Happy Star Wars Day!
I know it’s Tuesday, but I forgot that this week is going to be a little different. With the coming of Iron Man 2 (and the review that will be out that day), it pushes the rest of my posts up a day. It all works out as today is May 4th. I’m sure you all know what that means.
Imagine you’re sitting in a theatre. It’s packed. The entire place is buzzing. The 20th Century Fox logo and music comes on. The place cheers. The Lucasfilm logo appears, the crowd cheers louder. Then a phrase in blue shows up on screen: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” and something strange happens. The once rowdy mob grows quiet. Then…
…fills the screen, the music blares and everyone goes nuts (see the opening crawl here). I have seen all six Star Wars movies in the theatres opening night (well, if you count the special editions. I was only a year old when Return of the Jedi came out). I can honestly tell you that there is no greater movie going experience than seeing a Star Wars movie on the big screen, surrounded by a bunch of fellow nerds. Even if the movie is…underwhelming, you’re still guaranteed to have a great time.
What I thought I would do is go through all six movies. Enjoy!
Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Oh boy. This was quite a disappointment. The Force is moved from being a solely spiritual thing into the realm of science (midichlorians??). Young Anakin is played by Jake Lloyd in one of the worst child performances ever (“Yipee!” “Whoo-hoo!”). George Lucas fascination for technology passes his storytelling side. Jar Jar Binks. Now for the positive: Lloyd aside, the casting job is good (Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan especially). The effects are pretty awesome. The Pod Race is really cool. Darth Maul owns. “Duel of Fates” is a great song.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
This was a bit better. The dialogue is still atrocious as none of the newer cast seemed to do what Harrison Ford did twenty years plus before: stand-up to Lucas (“You can type this crap. You can’t say it”). The love story between Anakin and Padme is awkward at best, boring at it’s worst. Still, we get to see the creation of the Clone Troopers/Stormtroopers (and Boba Fett). It’s always nice to see Christopher Lee in anything (Count Dooku/Darth Tyrannus). The climax is fun, especially with all the jedis on screen in battle. Plus Yoda fights!!
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
This is more like it. Some of the same problems still exist (wooden acting, style over substance direction, Jar Jar isn’t killed, etc), but there’s more to celebrate. The opening space battle is fantastic. Anakin’s slow build to the turn to the Dark Side is well done. We get to see the destruction of the Jedi Order, Yoda vs The Emperor (!!), Vader vs Obi Wan, Vader donning the iconic suit, and the birth of Leia and Luke. The closing scene is absolutely spectacular and unites the two trilogies perfectly.
Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
A film that’s loosely based on Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, this is the original. In many ways it changed Hollywood and all of us. It is here that we were introduced to most of the characters we all know and love (though many would later show up in the prequels). Luke Skywalker. Princess Leia. Han Solo. Chewbacca. Obi Wan. C-3PO. R2-D2. And the baddest of the bad: Darth Vader. A great adventure movie about a boy thrust into that seems to be over his head, but we soon learn it’s part of his destiny.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
As you can see here, I ranked this as the second best sequel of all-time. Not only that it’s one of my favorite movies ever. One of the darker of the movies, with Sith understandably being the only one that’s defeats Empire in that category. Here we get the cool Battle of Hoth (something that never got done back then due to effects being hard to do again snow). We meet Han’s friend Lando Calrissian and the Jedi master Yoda. Han and Leia fall in love with one another (“I know.”). Luke fights Vader for the first time and learns a mind-blowing truth. It’s a whopper.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Let’s get the bad thing out of the way: the Ewoks. I understand the point to them (and they were supposed to be Wookies), but still. At least they aren’t Jar Jar. Now the good. The second Darth Star battle is great (“It’s a trap!”). The speederbike sequences are phenomenal. We meet Jabba the Hut and his entourage (including the Rancor!). But it’s the battle of Anakin’s soul that is the main plotline. Luke, through his own free will (or is it his destiny?), helps Anakin to finally come back from the Dark Side. That’s what the six movies are really about: the rise, the fall, and redemption of Anakin.
The beauty of Star Wars is that you can take them at face value and just enjoy them. Or you can dive right into them. Ask bigger questions, perhaps deeper than Lucas himself intended us to. I like to be part of that second group. It’s a lot of fun. Here’s a take I happen to like. I think it makes the movies even more enjoyable. Check it out!
Happy Star Wars Day!
Be back with another Top Ten on Thursday.