Narrative Is A Ripoff Of Similar Titles
The Force Awakens was criticized - even by those who loved it - for aping a little too much from A New Hope. There's no denying there are obvious parallels between the two movies, but unoriginality is something that runs in Star Wars' DNA. Lucas initially wanted to make a Flash Gordon film as a way of paying homage to the serials of his youth. When he couldn't acquire the rights, he decided to make Star Wars, which clearly borrowed many of the same space opera/adventure elements that made Flash Gordon popular. Lucas was also a fan of Joseph Campbell, and modeled the script after Campbell's famous Hero's Journey archetype. The similarities are tough to miss when Star Wars is compared side-by-side to its influences.
If social media was around in 1977, cinephiles would also blast A New Hope for being a ripoff of The Hidden Fortress, the classic film directed by Akira Kurosawa. In interviews, Lucas admitted that he was inspired by that particular movie, modeling C-3PO and R2-D2 after the concept of telling the story from the perspective of the lowliest characters. His initial treatment for Star Wars also bore close resemblance to the plot of Hidden Fortress, so there would surely be people eager to point out any similarities in a deep dive analysis, suggesting Star Wars isn't as groundbreaking as some claim. Even with all that's new in the galaxy far, far away, harping on comparisons to the past might be hard to avoid.
Protagonists Are Emotionless
Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia are three of the most beloved heroes in all of cinema, but at times in A New Hope they can come across as a little emotionally distant. Luke Skywalker sees his family homestead burnt to the ground, and his immediate reaction is to go on an adventure through space - giving his departed aunt and uncle no more thought. He spends more time mourning the loss of Obi-Wan than Owen and Beru - the people who raised him. Princess Leia witnesses the destruction of her home planet and her only reaction is to make a terrified expression as the laser beam hits Alderaan. Han, of course, is overwhelmingly selfish and out only for himself up until he swoops in at the last minute to save Luke. At the midway point, he even shoots someone in cold blood.
Part of this can be attributed to Lucas wanting to keep the story in motion with little downtime. It's possible off-screen in her holding cell, Leia wept for the lives lost on Alderaan and maybe Obi-Wan consoled Luke before they went to Mos Eisley. But there's no denying that some of the responses the characters have to their personal tragedies are a little odd and not typical for a normal human. This aspect doesn't make the movie any less fun to watch, but some moviegoers may have problems rooting for people who don't necessarily act like one would expect.
Clear Sequel Setup
The original Star Wars is really the only film in the series that works as a standalone movie. Lucas crafted it in that way in case A New Hope wasn't successful enough to warrant sequels. That being said, he did leave some threads dangling in the event he could go back and make more movies. For instance, Darth Vader (one of the primary villains) is left alive after the Battle of Yavin, last seen floating away in space. Luke Skywalker had yet to begin formal Jedi training, learning only the basics of the Force. There are also some characters like Jabba the Hutt and the Emperor who are mentioned by name, but never seen on the screen (this is before the special editions, mind you).
It's worth keeping in mind that sequels and mega franchises were not en vogue back in the 1970s like they are now, so some viewers might have felt cheated by A New Hope not offering a full package. In many ways, the film feels like the first step of a journey with much more left to discover. By ending the narrative after Luke and Han receive their medals, Lucas was deliberately concluding his movie leaving much up in the air and no promise of an actual resolution. In a way, that could be interpreted as being overconfident about Star Wars' prospects and banking on the hope that more installments would follow. It was satisfying that the Rebels won the battle, but the war was far from over.
It's Just A Silly Kids Film
It's easy to forget that when Star Wars was released, the concept of the Hollywood blockbuster was relatively novel. Steven Spielberg's Jaws, released two years prior, was closest to it, but there wasn't much else. Along with his friend Spielberg, Lucas helped usher in a new era for the film industry, as studios became infatuated with the record breaking ticket sales and wanted to develop their own similar projects. In many ways, the tone and feel of Star Wars was a stark contrast from the popular movies of the time. With Vietnam, Watergate, and other topics making headlines, dark and complex tales like Chinatown and Taxi Driver were what drew in large crowds. The rare sci-fi movies were also comparatively bleak.
Star Wars was pure fantasy escapism and audiences ate it up. Honestly, it was just what general moviegoers needed at the time - a fun two-hour ride that transported them to a new universe so far removed from everything. It was a pure tale of good vs. evil with likable characters and thrilling action. Still, some people proclaim Star Wars marked the death of cinema, since afterwards the tentpole event film was in, and things have stayed the same since. The movie business is now fueled mainly by popcorn entertainment instead of nuanced storytelling, which bothered the naysayers. Lucas always said Star Wars was a silly kids movie, and detractors would certainly agree with him, calling the Best Picture nominee "overrated" and unworthy of the praise it received.
As always, this list is not meant to be all-inclusive. These are just some of the critiques of A New Hope that would make their way online if social media and the Internet existed when Star Wars was first introduced to the world in 1977. It just goes to show that every movie, no matter how great or influential, can have perceived flaws when placed under an uncompromising microscope. Film is very much subjective, but one thing everyone can agree on is that no project is perfect.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019