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A Look At The Star Wars Films by George Lucas
When I was much, much younger
Way back in 1977, I saw Star Wars for the first time, at a theater in Mountain Home, Arkansas with a few newly made friends from nearby Flippin. We had moved there during the summer and now, a half a year later, here I was with these friends seeing what was to be the biggest, baddest movie in film history (to that point). Little did we know how far this story would carry forward in time. For me, it led to an adventure not wholly enjoyable in the immediate future.
After leaving the theater, excited and completely in the thrall of X wing fighters, Death Stars, and Tie Fighters, I drove my 1973 Mustang Mach I sedately through town until...
Until I hit the edge of town and the 55 mph speed limit of Highway 62 back to Flippin. There, I dropped the hammer and away we went, speeding through the dark night filled with stars and not much else. Faster and faster we went, flying along the ground at a high speed in much the manner of the X wing fighters we had seen on the silver screen moments before.
Eventually I slowed down and succumbed to an officer of the law who was attempting to catch up with me. A speeding ticket was my reward. Not as bad as it could have been, but bad enough.
Thus was I introduced to the world of George Lucas and Star Wars. It was the only time I ventured forth to a movie theater to see one of the films, although I know I will be doing so in the coming weeks to see the newest jewel in the crown, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Then I will introduce my youngest to the phenomenon on the big screen.
We have each of the previous editions on DVD (haven't made the leap to BluRay just yet). We also have a special edition VHS set of the first three films (or are they considered the second set as they are IV, V, and VI?) as well as various games, toys, Halloween costumes, books, comics and other paraphernalia within our humble abode.
My youngest is borderline obsessed with Star Wars and cannot wait to see the newest. I am somewhat excited, but could easily wait for the DVD release. I know we will go to see it on the big screen, if for no other reason that to allow him to experience the excitement it brings. Until that day approaches, we will watch our films at home, play our games, play with our toys and count down the days.
Each of us has compiled our list of the films, in order of favorite to least favorite. My list is as follows: Episode IV: A New Hope (the original Star Wars); Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back; Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Episode III: Revenge of the Sith; and Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
His list is similar, beginning with Return of the Jedi, A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back. From there he likes Revenge of the Sith, The Phantom Menace and closes with Attack of the Clones. I love that he likes the original films better, as I do, over the second set of trilogies. They paled in comparison to the original films, whether through lack of inspiration, poorer writing, or the seeming dependence on special effects and computer generation for holding the viewer's attention.
That is something that really bothers me about films today: this reliance on "Special Effects" to carry films. It used to be about the story line, building the characters, causing the viewers to become invested in them, care about them. Now it feels as though our attention is trapped in the effects, the flashes, bangs, explosions. Star Wars had some S/E in the beginning, but the story line carried the films; at least the original three.
And while I'm at it, George Lucas: you should have left well enough alone. There was no need to shoehorn in the S/E to the original films when they were re-released in DVD form. I hate seeing the additions, they make no sense whatsoever. They stick out, are poorly done, and detract from the film. Sorry, my Hub, my opinion.
Episode I: A New Hope
The Original; the beginning. Yet, Lucas decided to create a trilogy then another and now, another. I have no problem with learning more of the story but why not follow along in order, not four, five and six then go back in time to one, two and three THEN move far forward to seven, eight and presumably nine?
In the original, we meet Luke Skywalker and old Ben (Obi Wan) Kenobi. We are introduced to Han Solo, Princess Leia, C3P0, and R2D2. We meet Darth Vadar, we are thrust into a struggle against tyranny, a battle of good versus evil. We are carried along in a current, moved from one location to another, meeting those who will be with us for years to come; those who will become part of our lexicon, our history possibly forever. It is truly an excellent film, well done and really pulls us along, forcing us to invest our hearts and future in the story. To me, one of the best films ever.
The cantina scene was where the world fell in love with Star Wars. The sheer amount of different creatures, the alien band, and then we meet Han Solo and Chewbacca. Our world would never be the same again. From there, we are on the run with Obi Wan, Luke, Han and Chewy. The rescue of the Princess, the escape, and then the battle to destroy the Death Star.
How many of you remember the old arcade game that allowed you to be a rebel pilot attempting to destroy the Death Star? Standing at the game, willing the shots to miss us as we fly down the channel intent on firing our missiles. But I digress.
The characters are alive, their feelings important to us. We become invested in them and it is their story which forces us to come back for more, for Empire.
The Empire Strikes Back
In Empire, we are already invested in our characters so we do not need to learn them all over again. Rather, we continue on the path of learning more about them. Han eventually ends up in Jabba the Hutt's hands and is frozen, thus leaving the film relatively early. Luke travels to another world in order to learn the ways of The Force at the hands of the last Jedi, Yoda. Even as he trains, he is being tested; by both Yoda and Vader. Believing his friends to be in danger, Luke leaves Yoda and his training in order to save them. He travels to a city controlled by one of Han's old friends who then turns on Han, turning him over to Vader who sends a frozen Han to Jabba. Luke arrives to save them all but is too late for Han. He sets out to save the others and does, but ends up in a classic confrontation against Vader. During the light saber battles, Vader gives us the all time greatest twist in film history: he is Luke's father. Now to me, this ranks above even such twists as the T.V. series Dallas and the Who Shot J.R. episodes that had America talking for weeks. This twist still has people talking today, nearly thirty years after it flashed across the silver screen.
In our hearts, we knew it to be true although our minds refused to believe it. Not until Return of the Jedi would that knowledge finally be confirmed.
Return of the Jedi
In Return, Luke walks into Jabba's lair to save Han. A wonderful battle entails and our group escapes the clutches of Jabba, killing him as they do. Luke promises to meet back up with them but he must return to Dagobah to continue his training as a Jedi Knight. However, his return comes too late as he arrives only to find Yoda is dying. As he fades Yoda informs Luke that Vader is his father, and there is nothing more he can learn: he is now a Jedi.
Luke returns to his friends as they attack another Death Star circling Endor, a moon which has a civilization everyone comes to love, the Ewoks. Thrilling battles, exciting speeder rides, cute furry warriors and another twist await: Luke is not Vader's only child. Yes, there is another; none other than the Princess. We have seen something in her all along, a strength within that allows her to rise up when the need arises. Now we know why: she too is one with the Force.
As the battle for Endor takes place on the surface of the moon, another battle takes place above it. One that will settle once and for all what Vader really is: good or evil. In some ways, it resembles the ultimate battle in the Harry Potter series years later, where Snape, who we believed evil for years is proven to be the most loyal person of all. However, Snape knew what he was facing whereas Vader did not; not until the penultimate moment of his son's demise. Then the goodness Luke believed in takes over the Dark Side and Vader sacrifices himself for his son.
We are left believing this is the end, that we will not know more of Luke, Han, Leia, or the robots. But we are wrong, whether for better or worse.
Which is your favorite Star Wars film?
If you had to pick one, which would be your favorite?
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The first (or fourth) in the series, This film details the finding of Anakin Skywalker, otherwise known as Darth Vader and the beginning of the entire story. We meet Obi Wan Kenobi as a Padawan; we also meet his master Qui-Gon Jinn amongst other Jedi Knights. Darth Maul is a Sith Lord and sent after the Jedi by the Emperor. We also meet a less than complete C3P0 and our little fan favorite, R2D2.
An exciting race takes place involving Anakin, leading us to realize his potential as a Jedi. However, his future is clouded as he is older than other candidates and possesses strong feelings which will ultimately lead him down the dark path we know awaits.
Overall, a passable film but the emphasis on CGI is something that weakens the overall story. While the battle between the Jedi and Sith is exciting, and leads us to understand a later (earlier) part of the films, overall I feel it could have been a better film with more story and less S/E.
Attack of the Clones
Clones is just too much CGI for me. Honestly, there is nothing here except a blossoming romance between two unlikely lovers, a plot that is basic and obvious, and a fill in film broaching the gap between Episode I and III. Weak writing, a reliance on special effects, and a cast that is going through the motions is what we find here. By far it is the worst of the Star Wars films.
Revenge of the Sith
In the third (or sixth) episode of the space opera that is Star Wars, the loose ends are tied up, the villain gains his mask, another villain is unmasked and we know the complete backstory to what came before.
Anakin completes his transformation into Vader; we now know how he was injured to the point of requiring his suit and mask. Palpadine controls the Senate, and now the galaxy. The stage is set.
Anakin's youthful anger, his spoiled behavior and selfishness are exploited by Palpadine to the point of eliminating the Jedi Knights. Padme is for whatever reason blinded by her love (?) for Anakin until it is too late. Again, what could have been here plays heavily upon the mind of the viewer. It is acceptable (barely) as a means to "fill in the blanks" but oh how wonderful it might have been. But money talks, and the money to be made by a Star Wars film left many with a sour taste in their mouths. What was incredible, wonderful, magical; became a what might have been; less than stellar; lame.
In less than a month, The Force Awakens will hit theaters, the seventh in the series. Seemingly an eight and then ninth (final?) will take place in the next few years. We know that Luke, Leia and Han are on hand for this next episode, but in what capacity? There is no more Empire that we know of; no one to battle unless somehow Palpadine escaped or another Sith Lord is hiding out there. There have been many, many books written that continue the saga of our heroes. I wonder, which will prove to be the story the filmmakers choose? Or have they gone beyond the books, into a future none have visited yet?
Will this film be another heavy with S/E, and short on story? Will we again be left with a sour taste in our mouths, feel cheated? Is this another film for money's sake alone, not to further the adventures of our heroes? Time will tell.
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