Quite simply, one of the best films ever made. The film that revolutionized the blockbuster.
Not enough Special Features.
In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, a farm boy named Luke Skywalker seizes his destiny and begins one of the most amazing cinematic journeys the world has ever seen. With the Empire ruling the Galaxy and Jedi Knights cast off into exile, a small undercurrent of rebels have begun a fight to restore order in it's proper form. Having stolen the plans to the Death Star, the Emperor of the Empire sends Darth Vader on a quest to retrieve them. While she is held hostage, Princess Leia manages to send an SOS message that is picked up by Luke Skywalker. Realizing he must act, he sets out along with Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, and trusty droids R2-D2 and C-3PO to rescue Princess Leia and help topple the Empire.
Filled with amazing visuals and production values that still hold up by today's standards, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is truly one for the ages.
George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren and Carrie Fisher provide the commentary here. Like the other DVD I reviewed, I was blown away by how comprehensive and detailed it was. Lucas talks about making this movie, working with the British crew, and how embarking on this film was really like entering the great unknown. While now it might seem like a no brainer, listening to everybody talk here, there was no way to foresee just what an incredible film experience was being created. Everyone gives nice accounts of making this movie, as well as the tweaks involved for the 1997 release, but make no mistake, this is the George Lucas show all the way.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 1977 Version
This extra feature was the subject of much debate. At first, the fans were told that they were getting cleaned up versions of the original trilogy. This had been something that supposedly Lucas said would never come to pass. Then, as the story had time to gestate it was revealed that Lucas and Co. considered offering this movie as a bonus feature only. Since it was only a bonus, they weren't going to spend the time to clean these films up and release them in anamorphic widescreen (which is exactly what the fans want). It was then realized that the original trilogy was merely being ported over to DVD from laserdisc. Now, there is talk talk of an Ultimate Star Wars set to be released in 2007, and that supposedly that set will contain versions of the original trilogy in anamorphic widescreen (or so it has been rumored).
In all honesty, I thought this "ported over" version looked pretty darn nice. It may have been a tad overcompressed in parts, but the images looked really clean and I didn't find that this film was lacking anything in an effects sense. I think the biggest complaint I have is that things in the background, which are very clear in the 1997 version, are not very clear in this one from 1977. All in all, I think it depends on your level of fandom. If you are a casual fan (like myself), you're just happy to have the older versions of these movies on DVD. If you are a rabid fan (meaning you dress like the characters at Comic-Con; or you come close), then you will probably have a problem with the supposed stretched image of these films. As I said, I didn't notice it.
Widescreen Format enhanced for 16:9 TVs. Aspect Ratio 2.35:1. This section only talks about the look of the film from 1997. This being the first film, and the movie out of the Trilogy that I have seen the most, I really spent a lot of the film trying to figure out where the tweaks had been made. Some things were obvious and others simply looked like they were from the movie that had been released 20 years prior. As just a pure experience on DVD, this film plays really nicely and the compression is nothing short of pristine.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX. English, French and Spanish Dolby 2.0 Surround. Once again, I have to give the folks at LucasFilm credit. This movie sounds terrific but I'm not surprised. I have often heard Coppola talk about how he and Lucas used to discuss pushing the envelope of sound. How they realized they could make inexpensive films but really bolster them in a production sense with good, well crafted sound. This movie was made for around $9 million dollars, but it looks like it was made for $90 million.
They have glossed up this front cover to make everything look nice and new. All the main characters are represented and it seems like they have even Photoshopped Han Solo's hair (I have no idea why they would do that). The back portion of this DVD gives us a well written description of what this movie is about, a listing of everything contained on these two discs, a cast list and system specs. They have also included some of the older artwork from this movie, which juxtaposes nicely with the images from the the front cover.
How many trilogies are able to hold up as well as Star Wars over the course of telling their story?
Looking at some of the other trilogies like The Matrix and The Godfather, I think it's apparent that the original trilogy in the Star Wars set is pretty darn impressive. While I appreciated The Lord of the Rings, we weren't dealing with material that came from one man's mind and then was brought to the screen by that same person.
Star Wars is so impressive because the first 3 stories that were told are almost seamless. They don't falter like some of the other trilogies do, and I think the reason why that is is because the storytelling is just so much better. Had Coppola made the third installment of The Godfather trilogy right after the second, maybe we would look at that trilogy differently?
As it stands, if you really want to see pure cinema in it's most epic form, derived from one source and brought to life by that same source, you need look no further than all the films in the Star Wars collection.
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was released May 25, 1977.