Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

star wars original poster

“May the Force be with you” – Jedi expression

This is the one that started the phenomenon…the very first Star Wars film. Back when it was first released it was just titled Star Wars. Those pesky Episode subtitles didn’t come along until The Empire Strikes Back and now this entry is known as Episode IV: A New Hope. It may sound confusing to someone completely in the dark about Star Wars films, but it makes some kind of convoluted sense to the rest of us.

Director and creator George Lucas often stated in past interviews that his saga as originally written was quite sprawling, too much to put into one film, let alone a trilogy. Hence, why he skipped to Episode IV to do first because he felt the storyline truly became interesting and action packed with this episode. And he was right.

opening

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope throws viewers into the complex galaxy where the story is based with an opening crawl informing us that this faraway galaxy, a long time ago, is in the midst of a galactic civil war. The Rebel Alliance, which rose from the ashes of the fallen Galactic Republic, has won its first major victory against the despotic Galactic Empire. The Rebels have stolen plans for the Death Star, a moon-sized battle station that is capable of destroying planets that was just completed by the Empire. Rebel leader Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is onboard a blockade runner spaceship on her way to the planet Tatooine to recruit  a Jedi to join her cause.

Just as the opening crawl finishes, leia and r2Leia’s spaceship swooshes overhead near Tatooine as its chased by a mammoth Imperial Star Destroyer battle cruiser. The imperial ship overtakes the small blockade runner and tows it onboard. Soon, the Rebel ship is boarded by white-armored stormtroopers led by Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), a fallen Jedi who is a Sith follower now. He and his troops turn the ship upside down looking for the plans. But they’re too late, Leia downloads the plans into an astromech droid R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) before she is captured. The small droid makes his way to an escape pod accompanied by a humanoid protocol droid C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and is able to flee the ship and land on Tatooine.

droidsThe desert planet is brutal to C-3P0 who constantly voices his displeasure to R2-D2. The small droid ignores his companion and separates from him to fulfill a mission given by Leia to find Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness). Both droids wind up being captured by Jawas, small nomadic beings that populate the planet’s sand-covered wastelands.

The Jawas wind up selling the droids to moisture farmer Owen Lars (Phil Brown). He assigns his nephew Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to get them ready for work on the farm. While cleaning up R2-D2, Luke triggers a partial holographic message from Leia where she says “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”; Luke wonders if the message is for Ben Kenobi, a hermit that he knows. He later tries bringing up this matter to Owen and over dinner served by his aunt Beru (Shelagh Fraser), but his uncle brushes him off and tells him to wipe both droids’ memory banks. Changing the subject, Luke asks if he can join the Academy, but Owen replies that he still needs Luke’s help on the farm and to wait another season. Angrily, Luke leaves the dinner table and goes outside to brood. He finds out from C-3P0 that R2-D2 ran away, but it’s already nightfall and too dangerous to go looking for the droid.

lukes relatives

The next morning he and C-3P0 leave the farm in his landspeeder hover vehicle and find the small droid in the desert just before they’re attacked by tusken raiders. After Luke is knocked out, the tusken raiders are scared off by an animal cry mimicked by Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi. Ben takes Luke and the droids back to his home  and after revealing that he was once a Jedi Knight, presents him kenobi's placewith a lightsabre. Ben tells him that it belonged to Luke’s father, a Jedi Knight and friend, who was betrayed and killed by Darth Vader, Kenobi’s former apprentice. After introducing Luke to the concept of the mystical Force, Ben is able to activate the full holographic message. It’s a plea from Leia to go to deliver the droids, who have the Death Star plans, to her home planet of Alderaan and join the fight against the Empire.

Pondering the appeal, Ben asks Luke to join him, but Luke turns him down because of his responsibilities. The old Jedi is disappointed but understands and accepts Luke’s offer to transport him to the city Mos Eisley to find passage to Alderaan.

death starThe Star Destroyer arrives at the Death Star. Several military leaders are holding a meeting, which is joined by Darth Vader and his superior Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing). They’re informed by Tarkin that the Emperor has dissolved the Imperial Senate and that fear of the Death Star will keep the many systems of the Empire under control. Tarkin instructs Vader to find the location of the Rebel headquarters to end the rebellion. Vader proceeds to torture his prisoner Princess Leia, but is unable to get from her the location of the Rebel base.

Back on Tatooine, Luke, Ben and the droids find the smoldering remains of the Jawas that sold Luke and Owen the droids. Ben concludes that they were killed by imperial troops and Luke quickly deduces that his family is in danger. He rushes home but is too late. Stormtroopers have been there earlier and killed his uncle and aunt. The young farmer goes back to Ben and asks to join him and to be trained as a Jedi.

cantina meetAfterwards, Luke, Ben and the droids travel to Mos Eisley, a rundown and seedy port of call bursting with aliens and imperial stormtroopers. They stay one step ahead of inquisitive stormtroopers and go to a local cantina to hire a pilot who can take them to Alderaan. In there, they meet a smuggler called Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), a bear-like Wookiee that only communicates with growls and grunts. The two parties strike a deal, which delights Han since he owes Jabba the Hut, a local gangster, a lot of money.

At the Death Star, Vader reports his failure to get the location of the Rebel base from Leia. Tarkin decides to use a different approach. He orders the Death Star to go to Alderaan and once the battle station arrives he threatens Leia that he will have the Death Star destroy her adopted planet. She reluctantly gives him a planet’s name and in response, Tarkin has Alderaan destroyed anyway, much to Leia’s horror.

falcon

On Tatooine, Luke sells his landspeeder to raise funds for the passage; afterwards a local spy spots Luke and his group as they make their way to Han’s ship, the Millennium Falcon . They board the Falcon just in time before stormtroopers catch up to them. Fortunately, the Millennium Falcon is able to escape from Tatooine and jump into hyperspace.

With some time to kill as they make their way to Alderaan, Ben starts instructing Luke on the ways luke trainsof the Force. Han is skeptical of the old Jedi ways, declaring it extinct, but Luke ignores the putdowns and begins to demonstrate some adeptness in using the Force through some exercises. At that point, the Millennium Falcon arrives at its destination, but Alderaan is nowhere to be found. Only meteors greet the space pirate and his passengers. Ben realizes that the planet has been destroyed and a small moon is spotted nearby. Before they realize it, the Millennium Falcon is ensnared in a tractor beam from the moon, which turns out to be the Death Star.

Once pulled inside the battle station, the small group hides out in the Falcon’s smuggling compartments and avoid capture. They depart the ship and begin plotting their next move. Ben leaves the group to turn off the Death Star’s tractor beam and face an old foe that he senses with the Force. Meanwhile, Luke discovers that Leia is being held prisoner and has to convince Han and Chewbacca to help him rescue her before she is executed.

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Top 10 Star Trek Alien Races

trek aliens As we commence celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, it’s a good time to start looking at the best of Star Trek through the decades. To begin, let’s look at one of the hallmarks of what made Star Trek (TOS) and its spinoffs so popular: the many diverse alien races that appeared in the shows and films.

tholian10. Tholians: One of the most non-humanoid races ever featured in Star Trek. Crystalline and mysterious, the Tholians could only exist in high temperatures and were known for their punctuality and xenophobic nature. Often mentioned after they first appeared in the original series, the Tholians’ only other onscreen appearance happened decades later in Star Trek: Enterprise. Time for an encore! First Appearance: “The Tholian Web” Star Trek

andorian shran

9. Andorians: One of the founding members of the United Federation of Planets along with Vulcans and humans. These hostile, blue-skinned aliens with antenna weren’t fully explored until Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT) and episodes from that show that featured Andorians were some of ENT’s best. First Appearance: “Journey to Babel” Star Trek

changeling8. Changelings: These enigmatic shape-shifting aliens used their distrust and fear of “Solids” to rule the Gamma Quadrant and conquer any world that dared to defy them. Whether using their shock troops in the Dominion or by simply using their shape-shifting abilities to spread confusion and misdirection, the Changelings were a race to be reckoned with. “Emissary” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

7. Cardassians: As former oppressors dukat and garekof the Bajorans, the militaristic Cardassians quickly made a lasting impression with their reptilian skin, bony necks and antagonistic but cultured manner. Harshness, nationalism and pride were their defining characteristics which led to many conflicts with other galactic powers.  Their alliance with the Dominion in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) to regain glory would come back to haunt this proud race. First Appearance: “The Wounded” Star Trek: The Next Generation

Romulan commander

6. Romulans: Distant off-shoots of the Vulcans that never embraced a pacifistic, logical lifestyle, the Romulans while displaying a war-like, calculating demeanor were also seen to have a semblance of honor throughout the spinoffs and films. Plus, they get points for having that delectable Romulan ale. First Appearance: “Balance of Terror” Star Trek

ferengi

5. Ferengi: Donald Trump would fit in nicely with these aliens! With their hideous bat-like ears (they’re yuuuuuge!) and small stature, the Ferengi are a profit-driven alien race with a shallow. unethical nature. Still, they’re humorous and effective foils for Star Trek’s more dull, er, enlightened human society. First Appearance: “The Last Outpost” Star Trek: The Next Generation

kira

4. Bajorans: Conceived in Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) as fugitives and terrorists fighting to liberate their people, the Bajorans were given center stage in DS9. This show allowed a deep exploration of the race as we learned they have a deeply spiritual nature that resonated with viewers. First Appearance: “Ensign Ro” Star Trek: The Next Generation

borg

3. Borg: A cybernetic race made up of different alien species including humans, the Borg are one of the deadliest enemies faced by the Federation. Driven solely by achieving biological and technological perfection, the Borg are relentless and methodical as they assimilate any aliens they encounter including us. First Appearance: “Q Who?” Star Trek: The Next Generation

vulcan spock

2. Vulcans: Pointy eared, cold and logical, but hiding a deep respect for other lifeforms, the Vulcans are one of the most popular aliens in Star Trek lore and part of our popular culture. Best represented by the Enterprise’s first officer, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the Vulcans are a founding member of the Federation and one of Earth’s staunchest allies. Forever mystified by our emotionally driven society, and slightly contemptuous of us, nevertheless, Vulcans are a fascinating race even if they are a bit dry. First Appearance: “The Cage” Star Trek

klingons

1. Klingons: Brutal, savage, war-hungry, but with a deep sense of honor, the Klingons are the best alien race showcased on Star Trek. First introduced as bitter enemies in TOS, kangthey were perfect stand-ins for our Cold War rivals. Eventually, the Klingons were given a makeup upgrade and became strong but contentious allies for the Federation as seen in TNG and other shows. The spinoffs and the later Star Trek films presented another, prideful side to the aggressive aliens with their sagittal crested foreheads. Like the Vulcans, Klingons are now part of our popular culture in so many ways. First Appearance: “Errand of Mercy” Star Trek

 

Lewis T. Grove

 

 

Superman Shafted Again In The Movies

mad superman

There were rumors percolating recently that Warner Bros. dictated that Batman be emphasized more in the upcoming movie superhero slugfest Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Last week, the film’s director Zack Snyder confirmed that the film will focus more on Batman. On top of that indignity (for Superman), there are further rumors that a proper Man of Steel sequel focusing solely on Superman won’t happen. Instead, Warner Bros. was so wowed by Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that now there will be three Batman films coming out.

Yeah, the Batman fans must be tickled pink about this development but what about Superman? Once again, the Man of Steel, the first superhero gets pushed to the curb in favor of Batman. Sure, Batman is DC Comics’ most popular superhero and the marketing department just love him, but the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) can’t just rely on him to carry the load for the film franchise. One of the reasons why their competitors Marvel Studios has done so well with their cinematic universe is because they doesn’t just rely on one superhero. Their biggest hit isn’t called Iron Man and the Avengers. No, that film, The Avengers, spread the attention around its many heroes. Marvel Studios hasn’t been shy about producing films on more obscure characters and their gambles paid off. Look at Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man.

jokwe

In order for the DCEU to thrive, they need to diversify. They also have a rich comic book universe, it’s a shame that it’s largely ignored for Batman and his universe. Here’s another example, what went over so big in a recent DCEU trailer? The Joker and Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. We barely are aware that it features Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and other DC supervillains. The trailer even had a Batman cameo. Probably DC/Warner concluded that since Green Lantern and Man of Steel didn’t do too well, then they should go back to what worked for them. It’s a shame really because the DC Universe is ripe for exploring on film. At least, the DC TV shows realize this with their hit shows Arrow and The Flash, and it’s more amazing that they can’t use Batman at all.

Will we ever get a true sequel to Man of Steel? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was originally supposed to be that. Metallo was slated to be the main villain and the film was going to end with a chunk of kryptonite being sent to Wayne Manor. That Batcameo ballooned into having Batman be the co-lead and now supposedly the lead. Snyder’s excuse for this is that the film needed to explore Batman. What is there to explore? We know his origin already (which was shown yet again in the film’s trailer), why not just cut out all references to Superman and be done with it?

snyder bat

Right off the bat, DC and Warner Bros. seem to be panicking and going back to their old crutch of making all things about Batman. If this goes on expect to see Batman shoehorned into other upcoming DCEU films like Aquaman and Green Lantern Corps. He’s already has a guaranteed spot in Justice League. Sure, from a marketing standpoint it makes perfect sense to highlight your most popular characters but don’t be afraid to focus on other assets, if nurtured correctly, they too will be just as popular as Batman. That is the best way to compete against Marvel and it will delight fans to no end.

Waldermann Rivera

Assorted Star Trek Highlights

original enterprise

As we celebrate the 49th anniversary of Star Trek (God, that makes me feel old!), some quick thoughts came to me regarding the beloved show and the franchise it spawned. Star Trek and its many incarnations had many highs and lows, but what stuck with me throughout the decades were the highlights and some general observations about Trek.

Captain

James T. Kirk, played perfectly by William Shatner, is the best Star Trek captain. Period. Nothing more to say.

classic kirk

Villains

Star Trek has many memorable villains that faced off against Kirk, Picard and others. The biggest and baddest of them all still remains as Khan, the first version played by Ricardo Montalban. While Benedict Cumberpatch did a menacing job reimaging Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, Montalban’s Khan was just insane. The other great Trek villains are the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) from Star Trek: First Contact, General Chang from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Christopher Plummer had great chemistry with Shatner), Shinzon from Star Trek: Nemesis, Nero from Star Trek, Kurge (Christopher Lloyd) from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Q (John DeLancie) from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Romulan Tomalak (Andreas Katsulas) of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ron Perlman’s Nosferatu-like Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis, Gul Madred (David Warner) in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In general, I enjoyed the Klingons, Romulans and Borg. Finally, I have to give a shout out to the black oil spill creature that killed Tasha Yar. It proved that oil spills will be the death of us!

khan II

Ships

Star Trek is well known for its many distinctive space ship designs. Of course, one of the best has to be the original Enterprise from Star Trek. It’s simple, classic and culturally important. With that I will state that I loooooove the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture! As for the Enterprise seen in the Star Trek reboot, I admit that I like it, but don’t love it like I did with the earlier movie versions of the Enterprise. I also thought the space station designs in the reboot didn’t work (but I loved the ones used in the early films, the same goes for the early space dock used in the first two Star Trek films).

enterprise refit

Other great ships for me were the Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation with its amazing concept of having the saucer separating from the ship. Meanwhile, I also liked the Enterprise E first seen in Star Trek: First Contact because it had this neat, sleek look.

Starfleet also had other great designed ships. Let’s start with the shuttlecraft Galileo. It was a classic, and I’ll have to say that the updated shuttle designs seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation were nice. Two other great ships were the Defiant from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (it’s one great, tough, little ship!) and the Reliant from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It’s got the most innovative design and was actually a happy accident. Director Nicholas Meyer saw the blueprints for it upside down and approved it. This allowed for the designs of differently shaped Federation starships.

reliant

The alien ships used in Trek were also wonderful, take the Klingon Bird-of-Prey ships that were seen in most films and TV shows. It just showed what a great design it was. I also liked the Romulan warbirds from the Trek spinoffs and the Ferengi ships, too. Other ships that deserve mentioning should be the alien probes V’Ger and the whale probe. With V’Ger I didn’t know the full shape of it until I saw the director’s cut. I think it was OK, but the closeups of it are more spectacular than its outside silhouette shape. What I liked about the whale probe from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was that it kind of mimicked the elongated shapes of the whales.

vger

I should point out that the Borg cube first seen in Star Trek: First Contact is Trek’s answer to the spherical Death Star. Maybe the next sci-fi franchise should have the enemy ship look like a cone! Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise had many more ship designs, but they weren’t very memorable to me except for the Bajoran solar sail ship.

Costumes

A common thread in these musings of mine is how great the original Star Trek was and how it got so many things correct. Any so-called improvements made by the movies and spinoffs, while mostly good, just can’t compare to Classic Trek. A good example of this is the costuming of the original show. They used simple multi-colored costumes that made it easy to denote rank and division. The design and colors were so great and the 2009 movie reboot kept the same pattern, but improved on the fabrics and patterns used.

Star trek reboot

A close second would be the classic red uniforms that were used for most of the original cast movies starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. They had a naval design that was just perfect for the movie’s tone.

khan cast

The spinoff Star Trek TV shows also had some nice costumes, especially the ones used in Star Trek: The Next Generation that followed the spirit of the original series in having different colors denoting rank and division.

As for costumes that didn’t work, that dishonor goes to the bland outfits used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. They looked like grey pajamas! But the fancy white and grey uniform worn by Admiral Kirk and Spock’s black Vulcan tunic were great.

Music

The original theme by Alexander old trek castCourage has a resonating hailing overture that builds to a sense of adventure thanks to the use of a singer and bongo drums. I just love listening to it. Composer Michael Giaccino built on that mood with his take of the original Star Trek theme in J.J. Abrams’ reboot. His version of the original theme is magnificent.

The second best Star Trek theme for me is actually a tie between Jerry Goldsmith’s majestic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and James Horner’s adventurous work in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Goldsmith’s fanfare is a hail to adventure and the rest of the soundtrack made the movie better than it was. Horner’s work meanwhile had the right tone for the movie which evoked naval ships and battles.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had a score that I liked a lot. It was dark, intriguing, yet had fanfares that were sentimental farewells for the original cast. The signature send off at the film’s end was fantastic. Other noteworthy scores are the ones for Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Voyager, while the one for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine grew on me.

Background Design and Cinematography

wrath of khan bridgeFor me, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had the best look on the whole because of its slightly darker lighting. It’s funny to think that the sets used in that film were the same ones from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s amazing what lighting can do! On that note, I’ll say that I hated the bridge lighting used in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but loved the improved lighting in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country thanks to Hiro Narita, who also worked on The Hunt for Red October.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation had the best computer interfaces, it still looks futuristic and I love the look of the graphics. Meanwhile the look of the Trek reboot sports a fresh interpretation. It’s like walking into an Apple store with mirrors that produce lens flares! I didn’t mind the look, but I know purists object to it.

 

Walter L. Stevenson