Fun with Franchises: Favorite Images from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
One of the recurring features that we do in Fun with Francises (a feature within a feature) is, after we finish watching a film, we go through and pick out our favorite images from that film. These images could be anything from really famous images from the film or franchise, really beautifully composed shots, shots that are funny to us because of the facial expressions being made in them or because of what we said about them in the article in which they appeared, or simply because they have boobs in them.
What we usually do is, just how we watch the films, Colin and I go in separately and pick out about ten to fifteen shots that we really liked. Then we compare lists, and whichever ones we both picked automatically go on our final list. And everything else we talk through and discuss why we like them, and eventually we’re left with a final list of ten images we liked the best, along with ten honorable mentions, which were also as good, but just missed out on making the list proper.
It’s not very complicated (like most things we do here on B+ Movie Blog), and is just a way for us to point out shots that we really liked in the films, especially since we tend to pick stuff that’s not always on the beaten path. (We also don’t officially rank the list of shots. We just put them in chronological order. Simply picking them is hard enough. We don’t want to make our lives any harder. Plus, we’re lazy.)
That said — here are our favorite images from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope:
I love doing my introductions for these things, because it allows me to sneak in a bunch of shots that I want to talk about but didn’t have room for on the list.
We’ll start with my usual suspect — symmetry. This shot first. I love the framing around him, I love him turning around down the hallway. Quite a beautiful image, framing-wise, but unfortunately, no room on the list. Then, this shot. If the guy wasn’t turning to walk away, I’d have put it on. But, unfortunately — it’s just a mention.
Next — Peter Cushing. I rest my case.
The other thing I want to talk about — color. I love how this movie colors the frame. Like when people are getting shot (I fucking LOVE the pink frames. So, so much. If there were extra spots, I’d have found a way to get this on the list. But we were way strapped for space this time), or just in a scene like this. This one also counts as symmetry too. And it’s an iconic image. (It’s actually kind of weird this didn’t make the final cut.) But I love the red light behind her. And then there’s this shot, too, which also highlights the great lighting in this movie.
And of course, we all know how I like me some western shots. I would have put that on, but it was just reminding me of westerns more than anything. So I left it off. Might as well stick with what this movie does well in its own context.
So that’s it. That’s my intro. I’ll lead into the article by giving you guys some SUPPRESSING FIII–RRRREEE!!!
That image is just so fucking funny to me. Imagine Chewbacca mowing a bunch of guys down with a machine gun, laughing like the guy in the “Angels with Filthy Souls” video from Home Alone.
Seriously, just picture that.
It’s because of that image that this shot transcends a top ten list.
But anyway, let’s get into the selections:
1. The opening shot
This feels obvious. I love this opening shot more than most of the movie. It’s so well thought out and perfect without any dialogue or explanation. Look at how small the ship in front is and how huge the ship following it is. I know this has been covered a jillion times in a drillion different reviews, but you can’t ignore this shot as being magnificent.
That’s basically it. Exposition being delivered visually instead of verbally. Plus it’s such an iconic shot and such a memorable one, too. So even if it is an obvious choice — there’s a reason for it.
2. This shot
This is a great cutaway. It tells you so much about Vader without any kind of screen time. Again, the simplicity of the visual.
It’s so cool that you see him choking the guy and then you find out just how big, tall, and strong he is with this shot of the guy’s feet dangling. It’s just a flat cut, too — as if to say, “And…here’s what’s going on down here, in case you were interested.” At this point in the film, we’ve only just met Vader, and our first meeting with him is silent. I guess you sort of know what to expect from a dude in a black cape and full masked helmet, but the guy delivers his first dialogue of the film holding a full-grown man a good foot or so off the ground by his NECK. They were really effective about establishing the Empire and Vader himself as being formidable opponents. You meet Leia, who’s a little girl, then Obi Wan, who’s an old guy — you two think you wanna fuck with THIS guy?
3. Looking at the Camera
This shot, out of context, is so fucking terrifying. Imagine that — it’s 1977 and you’re watching this movie for the first time, and this giant evil motherfucker comes on screen and just looks at you like that.
And he keeps doing it! The second one is more funny than anything. He looks like Prince in that Chappelle’s Show sketch in that one. But the first one is just out and out terrifying.
The second shot and this shot are two that just completely stuck out at me and stuck with me after watching the movie. I like that we both picked this shot instead of some other ones because you can always go iconic, but I like when we go pure visual power. And this shot sure has a lot of that.
Also, shout out to all the times R2 looks at the camera. Since, as we all know, reaction shots are the key to comedy.
It helps that there’s a mask, because I always feel there’s an added awkwardness to people’s eyes staring right into the camera. This way, it’s just scary and evil, directed at you. This was my favorite because it’s right on, and obviously he’s looking down at you.
4. The Zoom
I feel like this is a pretty iconic shot. Them, in the desert, walking from the pod. I really like that it’s a zoom. Plus I love the framing, the extreme long shot of it all. Plus the footsteps in the sand, dragging your eye from the pod to them. Isn’t that what “lines” are about in actual paintings? But it’s a really great shot, and again goes to show how well I think this film was directed, compositions-wise.
Now, all I know about painting is that Monet married his mistress and Manet died of syphilis. This shot doesn’t really evoke either of those things, but I still like it. My eye is always drawn to the skyline, which they purposely set very close to the top of the frame. We’re on a planet right now. Look at all that planet. The other interesting thing to me here is that later on, they bicker about which way to go; look at where their pod lands and where they’re walking. Did THAT make any sense? I bet it was just…”Yeah, let’s try downhill.”
5. This Shot
Also an iconic shot. To me, it was just too good-looking to pass up. I’m not about anything narrative with these shots. It’s purely visual for me. And this is a goddamn good visual. (But, obviously it works well narratively, too.)
I’d also like to point out how big a fan I am of this scene, which I mentioned in the articles — it’s only four shots, contains no dialogue, and has the epic John Williams score over it, and it perfectly explains the character of Luke better than any other scene he has in the first 2/3 of this movie.
This is one of those rare moments where something purely visual works on a narrative basis. It has to be said that if George Lucas is good at something, it’s the visual (although he kind of jumped the gundark with the new trilogy) — even during film school, he was more preoccupied with the visual styles that displaced narration. As a result, the guy clearly has problems with narrative and dialogue, which we’ll come to see more and more. But back in the day, he sure knew how to set up a pretty shot.
We both chose the second shot, but I wanted to get in that first shot, too. Because both are very memorable.
And it’s not even about the moment for me, either. I can give less than a fuck that it’s the destruction of Alderaan. That second shot I like because of the shapes. The sphere, the circle, the half a diamond/triangle, and the line. It’s just a really interesting shot.
And the first one I love because — there are people there. I like that he had the idea to show you this (because it does give you scale of how big this fucking death ray is, since that’s only one of those diamond sides, and that’s how big people are in relation to it). It’s an interesting camera angle, and also brings up two other points, one of which I mentioned in the article — isn’t that gonna give them some crazy kind of radiation poisoning? There must be some Silkwood going on on this Death Star.
The other thing — what’s with the control panel? Did they all have to coordinate firing at the exact same moment? What if one side fucked up? There are so many questions here.
I assumed that the master control was where Leia and Tarkin were — these guys are in a different place altogether that gets cut to. But yeah, that’s what I wanted to say. This is just one of the smaller rays, and it all comes together. This is inherently so much more interesting than an enormous beam that comes out of the Death Star. This is sort of the original Imma Firin Mah Lazer.
7. The Falcon in the Death Star
I’m a fan of this one because it encapsulates a few shots I wanted to choose in one. And what’s better — this was a Colin choice. So it’s his choice, and it covers everything I also wanted to talk about.
I was a big fan of this shot, and the fluorescent border with the Falcon entering through it. I really like the giant rectangular light border going on there. And, we have that inside the frame.
Then, I was a fan of this shot, because of the fact that it starts with Vader in the foreground and he walks all the way to the background and has a conversation, all through a single take where the shot scale doesn’t change. I love that. And you get a sense of that in the frame, too.
And then there’s this shot, which is essentially the same as this one, only much more letterboxed because you see it from the perspective of someone looking out below. Which I love (I’m all about things like that in this movie), but I felt we should go with Colin’s since it reminds me of all these three shots, shows us more of the Falcon, and because it allowed me to put these three here anyway.
It’s a really nice shot.
I’m a huge fan of this shot for many reasons. First and foremost is the Falcon. Look at that thing. This is probably the single best shot of the Falcon we get for the whole film in terms of angle and completeness. We get front, rear, side and aerial views of it most of the time, but this is set up in my favorite way to view cars — the front 3/4 view. I’ve already gone nerdy about the Falcon and how it’s basically the best spaceship ever to have existed in fiction or reality.
Next, the fluorescent ring. This is such a nice touch, especially with the contrast from the blackness of space outside. They don’t explain it beyond saying, “Open the magnetic field,” or something to that effect. And then, you don’t even know that’s what they were talking about. In the prequels, there’s always some sort of tinted membrane or something that someone tells someone else to deactivate, and it disappears. It feels too conscious about function. This exists purely to look good, which it does.
The last thing I want to talk about is the bluish hue this whole interior sort of takes on. In some of the Death Star interiors, you see that things are quite clearly gray and black. There’s usually some white, fluorescent lighting to go with those tones. On occasion, though, the lights are red or green, and the gunmetal gray goes blue. I’ll have another picture coming up that really accentuates this, but in short — I like it.
8. The Fight
This shot worked because we both chose it and it allows us to work in all the other shots from this fight that we both liked.
Like this shot of Vader first showing up, which is a scary moment, when a guy we know to be evil and dangerous is just standing there, waiting for you, even though this ship is gigantic.
Then there’s this great moment, with them fighting, framed by the Stormtroopers watching outside the window. Which — great shot.
And then there’s one of my personal favorite shots from the movie — Vader going over after Obi-Wan is dead/Force absorbed and stepping on the robes to make sure he’s dead. I love this. Just the motion of stepping on the robes, checking the body, and the fact that — of course this is what you do. You make sure that motherfucker’s dead.
But anyway — this shot up there is great because I love the primary colors. I love when there are explosions in this movie and extra colors come out of them.
LASER SWORDS! They hit each other and another color comes out! Set! Costumes! Fuck! Seriously, though, when you compare this to any moment in the duel from Revenge of the Sith, this one wins. They’re in a real set with real lighting and good framing, and what looks like a lens flare. This is so good.
9. Space Explosion
Space explosions look great.
I love that we both chose this.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a good explosion.
BRB making popcorn
10. Big Guns
This shot is fucking crisp. The whole thing just looks so good. Straight models, with the nice colors. It looks like a really complicated Lego set, which is great too. But the cinematography — good stuff.
In the still, you can really appreciate this. The glow (the glow!) on the front of the turret is basically painted on, much like the glow of the laser pyramid on the big gun. The whole front of this thing lights right up and it looks so — cartoonish. But in a good way, if that makes sense. I love that these are models with SPECIAL effects on top of them.
Also, shout out to this shot, reminding us of that great sequence at the end there.
– – – – – – – – – –
- Vader’s Entrance
The entrance itself is iconic, but here, I love that he’s standing over the bodies like, “Well… that happened.”
I always imagine him inside his helmet muttering to himself. “Hmm. Not bad. I see a double tap over here, two right to the solar plexus. That’s nice grouping.” But mostly, I enjoy the thoughtfulness of the pause. In retrospect, it’s hard to come up with a reason he might have for surveying the bodies like this. You just step over them. It’s nice that he took that extra time to say, “Yup. They’re dead.” The whole thing is extremely choreographed. He walks up, looks right, looks left, looks forward, and THEN keeps walking.
Here’s a potential reason he might be standing there — he’s checking to see if any of them are important enough to potentially be carrying the plans.
I don’t know, I’m spitballing. Honestly Lucas probably just wrote, “He surveys the carnage” or something in the script, and that’s what they shot.
- “I found this washer, Lieutenant, Dan”
This shot is hilarious to me. The guy’s just standing there, barking out orders, and this motherfucker just rises up from the bottom of the frame, out of nowhere, and starts talking. It’s just so funny, in theory and in execution. Just think about that — they had to set up this shot and think, “We’ll have him below the frame and just rise up into it.” Which I love, because it’s so unique and focuses more on the framing and composition with the pod in the back more than it does logic, and, on an execution level, it’s just hilarious.
I said it in the article, but — imagine if this were a noir, and a detective were standing there, going over the crime scene, and then another guy just rose up into the frame out of nowhere and was like, “I found this on the ground, Lieutenant Dan.” It’s completely ridiculous. I love it.
I didn’t think twice about this shot, but now that I look at it, I just start laughing at the stormtrooper outfit. That helmet is a permanent upset face. Whatever this thing is that he found in the sand, he’s not happy about it. In fact, I think it’s a little sad.
- “You motherfucker…”
Colin and I both chose two shots from this moment. He chose the actual choke, and I chose this shot. We went with this one for two reasons. One — the choke is a really obvious shot and iconic moment, and this shot allows us to talk about something else and still bring to mind the whole choking thing that happens.
What I love about this shot is the simple fact that Vader has the ability to Force choke this guy from anywhere. The guy’s being a dick and Vader has had enough of it. But instead of just choking him from standing still, he walks over closer to do it. The amount of thought in that moment — instead of just choking him out of anger, he pauses, thinks about it for a second, calmly walks over to the guy, and then starts choking him.
It would be like if someone were being a dick, and another person was sitting down, calmly got up, walked over to them in a controlled manner, and punched them in the face. It’s just the fact that he’s so calmly doing this and has the ability to not have to do it, that makes it hilarious to me.
Think about any situation where this could happen — someone stops, pauses, walks over very calmly to someone, and then commits an act of violence upon them. It’s always going to be funny. To me, that’s a cooler image than the actual choke, as famous as the actual choke is.
Mike likes the walk over. I like Peter Cushing’s face. That is a FACE. You can’t teach that. That is straight up, “Oh, you in for some SHIT now. Look at my boy over here, he gon’ fuck you up.” Although with stern, elderly British men of that era, that face could also mean, “Oh, what a lovely tea party.”
I love how they did this. One reason I’ll explain in the next entry, but the major reason is the effect they used. This is an actual special effect. None of that computer bullshit. And I like the effect as well. It’s a really nice effect. That’s it. It looks good.
Purple got me slo-mo.
- The Falcon and the Death Star, Part II
I love how the windshield on the Falcon is set-up. I love the shape of it, I love how it’s not just a clear piece of glass, and I love it even more when we get shown things from the perspective of looking out that windshield rather than behind everyone in the cockpit (which is a number that is somehow always greater than two). And then we have that first shot, which is the moment the Falcon is being pulled into the Death Star, and it’s a terrifying moment. (Even more terrifying out of context, since… well, we’ve documented my opinions on that moment.)
And the second moment was actually a shot Colin chose that I love because of the darkness and the lights. It reminds me of New York at night, almost. And I love that.
These cockpits are amazing. If you didn’t get the connection to World War II-era aircraft — that’s what they were going for here. I don’t exactly know why they made that choice, or if someone just thought it was visually appealing, but they made the right call.
Oh, also… I’m totally cheating, but fuck it — I love the camera placement on this shot:
- “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”
Sup baby. I like yo figure.
I just like it when females lie down like that.
- This shot
This shot came out of pure happenstance. I was pausing to take a screenshot and happened to pause at the exact right moment to capture this. And I love it. Because you never see this. Shit, there was a moment in a trailer (Watchmen) when there was a gun pointed at the camera that they had to cut out because it was apparently traumatizing to people. So this is just amazing to me.
More of this. I don’t care if they do it too much and it becomes a standard thing — more of it.
I’m amazed this was a shot that came out of these articles. I wonder if it exists anywhere else. You have to expect that not may movies would do this these days. Right into the camera! It’s like laser tag! We’re okay because we had our hand over the sensor.
(That’s another thing — I love when we find shots that are seemingly nowhere else. This is why B+ Movie Blog is the place, folks.)
- Tractor Beam
At first I saw this shot and went, “Ehh… it’s kind of obvious.” But now that I look at it as an image — I like it. I just like looking at it. Another one of those shots that could be a painting.
Okay, this is the one I wanted to talk about earlier. I picked this one because of its colors and its angle. We know that the Death Star is all grays and blacks, but this whole set appears to be bluish. The lights that are usually a fluorescent white are now green. I’m also a huge fan of how the energy to the tractor beam systems is visualized by the blue wisps at the top of the column. Plus (and I don’t know how many times I’ll say it during this franchise), it wouldn’t be Star Wars without random chasms that fall into nothingness and have no guardrails to be spoken of.
- This shot
There aren’t an awful lot of human moments in this film, but this is one of them. The glove is such a nice touch. Han’s very particular about his hands. They say cinnamon is wonderful for your pores. Read that on the Internet. And that ideally, you should be wearing gloves to bed, but he finds that would interfere with his social agenda. Problem is, he gets a reaction to camphor, so he can’t use traditional remedies…
But it’s the look. He’s like, “I think we both know where this is going.” And she has the face that reads, “Oh, is that so? You really are pretty full of yourself, aren’t you?” And the best part is — he’s right.
So many references to that movie in this article.
I’m not a huge fan of character shots in this franchise, since — well, we all know how I feel about the writing. But this shot I’m actually a fan of. I figured there had to be at least one Han shot in the bunch, and this one is the absolute best to me. It’s a perfect encapsulation of their relationship in a single image.
And then, finally:
- Shots that Look Like Paintings
Basically just a bunch of shots that look awesome. You know the deal.
Goddamn, those are nice.
I’m telling you — the movie looks damned good. It’ll always have that going for it.
– – – – – – – – – –
Tomorrow — Final Thoughts, and Monday — Empire.
(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)