'Star Wars': THR's 1977 Review
On May 25, 1977, a sci-fi movie hit theaters. That day, The Hollywood Reporter's reviewer explained the basics of Jedi Knights, Lord Darth Vader and "a self-propelled computer" (R2-D2) to readers unfamiliar with a galaxy far, far away. Read the original review below:
Star Wars, a Lucasfilm Ltd. production for 20th Century-Fox, will undoubtedly emerge as one of the true classics in the genre of science fiction/fantasy films. In any event, it will be thrilling audiences of all ages for a long time to come.
The film, written and directed by George Lucas and produced by Gary Kurtz, is magnificent in scope, but the script and the engaging performances also add an effective human element to the totally believable technological aspects. Lucas combines excellent comedy and drama and progresses it with exciting action on tremendously effective space battles. Likeable heroes on noble missions and despicable villains capable of the most dastardly deeds are all wrapped up in some of the most spectacular special effects ever to illuminate a motion picture screen. The result is spellbinding and totally captivating on all levels.
The story is set "a long, long time ago in a galaxy not too far from here" where Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) rules the Galactic Empire from his Death Star, an enormous artificial planet managed by Imperial Storm Troopers. Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), one of the leaders of the rebel forces, gets hold of the plans for the Death Star, which reveal its one weak point. When she is captured, she sends these charts on to Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi (Alec Guinness), the last of the Jedi Knights, who were once the guardians of peace and justice and who drew their power from the "force," a mystical energy field composed of all living matter. Kenobi enlists Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) whose father had also been a Jedi Knight and who has inherited the "force," and together with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), a smug and cynical space smuggler whose ship and services they entice with promises of great riches, they go off to save the Princess and the world.
Cushing and Guinness are outstanding in their respective roles and Fisher, Hamill and Ford all create personable characterizations, full of youthful energy and desires, who are capable of rising to heroic deeds despite their charming immaturity, which also adds fun and identification. Much of the comedy relief is provided by a nagging, pessimistic robot (Anthony Daniels) and a self-propelled computer (Kenny Baker), who are two of the most adorable characters ever to enliven a film. David Prowse is commanding as Lord Darth Vader, a Jedi Knight who has sold out to evil, and Peter Mayhew is amusing as Chewbacca, a simian (right out of Planet of the Apes) who is Solo's first mate. Credit for the success of the unique characters should go to special production and mechanical effects supervisor John Stears, costume designer John Mollo (whose futuristic designs are superb) and make up supervisor Stuart Freeborn.
The technical credits are all extraordinary, although they are too numerous to list here. Suffice it to say that everyone involved should be extremely proud of this enormous achievement. Special mention, however, must be made of John Barry's fantastic production design, Gilbert Taylor's awe-inspiring photography, John Dykstra's special photographic effects supervision (which makes imaginative use of laser beams and other technological devices) and Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew's perfectly paced editing. John Williams has composed a rich, luxuriant score that engulfs the ear as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The Dolby Sound is also a major asset in that it is sparkling clear and, in the battle sequences, achieves an enveloping, thunderous pitch with any hint of distortion. — Ron Pennington