Written by Eric Vogel
As silly as it may seem, to have the phrases “Criminally Underrated” and “Star Wars: A New Hope” in the same title, there are pockets of this movie that remain drastically underappreciated.
The Wit and Wisdom of Princess Leia.
Princess Leia is not given enough credit for her sarcasm in the face of consistently daring and brave stupidity. Had some of these iconic moments happened after the advent of Michael Schur and the Mockumentary, she undoubtedly would have had several moments of looking into the camera a la Jim Halpert, with a “Really?” look on her face.
“This is some rescue. You came in here, didn’t you have a plan for getting out?”
Zing! It’s at this point that you realize Luke’s tack of appealing to Han’s desire for green stuff was spot on. The fact that it got him from “Marching into the detention area is not what I had in mind,” to staging a full on rescue without any plan for egress certainly speaks to Han’s motivations. It’s at this point we realize the rescue plan was a little half-baked, and Princess Leia is not afraid to rub their noses in it with some snark.
“You came in that? You’re braver than I thought.”
Everyone hates on the Millennium Falcon before they see how she performs under pressure… at least until Episode V where apparently no one in the Galaxy has the technical know-how to turn on the hyperdrive… except for R2… with one tweak. I digress. Little did Leia know in the detention block that not only did they not have an escape plan, but that if they did manage to magically break out of the prison, their ticket off the Death Star was a ship that would later in the series be very easily mistaken for SPACE GARBAGE. Not one to hold back, Leia dropping this shade is an underrated moment in the film.
“They let us escape.”
This has been covered in various fan theory forums, and it’s something I generally subscribe to, but Leia is way ahead of the curve when it comes to judging Storm Trooper aim (at least in Episode IV.) She knows immediately that in light of all the buffoonery mentioned above, the insurmountable number of opposing forces, and the fact that they escaped the belly of the Galactic Empire’s greatest WMD inside of really fast space garbage, their escape was not by chance, but by design. Smart as a whip that one. No wonder they make her a General!
Here’s a script of what I like to think my inner monologue would be if I were able to erase my memory and watch Star Wars again for the first time. “Okay, we’re back at this old guy’s hut, not creepy at all. Why’s he rummaging around in that chest? What the heck is a lightsaber? Oh, it’s a little handle thing that OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT THAT’S AWESOME!”
So you know Obi-Wan has a lightsaber b/c he cuts off Ponda Baba’s arm. It’s blue. We know Luke has his father’s lightsaber b/c he plays with it randomly in a hut, and then fights with tennis ball robots on board the space garbage. Also blue. You DON’T know that Vader has one until you see Obi-Wan wandering the halls of the Death Star… then you hear the breathing… and then there it is, already out and in the most badass shade of red ever.
In the days before you could whip up a believable extraterrestrial on a computer with relative ease, George Lucas and company populated the first/fourth chapter in the Star Wars saga with a plethora of alien fauna (some who look more like flora.) Watch the Mos Eisley cantina scene and think about all the work that went into making each one of those aliens look distinct and genuine. THEN think about the tiny amount of screen time each actually gets. You’ll quickly realize that the reason A New Hope was such a success was the love and attention that was put into it.
The lure of CGI is a strong one in today’s films, as evidenced by the fact that even George Lucas fell victim to its siren call in both the prequels, and the Special Edition releases (for a good primer on HOW to use CGI, see here.) The practical effects of the original chapter of Star Wars might seem dated now, but for what they were working with (mostly battleship parts,) what they were able to accomplish is nothing short of miraculous.