Star Wars: A New Hope Tag

The Films That Made “Star Wars,” Pt. 3

The Films That Made Star Wars, Pt. 3

633 Squadron

If you wanted to, you could spend years watching the westerns and samurai flicks that in one way or another influenced Star Wars, but there is another essential element of this pop-culture collage we can’t overlook. Namely: World War II movies.

 

In editing the film’s final space battle, Lucas famously cut together footage from old war pictures to inspire the special effects team at Industrial Light & Magic, specifically to give them the sense of pacing and movement he was looking for in the dogfights. He would also go on to splice these scenes into the working print of Star Wars to serve as animatics and editing placeholders. If you’d like to see some of the films he used, I would recommend The Dam Busters (which was a huge inspiration for the trench-run attack on the Death Star), as well as The Bridges at Toko-Ri and 633 Squadron.

 

These can be a bit tough to find in good quality, but The Bridges at Toko-Ri is available on Kaleidescape (in standard-definition only, sadly) and you can find 633 Squadron for rent on Amazon. The Dam Busters has been released on Blu-ray in Europe, but I’m not aware of any HD release available to American viewers.

For a fun look at the parallels, check out this YouTube video mashup of the imagery from 633 Squadron combined with the soundtrack of Star Wars (and ignore the unnecessary potshots at The Dam Busters—it’s still a relevant influence).

 

Needless to say, if you want to fully understand the roots of Star Wars, you 

also need to consider the influence of classic science-fiction on the film. Again, Star Wars is most decidedly not sci-fi, but it certainly looks like it in places.

 

To see where Lucas got the inspiration to attempt space battles the likes of which no one had ever seen onscreen before, look to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick practically redefined what was possible with the special effects in this film, and Lucas would go on to borrow many of the technicians who made that possible.

 

Stuart Freeborn, who created the apes at the beginning of 2001, would go on to create Chewbacca, as well as many of the creatures found in the Mos Eisley cantina (as well as Yoda in the next film). Lucas attempted to hire 2001‘s effects supervisor 

Douglas Trumbull but Trumbull turned him down, likely due to his commitment to work on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Dune

 

If you want to experience 2001 in its best form, I cannot recommend the Kaleidescape 4K/HDR release highly enough. The film is also available on most digital retailers in 4K, but the highly detailed cinematography really deserves the pixel-perfect transfer available on Kaleidescape.

 

Speaking of Dune, we can’t overlook the influence that sci-fi epic had on Star Wars. The similarities are, at times, striking. Desert planet? Check. Fascist galactic emperor? Check. Youthful chosen one with magical abilities? Check. Hell, Star Wars even calls its elicit substances “spice” as a homage to Dune. Of course, it bears repeating, Star Wars is not science fiction, and it could not be narratively or thematically more different from Dune. But Lucas certainly stole elements from the original novel where he saw fit. And there’s also reason to suspect that he was, in some ways, influenced by the mid-’70s film adaptation of Dune that never got made.

 

Check out the excellent 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune for more details on this, but the short story is that Jodorowsky created a massive illustrated bible and script for his adaptation that was shopped around to every major studio in Hollywood in an attempt to secure the last $5 million needed to flesh out his budget. He failed in that respect, and the film never got made, but you can see 

elements of his storyboards and designs in everything from Alien to Prometheus to Mike Hodges’ 1980 Flash Gordon film to, yes, even Star Wars.

 

Whatever you do, though, please avoid at all costs David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune (which, by the way, he directed after turning down the chance to helm Return of the Jedi). It remains to be seen how successful Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation will be, but for now, the only good Dune movie is the one about why a good Dune movie was never made. 

Jodorowsky’s Dune is available on Kaleidescape, as well as most other digital movie retailers.

 

Two last influences you can’t overlook if you want to understand Star Wars (more from a storytelling than cinematic point of view) are the works of Joseph Campbell and J.R.R. Tolkien.

 

The Lord of the Rings was 

not, of course, adapted to film until well after Star Wars was made, but the book certainly had a powerful influence on young George Lucas, which you can see in the numerous parallels between them. Consider, for example, the similarities between the overall narrative arc of Fellowship of the Ring and A New Hope: Young lad raised by a relative (second cousin once removed in one work, uncle in the other) befriends a mysterious wizard and goes on a quest to defeat evil. You can also see direct correlations between specific scenes, such as the sacrifice of Gandalf/Obi-wan so the young lad and his party can escape. And if you want to extend this to the entire trilogy, there are even more similarities. Compare, for example, the death of Anakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi to the death of Théoden in Return of the King.

 

While Lucas only had the original book as inspiration, we of course have Peter Jackson’s epic cinematic trilogy to enjoy (which, coincidentally, was itself inspired in parts by Star Wars). You can read more about that adaptation here.

 

Lastly, you can largely thank Joseph Campbell for Lucas’ ability to look at all of these disparate works of inspiration and pull from them exactly the right elements he needed to craft something that felt new and fresh, while also being evocative. Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth is a fantastic PBS series from 1998 that explores the author’s work on mythology, namely the common elements of all myths and how they serve as metaphors for the human experience. You can purchase all six episodes of this incredible interview series on Amazon, but if you’re itching for some deeper reading, I also recommend Campbell’s seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Without this book, there would be no Star Wars as we know it today. And if you need proof of that, just check out J. W. Rinzler’s comic book series The Star Wars, an adaptation of one of the last drafts of the original film before Lucas discovered Campbell’s work and transformed his own story to fit the template of the monomyth. It was between this draft and the final script that Star Wars would transform from light science-fiction into epic fantasy, and the differences—narratively, symbolically, and thematically—couldn’t be starker.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-
end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of 
Alabama with
his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound 
American Staffordshire
Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

The Films That Made “Star Wars,” Pt. 2

The Films That Made Star Wars, Pt. 2

Ask me to sum up the appeal of Star Wars as succinctly as possible, and I would have to describe it as the cinematic child of Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone dressed in Flash Gordon Underoos. As I mentioned in the Pt. 1 of this series, what would eventually become Star Wars originally began as George Lucas’s attempt to make a modern Flash Gordon film. And indeed, the serial adaptations of the 1930s and ’40s strongly influenced the structure and some of the aesthetic trappings of the film Lucas eventually made.

 

But dig beneath the surface, and the movie we ended up with shares almost no meaningful DNA with those adventurous sci-fi serials. If you really want to understand what makes Star Wars tick, you have to ignore the ray-guns and robots and starships—or at least look past them. And when you do, what you’re left with is mostly the samurai and the cowboy. 

 

AKIRA KUROSAWA

Kurosawa’s influence on Lucas has been so thoroughly discussed and dissected by this point that I have little to add. But if, for whatever reason you’ve never explored the connection for yourself, you’re in for a treat. Start with 1958’s The Hidden

Fortress (aka Kakushi toride no san akunin or The Three Villains of the Hidden Fortress).

 

You’ll notice some superficial similarities here, especially Kurosawa’s heavy use of wipe transitions, which Lucas employed liberally in Star Wars. But after just a few minutes’ worth of viewing, you should start seeing deeper parallels. There’s the fact that the peasants Tahei and Matashichi map nearly perfectly to Artoo and Threepio, in terms of personality as well as their relationship to the other characters and their roles as catalysts on the plot. Kurosawa’s film also features a battle-weary general who becomes wrapped up in a rebellion led by a princess. Even the overall story beats for both films follow a very similar structure. When you get right down to it, Star Wars is effectively a remake of The Hidden Fortress, something Lucas himself has admitted to on several occasions.

 

But Kurosawa’s influence can’t be limited to one film. You should also check out 1961’s Yojimbo, which provides definitive proof that Lucas was directly inspired by

Kurosawa, and not merely Kurosawa by way of Leone. If you don’t understand the distinction, it helps to know that Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars was such a blatant ripoff of Yojimbo that Kurosawa sued.

 

But there’s one distinctive element of Yojimbo that Leone didn’t pilfer, but which made its way into Lucas’s film. Check out the first fight in the film. Imagine Toshirô Mifune wearing Jedi garb instead of samurai robes, and holding a lightsaber instead of a katana. (That shouldn’t be too difficult, since Lucas actually wrote the role of Obi-wan Kenobi for Mifune, and only asked Alec Guinness to play the part after Mifune turned him down.) Now imagine the scene as a gloomy cantina instead of a dusty

street. What you’ll notice is that the fight plays out strikingly similarly to the cantina brawl in Star Wars, complete with the severed-limb gag that would appear in practically all of Lucas’s Star Wars films.

 

It wasn’t merely Kurosawa’s samurai epics that inspired Lucas, though. You should also check out 1975’s Dersu Uzala, a Soviet/Japanese 

collaboration about a Nanai trapper and hunter by the same name. Noteworthy for being Kurosawa’s only 70mm film, it came out not long before Lucas began filming what would come to be known as A New Hope, and you can see visual influences throughout.

 

Perhaps the most striking involves a scene in which the two main characters look out over a horizon that includes both the setting sun and the rising moon. You can catch a glimpse of the scene about a minute into the film’s trailer, although the visuals here don’t do it justice. Unfortunately, the only way I know of watching Dersu Uzala is on The Criterion Channel, but since that streaming service is also home to many of Kurosawa’s classic films, it may be worth signing up for a 14-day trial if you don’t want to purchase them on Blu-ray.

 

SERGIO LEONE

When I said Lucas was influenced directly by Kurosawa and not merely Kurosawa by way of Leone, I didn’t mean to imply that Sergio himself didn’t also have some measurable impact on Lucas’s style. The look of Tatooine, the desert planet on which Luke Skywalker grew up, certainly owes a lot to the aesthetics of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, not only in its landscape but also in its architecture. 

 

But a much bigger influence on the overall visual style of Star Wars comes from 1969’s Once Upon a Time in the West. And it’s not so much the scenery that rings familiar here; it’s more the movement of the camera, as well as the characters. Watch the scene in which Frank, the villain played by Henry Fonda, strides his way into the film, flanked by his flunkies, silently strutting and letting his boots and cloak do all the talking.

 

Compare this to Darth Vader’s first appearance onscreen, and you can see that while Lucas wasn’t necessarily quoting Leone here, he was definitely paraphrasing him. The instant you see Frank and Vader, you know they’re the baddies of the picture. You know they’re evil to the core without a hint of mustache-twirling or monologuing.

Once Upon a Time in the West is a film that’s high on my list of cinema classics in dire need of a new 4K/HDR restoration, but until that day comes, the best way to view the film is via Kaleidescape. You can also buy or rent it via most major digital movie retailers, and it’s currently streaming for free on HBO Max. Just know that HD streaming isn’t always up to the task of delivering the film’s wonderfully grainy cinematography and rich color palette. 

 

JOHN FORD

While you’re in a western mood, I would also recommend checking out The Searchers. The films of John Ford certainly had an influence on Lucas’s cinematic sensibilities, but none influenced Star Wars quite so much as this one. As with Leone’s 

westerns, the desert landscapes here can be seen echoing all throughout the Jundland Wastes in A New Hope, but there’s one unforgettable scene that Lucas would pretty much lift straight out of Ford’s film and paste into his own. It’s the one in which John Wayne comes home to find his brother’s ranch in flames and his relatives slaughtered.

DAVID LEAN

Tired of westerns but still itching to dig into Lucas’s desert inspiration for Star Wars? Look no farther than David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia. So much of this film’s style can be seen reflected in the work of Star Wars cinematographer Gil Taylor, but as the official Star Wars website points out, there were also a number of scenes in Lawrence that were practically traced in Star Wars:

 

Many moves from David Lean’s epic were cribbed for sequences on Tatooine. The shot of Mos Eisley from the distance as Luke and Obi-Wan look from on high reminds one instantly of shots looking down at Damascus. Shots of Tusken snipers looking down at speeders moving below echo the same sorts of shots in Lawrence of Arabia.

 

Unfortunately, the best way to view Lawrence of Arabia is still on disc, as part of the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection, which also includes Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, Gandhi, A League of Their Own, and Jerry Maguire. Lean’s classic has not been released on UHD Blu-ray on its own, and the digital releases of the film all lack the Dolby Vision HDR version featured in this collection. If, for whatever reason, you’re not interested in HDR, your next-best bet is Kaleidescape’s UHD release of the film.

 

In Pt. 3, I’ll wrap things up by taking a look at the influence World War II movies, 2001Dune, and classic myth had on forming the Star Wars universe.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-
end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of 
Alabama with
his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound 
American Staffordshire
Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

The Films That Made “Star Wars,” Pt. 1

It’s sometimes easy to forget that before it became a nine-film saga supported by three standalone films, two made-for-TV movies, three excellent TV series, a few terrible TV series, and a holiday special that is best forgotten, Star Wars was just a movie. An incredible movie, mind you. One that sparked the dreams of uncountable future filmmakers and other creative types. One that practically created the concept of the modern blockbuster and changed the cinema industry forever (for better and for worse).

 

It’s just as easy to forget that as unique as 1977’s Star Wars seemed at the time of its release—especially to my five-year-old eyes—there was barely anything original about it. Sure, the way it was put together was fresh. Mind-blowingly so. But dig

down to the nuts-and-bolts level, and it’s clear that this Galaxy Far, Far Away didn’t spring to George Lucas’s mind fully formed. The film was, in many ways, a reaction to the grim and gritty films that dominated cinemas in the early 1970s. But first and foremost, it was a homage to the serials and adventure movies that Lucas enjoyed seeing on the big screen in his youth.

 

And I’m sure you’ve heard that before. But have you ever actually seen the direct correlations? If not, you should spend some time with the Flash Gordon serials of 1936, ’38, and ’40. This is no great surprise, given that Lucas originally intended to develop a Flash Gordon film in the early ’70s, and only set about creating his own universe because he couldn’t secure the rights to Alex Raymond’s legendary comic-strip character.

 

Despite the fact that Star Wars ended up being way more fantasy than sci-fi, a lot of the retro-high-tech set dressing of Flash Gordon remains, but that’s not all. The 1940 Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe in particular loaned a number of story elements to the first Star Wars and its two sequels, including character archetypes and relationships, and even settings. But the biggest thing Flash Gordon gave to Star Wars was, of course, that iconic opening crawl.

 

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is available in its entirety on YouTube, as are the 1936 original and the 1938 sequel, Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars. They aren’t exactly high cinema or anything, but if you’re interested in understanding the genealogy of Star Wars, this is where you want to start.

 

Other serials worth a look (and also available on YouTube) include 1939’s Buck Rogers (another fantastic opening crawl!) and a delicious little oddity known as The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938). The latter in particular is famous for being one of the cheapest serials ever made (and it shows), but also for including the first costumed super-villain, The Lightning, whose garb almost certainly inspired the look of Darth Vader and the bounty hunter Boba Fett, as well.

 

Other classics of the era that seem to have had an influence on Lucas in his youth (although he likely saw them in early TV broadcasts rather than at cinemas) include The Wizard of Oz, from which Star Wars borrows much of its group dynamic, fairy-tale nature, and monomythic structure; the works of Laurel & Hardy, which certainly had some influence on the relationship between Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio; and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, whose art-deco Maschinenmensch (Robot), despite being feminine, undoubtedly influenced the look of Threepio. Hell, you could even argue that Lucas drew some inspiration from the 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will—not its ideology, but rather the scale and grandiosity of its imagery, especially in the triumphant Royal Award Ceremony after the Battle of Yavin, in which Luke and Han are celebrated as heroes of the Rebellion.

 

Of course, you could just as easily argue that all of the above (save perhaps Flash Gordon) represent superficial influences, at best. But to deny the importance of these

elements would be to deny that Star Wars is, at least in part, a pop-culture collage, a pastiche of cool design elements that make it feel both fresh and timeless.

 

In Part 2, though, we’ll dig into some of the more substantial cinematic gold Lucas mined in creating the first Star Wars film, as well as the first two sequels.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including high-
end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of 
Alabama with
his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound 
American Staffordshire
Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

Star Wars: A New Hope

Star Wars: A New Hope

As I mentioned in my review of The Empire Strikes Back, this year’s May the Fourth celebration (or Revenge of the Fifth, should you prefer the Dark Side) will be particularly festive, thanks to the recent release of the entire Star Wars franchise in 4K HDR with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Along with the impressive “The Skywalker Saga” box set ($250), which includes all nine films across 27 discs along with hours of bonus materials, the films are also available for sale individually from digital retailers. Even better, internet services are currently discounting the titles, with each movie available for download on Kaleidescape for $13.99.

Along with Empire, Cineluxe has featured reviews of the two latest films in the Star Wars canon, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. But we thought it would be worth taking a look at the film that started it all: Star Wars. Or, as it is known now, New Hope.

 

While the modern usage of “blockbuster” started in 1975 with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, A New Hope took that to the next level in 1977. In our modern era where movies are in and out of the theater in a little over a month, A New Hope enjoyed a theatrical run that lasted over a year, including one theater in Beaverton, Oregon that ran it for 76 weeks! Images of lines wrapping around the block waiting to get a seat were commonplace.

 

I was seven when the film came out, and I can clearly recall seeing A New Hope for the first time. My family was visiting Carmel, California, and my parents dropped me and my 

NEW HOPE AT A GLANCE

The 4K HDR/Dolby Atmos treatment benefits A New Hope as much as it did The Empire Strikes Back, making the 43-year-old initial entry in the Star Wars saga feel surprisingly contemporary.

 

PICTURE     

HDR is used judiciously, but adds plenty of pop to lightsabers, laser blasts, engine thrusters, and the Star Destroyer’s cannons.

 

SOUND

Atmos really opens up the Oscar-winning soundtrack, making Tatooine, the Cantina, the Death Star, and even the garbage compactor feel more convincing.

cousin off at the theater while they went shopping. I can’t recall having any anticipation about seeing the movie, or even hearing anything about it prior to walking into the theater, but my world changed when the lights dropped and that opening fanfare blared from the speakers. When that Star Destroyer flew overhead for the first time, I remember thinking this was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and how was this even possible?!?

 

For two hours, my cousin and I sat engrossed, taking it all in. When it ended, we ran out to the lobby, told my parents that we had just seen the most incredibly movie of all time! and then turned around and went back inside to watch it again! We then spent the rest of the vacation lightsaber fighting each other with anything we could grab that could be imagined into a sword.

 

I was also fortunate enough to see A New Hope at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood—which also showed the film for a staggering 57 weeks!—where my biggest memories are of the giant auditoriums and eating an entire box of Red Vines that

I also used as straws to drink a large Coke.

 

Today, there are basically three different generations of Star Wars fans: Those who grew up with the original trilogy, those raised on the prequel trilogies, and those who have come in recently with the sequel trilogies. And, with no disrespect to these “newer” fans, it is difficult to fully appreciate just how important Star Wars is to someone who didn’t grow up with it. From 1977 to 1983, it played a massive role in our lives. It was what we played, what we talked about, what we imagined, what we dreamed.

 

With Star Wars, George Lucas created a universe so real and so unlike anything that had come before that it transcended just being a movie. And to have this come about at an age when you were old enough to understand just how special and different it was, and then grow up with it over the next six years . . . well, it’s not an exaggeration to say it shaped many people’s lives.

 

If you grew up during that time, you fantasized about making that trench run in your X-wing and using the Force to fire those proton torpedoes; or waving your hand and changing someone’s mind; or snapping open your lightsaber and standing down Vader; or playing space chess (technically “Dejarik”) with Chewie aboard the Falcon; or having a Princess place a medal around your neck while the galaxy cheers.

 

And, to think, it was nearly not to be.

 

Multiple studios passed on the film early on, and the first

edits were said to be nearly unwatchable. The film was basically “saved” in post production as the incredible models and special effects came together (it won an Oscar for Best Editing), and it was finally bolstered by one of the greatest soundtracks ever thanks to John Williams. (If you haven’t watched the fascinating and fantastic two-and-a-half-hour documentary Empire of Dreams—The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, I assure you it is worth the price of a month’s subscription to Disney+ for that alone!)

 

Taken from a new 4K scan, this transfer is sourced from a true 4K digital intermediate, and images throughout are incredibly clean and detailed, with little film grain, but also little damaging effects or softening from heavy-handed use of DNR (digital noise reduction). It is difficult to believe you are watching a film that is 43 years old, especially when you get to the finale, which has visual effects that still impress. (Granted they’ve been digitally helped over the years, but still . . .)

 

Closeups reveal incredible detail, such as the scratches and textures in the metal of R2-D2’s dome, or the streaks of white paint on his body. You can see the fray in Obi-Wan’s (Sir Alec Guinness) robe along with every line in his face, and practically feel the velvet texture of Vader’s cape. In one scene on the Death Star, I was able to clearly read the text “THX-1138” on one of the monitor screens in the background, a homage to Lucas’ first film. You could also see that the masks of the Stormtroopers influenced by Obi-Wan were a bit sloppily finished, with paint that isn’t perfect.

 

Colors look terrific and natural throughout, with laser blasts and lightsabers appropriately bright, as well as the bright blue of the Falcon’s engine, the red of the X-wings’ thrusters, and the bright green of the Star Destroyer’s cannons. (I’m also happy they fixed the saber “fizzle” during Obi-Wan and Darth’s battle.) You can see the crags, cracks, and textures in the rocks near Obi-Wan’s cave, and all of the fine little details put into the interior of the Falcon to make it look like a ship that has logged a lot of miles, errr, parsecs, traveling the galaxy.

 

Black levels are deep, and space looks appropriately inky, but not at the expense of crushing shadow detail. This really gives nice pop to all of the spaceships, as they stand out in stark contrast to the blackness of space around them. Notice the early scenes aboard the Tantive IV as Leia and the droids move around darkened corridors and passageways, or the prisoner detention bay on the Death Star with its deep-black walls, but you can still make out detail in the guards’ black uniforms.

 

HDR brightness is used sparingly—the Falcon’s glowing engines, big explosions—however, the overall depth of contrast added by the extra dynamic range provides enhanced images throughout, adding depth and dimension.

Sonically, A New Hope was game-changing when it came out, winning an Academy Award for Best Sound and a Special Achievement Award for Ben Burtt’s sound effects. And they have definitely done an admirable job of amping up the sound mix for the 21st century while retaining the classic elements that made it so memorable. From the opening, the Star Destroyer flies overhead, an iconic moment now expanded with overhead explosions as it bombards Leia’s ship. And when the tractor beam grabs it, you hear and feel the ship being pulled overhead. When the Falcon escapes the Death Star, TIE fighters fly over and around in pursuit, but the biggest sonic moment is held for the end, during the attack on the Death Star, with trench guns blasting all around, TIE’s screaming past and roaring overhead.

 

Every scene is brought to life with its own sonic space. You get the winds blowing overhead in the Tatooine desert, the background hum of life and little mechanical noises aboard the Death Star, the sounds rattling around in the Cantina, the appliance sounds in Owen and Beru’s kitchen, or the squeaks and groans of metal twisting and crushing in the garbage compactor.

 

Blaster fire is nice and dynamic, and bass is deep and engaging when called on, 

Star Wars: A New Hope

such as the deep thrum of the Falcon’s sub-light engines, the Death Star priming its main weapon, or the buzz of lightsabers. Deeper bass comes from the Falcon jumping to hyperspace and the massive explosion of Alderaan, with the Death Star’s spectacular destruction sounding particularly good, featuring a concussive bass wave that ripples and travels back through the left side of the room.

 

Yes, you can bemoan that this isn’t the original theatrical cut we grew up with. And that Lucas has tinkered yet again with the (now) infamous “who shot first?” Cantina scene. (Just Google “Maclunkey,” if you aren’t aware.) Or that the CGI creatures outside Mos Eisley that were added for the 1997 Special Edition bring nothing to the film—and now look even more jarringly out of place given the quality and look of the rest of the film. And that the added Jabba scene just steals the greatness of his reveal later in Return of the Jedi. I’ll grant you all of that. But to that, I’m still going all-in with this: This 4K HDR version of A New Hope is hands-down the definitive, best the movie has ever looked and sounded, and if you don’t watch it, you are punishing only yourself.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.