I can remember the first time that I saw A New Hope was in the cinema when the film was re-released digitally re-mastered and with some added scenes. Oh my goodness, for the longest time I never realised how lucky I was to be able to have pretty much the same experience as people had when the film had been originally released. I got to be introduced to the magic of Star Wars in the arena it was originally intended to be seen.
I can remember my parents had watched it on television before then, but I had been too young or too full of myself and how uncool sci-fi was seen my by peers to consider joining them and watching it. I will never regret that I saw Star Wars first in the cinema, even though I do judge my younger self for caring a bit too much what others thought about me.
A New Hope, should always be the first Star Wars that anyone sees. Watch the original trilogy first, then the prequels, (and then whatever sequels Disney gets around to making later.) Watch them in the order they were made, and then you can enjoy in the episodic order later. And there is an incredibly good reason for this suggestion.
If you watch A New Hope after the prequels, you will miss the entire point of all of the characters. Luke is supposed to be the young, innocent and naïve farm boy that grows into the more mature, ‘ready to properly face his destiny’ man that he becomes. Leia is supposed to be the strong willed rebel fighting for the freedom of the galaxy, and losing her home planet in the process. It is so much better the first time not knowing that they are twins, that they are the children of Anakin Skywalker and the significance of that relationship. To truly enjoy the characters and the film for the first time, you have to approach it with wide-eyed innocence.
When you have watched them all, you then get to appreciate the true brilliance of the Star Wars films as the two trilogies are linked together by the 3rd and the 4th episodes. You get to see that Obi-Wan is still the good man, who refused to kill Anakin at the end of The Revenge of the Sith, to the extent that he is willing to sacrifice himself for Luke and the others. You could almost argue that it is because he still does not want to kill Darth Vader, because he had once been Anakin whom he had loved as a brother.
The thing though that I love the most about A New Hope is the introduction of Han Solo, the lovable rouge, who at first only cares about money and rewards, but does develop as a characters who at the ends wants to help his friends in their battles. His world though, is also not a clean, sleek, idealistic vision of the future. The world of the smuggler is rough, fraught with danger at every turn and his ship is literally falling apart around him, very much akin to Malcolm Reynolds in Whedon’s Firefly.
I came to Stars Wars with only Star Trek as a comparison seeing that sci-fi could be as dirty and as uncouth as the world around me felt more real. Coming at it with knowledge of the prequels and the slick universe created in those films, shows you the damage the rise of the Empire has caused.
The title A New Hope hints at what had been lost when you don’t know the prequels, and introduces the strength and the courage of the rebels fighting against a tyrannical force. Learning that evil can be fought and defeated give hopes to the audience, and is an importance historical lesson that no one should ever forget. Watching when you know the prequels, means that yes there is hope, and the galaxy desperately needed it because of the freedom of liberty had been destroyed, but that the rebels have a great deal further to go than simply destroying the first Death Star. There is Emperor Palpatine, somewhere out there in the galaxy, who took down the Senate and destroyed the Jedi.