"A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away," reads the opening title of STAR WARS, introducing not only this one film but, in effect, a whole new wave in Hollywood filmmaking. From this point on, American films changed--for better or worse--as did audience expectations. STAR WARS left viewers craving more; "bigger and better" spectacles became the rage for years afterwards, although much that followed paled in comparison. It soon became common to hear casual fans conversing about previously arcane special effects in a critical and knowledgeable manner. There's no denying the appeal of this historic blockbuster. What's fascinating from a cinematic point of view is the magnificently derivative nature of the film. It's an enormous summary of characters, styles, and plot points that surveys 40 years of film history. There's probably not a frame in it that doesn't have some cinematic antecedent--Lucas quotes with such enthusiastic abandon that he doesn't balk at referencing even THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. This is not necessarily a criticism. STAR WARS brought back for a new generation many of the most attractive elements of studio-era moviemaking, and it did so in breathless anthology form. For some young filmgoers this film acted as a doorway to the glory of the movies. STAR WARS presents a cast of characters who have become part of our collective consciousness: Mark Hamill is the callow youth Luke Skywalker; Harrison Ford is the rugged, roguish adventurer Han Solo; and Carrie Fisher is the lovely, spunky Princess Leia. Also along for the ride are a pair of adorable 'droids, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels); Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), the fierce, towering bearlike Wookie navigator who's really a softie at heart; and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), the wise old hermit who is actually a great Jedi Master. Luke is an "orphan" (see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) living with his aunt and uncle on their farm on a dusty remote planet called Tatooine. He yearns for a life of high adventure. He wants to go offworld to join the academy like his friends, but his uncle needs help with the coming harvest. Meanwhile, the Imperial Senate has been disbanded and the galaxy has been taken over by the evil Emperor. The Empire's greatest weapon, the dreaded Death Star, is a huge globular craft able to disintegrate entire planets. This fearsome device is commanded by the sinister Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and his feared masked aide, Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by the uncredited James Earl Jones). Princess Leia acquires the plans for the craft and hides them in R2-D2, who is jettisoned in an escape pod with the fussy translator 'droid C-3P0. R2-D2 has been programmed to find Obi-Wan Kenobi, but first he ends up on the Skywalker farm. The little 'droid wanders off one night to fulfill his mission; Luke follows and meets old Ben Kenobi who offers to teach him the mysterious ways of the Force. The rest is movie history.