A Critical Panning of Star Wars: A New Hope

You can read why exactly it is I wrote this at the very end. First, here’s a harsher look at Star Wars as if it were a new release and I just watched it for the first time in 1977.

Sci-fi is a tough genre to compete in. With classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Metropolis and Forbidden Planet, to have a newcomer show up and try to upset the apple cart is a risky prospect. Young George Lucas only has two rather forgettable features under his belt, THX-1138 and American Graffiti, and Star Wars is his biggest, and boldest, effort to date.

Unfortunately, while his eye-popping special effects might be like nothing we’ve ever seen, the story he’s told here is one we’ve heard a thousand times before. One-note characters and haphazard plotlines litter this would-be epic, and by the end, the flaws simply overwhelm the redeemable pieces.

The untested Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker, a space farmer who spends his time cultivating moisture on some desolate planet that looks suspiciously like Tunisia. When he intercepts a message from a princess hidden inside an escaped robot, he begins a quest to rescue her and in the process learns something about his own history. He enlists the aid of local hermit Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness, who is practically snoozing through the duration of the film) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), a smug bounty hunter with a hairy companion whose name I won’t even try to pronounce. In attempting to save the Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher with a distractingly strange haircut), they must take on the armored Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) and his floating planet-destroying space station.

Two suns? I think it might be a touch too hot for any water, much less human life.

The “boy finds out he’s something special” story is beyond played out at this point, and seems to be the spark for every other feature these days. Here, Luke discovers he has the power of “the force,” a mystical property that allows him to effectively wield a laser sword known as a “lightsaber” and move small objects with his mind. I bet it saves him loads of time during household chores.

The scattered order of the “Jedi” who use these force powers are shameless stand-ins for samurai, and Lucas has lifted practically the entire plot of A New Hope from various Akira Kurosawa films, with of course the central “save the princess” story the same as in hundreds of other similar tales. Underneath the blaster rifles, beam swords and space planes, there’s nary a new idea to be found here.

Luke whines far too much for a lead, while Solo is so cocksure of himself he always seems like he can’t be bothered with anything that happens on screen. The two are thrust into a strange love triangle with the princess, but there’s nary an ounce of chemistry between any of them. The two robots serve as comic relief in a film that doesn’t need it, and it’s kind of hard to tell jokes when one of them can only communicate in beeps and boops. Both seem entirely extraneous to the film.

Robotic Laurel and Hardy fall flat.

It appears the only real actor of the bunch, Alec Guinness, wanted out as soon as he could, and his Kenobi character dies early on in an incredibly awkward fight sequence with Vader that has him disappearing on the spot and haunting Luke the rest of the film as some sort of ghost. The film doesn’t even bother explaining the details of this, and we’re just supposed to attribute it to this mysterious “force” that’s never adequately explained.

The threat of the film is simply ridiculous. A space-station the size of a moon? Every person on earth working 24 hour shifts would take about ten million years to build such a monstrosity, and the material costs alone would bankrupt an entire galaxy. And you’re expecting us to believe that this thing has a weakness where a singular shot can destroy it? That’s like saying you can throw a rock into the right sinkhole on earth and blow up the entire planet. I understand this is sci-fi, and we have to suspend disbelief, but Star Wars simply goes too far. Whether it’s deflecting laser beams with a sword or loud explosions in space, there’s too much here to ignore that goes against every law of science.

Character development? What character development? Luke goes from space redneck to master warrior in what seems like twenty minutes. Han is beyond a stereotype of a gun-slinging cowboy, but unfortunately far more talkative than Eastwood. The princess has the same pouty look on her face for the duration of the movie whenever she’s not yelling at Luke or Han.

Undoubtedly Leia’s hairdo will go down as one of the worst in movie history.

The film is left obviously open ended for a sequel, but I can’t imagine there’s much more to this universe worth seeing. Yes, the action is neat if you like your sense being constantly assaulted, and a few characters like the mysterious Vader are worthwhile (I’d like to know more about him in any planned future installments), but overall, it’s a sea of one dimensional characters in a recycled plot taken from far better films.

Star Wars is a battle for our hearts and minds, but one it ultimately loses. It was a valiant effort to propel the genre forward, but ultimately sputters before it can make a jump to hyperspace. Lucas may have a good film in him yet, but we haven’t seen it thus far.

2 out of 5 stars


The reason I wrote this is because I’ve been dismayed to read through what feels like pretty unfair criticism of The Dark Knight Rises over the past few days. If it’s not your favorite movie ever, or you think the other films were superior, I can respect a difference of opinion. But to say it outright sucked? That seems disingenuous to any objective observer.

My point with this post is to show that it’s a lot easier to be negative than positive when talking about a piece of media. As someone who reviews 50 movies a year at the least, it’s a breeze to trash something, while it’s much harder to explain why it is a film is great. It’s easy to find minor issues or plot holes in most films, Star Wars included, but if you take the flaws and blow them out of proportion, you make it sound like the entire movie was a disaster when really it was just a few bits and pieces that were off.

Even if segments of what I said about Star Wars, or what others say about The Dark Knight Rises, are true, the good aspects vastly outweigh these details, and if your entire movie experience is ruined by two minutes of flaws in a three-hour feature, I don’t know what to tell you. In my review of TDKR, I pointed out things I saw that were amiss, but that said, the entire thing still felt like a five star viewing experience.

It’s “cool” to hate things that are popular, and it’s easy to turn a few flaws into a dismissal of something worthwhile. I know not everyone has to share my viewpoints, but the reaction by some to this film by certain fans and critics has been maddening, and I just wanted to show that you can go full hate-mode on ANYthing, even one of the most beloved films of all time. As ridiculous as this review sounds to you, that’s how ridiculous trashing of The Dark Knight Rises sounds to me.

For more on this, read Zack Ruskin’s fantastic piece from yesterday about expectations and disappointment.

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  1. Well said Paul. I thought TDKR was a great movie. I had alot of problems with the end and it wasnt perfect but it was a great movie none the less. Anyone who thinks the movie is absolutely horrible may need to watch Ghost Rider again.

  2. @ Paul. Coming from the person who has been absolutely destroying Prometheus on this site for weeks on end. Dude!! That’s the pot calling the kettle black. I liked but not loved both TDKR and Prometheus (the two movies I was looking forward to by far the most this summer). Their both very well executed in almost every right. Both Directors are two of the best ever. But you can not deny both plots suffered from some serious holes in logic and shoe horns. Take off your blinders both movies are like an 8 out of 10 tops which is still a really respectable score. I know I will end up owning and re-watching both a number of times. But to write something like this to defend a movie that in no way needs any defending is ridiculous. Especially since your point is talks about a movie which came out in 1977 when the movie goer wouldn’t be expecting as much as us spoiled movie goers now days. Back then the setting and effects were enough to make the story feel fresh.

  3. @Caleb: Paul does this quite often when reviewing movies. TDKR had plot holes but was great. Star Wars had plot holes but sucked. Rami’s Spiderman had a love story but was great. Amazing Spiderman had one but wasn’t good at all. Then my personal favorite were the reviews for Fast 5 and Sucker Punch. You can’t like one movie for the same reasons you hated another.

  4. @Caleb, I’m not sure about plot holes in either of those films. I’m usually the one to go into detail and be debatably unfair to a film in criticism and what I expect, but I spent a week or so toiling over the various parts of Prometheus, and I’ll say it surely doesn’t feed it to you, and there’s an argument that the film is maybe not said as clearly as it could, but almost every plot hole can be explained. You can’t explain Theron’s awful performce/character, and a few misplaced themes of religion and God, but the film’s plot holes are surprisingly small. It was a movie I walked out of mad at, then thought about it and got mad at the fact I could talk out of every plot hole if I just ran through the movie again. I was sort of proud the movie didn’t feed me.

    The Dark Knight Rises is similar. I’ve seen and had discussions over it, and from every plot hole I’ve read, what most people consider a plot, is not a plot hole. Just because they didn’t say it in the movie, doesn’t make it a plot hole. That means you have to trust the film. How Did Bruce get to Gotham out of the hole? Well, that can be easily explained through a number of situations, so if you can think of one, than to show it would only add even more time to an already long film. How did he sneak past everyone and get into Gotham when the bridge is out, etc.? The solution of “he’s Batman, therefore has some backdoor entrance” doesn’t work because then why wouldn’t he use the backdoor to get the people out, instead of the bridge? But if the situation was different, and it was Bane who had to get on the island, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Because he’s Bane, and somehow we give more lenience to villains.

    I’ll say I didn’t love either movie, and I think Christopher Nolan is incredibly overrated – he’s got style and technique, but his writing goes nowhere more times than not – but I thought his Batman trilogy didn’t have a bad film in the bunch, and I thought Prometheus was an entertaining workout, trying to make me think it didn’t make sense due to it’s confusing execution, even though it had thought of most everything. Neither film is spectacular, but I thought they both were good. And Rises being terrible is just someone who is overreacting. Batman & Robin is terrible. If Rises is anything below good, then it’s average.

  5. @Mike and Caleb

    To be clear, I do NOT think A New Hope sucked. This entire article is a joke.

    But that said, just because movies are similar in many ways, that does not mean they are of the same quality. Yes, Prometheus had plot holes (many, many more than TDKR), but it also had pretty awful writing and a confusing structure with lame characters. The Dark Knight Rises had a few some plot issues, but was quite well-written and had excellent characters. I’m allowed to dismiss Prometheus while recognizing the quality of TDKR as simply a better film.

    Fast Five was an example of a way to put mindless action together in a way that was great. The minimal use of computer effects made the film thrilling, while Sucker Punch’s CGI made everything feel unreal in a bad way, and the base plot was a hundred times more inane than any other movie released in recent years. Just because both films are aiming to do “goofy fun action,” that does not mean both of them did it well.

    But again, all of this comes down to opinion. I may think it’s an indisputable fact that TDKR is an obviously better movie than Prometheus, but there will be some it’s impossible to convince of that, who think I’m as I wrong as I think they are.

  6. (If I may stray from the topic by a step or two, as well as be a little scattershot…)

    MAN, it is tempting to bring the Star Wars prequels back under this heading as well. Both with the discussion of expectations and disappointment as well as letting the negative issues (real or perceived) fester in discussion to the point of pure vitriol. Once the consensus has been established on a movie, anyone who steps out of line is shouted back into hiding, or simply dismissed outright.

    Just look at the comments that Rottentomatoes was getting on its negative Dark Knight Rises reviews, BEFORE any of the commenters had even seen the f***ing movie. Preposterous. Movies like The Dark Knight (which I like a great deal) are just as legitimate to criticize as anything else. (And lo and behold, TDKR may have deserved some of its criticism.)

    Likewise, movies like Prometheus or Indy IV or Star Wars I-III or Speed Racer or Superman Returns or whatever are worth taking seriously. When serious filmmakers step up to the plate, we would all do well to give their movies an honest look. Do you have to like them? Certainly not. Do I have to “admit” their “faults” as decided by the online community? Nope.

    I’d rather have another movie that I like than one that I don’t. Dark Knight Rises, to me, is no exception.

    It seems like trashing is the sort of thing that nobody likes when you do it to their favorite movies, but everyone thinks is cool when they do it to someone else’s. Not bringing Paul directly under fire, here, so much as the internet/movie community at large.

    I find it interesting to watch the consensus morph with current movies. Prometheus was a great example, where people (again, in general) went from wild anticipation, to confusion, to generally labeling it an ambitious but poorly constructed failure, all in the span of a couple days. I’ll be curious to see what the “acceptable opinions” of TDKR turn out to be in a year or so. Right now it seems that people are struggling to deal with the less-than-perfect movie they got, that they still want to like anyway.

    For what it’s worth, my expectations for DKR were off, and I don’t feel like I can give it an honest evaluation until I see it again. My initial impression is that it’s a bit of a mess but the good far outweighs the bad.

  7. Wow. Butthurt doesn’t even begin to describe this reaction. Most reviews of TDKR have been positive… I’m sorry not all of them have been? Jesus.

  8. @Caleb

    Just glanced over at imdb to find a thread entitled “70 Reasons this film fails” and another called “We MUST admit that death scene was horrible.”

    There’s been a lot of back and forth, sure, but I’ve seen a decent amount of people who are really laying into this movie. Paul has, too, and doesn’t think it’s warranted. It’s strange to me that you’d sound so offended to come across a piece like this on a heavily editorialized speculative fiction blog.

  9. Well said, Paul. The points you bring up in your explanation reach further than just media criticism. Negativity is easy, especially from a distance. Being positive is something to strive for and practice in all of life.

    With that being said, I owe you another apology for my trolling negativity I’ve brought to your site in the past. You’re an accomplished writer, have very unique (awesome) interests, and I greatly appreciate you providing us with interesting content on an almost daily basis. You’re entitled to your own views, interests, and beliefs — especially when you are as tolerant and respectful of others’ interests and views.

    I genuinely look forward to reading your posts. I’ve learned an amazing amount on interests I’ve already had, developed new interests, and kept my friends engaged on their interests that I don’t normally share by reading your postings.

    Thank you again. My sincerest apologies for any negativity I’ve brought to you in the past. Much respect.


  10. @ David R and Paul Tassi. Let me first start off by saying that second comment apparently posted by me, wasn’t by me. I guess I should change my name to Caleb K or something. I also am a huge fan of the writing and posts on this blog. I’m on here everyday when I’m supposed to be working. Paul you do a rad job keep it up. The only reason I responded to this article in the first place was because I was very surprised at seeing an article written for the defense of a movie that doesn’t really need defending. I mean look at the general consensus of how people feel about it. I merely brought up the issue of calling out people for having negative reviews about it because. I noticed a lot of those bouncing around on here when Prometheus came out which you had posted or written (that’s why I brought it up for discussion). I liked both movies about the same to be honest. I thought they were equally good.

    I would just like to say that I believe that it’s not easier to be negative in writing, it’s just that more people notice negatives than positives (both of which were in my comment posted above). There’s an old rule stating that it takes 5 positive comments to neutralize once negative comment, and 20 positives to equal 1 negative. It also has a lot to do with the tone you believe a persons message may have or the mindset you’re in when your reading something. I respect all your opinions just wanted to bring something up i had noticed is all. Sorry if it came off crass.

    Peace Yo.

  11. My main criticisms of The Dark Knight Rises have been related to a strange lack of consistency in the plot that none of Nolan’s other films seem to suffer from. In Batman Begins a lot of time was spent building up the themes and the same goes for The Dark Knight. In The Dark Knight Rises a great deal is left unexplained like why Bruce is walking on crutches, why Bane even pretends to be acting in Gotham’s interests (could anyone imagine being convinced enough to be okay with letting out ALL the prisoners?), why Bruce is able to sufficiently recover from a dislodged vertabrae in his back within about six months to make a jump most people are unable to manage, how Bruce is able to get home from the middle of nowhere so quickly, why the police choose to approach Bane’s forces without any use of strategy and just walk nonchalantly down one street, why Batman is able to defeat Bane so easily towards the end when he was having his arse handed to him the previous time, how the auto-pilot can possibly explain how Batman managed to escape from his Bat plane without anyone noticing when he was still in the plane less than a minute before detonation when the plane went over the bridge, and so the list goes on…

    I still like The Dark Knight Rises, but while naturally sending death threats to critics was clearly utterly wrong anyway, that widespread misguided passion from fanboys seems particularly unjustified in the light of the final product. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the better superhero movies out there.

    What’s been REALLY bugging me however is when the same people praising The Dark Knight Rises turn around and b*tch about The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m an avid listener to the Horror Etc. Podcast, but I’ve just finished listening to their latest show where one of the two regular contributors goes from complaining about people nitpicking The Dark Knight Rises and then goes on to unfairly nitpick Amazing Spider-Man to an enormous degree.

    ‘How dare they leave out that cheesy line from the comics? Where did the Indian guy go? That’s not how I’D imagine Aunt May! Why mention the parents? Why do we need a reboot/origin story/any more movies of Spider-Man? Andrew Garfield plays the part completely differently from Tobey Maguire! The film uses CGI and I don’t LIKE CGI…..’

    Seriously, the petty criticisms just went on and on AND ON and most of it is just along the lines of “I liked Raimi’s movies better”. At least the criticism of The Dark Knight Rises is actually related to the movie. (Heck, even “the previous movies were better” criticism in that context, relates to how Nolan’s trilogy has progressed. People aren’t generally going on about how no one should have ever made a Batman movie after Burton.)

    Amazing Spider-Man has been my favourite superhero movie this year, but I’ve loved all four fantastic superhero movies: Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble, Chronicle and The Dark Knight Rises. They’ve all been so great that it’s been difficult to choose between them, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of legitimate concerns about the storytelling in Dark Knight Rises.

  12. I perfectly agree with the sentiment that 100 people can look at a chair, draw it, and you end up with 100 completely different pictures.

    Reviewing things is difficult. No matter what you say, you are pissing someone off. From a director who is too fat to fit in a plane seat, to the fan boy who will never be satisfied no matter what, its difficult to write critically about things folks are passionate about. I used to draw cartoons for my University paper and do book reviews. Now my cartoons were insane. I often had to fight my editor and the PhD who advised the editors to get them published over their content. But I would never get a complaint from readers. The book review…Jesus fucking Christ people are insane. My review of the first “Twilight” book got me fucking death threats. I’m not kidding. This dude from my school got kicked out for sending me threats for mocking the writing style of Stephenie Meyer and her obviously fucked up views of how young women should seek out dangerous and dysfunctional relationships.

    All that said…Star Wars sucks in my opinion. I’m sorry…I am saying this as a life long sci-fi fan…there are better novels, movies, and created universes than George Lucas’ whore out products.

  13. That was hands-down the best impersonation of Roger Ebert I’ve ever read. Right down to the pointless negative asides that signify nothing except a tired hack who couldn’t cut it doing actual news.


  14. I’m the less polite Caleb. I love this site too, and blah blah blah, but pulling a classic movie from almost 40 years ago and cutting it up for the sake of making a subjective point is the equivalent of a long winded temper tantrum. You, yourself said it was just to show how the negative reviews of TDKR “feel” to you. It’s like breaking some other kid’s toy because they said your lunch box was stupid.

    Why did they go through all the trouble of kidnapping that scientist, when, essentially, all he had to do was unplug the core from the rest of the generator?

    I say that was all he had to do because they show him walking up to the core without so much as a wrench, and then in the very next cut he is done somehow making it into a bomb, and later we find out that it can all be stabilized if they just…. plug it back in to the generator. So they just needed him to unplug the thing from the thing? Didn’t Bane say there was no way to stop it once it was active?

    How did Bane magically get a hold of Comissioner Gordon’s speech to read it in front of Gotham?

    How did Bane go from a Spanish wrestler on crazy venom steroids to some kind of middle eastern dictator with a silly accent?

    How do you fix a severed spinal cord? WITH FISTS.

    Occupy Gotham!!!

    John Blake? You mean Robin John Blake. Why not?


    The movie takes great pains to show that Bruce Wayne has been bankrupt, then Bane kidnaps him and leaves him in a foreign prison. Upon escaping, Wayne somehow manages to get from that foreign prison back to a locked down Gotham City, throw on his (spare?) bat suit, and paint a giant bat signal on the bridge in gasoline with no money and no resources.

    While Batman chases after the truck that is carrying the unstable fusion core, he decides that it would be a good idea to riddle the truck with bullets and mortars and send it over the side of an overpass. Then he proceeds to hook said core to his flying machine and drag it along the pavement and ram it into buildings and billboards as he flies away heroically. Those things shouldn’t pose a problem to a highly unstable bomb…right?

    “You’re….pure evil.” -Actual line from the script.

    “I hated my dad and his vision so much!! Until you killed him. Then I was totally about destroying a city.” -Actual character motivation

    Also, and this is a minor point, there didn’t seem to be any function to Catwoman’s little goggle ears other than making it look like she had cat ears. She would just randomly put them down for some purpose… but they didn’t appear to actually do anything. She just wanted an excuse to have cute little cat ears. Don’t be embarassed, Selena. If you want cat ears on your costume, just go ahead and paste those bad boys on there. No reason to make excuses for them.

  15. These generally aren’t “minor issues” or “minor plot holes”. However you turn it, all of these things are very valid points and Star Wars is in my opinion a pretty bad movie. The Empire Strikes Back is amazing in how much it salvages everything through actually making the previously one-dimensional characters have some depth and in general actually somehow making the story somewhat not-convoluted.

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