Possibly the most iconic moment in cinematic history.
So I decided to finally getting around to watching the films everyone has been talking about since I was a kid. Star Wars. These movies have been cultural phenomenons for decades. Countless references get made to these films in movies and TV shows we watch today. I had attempted to watch these movies a long time ago, but I only got through a portion of the first one. I remembered nothing from it later on. Years later, I attempted to watch Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and was turned off to Star Wars in general. I was not a fan of the first installment of the new trilogy, so I never had to the slightest desire to go back and watch the originals. Well, that changed and I finally watched them all. In one day. I am not going to go in-depth with the story of each one of these. They have been out for over 30 years now. If you don’t know the story, then I’m sorry but that’s your problem. I will just give a brief overlook on my thoughts of each one. And yeah, if you haven’t seen these movies yet, there will be loads of spoilers here.
So…let’s get started.
STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The first entry in the Star Wars franchise was definitely a good one. It was a lot of set-up. Now, seeing this in the late 70s probably had more of an effect than it will now, probably just for the special effects. At the time, they were probably mind blowing. But now, they aren’t anywhere near the standards of today’s CGI. But that isn’t a downfall because I still feel that the movie holds up to today’s standards. Yeah, it definitely isn’t the best now, but I never once found myself distracted by how old the movie looks or feels. After about two minutes, I was engaged and I took it all in. We get introduced to all of the main players: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi (Alec Guiness), and the two strange robots know as R2-D2 and C-3PO. I did find myself getting slightly annoyed with Hamill’s performance of Luke in this movie. Nothing against him, but the character just comes off as whiny and it after a while, it gets a little annoying. But the character of all characters shows up and he is awesome. Harrison Ford kills it as Han Solo, who just may be one of the best characters in a movie ever. He is badass, doesn’t take shit from anybody, rags on Leia when she gives him shit, and he is clear in his motivations. He knows what he wants and he is upfront about it. And the best part is the growth of his character over time. Over the span of the three films, you really see his character grow and it is awesome. But you get a lot of the attitude in A New Hope. Also a standout is Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan Kenobi. He fits that character so well. He is wise, filled with background and information, and he is perfect. And the acting may not have been top-notch from everybody in the first movie, but they all had amazing chemistry together and that is extremely important in a movie where you need to feel for the main characters. And how badass is Darth Vader? Dude just walks in at the beginning of the movie without saying a word, and you already know how bad this guy is going to be. Not to mention James Earl Jones doing the voice; this guy is the ultimate villain. After watching A New Hope, I was definitely satisfied and intrigued enough to want to watch the next two.
WHAT I LIKED:
+: Harrison Ford as Han Solo. This deserves its own point because that is how good this character and the actor truly is. So much attitude comes from this character and it is awesome. Ford plays him to perfection, bringing out the comedic aspects and heroism aspects at the right times. Han Solo is one of the best characters you will find in a movie and there is no doubt in my mind that he was my favorite character in these films.
+: The music in this movie was really good. The iconic Star Wars theme really gets you into the mood to follow these characters and whatever they have to do.
+: At first I was annoyed by C-3PO, but then he grew on me and I found myself laughing at everything he said, especially when talking down to R2-D2.
+: James Earl Jones voicing the most badass villain ever. It really doesn’t get better than that.
+: This movie doesn’t try to overload you with information. Darth Vader is the bad guy. We all know it going into it. But they don’t shove him in your face. You get a little background surrounding him and its enough to make you want to know more. They give you just enough information to make you feel like you know him but not enough to still have a general mystery surrounding him.
+: This movie works because it is really all about the characters and not the special effects. Movies of today need to take pointers from this. I’m looking at you Transformers, Avatar, and Green Lantern.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
-: Mark Hamill’s Skywalker was a little whiny to the point where he got annoying at times. It isn’t a huge gripe, but when he’s the main character you are supposed to be attached to, he shouldn’t be THAT whiny. But I do know he gets a lot better.
STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
I’ll just start out by saying this movie kicks complete ass. If you thought Darth Vader was a dick in the last movie, you were wrong. Way the fuck wrong. James Earl Jones continues to kick ass with voicing the most evil villain ever. And he gets worse. In the last movie, he seemed to be on a bit of a leash. In this one, he is in control and he isn’t messing around. He is just killing people that don’t do what they’re told and it is awesome. Everything improves in this one. You get more emotionally attached to the characters and what they go through. It gets darker. Much darker. The acting improves all around the board, as does the chemistry. I knew going into this about the BIG moment near the end. The iconic “I am your father” moment. But even knowing it was coming didn’t stop it from truly sinking in as one of the best moments in movie history. It is iconic for a reason. I knew I’d like this movie, but I didn’t just like it, I loved it.
The Empire Strikes Back steps everything up in the best way possible. Even the special effects are better. The stakes are higher. Character development and the writing is better as well. After blowing up the Death Star, Luke and his band of friends find refuge on some frozen planet called Hoth, while Vader is pretty much trying to find him and either kill him or turn him to the dark side. Luke trains with Yoda, who is awesome. Everyone gets separated and it really works. Han, Leia, and the robots are running from the Empire and they find refuge with an old friend of Han’s, named Lando. Lando is awesome because he is very much like Han Solo and because Billy Dee Williams plays the part really well. And you get a kind of awesome betrayal which makes absolute sense. He is a true character because you see his guilt when it happens and he has to redeem himself. This whole part is really well executed. Vader uses Han and Leia to get to Luke in an attempt to lure him there. And it works. And of course we get one of the best scenes ever between Leia and Han, right before he gets lowered into the carbonite. Even in moments of complete despair, he doesn’t break and Han just reacts like he normally would. He doesn’t break under pressure and apparently Harrison Ford compeltely ad libbed the line in the movie and they kept it. I’m so glad they did because it is one of the best parts of the entire movie.
And Vader fighting Luke 1-on-1 was badass. What’s even more badass is the attention to detail. Luke obviously wans’t ready so we see Vader fighting Luke in a lightsaber duel with one fricken hand. He is just fending off his attacks with one hand and saying its too easy. Vader is a master manipulator and it just adds to the already villainous nature of him. Then he cuts off Luke’s fricken hand and you think it can’t get any worse. Then the big moment happens and there is no words for it other than amazing. This movie is flat-out amazing. The Imperial March theme + the big bomb being dropped on Luke and the audience = Perfection. And the ending is pure gold. Leia, Luke, and the two robots looking out at the galaxy and that’s it. The cliffhanger before the cliffhanger was a cool thing to do. Nothing went right for the heroes in this movie. Han is frozen, Luke lost his hand and is feeling pretty shitty, and everyone lands on a low note. There are so many unanswered questions and it just adds to the weight of the ending. Had I seen it in the 80s, I would have been pissed to wait 3 years for some resolution. But seeing it now, I can appreciate how awesome this was.
WHAT I LIKED:
+: Everything was better. Luke was still whiny, but he wasn’t as bad as the first movie because I didn’t find myself annoyed by him. The writing was better. The acting and chemistry were better. The effects were better. Vader was an even better villain in this one as well. Everything stepped up and was executed to near-perfection.
+: The Imperial March + “I am your father” = One of the best moments in cinematic history. Knowing it was coming didn’t detract from the moment at all. The shock value was gone completely but in the moment, it still hits you in the gut. Luke’s face sells it all. Truly iconic.
+: Darth Vader is way more badass of a villain here. He is ruthless, picking off his own lieutenants left and right for not doing what he wanted. You see his true power and it is terrifying. It also helps that James Earl Jones lending his iconic voice works in every way possible.
+: This movie is dark. And I really like dark. I like how nothing goes right for any of the heroes. From the opening moments to the end credits, our heroes get shit on constantly and it doesn’t let up. A New Hope showed us how saving the day can be so happy-go-lucky. The Empire Strikes Back shows us how wrong things can truly go.
+: The soundtrack is pure gold.
+: Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian. He definitely has a lot of traits similar to Ford’s Solo, but he definitely is his own character. He has his own motivations and it definitely angers you when he betrays his friend. But it isn’t the betrayal that is so important, as much as how he sells his guilt when it happens. You see his face and how bad he feels about what he probably had to do. And you see his need for redemption. Billy Dee Williams plays this all to perfection while playing such a cool character.
+: Boba Fett. He says like two lines and he is still a badass.
+: That last Han and Leia scene was probably the second best scene in this entire movie, outside of the big moment. It was just so fitting for Han. The scene was filled with emotion and Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher sell it completely. Ford ad libs a line that seems way more natural for his character than what was really in the script. Great stuff.
STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI
Now Luke decides he wants to really fight.
Return of the Jedi definitely was a downgrade, when you watch it right after the terrific second entry, The Empire Strikes Back. All of the stakes that were raised in the previous one are kind of undone in this third entry. This one is definitely more light and hokey (I hate using that word). Silly works too. The movie starts with the rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. Leia’s appearance was a cool moment that was short lived because it didn’t work. If this part did anything, it showed that Luke is definitely different from the past two movies. He is more confident and definitely on his way to being a Jedi Knight. The plan to get Han out works after a while, even if it dispatches a cool character from the last movie in a ridiculously dumb way. This movie has some great moments and some not-so-great moments. But the moments that are good, are really good. And the not-good moments, aren’t that bad. The Ewoks are annoying as hell and we can easily see why George Lucas put them in the movie…merchandising. The whole first segment with Jabba did nothing for me and the Ewoks did nothing for me. But everything with Luke and Yoda was spectacular. So were the scenes involving Luke, the Emperor, and Vader. Really well executed. The whole brother-sister thing was beyond irritating. I knew going into these movies that Luke and Leia would be siblings, but how it was done was relatively stupid. It was a stunt to get out of the love triangle mess. I hate that they did it, but it resulted in the best scene in the movie at the end where Luke gets angry when Vader talks about her. So it did serve a purpose. We still get Han and Leia and their cool moments of bickering. And we still get Han being awesome. This movie is definitely the weakest in the original trilogy, but that isn’t knocking it. All of these movies are good. This one was just a bit of a disappointment coming immediately after the amazing The Empire Strikes Back. Redeeming Vader was an interesting choice that ended up working out pretty well. A good resolution to a great trilogy.
WHAT I LIKED:
+: Everything with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It was weird seeing them have civilized conversations, but once I realized what route they were taking the story, it all made sense. And it worked well. Trying to have Darth have some feelings towards his own son ended up being executed rather well. And the fight between Luke and Darth was awesome as well.
+: All of the characters are still really good in terms of development. You still care about R2-D2, C-3PO, Han, and Leia.
+: The Yoda stuff was really good as well.
+: The good moments were really good.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
-: The silly story elements didn’t work for me. Jabba and the Ewoks definitely contributed to that. I hated the Ewoks with a passion. They got on my nerves quickly and they didn’t go away. And they beat Stormtroopers with sticks. Umm…what?
-: Boba was dispatched so easily and ridiculously after having a solid and badass introduction to the last one.
-: The overall tone was much different and sillier than the previous installment. I was hoping to continue on in that darker tone, but that stayed with The Empire Strikes Back.
There you have it. Finally having seen the American classics known as the Star Wars trilogy, that is my take on all three movies. And I know elements were added to these special editions that were released on Blu-ray that aren’t exactly necessary. Luckily, I did enough research to know about these things before hand. Now the question remains…do I bother trying to re-attempt to watch the newer trilogy? I honestly don’t have any desire to and you can thank Hayden Christensen for that. But the important thing to take away from this is that Han shot first.