Star Wars-Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Menu Animation & Audio
Main Menu Introduction
|Year Of Production||1977|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (60:36)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||George Lucas|
Twentieth Century Fox
James Earl Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
|Smoking||Yes, only by aliens|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
A NEW HOPE
It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking from
a hidden base, have won their first
victory against the evil Galactic Empire
During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR,
an armoured space station with enough power to destroy an
Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom
to the galaxy...
I missed Beatle-mania, and Woodstock and Sunbury. I missed the Vietnam Moratorium marches. I know where I was when JFK got shot I was at home with my mother, too young for kindergarten. I watched the first Moon landing on TV at primary school. The first big cultural event that I was old enough for came in 1977.
My father pointed out a contest in the newspaper, a series of questions about science fiction I was something of a fan of science fiction, and found all the questions easy. The only one I had to look up was John Wyndham's full name (and fair enough, too, it's six names long!). I won tickets to a film that was about to be released. A film that we'd been hearing about for a while, called Star Wars it was just called Star Wars then, the subtitle A New Hope came later (kind of like Raiders of the Lost Ark becoming Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark). I took a girlfriend to see this film, and it's interesting to look back and realise how different our reactions were. She thought it was a fun film, but nothing special. I was completely blown away.
Bear in mind that up until this film, most science fiction had been made on what might generously be called "modest" budgets. TV shows like Dr Who and Lost in Space had men in rubber suits, and tin-foil covered cardboard sets. Films were rarely better. 2001a Space Odyssey was better, but it was bereft of aliens. Star Wars was utterly different. It had aliens who looked very alien. It featured all manner of unfamiliar technologies, and exotic equipment, and the equipment looked real it looked like it was used daily. That's probably the point that struck the most deeply this film showed an environment that looked real, very different but everyday. This was a big contrast to films which may have had unusual environments, but they looked shiny and new, as though no one really lived there.
Things were different in 1977. Most people didn't have a VCR, and video stores pretty much didn't exist. Movies stayed in the cinema more than a few weeks. During Star Wars' first run, I saw it seven times, and a lot of people I knew saw it many more times than that. Then I saw it a couple of times when it was screened on TV (generally shortly before a sequel was released...). Later still, I watched it on video, but it wasn't the same this film was made for widescreen, and the pan-and-scan version just didn't cut it (not to mention the sound!). Then, a full 20 years after that first release, I went to see it again in a cinema. I wasn't as excited as I thought I might be, but it did recapture some of the earlier feelings. I didn't notice all of the changes that had been made to the film, but it was hard to miss the Jabba the Hut scene, and a couple of the others. Not too surprisingly, I only saw this revised version once.
When DVD arrived, this film was right at the top of the list I made of films I had to buy on DVD. There were a lot of films on that list, but I have since collected pretty much all of them (I'm still waiting for widescreen versions of certain Australian classics, but that's about it). I was kept waiting and waiting for this one. To some extent, I resent that. I also resent the fact that this is not the movie I saw 27 years ago. When they revised ET for DVD release, we had a choice I chose to buy an expensive Region 1 release that included both the original and the revised versions, because I wanted to have the original theatrical version. When they released Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was very pleased to see that the credits still said that, and not Indiana Jones and... So I'm really quite disappointed that I can't get (even at a premium price) the original theatrical version of Star Wars, the version that had such a profound effect on me so long ago. But let's leave that to one side...
If you haven't seen this film (one assumes you just arrived from off-planet?), or if you've forgotten it, let's remember what happens:
This film begins with a Rebel Alliance ship flying into view from overhead. It seems like quite a large ship, but is utterly dwarfed by the Imperial Star Destroyer that follows it. On board the Rebel ship, an attractive young woman, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), feeds something into a waist high robot (droid), and sends it on its way, then turns to help defend the vessel against boarders. The small robot, R2D2, makes its way to an escape pod and launches it, against the protestations of a larger, man-like, robot, C-3PO. These two robots land on a desert planet, but are soon captured by unscrupulous Jawas. They are sold to a farm as used droids. A young man, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is given the task of cleaning them up, and he accidentally triggers a brief portion of 3D video of the young woman pleading: "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope". Luke mentions this to his uncle, and speculates if it might be "old Ben Kenobi", a hermit living not too far away. His uncle dismisses the notion.
The following day, Luke discovers that R2-D2 has taken off during the night. He feels guilty, because he removed the droid's restraining bolt in an attempt to see more of the video. He attempts to track down the droid, but gets attacked by Sand People. He is rescued at the last minute by a figure in a robe that turns out to be Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness). Ben takes Luke and the droids to Ben's dwelling to recover. Luke mentions the droid's message and Ben admits to being Obi-Wan. R2-D2 plays back the message. Ben, Luke, and the two droids head back to the farm, although Luke is fired up to rescue the fair maiden. When they get to the farm, they find it destroyed. Although the damage has been set up to look like a Sand People attack, Ben recognises it as the work of Imperial Storm Troopers. Clearly Luke and the droids are in considerable danger. The four of them head for the space port, hoping to find passage off-planet.
(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) In the space port they come across a smuggler, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who will help them, for a price. After some minor scuffles they get off-planet and head for Alderaan, the planet to which the original Rebel Alliance ship was headed. They arrive to discover the planet destroyed in the first firing of the Empire's newest super-weapon, the Death Star, capable of destroying an entire planet in a single shot. They are captured in a tractor beam and drawn into the Death Star. They hide in the ship, then overpower a team sent in to scan it. They head out into the Death Star to try and find a way to neutralise the tractor beam so they can escape. They discover that Princess Leia is being held prisoner, and decide to rescue her a rescue that doesn't go smoothly. Meanwhile, Obi-wan has encountered Darth Vader (acted by David Prowse, but voiced by James Earl Jones), and an epic light sabre battle ensues. Seeing that the rest are safe aboard the ship, Obi-Wan allows Darth Vader to kill him, with the famous line: "if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine". The others escape, but it appears that their escape was permitted, so that they could leave a trail to the rebels for the Empire to follow.
R2-D2 has been carrying the plans of the Death Star, and detailed study of those plans reveals a chink in the armour of the super-weapon. Not a button marked "Self-destruct", but close enough: a small vent that would allow the firing of a missile all the way down into the Death Star primary reactor. To make things interesting, the missile cannot be fired from a distance, but must come from a small fighter vessel that gets in close, zooms down a trench in the surface of the Death Star, and then fires the missile. They do make the point that the Death Star's defences have be designed to repel attacks by fleets of larger ships, and that's why smaller, more nimble, fighters can evade them.
The Death Star arrives to destroy the Rebels, and Luke, who has experience flying small craft like the fighters, gets the chance to fly a fighter against it. After a couple of other pilots try, Luke gets a chance to thread the needle. By this time, Darth Vader has been informed of what is going on, and is leading Empire fighters to take out the attackers. Surprisingly, Vader's fighter is hit as he attempts to line up Luke in his sights. Vader's fighter is sent spinning off (into the sequel...) just as Luke makes the perfect shot and destroys the Death Star.
This film is a rip-roaring adventure, and can be enjoyed by the entire family. It was arguably the most popular science fiction film made, and re-inspired / re-invigorated the science fiction film business. This is a film that belongs in your collection.
This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original and expected aspect ratio.
This disc is not a Superbit disc (not surprising, because this disc comes from Fox), but it is close. The only extra on this disc is the commentary (well, plus links to a web site).
The picture varies, but it is generally fairly sharp; a few of the scenes on Tatooine are softened by apparent heat haze, and a few of the composite scenes (particularly the land speeder scenes) are a little bit soft (probably to hide some of the composition). The picture could be sharper, but I like it this looks clear, but a multitude of evils are covered by the very slight softening. Shadow detail is quite decent, although a bit limited in some of the darker scenes. There is no visible film grain. There's no low level noise.
Colour in some scenes is affected by coloured lighting (understandable when you have one white and one red moon). Apart from the coloured lighting, the colour is rendered well skin tones look accurate and credible. The only thing that looks like a colour-related artefact is some strangeness about the blue colour of R2-D2 immediately after they leave the escape pod. There is no colour-bleed, and no false colouration. Blacks are black. Whites are white. Good stuff.
There are no film artefacts. None. When they restored this, they did an astonishing job of cleaning up the film.
There is some aliasing (yes, the transfer is not perfect), but it is rare, and never too disruptive. Perhaps the most obvious moment of aliasing is at 53:19, on the vent. There is one moment of faint moirι at 35:54, but you have to be really picky to notice it. There are no MPEG artefacts.
There are subtitles in five languages, including English for the Hearing Impaired, plus English subtitles for the commentary. There's a default subtitle track, too, which subtitles alien languages if you are not running any of the other subtitles. There are actually two subtitle tracks for the commentary one just indicates who is talking, while the other is real subtitles for the commentary. I watched all of the English dialogue subtitles, and most of the commentary subtitles. The dialogue subtitles are astonishingly accurate. I managed to pick up a single error in the subtitles (at 68:55) where the subtitles say "well" instead of "wealth" (Note: not everyone agrees that this is an error I may be worng!). As far as I can judge, every other word of dialogue has been captured in the subtitles awesome! The subtitles are well-timed, and easy to read.
The disc is single sided, dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 60:36, placed between two scenes, but it's fairly noticeable due to the pause.
There are three audio tracks, all in English. The first two are the soundtrack, provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX at 448kbps and Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded) at 192kbps. The third is the audio commentary, provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded) at 192kbps. I listened to the soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, and to the commentary. I can tell you that the Dolby 2.0 soundtrack does exist, because I sampled a little of it, but that's all.
The dialogue is clear and comprehensible, except in a couple of places. The most obvious is the distortion in Luke's voice at 83:57, but there's some slight distortion in Leia's voice at 55:30. The only lapses in audio sync are quite minor, around 82:43, where it may well be slightly sloppy ADR during the commentary we hear that there a lot of ADR, because the droid costumes made a lot of noise.
The score, from John Williams, is excellent lots of brass, which works very well for a film with so much in the way of martial themes.
This film makes extensive use of 5.1 sound. There's lots of activity from the surrounds and subwoofer. The opening scene, with the Empire's Star Destroyer flying overhead (lots of sub), and the sounds we hear from inside the Rebel ship (lots of surround effects), establish that we are listening to a real 5.1 soundtrack. One tip: yield to the temptation, and turn this film up a little I turned it up 3dB, and it's worth it the extra volume adds to the excitement. Just be warned: at 112:31 you will discover how capable your subwoofer is if you have a really powerful subwoofer, and you turn the volume up too high, be prepared to die!
|Surround Channel Use|
This disc has the commentary as its only significant extra (unless you are watching on a PC, when the web site might be interesting).
The menus are fancy animated, with sound, and with cool transitions. About the only criticism I can level is that the menu clips are fairly short, and so they repeat fairly quickly. The menu is easy to use.
Unsurprisingly, this disc has the THX Optimizer on it (it's on the Language menu).
This commentary features four speakers:
This commentary covers an immense amount of information, and yet sounds quite relaxed, with the participants sounding like they are just sitting there talking, rather than explaining all sorts of technical topics. It's really quite an achievement, and it makes the commentary well worth a listen. I suspect that the participants were recorded separately, because they occasionally repeat one another.
There's no special features menu you activate the commentary from the Languages menu.
There's a link to starwars.com. I was using a DVD player, so I don't know what you can access from here.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
The Region 1 release of this set is scheduled to come out at the same time as this one. The Region 1 release is supposed to be the same as this one. We'll have to wait for some Region 1 reviews before we know how they compare.
In my opinion, this Region 4 release is so good that I doubt the Region 1 can be better. I'm going to be happy to buy the Region 4 version.
The movie we have been waiting for since DVD arrived, and it has been worth the wait this is a really good DVD. It is hard to believe this film was shot 27 years ago.
The video quality is very good.
The audio quality is very good, with some of the best surround sound you've ever heard. The one or two flaws almost serve to point up how good the rest is.
The only extra for DVD players is the commentary, and it's a good one.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|