Star Wars: Episode IV, Part I: We’ve Got High Hopes

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Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, Part I

It’s Saga Time once again! Whew! Are we all rested up from our collective adventures back in Episode 3? Hmm? Remember all the fun we had in those recaps? With the pain and the sadness and the terrible-choice-making and the untimely death of Anakin Skywalker’s fabulous head of hair?

…well, fortunately for you and I, there’s plenty more Star Wars movie content where that came from, and so starting today we’ll be cracking open The Insanity That Started It All — Star Wars: Episode IV, formerly known as Just Plain Ol’ Star Wars, and now known as the 4th piece of the Skywalker Saga, subtitled A New Hope. Your author’s first introduction to Star Wars back when I was but a wee nerd girl, this movie is very near and dear to my heart, and I look forward to sharing it with you all.

All right: the last time we saw our Friends and Enemies in a saga film, Anakin Skywalker had quit his job in truly spectacular fashion, and traded in his pretty face and hot coiffure and become Nightmarish Robo-Sith/Pun Enthusiast Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan had faced a string of terrible discoveries that were somehow even worse than the usual things he discovers on any given day of his life, Yoda decided living in an actual swamp was more fun than sticking around, and Bail Organa was left to keep the lights on for democracy after Padme kinda maybe sorta got killed by the Dark Side.

Now, I should note that just because we haven’t seen our saga friends in a saga movie since Revenge of the Sith, doesn’t mean that they’ve all been slacking off since then. In the nineteen years since the first Empire Day, they’ve all been keeping occupied in various ways. Among them:

  • Running a Rebellion, recruiting Ahsoka Tano, and raising Anakin Skywalker’s hotheaded sassmaster daughter as his own (Bail);
  • Beating thugs with heavy sticks, experiencing back pain, bonding with banthas, fighting Darth Maul again because Dave Filoni enjoys torturing him (Obi-Wan);
  • Choking seriously just a lot of people, fighting rebels (and the cast of Rebels,) building a lava castle, floating in bacta, having dreams about Obi-Wan, making shitty jokes, possibly murdering Ahsoka or maybe not because who the hell ever actually dies in this universe (Anakin);
  • Cackling, drinking celebratory brandy (Sheev);
  • Handing out confusing Force Quest assignments to the cast of Rebels without leaving his swamp (Yoda);
  • Yelling at stupid men (Leia, I assume);
  • Staring at sunsets, threatening to run off to the stars!, planning to shop for power converters (Luke)

So, y’know, a lot has been going on, right? Today’s outing (which covers approximately the first 23 minutes of this film) will introduce us to the Original Trilogy Era proper. In it, Anakin will teach us that making an entrance is something you never really forget how to do when you’ve been raised properly, Leia and Luke will show us that some traits really are genetic, and the fate of the free galaxy rests with a spunky little astromech droid once again. Away we go!

Recurring Theme: Everything Is Bad But There’s a Slim Chance We Can Fix It
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The Famous Star Wars Opening Crawl scrolls by and sets the stage for us: it’s civil war (again)! The Insignificant Rebellion has just landed its very first actual victory against the Eeeeevil Empire thanks to a bunch of people we won’t learn more about for another several decades (but they were awesome and they had the sassiest robot ever with them and they were all so brave and also some great puns were dropped)! The plans for the Empire’s sinister superweapon, Death Star the First But Not Even Close to the Last, have been swiped and Princess Leia, a badass among badasses, has this info and is fleeing from the bad guys! DUN DUN DUUUUUUN!

Recurring Theme: We Return You To This Insanity, Already In Progress
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First things first: I LOVE THE OPENING OF THIS MOVIE. (Please prepare yourselves for lots and lots of gushing about this film. I am not even a little bit sorry.) I love that we’re just sorta dumped off here in the middle of things, given that this was everyone’s first look at any of this insane universe. Really, think about this: walking into this movie cold, with zero context, is amazing. Where are we? Who are all these people? Holy shit that’s a big spaceship! Who are these guys running from? Please note that the crawl made absolutely zero direct mention of Darth Vader, and he will soon just SHOW UP IN A CLOUD OF SMOKE LOOKING AND SOUNDING LIKE DARTH VADER WHILE POSING. I mean…oh my God. I love this so much. Star Wars doesn’t have to explain itself to us mere mortals! Here’s a crazy villain dressed in some sort of evil robotic Dark Samurai costume! And he appears to be experiencing some sort of respiratory distress!

I’m getting ahead of myself: first, our two best droid dudes, R2-D2 and C-3PO, are caught up in a dramatic scene where a bunch of alarms are going off and rebels are running all over the place as their ship is about to be boarded by the galaxy’s #1 Drama Queen and his posse of stormtroopers.

Recurring Theme: Why Knock When You Can Just Badass Your Way In?

So: the rebels all await what’s on the other side of the door, and LOL FOREVER that the Empire blows open the door with what appears to be purple fireworks. The bucketheads are the first in the door and there’s a whooooole bunch of pew-pew-pew action as they take down some of the rebels and proceed to move through the ship in pursuit of the Princess.

Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Hopeless Drama Queen
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As the stormtroopers move in, our dear wayward friend Anakin Skywalker shows up. And OH MY GOD, what a drama queen. I want everyone to note — write it down on a piece of paper and keep it with you at all times, if necessary — that Anakin Skywalker’s very first scene in the entirety of the Star Wars canon involved him dressed in his Darth Vader ensemble (which includes a BUILT-IN CAPE), standing in a cloud of smoke, and placing his hands on his hips wordlessly like he is preparing to pose atop a mountain. Who could have possibly imagined that the same guy who threw himself out of moving spaceships, did backflips and yelling and fist-clenching and used Dramatic Disrobes nearly as liberally as his mentor (one of the galaxy’s other leading Drama Llamas) could have become this guy? Why, I simply can’t believe it! Oh. Wait. Yes I can, and so could anyone else who has been paying attention.

Recurring Theme: R2-D2, Smuggler of Important Holograms
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Tucked away in a hallway, Artoo is getting some Highly Classified Information from a young woman. WHO COULD IT BE OH WAIT IT IS MY FAVE GIRL PRINCESS LEIA THE AWESOME AND AMAZING. She hands off this top secret memo, marked For Handsome Bearded Jedi Masters Only, and disappears back into the shadows as Threepio tracks Artoo down. Threepio predictably begins catastrophizing about all the bad things that are going to happen to them now that the Empire’s on board and Artoo pretty much is just like PFFT whatevs, follow me.

Recurring Theme: Be Careful Not to Choke on My Choking You

A group of rebels are being marched off as prisoners by the stormtroopers, while Vader tries to choke information out of one of them. A trooper tells Vader that the plans they’re looking for aren’t in the main computer. Uh oh! Sheev’s gonna dock his pay over this one. Vader redirects his attention to the rebel at, uh, hand: where the fuck are the plans? The rebel, struggling for air, is like we don’t have any plans! We’re a consular ship! We’re just, uh, doing diplomacy shit? Yeah, that’s it!

Vader doesn’t buy it. Wow, hey, Anakin is a little bit less easily duped now that he’s older and, I guess, wiser. (Sort of. It’s still Anakin in there, you know.) He chokes this guy to death and then is like WRECK UP THE PLACE IF YOU HAVE TO GET ME ALL THE PLANS AND TAKE THE CREW AS PRISONERS AND SOMEONE BUFF MY HELMET FOR ME.

Recurring Theme: The Naberrie Girls Know How To Use A Firearm

Leia is about to be cornered by some stormtroopers, so she sneaks up on them and takes aim, taking down one of them:
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…but she’s not fast enough in making her getaway, and she’s stun-gunned into submission.
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Recurring Theme: Artoo’s Great Escape

As Leia’s taken into custody, Artoo is leading Threepio to an escape pod. Threepio is like WTF NO I’M NOT GETTING IN THERE. LOL forever that Anakin built this guy. Of course he did. He is dramatic as hell.
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Artoo tells him this is all part of his Secret Mission! Threepio is decidedly unimpressed and is about to walk away (or at least to keep complaining some more) when blaster fire comes flying past him and he rushes into the escape pod alongside Artoo. He mutters that he’s going to regret this, and really: you don’t even know the half of it, Threeps.
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Recurring Theme: The Empire Is Dumb
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OK OK: I love this SO MUCH. So Artoo launches the escape pod out into space, and the Imperials SEE IT HAPPEN AND ONE OF THE GUYS SAYS NOT TO BOTHER FIRING AT IT BECAUSE THERE’S NO LIFE FORMS ON BOARD. Are they afraid of wasting precious laser fire? WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU NOT JUST BLOW IT UP TO BE SAFE? What if their lifeform scanner was malfunctioning? I MEAN, REALLY STAR WARS: we are SEVEN. MINUTES. INTO THIS. and you have already tossed about 10 ridiculous things at me, including someone making an almost unbelievably dopey decision in service of the story. Don’t misunderstand me: I think this is great. I love that we’re not wasting any time here.

So, with this hilarious decision having been made, our robofriends are free to tumble to the surface of the planet below. Gee. I wonder where they’re headed.
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Recurring Theme: We Come From a Long Line of Reckless Hotheads
BONUS Recurring Theme: Scene That Keeps Getting Better Every Time We Get More Backstory
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Oh my God, I love this part, too. (I told you to prepare yourself.) So Leia has now regained consciousness and is being trotted over to Vader by a group of troopers. And let me tell you: THIS SCENE IS GOLD, and it just keeps becoming EVEN BETTER as the years go by.

  • When taking this as the only movie, it’s great because here is this teenage girl mouthing off to this gigantic, terrifying RoboSith and she seems to not really give any fucks AND they both already seem to hate each other;
  • THEN we learn a little bit later that this is actually DARTH VADER’S OWN KID;
  • THEN we learned A) what a total smartmouthed hothead Anakin was and B) how Padme took absolutely zero shit from anyone so the fact that here’s their own teenage kid telling Vader to go fuck himself is AMAZING;
  • THEN we learned that VADER WATCHED THIS SHIP TAKE OFF WITH THE DEATH STAR PLANS WITH HIS OWN TWO EYES NOT FIFTEEN ENTIRE MINUTES AGO, AND LEIA IS STILL TRYING TO TELL HIM THAT SHE DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ANY DEATH STAR PLANS. Hot damn, girl. THAT IS BALLSY.

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So anyways as I said, Leia is like “oh HO, look who it is: this asshole. WELL, I don’t know WHAT you think you’re doing here but I’m just a humble Senator on my way to Alderaan and the Senate is going to be PISSED when they find out what you did here,” and Vader is like “el-oh-EL, Princess, I might be Anakin Skywalker but even I’M not stupid enough to buy that: I know you’re part of the Rebel Alliance and someone beamed a bunch of plans to you!” She refuses to give him any information or admit to anything, so he calls her a traitor (hahahahaha, yes, we are EIGHT MINUTES INTO THIS and Anakin has already dramatically yelled about someone being a Traitor,) and tells his guys to take her away while he swooshes his cape fancily as he stalks away.

Anakin Skywalker, On Fire But Not In The Literal Sense This Time
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Vader walks off and discusses next steps for Leia: he’s going to make her tell him where the Hidden Rebel Base is and blahblahblah, and they run into another Imperial who informs him that the Death Star plans aren’t on the ship, and the ship hasn’t sent any transmissions. The only thing that left the ship was an escape pod — one with no life forms on it.

Vader immediately figures out (!!!) that the escape pod must have had the plans on board. Wow! Anakin is all over this stuff — nothing’s getting past him! Maybe all the free time he has now that he doesn’t need to spend 3 hours a day on his hair has given him time to work on his deductive reasoning skills. Whatever the cause, he’s on a roll today!

He tells the guy to send some troops down to the planet below to retrieve the plans. Oh, sure Vader: I can’t imagine why you don’t want to go down there yourself. Ahem.
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Recurring Theme: It’s Coarse, Rough, and Irritating and It Gets Everywhere
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Ah yes! We’re back yet again on scenic Tatooine, which just happens to be the planet Leia and company were right above before all of this started. (As it turns out, this is actually because that’s where they were headed in the first place: Bail was sending Leia to seek out a Specific Someone, and this Someone happens to have “lucked” into taking up residence on this sandy hellhole for the last couple of decades and it’s entirely Darth Vader’s fault.) Since Leia’s in custody, though, it’s up to our droid buddies to see that Artoo’s Very Special Message gets to the right hands.
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…and right now, things aren’t going so well! Artoo and Threepio are wandering the desert and Artoo is insistent that they go a certain way (probably because unlike Threepio he actually remembers being here before, hahaha,) and they end up getting into an argument (LOL) and split up.

Recurring Theme: The Will of the Force Prevents Me From Ever Getting the Hell Away From You

…of course, their separation doesn’t last long — each of them, independently, ends up getting picked up by the Jawas, who are planning to sell them at one of their usual garage sales.

On board the Jawas’ sandcrawler, Artoo (who’d been knocked out earlier), comes to:
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Artoo and Threepio are reunited, and the sandcrawler heads off into the night.
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…meanwhile, the Stormtroopers that Vader sent down are actively working the case: they discover that someone was in the escape pod — there’s tracks leading away! And a random piece of metal indicates that droids were involved, because apparently a human could never accidentally drop a small metal piece!
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Luke Skywalker, Historically Significant Yard Sale Patron

Ohhhhh boy it’s time for one my FAVORITE PEOPLE EVER YOU GUYSSSS. So, the Jawas and their stockpile of droids have arrived outside of the home of one Owen Lars, Moisture Farmer/Put-Upon Uncle Who Asked For None of This.
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Artoo and Threepio, nervously, are trotted out to be displayed for Owen and Owen’s nephew — sweet, universe-saving cinnamon roll Luke Skywalker (who, I should probably note, also really didn’t ask for any of this.)

The music becomes entertainingly Optimistic and Heroic as Luke receives the important request from Aunt Beru to make sure to get a droid that speaks Bocce. Luke heads off to shop with Uncle Owen.

Recurring Theme: With a Wink and a Callback
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Ha! OK, so: please recall that Baby Anakin Skywalker, he of big wide eyes and Dreams of a Bigger and Better Life, built C-3PO to help his mother. Of course, the idea that someone living in a desert hellscape needs a Pompous Protocol Droid was already pretty funny. It’s even better when you consider that A) Threepio then continued to live with the Lars family until halfway through Attack of the Clones, which means that OWEN LARS HAS ALREADY OWNED THREEPIO ONCE BEFORE, and B) that he now, in this scene, tells Threepio he has no need for a protocol droid out here and THREEPIO AGREES WITH HIM. Hahahahaha. Poor Anakin. Even the retcons in this series are against him.

Recurring Theme: Luke Skywalker, I Will Fight You To Defend His Whiny Honor
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Owen relents in purchasing Threepio anyways, because he needs a droid that speaks Bocce and blahblahblah vaporators, etc. He calls Luke over and tells him to take Threepio and one of the other, non-Artoo droids, and get them cleaned up before dinner. At this, Luke makes a face and says “But I was going to go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!” in one of the best, crabbiest voices ever and let me be clear, here, people: I think Luke is great. This line is perfect and he is perfect and nobody try to start something with me here, OK? Anakin would have wanted to go, too. I love this stupid family. I promise you that across the Dune Sea, Kenobi was like “Oh GOD I SENSE THE WHINING IN THE FORCE.”

Artoo and Luke, The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
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As Threepio and Luke begin to make their way to the homestead with the red astromech droid Owen’s purchased, the red droid gives out while rolling along. Luke complains loudly about its “bad motivator!!!!” and Threepio takes this opportunity to be like “uh hey! I know that blue R2 unit! He’s pretty good or whatever!”, thus assuring that Artoo will be coming along for this adventure and the entire rest of the series can happen. Luke grudgingly leads them both into the house.

Recurring Theme: The Skywalkers, Universe-Saving Dweebs
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Oh HEY! We’re back in that one room where Anakin had a total fucking meltdown back in Attack of the Clones! Fun, er, “fun”, times. This time, however, the Skywalker Complaining is more “I want mooooooore!” Little Mermaid-style angst as opposed to the “Uh so my mom died and I maybe lost my shit and murdered an entire village for sweet juicy vengeance and it’s ALL OBI-WAN’S FAULT!” situation we had going on in here last time.

As a bonus, while Luke is sitting there waiting for Threepio to get cleaned up, he is playing with a toy skyhopper because Luke and Anakin are two of the BIGGEST DORKS WHO HAVE EVER LIVED. I am absolutely in love with the fact that pretty much every Star Wars hero is a total dork. (I guess Lucas figured he’d better just write what he knew. I understand.)
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Luke frets: Biggs was right! I’ll be on this farm forever! It’s not FAIR! This planet sucks and is the farthest from all the action ever waaaaaah! LOL. Oh my God.

Luke Skywalker, Adorkable

Luke introduces himself, and Threepio introduces the two of them in return. Luke checks out Artoo: wow, you guys have a lot of carbon scoring! Were you actually doing something cool UNLIKE ME WHO IS TRAPPED HERE FOREVER?! Luke is so cute in this scene. I’m dying.

Threepio throws in a mention of the Rebellion, and Luke practically has a fangirl attack: ZOMG, you know about the REBELLION?! Threepio is like “well yes, but I’m no good at telling stories or anything,” which I love because of course he will later demonstrate in Return of the Jedi that HE IS A COMPLETELY DELIGHTFUL STORYTELLER and an entire village full of Ewoks will back me up on this.
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Luke goes back to trying to clean up Artoo with a frown: something’s really jammed in there, little guy! He manages to pop some piece out, and when he does, Artoo starts projecting a Significant Moment in American Pop Culture:
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Recurring Theme: Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi; You’re The Only Guy I Know Who’ll Willingly Involve Himself In This Nonsense

Hey! It’s Leia! Awww. The TWINS, you guys. I HAVE SO MANY STAR WARS FEELINGS HELP.
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Leia’s got a message for somebody. Somebody we might know. This one guy. I might have mentioned him once or twice before this on this website. Obi-Wan Kenobi? You guys know this guy? And oh what a very big shock it is to learn that a distressed maiden is summoning him via hologram.

We don’t get the full deets yet, though: one chunk of her message (the iconic “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; You’re My Only Hope”) just keeps playing on repeat. Luke, breathing out a “she’s beautiful” in a way that was probably supposed to be romantic-y when this was made but still mostly works with them as siblings, I think, asks who she is. Threepio says she was someone involved in their last mission: someone important, he thinks.
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Luke wants to find out what the rest of the message says, but Artoo won’t play it: it’s only for the Saddest Man in the Entire Universe to see, and Luke hasn’t (yet) qualified for that status. Artoo, you see, claims that he’s property of Obi-Wan Kenobi. And OH MY GOD, I cannot get over what must have been going through that little droid’s robo-brain during all of this. ARTOO IS GONNA GET THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, YOU GUYS. *sobs*

Recurring Theme: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Terrible Pseudonym User
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Luke’s like, “Huh, haven’t heard of Obi-Wan Kenobi…except for this neighborhood weirdo I know who might be him using the worst pseudonym ever, Ben Kenobi. Of course this is also the man who left me here with my Crazy Dad’s step-relatives in a house my Crazy Dad not only knows the location of, but which he has physically been in before, without even attempting to conceal my identity in any way whatsoever. So he clearly was kind of half-assing things at that point.” (OK FINE, Luke doesn’t say almost any of that, and in Obi-Wan’s defense, it had been a pretty shitty week for him, and he probably just wanted to go find a cave to get incredibly drunk in for about 3 solid weeks by the time he dropped Luke off so he gets no judgement from me.)

Recurring Theme: R2-D2, Swindler

Artoo tells Luke that he’s experiencing technical difficulties, but he might be able to play the rest of the message for him if he’d just remove the restraint keeping Artoo from rolling away on his own, which Luke stupidly does. Artoo then claims to have no idea what Luke is talking about — what message?!, marking a truly enjoyable moment where the savior of the universe basically gets scammed by his dad’s old pet robot. Before he can do much else, Luke gets called to dinner, and leaves the room in a huff and I laugh forever.

After Luke leaves, Threepio scolds Artoo: you better play him that message, damn it! He closes this out by telling Artoo he doesn’t think Luke likes him (LOL) and that Threepio doesn’t like Artoo, either, which Artoo responds to with a terribly sad sound. Oh, this movie. Bless it.

…and it’s at this point that we take our leave from the saga for today! Join me next time, when Artoo sneaks out of the house to go looking for a sad and handsome and considerably grayer man, Owen and Beru debate Luke’s destiny, and Obi-Wan lures me in for life with his tragic life story (of which we will not learn even 14%.) See you then, dear readers!