Welcome to my latest series of articles called “Why I love Star Wars”. This is a series that was inspired by reading Ken Napzok’s book Why We Love Star Wars: The Great Moments That Built A Galaxy Far, Far Away, a countdown of the top 100 moments from Star Wars that made him love it all, including canon stories from every medium. As I was reading this book, I found myself thinking of some of my own favourite moments and wanted to discuss them.
Unlike in the book, I will not put the moments in any specific order (I do things like that enough in my Top 10s!) as the order would probably change on every viewing. Today I will be looking at A New Hope
Beware: this will contain spoilers for the movie!
Tantive IV Chase
Think back to the first time you ever watched Star Wars. The opening crawl puts you into the story so you know the situation, before the camera pans down to Tatooine. As if flying overhead, the Tantive IV comes into view with the Devastator chasing close behind. Immediately, we get an idea of the scale of the war, with the Star Destroyer clearly far larger and more powerful than the CR90 Corvette. Not only that, but the use of models makes both ships look so realistic in the level of detail, that you can easily get into the film and believe what is happening rather than being thrown out by poor quality effects. A start like this was either going to draw everyone in or put everyone off… safe to say it did the former.
Binary Sunset & Return to the Homestead
So this is a bit of a cheat as it is 2 moments but they work so well together. Coming out of the homestead after an argument with Uncle Owen, Luke walks up a ridge to stare off towards Tatooine’s binary sunset while the Force Theme plays. Initially, this theme belonged to Obi-Wan and there was a different piece of music meant to play over this, which sounds completely different and sounds so odd after years of seeing the scene as it is. Many of us have had that moment of imagining the adventure and life you could have if you could leave home and so we empathise with Luke, to the point that the moment has become iconic not just to Star Wars fans but in film in general.
Add in to this Luke’s return to the burning homestead after Obi-Wan has asked him to accompany him to Alderaan, which has strong parallels with the earlier scene. Guessing his family were in danger from stormtroopers chasing the droids, Luke jumps in his landspeeder and returns to the homestead to find his Aunt and Uncle have already been killed and the homestead destroyed. Again, the music plays such a big role in this scene, from a more ominous rendition of Luke’s Theme as he speeds home to the Force Theme (originally designed as Obi-Wan’s theme) as he sees that there is nothing left for him there and it is time to join Ben, while the Dies irae at the end of the scene does a great job of foreboding the danger and loss ahead.
These scenes were already beautiful, but I have to give some real credit to David W. Collins and his podcast “The Soundtrack Show” for making me see the second scene especially in a different light and appreciate it even more.
“We’re fine now. How are you?”
Han Solo is one of my top 5 characters in the whole of canon and this scene is a great representation. He’s not an overly smart character who thanks through what he’s going to do, but instead relies on his instincts. The perfect example of this was as Han, Luke and Chewie attempt to break Leia out of the detention block. After an initial fight to take out the officers in the detention block, Luke goes to find Leia’s cell while Han tries to stop anyone being sent to investigate the disturbance, telling the officers in the control room “We’re fine. We’re all fine her now, thank you.” and instinctively adding on a “How are you?” before immediately grimacing as he realises how stupid this sounds. Of course this gives him away and when asked for his operating number he shoots the communications console, muttering that it was a “boring conversation anyway.” This is peak Han Solo for me, trying and failing to talk himself out of trouble, and it brings out so much of his character while also giving a legitimate story reason for troopers to be sent to the detention area expecting a fight.
The Battle of Yavin was the climactic final set piece of the film and while I could have just picked the entire sequence, I decided it needed narrowing down and picked 2 moments. The first of these is the beginning of the battle. As the pilots get to the Death Star, the plan is for the Y-wings to make bombing runs through the trench while the X-wings cover them. Red Leader informs Gold Leader that he will cut across the axis to try drawing the enemy fire and the moment hits. As the X-wings roll into a descent to strafe the defensive turrets, the music picks up and creates a moment that I always remember and the way each X-wing begins their roll individually rather than going altogether as it once again is a small touch that adds realism to the battle.
Luke’s Targeting Computer
We finish off with another moment from later in the Battle of Yavin as Luke is the only one remaining in the trench run. Being chased by Vader and his wingmen, Luke brings forward his targeting computer to judge when to fire his proton torpedo, only to hear the ghostly voice of Ben Kenobi to “Use the Force, Luke.” Going back to his trusted computer, he hears Ben again: “Let go, Luke.” Even Vader at this point notes that the Force is strong with the pilot he’s chasing. Ben contacts Luke one more time: “Luke, trust me” which leads him to trusting in the Force and what Ben has taught him, turning off his targeting computer. The scene cuts back to Leia and the Rebels in the base as one of the officers asks Luke what’s wrong with his computer, to which they hear the response “Nothing. I’m OK.” All of this is wonderfully added to by the music of John Williams, with Luke’s theme coming to the fore as he brings out the targeting computer for the hero moment, however this does not sound as upbeat as usual in such a tense situation and quickly changes to the Dies irae as the TIEs chase him down, before transitioning into a more ethereal-sounding version of the Force Theme as Ben contacts Luke. The moment Luke decides to trust in the Force and turn off his computer, his theme starts again but much more confident, showing that this is the true hero moment as he grows into himself.
This is Luke’s big hero moment in the movie (well, one of many!) but it also shows us what Ben meant by “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” in hearing his voice again and helping him teach Luke to trust in the Force with his life and the Rebellion on the line.
As an aside, with wider stories like the book From A Certain Point of View showing just how many people on the base were listening to the transmission during the battle, I imagine that there is at least one rebel who had a break down hearing that their last hope wasn’t even using his targeting computer – what sort of hope does this young moisture farmer have of making the shot unaided?!
What are your favourite moments from A New Hope?
Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you…