Whenever I watch Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, of course I love every second of it and am just as thrilled as the first time I saw it. But there’s a sense of wonder and even sadness beneath that, regretting that I was born too late to know what it was like to experience it in 1977. I grew up knowing all the Star Wars lingo, the characters, and the music before I even saw any of the movies. I have no idea what it’s like to watch the first movie as it was before it became known as A New Hope.
What was it like to see the words scrolling down the screen for the first time and hear the most spectacular music written since the 1800s? I think about what I might have thought watching those scrolling words. What in the world is a death star? Who is this Empire, and what’s kind of rebellion has formed against it? To go into the movie not knowing the answers to these questions must have been like Dorothy telling Toto “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
What would it have been like to see the opening dialogue between droids, one speaking in a language we can’t understand, having to rely on the other to interpret? Sure the world had seen Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet and other robotic characters, but never without any human activity alongside them. And then we have an abrupt transition from this charming and utterly unique relationship between R2-D2 and C3PO into a dark, violent, and terrifying scene where we meet Darth Vader for the first time. How shocking must that have been for people who didn’t know about Darth Vader?
And what would it have been like to see the first unmasked human character revealed in the film? An otherwise attractive young woman with hair that looks like a cross between a 7-year-old girl and a goat! And then not too long a while later, we’re expected to believe she’s a princess? Would I have been so quick to accept that if I didn’t already know about Princee Leia?
What would it have been like to see a light saber in action for the first time? Would I have wondered how a glowing stick can sever a man’s legs, or would I have just accepted it as I did since I already knew about the Force?
I’m not going to attempt any traditional type of review for Star Wars: A New Hope because we all already know it’s a masterpiece. But it’s become such a part of the fabric of the culture, at least in the U.S., that a new movie in the franchise is welcomed and loved without the sense of awe and wonder that George Lucas must have intended. Each movie in the original trilogy (alongside 2015’s The Force Awakens) are all wonderful, and I will probably write about them at some point on this blog. But as far as the original movie, I just want to ponder how original, how audacious, and how awesome (in the truest sense of the word) the first Star Wars film must have been before anybody knew the significance behind the veiled conversations about Luke’s father or that it would be impossible for Luke’s romantic feelings toward Leia to be returned. George Lucas took the world into a completely different world in 1977, and (I apologize if what I am about to say seems melodramatic or hyperbolic, but I do believe it) made the real world a better place because of it.