. Many of the final elements in the film began to take shape, though Lucas' biggest issue was the plot, which was still far removed from the final script. The plot, however, did begin to diverge from the Hidden Fortress remake of the earlier treatment and began to take on the general story elements that would make up the final film. Lucas began researching the science fiction genre, both watching films and reading books and comics. His first script incorporated ideas from many new sources. The script would also introduce the concept of a Jedi master father and his son, training to be a Jedi under the father's Jedi friend, which would ultimately form the basis for the film and even the trilogy. However, in this draft, the father is a hero who is still alive at the start of the film. The script was also the first time Darth Vader appeared in the story, though other than being a villain, he bore little resemblance to the final character.

Lucas grew distracted by other projects, but he would return to complete a second draft of The Star Wars by January 1975; while still having some differences in the characters and relationships. For example, the protagonist Luke (Starkiller in this draft) had several brothers, as well as his father who appears in a minor role at the end of the film. The script became more of a fairy tale quest as opposed to the more grounded action-adventure of the previous versions. This version ended with another text crawl which previewed the next story in the series. This draft was also the first to introduce the concept of a Jedi turning to the darkside; a historical Jedi that became the first to ever fall to the dark side, and then trained the Sith to use it. Lucas hired conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie to create paintings of certain scenes around this time. When Lucas delivered his screenplay to the studio, he included several of McQuarrie's paintings.

A third draft, dated August 1, 1975, was titled The Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller which now had most of the elements of the final plot, with only some differences in the characters and settings. Luke was again an only child, and his father was, for the first time, written as dead. This script would be re-written for the fourth and final draft, dated January 1, 1976 as The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills. Saga I: Star Wars. Lucas worked with his friends Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck to revise the fourth draft into the final pre-production script. 20th Century Fox approved a budget of $8,250,000; American Graffiti's positive reviews allowed Lucas to renegotiate his deal with Alan Ladd, Jr. and request the sequel rights to the film. For Lucas, this deal protected Star Wars' unwritten segments and most of the merchandising profits. Lucas would continue to tweak the script during shooting, most notably adding the death of Kenobi after realizing he served no purpose in the ending of the film.

Lucas' claims

Lucas has often alleged that the entire original trilogy was written as one film; that the Star Wars script was too long, so he split it into three films. However, none of Lucas' drafts had more pages or scenes than his final draft. Lucas' second draft is usually cited as the script he is referring to with these comments. Michael Kaminski argues in his work The Secret History of Star Wars that this draft is structurally very similar to the final film in plot arrangement, and that the only elements from it that were saved for the sequels were an asteroid field space chase (moved to The Empire Strikes Back) and a forest battle involving Wookies (moved to Return of the Jedi, with Ewoks in place of Wookies), and that none of the major plot of the sequels are present. Lucas himself has actually occasionally admitted this.

Production

In 1975, Lucas founded the visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) after discovering that 20th Century Fox's visual effects department had been disbanded. ILM began its work on Star Wars in a warehouse in Van Nuys, California. Most of the visual effects used motion control photography, which creates the illusion of size by employing small models and slowly moving cameras. Model spaceships were constructed on the basis of drawings by Joe Johnston, input from Lucas, and paintings by McQuarrie. Lucas opted to abandon the traditional sleekness of science fiction by creating a "used universe" in which all devices, ships, and buildings looked aged and dirty.

When filming began on March 22, 1976 in the Tunisian desert for the scenes on the planet Tatooine, the project faced several problems. Lucas fell behind schedule in the first week of shooting due to a rare Tunisian rainstorm, malfunctioning props, and electronic breakdowns. When actor Anthony Daniels wore the C-3PO outfit for the first time, the left leg piece shattered down through the plastic covering his left foot, stabbing him. After completing filming in Tunisia, production moved into the more controlled environment of Elstree Studios, near London. However, significant problems, such as a crew that had little interest in the film, still arose. Most of the crew considered the project a "children's film," rarely took their work seriously, and often found it unintentionally humorous. Actor Kenny Baker later confessed that he thought the film would be a failure. Harrison Ford found the film "weird," in that there was a Princess with buns for hair and what he called a "giant in a monkey suit" named Chewbacca. Ford also found the dialogue difficult, saying "You can type this shit, George, but you sure can't say it.

Lucas clashed with cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, whom producer Gary Kurtz called "old-school" and "crotchety." Moreover, with a background in independent filmmaking, Lucas was accustomed to creating most of the elements of the film himself. His camera suggestions were rejected by an offended Taylor, who felt that Lucas was over-stepping his boundaries by giving specific instructions. Lucas eventually became frustrated that the costumes, sets and other elements were not living up to his original vision of Star Wars. He rarely spoke to the actors, who felt that he expected too much of them while providing little direction. His directions to the actors usually consisted of the words "faster" and "more intense."

Ladd offered Lucas some of the only support from the studio; he dealt with scrutiny from board members over the rising budget and complex screenplay drafts. After production fell two weeks behind schedule, Ladd told Lucas that he had to finish production within a week or he would be forced to shut down production. The crew split into three units, led by Lucas, Kurtz, and production supervisor Robert Watts. Under the new system, the project met the studio's deadline.

During production, the cast attempted to make Lucas laugh or smile as he often appeared depressed. At one point, the project became so demanding that Lucas was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion and was warned to reduce his stress level. Post-production was equally stressful due to increasing pressure from 20th Century Fox. Moreover, Mark Hamill's face was injured in a car accident, which made reshoots impossible.

Star Wars was originally slated for release in Christmas 1976; however, delays pushed the film's release to summer 1977. Already anxious about meeting his deadline, Lucas was shocked when his editor's first cut of the film was a "complete disaster." After attempting to persuade the original editor to cut the film his way, Lucas replaced the editor with Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew. He also allowed his then-wife Marcia Lucas to aid the editing process while she was cutting the film New York, New York with Lucas' friend Martin Scorsese. Richard Chew found the film had an unenergetic pace; it had been cut in a by-the-book manner: scenes were played out in master shots that flowed into close-up coverage. He found that the pace was dictated by the actors instead of the cuts. Hirsch and Chew worked on two reels simultaneously; whoever finished first moved on to the next.

Meanwhile, Industrial Light & Magic was struggling to achieve unprecedented special effects. The company had spent half of its budget on four shots that Lucas deemed unacceptable. Moreover, theories surfaced that the workers at ILM lacked discipline, forcing Lucas to intervene frequently to ensure that they were on schedule. With hundreds of uncompleted shots remaining, ILM was forced to finish a year's work in six months. Lucas inspired ILM by editing together aerial dogfights from old war films, which enhanced the pacing of the scenes.

During the chaos of production and post-production, the team made decisions about character voicing and sound effects. Sound designer Ben Burtt had created a library of sounds that Lucas referred to as an "organic soundtrack." Blaster sounds were a modified recording of a steel cable, under tension, being struck. For Chewbacca's growls, Burtt recorded and combined sounds made by dogs, bears, lions, tigers, and walruses to create phrases and sentences. Lucas and Burtt created the robotic voice of R2-D2 by filtering their voices through an electronic synthesizer. Darth Vader's breathing was achieved by Burtt breathing through the mask of a scuba tank implanted with a microphone. Lucas never intended to use the voice of David Prowse, who portrayed Darth Vader in costume, because of Prowse's English West Country accent. He originally wanted Orson Welles to speak for Darth Vader. However, he felt that Welles' voice would be too recognizable, so he cast the lesser-known James Earl Jones. Nor did Lucas intend to use Anthony Daniels' voice for C-3PO. Thirty well-established voice actors, such as Stan Freberg, read for the voice of the droid. According to Daniels, one of the major voice actors, believed by some sources to be Stan Freberg, recommended Daniels' voice for the role.

When Lucas screened an early cut of the film for his friends, among them directors Brian De Palma, John Milius and Steven Spielberg, their reactions were disappointing. Spielberg, who claimed to have been the only person in the audience to have enjoyed the film, believed that the lack of enthusiasm was due to the absence of finished special effects. Lucas later said that the group was honest and seemed bemused by the film. In contrast, Alan Ladd, Jr. and the rest of 20th Century Fox loved the film; one of the executives, Gareth Wigan, told Lucas, "This is the greatest film I've ever seen," and cried during the screening. Lucas found the experience shocking and rewarding, having never gained any approval from studio executives before. Although the delays increased the budget from $8 million to $11 million, the film was still the least expensive of the Star Wars saga.

Releases

Charles Lippincott was hired by Lucas' production company, Lucasfilm Ltd., as marketing director for Star Wars. Because 20th Century Fox gave little support for marketing beyond licensing T-shirts and posters, Lippincott was forced to look elsewhere. He secured deals with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Marvel Comics for a comic book adaptation and with Del Rey Books for a novelization. Wary that Star Wars would be beaten out by other summer films, such as Smokey and the Bandit, 20th Century Fox moved the release date to Wednesday before Memorial Day: May 25, 1977. However, few theaters ordered the film to be shown. In response, 20th Century Fox demanded that theaters order Star Wars if they wanted an eagerly anticipated film based on a best-selling novel titled The Other Side of Midnight.

The film became an instant success; within three weeks of the film's release, 20th Century Fox's stock price doubled to a record high. Before 1977, 20th Century Fox's greatest annual profits were $37,000,000; in 1977, the company earned $79,000,000. Although the film's cultural neutrality helped it to gain international success, Ladd became anxious during the premiere in Japan. After the screening, the audience was silent, leading Ladd, Jr. to fear that the film would be unsuccessful. He was later told that, in Japan, silence was the greatest honor to a film. Meanwhile, thousands of people attended the ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where C-3PO, R2-D2 and Darth Vader placed their footprints in the theater's forecourt. Although Star Wars merchandise was available to enthusiastic children upon release, only Kenner Toys—who believed that the film would be unsuccessful—had accepted Lippincott's licensing offers. Kenner responded to the sudden demand for toys by selling boxed vouchers in its "empty box" Christmas campaign; these vouchers could be redeemed for the toys in March 1978.

In 1978, at the height of the film's popularity, Smith-Hemion Productions approached Lucas with the idea of The Star Wars Holiday Special. The end result is often considered a failure; Lucas himself disowned it. Lucas entered into a wager with long-time friend Steven Spielberg during the production of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Lucas was sure Close Encounters would outperform the yet-to-be-released Star Wars at the box office and bet 2.5% of the proceeds of each film against each other. Lucas lost the bet, of course, and to this day Spielberg is still receiving proceeds from the first of the Star Wars movies.

The film was originally released as—and consequently often called—Star Wars, without Episode IV or the subtitle A New Hope. The 1980 sequel, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, featured an episode number and subtitle in the opening crawl. When the original film was re-released in 1981, Episode IV: A New Hope was added above the original opening crawl. Although Lucas claims that only six films were ever planned, representatives of Lucasfilm discussed plans for nine or 12 possible films in early interviews. The film was re-released theatrically in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1997.

Special Edition

After ILM used computer generated effects for Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Lucas concluded that digital technology had caught up to his original vision for Star Wars. As part of Star Wars' 20th Anniversary celebration in 1997, A New Hope was digitally remastered and re-released to theatres, along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. The Special Edition versions contained visual shots and scenes that were unachievable in the original release due to financial, technological, and time restraints; one such scene involved a meeting between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt. Although most changes were minor or cosmetic in nature, some fans believe that Lucas degraded the movie with the additions. For instance, a particularly controversial change in which a bounty hunter named Greedo shoots first when confronting Han Solo has inspired T-shirts brandishing the phrase "Han Shot First."

DVD release

A New Hope was released on DVD on September 21, 2004 in a box set with The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and a bonus disc of supplemental material. The movies were digitally restored and remastered, and more changes were made by George Lucas.

The DVD features a commentary track from George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher. The bonus disc contains the documentary Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, three featurettes, teaser and theatrical trailers, TV spots, still galleries, an exclusive preview of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a playable Xbox demo of the LucasArts game Star Wars Battlefront, and a "Making Of" documentary on the Episode III video game. The set was reissued in December 2005 as part of a three-disc "limited edition" boxed set without the bonus disc.

The trilogy was re-released on separate two-disc Limited Edition DVD sets from September 12 to December 31, 2006; the original versions of the films were added as bonus material. The version included wasn't completely unedited. When Greedo assaulted Han, the subtitles that translates what he was saying were removed and were featured on a separate subtitle track that automatically plays when movie starts (This change was also made on Episodes 1, 2, & 6). Controversy surrounded the release because the unaltered versions were from the 1993 non-anamorphic Laserdisc masters, and were not retransferred with modern video standards.

Deleted scenes

Several scenes were filmed and later cut from Star Wars: A New Hope. Some of these scenes were later added back into the 1997 Special Edition, including the scene with Jabba and Han and another with Biggs Darklighter. Others include:

  • Luke’s Original Introduction – This scene involves Luke working with some vaporators and a small droid. He looks up into the sky and sees the space battle going on between Vader’s star destroyer and the Tantive IV. After the small droid short circuits, Luke jumps into his landspeeder to go to Anchorhead.
    • Placement: Between the rebel retreat aboard Tantive IV and Darth Vader’s entrance.
    • Availability — This scene was filmed and is available on the Internet, but only in black and white.
  • Biggs' Return – This scene starts with Luke getting out of his landspeeder and running toward Toshi Station. When he gets inside he excitedly tells his friends (Cammie, Fixer, and Deak) to come outside. He’s interrupted by the presence of his old friend, Biggs Darklighter. After a brief reunion, he tells the friends about the space battle and all but Deak go outside to see. Biggs and Cammie look through Luke’s binoculars and see nothing. As they go inside, Cammie throws the binoculars at Luke.
    • Placement: After the scene where the Imperial officers watch the escape pod shoot, the droids are inside the pod, and the pod shoots toward Tatooine and before the scene where the storm troopers bring Leia to Vader.
    • Availability — This scene is available on the Internet.
  • Old Friends Part Ways Once More – This scene is a conversation between Luke and Biggs. They talk about a close call with Luke’s skyhopper, Biggs joining the Rebel Alliance, Luke’s withdrawn application from the Imperial Academy, and some political discussion of the Empire nationalizing commerce. It ends with a farewell between the friends.
    • Placement: Between C-3PO’s scene alone in the desert when he calls for help from the sandcrawler and R2-D2’s scene alone when he gets captured by the Jawas.
    • Availability: This scene is available on the Internet.
  • Chief Bast – Chief Bast has a brief scene with Darth Vader discussing the importance of finding the fugitive droids and breaking Leia’s will. The conversation turns slightly political when Bast criticizes Tarkin.
    • Placement: This scene probably takes place right after the Jabba scene.
    • Availability: Part of this scene was included on the Star Wars Holiday Special but was re-dubbed. That section can be viewed on the Internet.
  • A Small Victory – Luke and Han have a brief conversation of congratulations after dealing with the TIE fighters.
    • Placement: This scene goes right after the TIE fighters are destroyed after leaving the Death Star.
    • Availability: This scene is not available.

Reaction

Star Wars debuted on May 25, 1977, in 32 theaters and proceeded to break house records, effectively becoming one of the first blockbuster films. It remains one of the most financially successful films of all time. Some of the cast and crew noted lines of people stretching around theaters as they drove by. Even technical crew members, such as model makers, were asked for autographs, and cast members became instant household names. The film's original total U.S. gross came to $307,263,857, and it earned $6,806,951 during its first weekend in wide release. Lucas claimed that he had spent most of the release day in a sound studio in Los Angeles. When he went out for lunch with his then-wife Marcia, they encountered a long queue of people along the sidewalks leading to Mann's Chinese Theatre, waiting to see Star Wars. The film became the highest-grossing film of 1977 and the highest-grossing film of all time until E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial broke that record in 1982. (With subsequent rereleases, Star Wars reclaimed the title, but lost it again to James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic.) The film earned $797,900,000 worldwide, making it the first film to reach the $300 million mark. Adjusted for inflation it is the second highest grossing movie of all time in the United States, behind Gone with the Wind.

In a 1977 review, Roger Ebert called the film "an out-of-body experience," compared its special effects to those of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and opined that the true strength of the film was its "pure narrative. Vincent Canby called the film "the movie that's going to entertain a lot of contemporary folk who have a soft spot for the virtually ritualized manners of comic-book adventure. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker criticized the film, stating that "there's no breather in the picture, no lyricism," and that it had no "emotional grip. Jonathon Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader stated, "None of these characters has any depth, and they're all treated like the fanciful props and settings! Peter Keough of the Boston Phoenix said "Star Wars is a junkyard of cinematic gimcracks not unlike the Jawas' heap of purloined, discarded, barely functioning droids. Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic also responded negatively, noting, "His work here seems less inventive than in THX 1138." According to rottentomatoes.com, of the 54 critical reviews of the film provided on that site, 51 responded favorably (95% of the reviewers), stating in consensus that "the action and special effects are first rate."

In 1989, the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress selected the film as a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" film. In 2006, Lucas' original screenplay was selected by the Writers Guild of America as the 68th greatest of all time. The American Film Institute (or AFI) listed it 15th on a list of the top 100 films of the 20th century; in the UK, a poll created by Channel 4 named A New Hope (together with its successor, The Empire Strikes Back) the greatest film of all time. The American Film Institute has named Star Wars and specific elements of it to several of its "top 100 lists" of American cinema, compiled as a part of the Institute's 100th anniversary celebration. These include the 27th most thrilling American film of all time; the thirty-ninth most inspirational American film of all-time; Han Solo as the fourteenth greatest American film hero of all time and Obi-Wan Kenobi thirty-seventh on the same list. The often repeated line "May the Force be with you" was ranked as the 8th greatest quote in American film history. John Williams' score was ranked as the greatest American film score of all time.

Awards

Star Wars won several awards at the 50th Annual Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, which went to John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley and Roger Christian. Best Costume Design was awarded to John Mollo; Best Film Editing went to Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew; John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack all received awards for Best Effects, Visual Effects. John Williams was awarded his third Oscar for Best Music, Original Score; the Best Sound went to Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler and Derek Ball; and a Special Achievement for Sound Effects went to Ben Burtt. Additional nominations included Alec Guinness for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, George Lucas for Best Screenplay and Best Director, although it did not win Best Picture, which went to Annie Hall. At the Golden Globe awards, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness), and Best Score. It only won the award for Best Score. It received six BAFTA nominations: Best Film, Best Editing, Best Costume, Best Production/Art Design, Best Sound, and Best Score; the film won in the latter two categories. John Williams' soundtrack album won the Grammy award for Best Album of an original score for a motion picture or television program, and the film was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. In 1997, the MTV Movie Awards awarded Chewbacca the lifetime achievement award for his work in the Star Wars trilogy.

Cinematic influence

Star Wars has influenced many films and filmmakers since its release. It began a new generation of special effects and high-energy motion pictures. The film was one of the first films to link genres—such as space opera and soap opera—together to invent a new, high-concept genre for filmmakers to build upon. Finally, along with Steven Spielberg's Jaws it shifted the film industry's focus away from personal filmmaking of the 1970s and towards fast-paced big-budget blockbusters for younger audiences.

After seeing Star Wars, director James Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry. Other filmmakers who have said to have been influenced by Star Wars include Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Kevin Smith and John Singleton. Scott was influenced by the "used future" (where vehicles and culture are obviously dated) and extended the concept for his science fiction horror film Alien and science fiction noir film Blade Runner (which starred Ford). Jackson used the concept for his production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to add a sense of realism and believability.

Some critics have blamed Star Wars and also Jaws for ruining Hollywood by shifting its focus from sophisticated and relevant films such as The Godfather, Taxi Driver, and Annie Hall to films about spectacle and juvenile fantasy. Peter Biskind complained for the same reason: "When all was said and done, Lucas and Spielberg returned the 1970s audience, grown sophisticated on a diet of European and New Hollywood films, to the simplicities of the pre-1960s Golden Age of movies… They marched backward through the looking-glass."

In an opposing view, Tom Shone wrote that through Star Wars and Jaws, Lucas and Spielberg "didn't betray cinema at all: they plugged it back into the grid, returning the medium to its roots as a carnival sideshow, a magic act, one big special effect", which was "a kind of rebirth".

Star Wars has also been the subject of many parodies, including those in South Park and Family Guy.

Current rankings

In 2002, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were voted as the greatest films ever made on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Films poll.

In the American Film Institute's 2007 poll 100 Years, 100 Movies - the Anniversary Edition, Star Wars was voted the 13th greatest American movie.

American Film Institute

Cinematic and literary allusions

According to Lucas, the film was inspired by numerous sources, such as Beowulf and King Arthur for the origins of myth and world religions. Lucas originally wanted to rely heavily on the 1930s Flash Gordon film serials; however, Lucas resorted to Akira Kurosawa's film The Hidden Fortress and Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces because of copyright issues with Flash Gordon. Star Wars features several parallels to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, such as the conflict between Rebels and Imperial Forces, the "wipes" between scenes, and the famous "opening crawl" that begins each film. A concept borrowed from Flash Gordon—a fusion of futuristic technology and traditional magic—was originally developed by one of the founders of science fiction, H.G. Wells. Wells believed the Industrial Revolution had quietly destroyed the idea that fairy-tale magic might be real. Thus, he found that plausibility was required to allow myth to work properly, and substituted elements of the Industrial Era: time machines instead of magic carpets, Martians instead of dragons, and scientists instead of wizards. Wells called his new genre "scientific fantasia.

Star Wars was influenced by the 1958 Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress; for instance, the two bickering peasants evolved into C-3PO and R2-D2, and a Japanese family crest seen in the film is similar to the Imperial Crest. Star Wars borrows heavily from another Kurosawa film, Yojimbo. In both films, several men threaten the hero, bragging how wanted they are by authorities. The situation ends with an arm being cut off by a blade. Mifune is offered "twenty-five ryo now, twenty-five when you complete the mission", whereas Han Solo is offered "Two thousand now, plus fifteen when we reach Alderaan." Lucas' affection for Kurosawa may have influenced his decision to visit Japan in the early 1970s, leading some to believe he borrowed the name "Jedi" from jidaigeki (which in English means "period dramas," and refers to films typically featuring samurai).

Tatooine is similar to Arrakis from Frank Herbert's book Dune. Arrakis is the only known source of a longevity drug called the Spice Melange; Han Solo is a spice smuggler who has been through the spice mines of Kessel. Lucas' original concept of the film dealt heavily with the transport of spice, although the nature of the material remained unexplored. In the conversation at Obi-Wan Kenobi's home between Obi-Wan and Luke, Luke expresses a belief that his father was a navigator on a spice freighter. Other similarities include those between Princess Leia and Princess Alia and between Jedi mind tricks and "The Voice," a controlling ability used by Bene Gesserit. In passing, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are "Moisture Farmers"; in Dune, Dew Collectors are used by Fremen to "provide a small but reliable source of water. Frank Herbert reported that, "David [Lynch, director of Dune] had trouble with the fact that Star Wars used up so much of Dune." The pair found "sixteen points of identity" and they calculated that, "the odds against coincidence produced a number larger than the number of stars in the universe.

The Death Star assault scene was modeled after the 1950s movie The Dam Busters, in which Royal Air Force Lancaster bombers fly along heavily defended reservoirs and aim "bouncing bombs" at their man-made dams to cripple the heavy industry of the Ruhr. Some of the dialogue in The Dam Busters is repeated in the A New Hope climax; Gilbert Taylor also filmed the special effects sequences in The Dam Busters. In addition, the sequence was partially inspired by the climax of the film 633 Squadron directed by Walter Grauman, in which RAF Mosquitos attack a German heavy water plant by flying down a narrow fiord to drop special bombs at a precise point while avoiding anti-aircraft guns and German fighters. Clips from both films were included in Lucas' temporary dogfight footage version of the sequence.

The opening shot of Star Wars, in which a detailed spaceship fills the screen overhead, is a nod to the scene introducing the interplanetary spacecraft Discovery One in Stanley Kubrick's seminal 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The earlier big-budget science fiction film influenced the look of A New Hope in many other ways, including the use of EVA pods, hexagonal corridors, and primitive computer graphics. The Death Star has a docking bay reminiscent of the one on the orbiting space station in 2001. The film also draws on The Wizard of Oz: similarities exist between Jawas and Munchkins, the main characters disguise themselves as enemy soldiers, and Obi-Wan dies, leaving only his empty robe in the same fashion as the Wicked Witch of the West. Although golden and male, C-3PO is inspired by the robot Maria from Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis. His whirring sounds were speculated to be inspired by the clanking noises of the Tin Woodsman in The Wizard of Oz.

Another source for Star Wars is the Nazi propaganda movie Triumph of the Will (1934) by Leni Riefenstahl, which inspired the final scene in which Han, Luke and Chewbacca walk through a hall of assembled rebel soldiers to receive their medals, in similar fashion to Hitler’s march through Nuremberg Stadium. The final hailing of the heroes strongly echoes the similar moment in the 1952 film version of Richard Thorpe's Ivanhoe, starring Robert Taylor.

Soundtrack

On the recommendation of his friend Steven Spielberg, Lucas hired composer John Williams, who had worked with Spielberg on the film Jaws, for which he won an Academy Award. Lucas felt that the film would portray visually foreign worlds, but that the musical score would give the audience an emotional familiarity. In March 1977, Williams conducted the London Symphony Orchestra to record the Star Wars soundtrack in twelve days.

Lucas wanted a grand musical sound for Star Wars, with leitmotifs to provide distinction. Therefore, he assembled his favorite orchestral pieces for the soundtrack, until John Williams convinced him that an original score would be unique and more unified. However, a few of Williams' pieces were influenced by the tracks given to him by Lucas. The "Main Title Theme" was inspired by the theme from the 1942 film King's Row, scored by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and the track "Dune Sea of Tatooine" drew from the soundtrack from Bicycle Thieves, scored by Alessandro Cicognini. The American Film Institute's list of best scores lists the Star Wars soundtrack at number one.

Novelization

The novelization of the film was published in December 1976, six months before the film was released. The credited author was George Lucas, but the book was revealed to have been ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who later wrote the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. The book was first published as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker; later editions were titled simply Star Wars (1995) and, later, Star Wars: A New Hope (1997), to reflect the retitling of the film. Certain scenes deleted from the film (and later restored or archived in DVD bonus features) were always present in the novel (since it had been based on the screenplay), such as Luke at Tosche Station with Biggs and the encounter between Han and Jabba (referred to as "Jabba the Hut") in Docking Bay 94. Other deleted scenes from the movie, such as a close-up of a stormtrooper riding on a Dewback, were included in a photo insert added to later printings of the book.

Smaller details were also different from the film version; for example, in the Death Star assault, Luke's callsign is Blue Five instead of Red Five as in the film. Charles Lippincott secured the deal with Del Rey Books to publish the novelization in November 1976. By February 1977, a half million copies had been sold.

Radio drama

A radio drama adaptation of the film was written by Brian Daley, directed by John Madden, and produced for and broadcast on the American National Public Radio network in 1981. The adaptation received cooperation from George Lucas, who donated the rights to NPR. John Williams' music and Ben Burtt's sound design were retained for the show; Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) reprised their roles as well. The radio drama featured scenes not seen in the final cut of the film, such as Luke Skywalker's observation of the space battle above Tatooine through binoculars, a skyhopper race, and Darth Vader's interrogation of Princess Leia. In terms of Star Wars canon, the radio drama is given the highest designation (like the screenplay and novelization), G-canon.

Notes

References

  • Rinzler, J. W. (2007) The Making of Star Wars. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 9780345494764
  • Pollock, Dale (1999) Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306809044

Further reading

  • Bailey, T.J. (2005) Devising a Dream: A Book of Star Wars Facts and Production Timeline, Wasteland Press. ISBN 1933265558
  • Blackman, W. Haden (2004) The New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology, Revised Edition (Star Wars), Del Rey. ISBN 0345449037
  • Bouzereau, Laurent (1997) Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, Del Rey. ISBN 0345409817
  • Sansweet, Stephen (1992) Star Wars - From Concept to Screen to Collectible, Chronicle Books. ISBN 0811801012

External links

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