Little nerds everywhere watched Star Wars growing up. Parents around the world would show A New Hope to their tiny nerds in order to immerse them in Lucas’ magical world. The characters, the aliens, the technology, and the space opera setting swept fans off their feet. Lucas’ world was something to be enveloped in, to engage in, and to love and geek out over for years to come. In fact, my father used to teach my brother and I to say, “I am a nerd, like my father before me.” Yeah…I got teased a lot. (Being a stutterer didn’t make things any easier, though.)
The original trilogy took the world of pop culture by a storm as the world went crazy for Star Wars at the birth of the blockbuster cinema – and rightly so. The original trilogy was unlike anything that had ever graced the silver screen, special effects or no. There was whole universe to explore and lose yourself in, full of deep, lovable characters that have stayed with true fans for decades.
The prequel trilogy served as a way of allowing an entire new generation of nerds to engage with Star Wars, had they not already been familiarized by their parents. (I realize not everyone is lucky enough to have nerdy parents. I just wish I had been around to see the original trilogy on screen.) The prequels breathed new life into the original trilogy as The Phantom Menace staggered box-office statistics. . .even though it was such an epic failure. The Star Wars movies will always hold a piece of my heart, though I was not part of the original generation of fans (I was born in 1990).
I’ve been asked many times over the years what my favorite Star Wars movie is. My answer has never fluctuated, though my rankings of Best to Worst have altered a tad. The following is STRICTLY MY OPINION, and is in no way associated with a company or anything else. It’s just the opinion of some random, redheaded fangirl who really loves Star Wars.
WORST: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
I was nine years old when The Phantom Menace debuted, and I was caught up in the anticipation that everyone else was feeling. I was so excited to be part of a generation of fans to see an episode grace the silver screen for the first time. This was my chance! I would be talking to my children about this moment one day, and I would look back on it with the nostalgic, glazed look that my own parents had. . .or so I thought. There was really no excuse for the horrible disappointment that Lucas landed in our laps.
He may not have directed a movie in over 20 years, but that didn’t really have much to do with the problem. The direction of the movie wasn’t entirely to blame. It was just the obvious contempt that Lucas held for his fans that really got me. There was no life, no soul, no personality to the movie. It was just a hollow, cinematic event that was suffocatingly full of CGI. Something that had both Yoda AND Samuel L. Jackson in it was BORING.
The entirety of The Phantom Menace was about politics and trade, rather than something more soulful like love or a battle of good triumphing over evil. The Sith villain, Darth Maul, is never even properly introduced to us. Even then, his small amount of screen time outweighs Liam Neeson’s boring Qui-Gon Jinn. I love Liam Neeson quite a bit, so that’s really saying something. Darth Maul’s awesome martial arts and Devil-like appearance make him inherently badass, yet he didn’t really get to do much.
The Phantom Menace was disappointing and incredibly…well…lazy. Lucas was far more interested in having obnoxious Jar-Jar gracing the screen than giving us fans a solid story to be involved in. There is no defining moment, nothing quotable that stands out, and no soul. It’s just cinematics, and disappointing ones at that. Lucas ruins his own world by over-explaining EVERYTHING, and answering things nobody even cared about. It was like a giant, irrelevant Wiki page. Actually, that may have been more interesting.
I was INCREDIBLY disappointed.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
This may have been deeply flawed, full of bad acting, awkwardly written, and poorly directed, but it was less boring than The Phantom Menace. I think a big part of it was the minimal inclusion of Jar Jar, and that it has the legendary Christopher Lee as Count Dooku. (My heart still hurts.)
Hayden Christensen seemed to have trouble with even the most simplistic of lines, and he gave Zoolander a run for his money with only having “one look.” He couldn’t give his lines without squinting or tilting his head in weird ways that made me worry about his vertebrae. His romance with Padme was strained, at best, even though Natalie Portman is a far better actress than he is an actor. They just seemed to lack all of the fire and passion that should have been there.
There was A LOT of dialogue, but none of which furthered the plot of character development. Similar to The Phantom Menace, it seemed like Attack of the Clones was all about politics and trade negotiations. It plodded on, and was just really dull the entire time. Nothing stood out, nothing is memorable…it was just boring.
The end battle of Genosis, with the beheading of Jango Fett should have been tear-jerking and engaging. It should have been fiercely intense. Instead, it was the very definition of anticlimactic. When Yoda has his standoff opposite Count Dooku, there is an intense, ferocious battle…that somehow managed to lack all emotion. This should have been the high point of the film, but it still seemed lackluster. Only Christopher Lee’s incredibly acting made it worth anything. Still, Yoda lives, and all of us fans held our breath as we waited for the moment where we get to see Yoda unleash his mighty lightsaber. (Wow, that needed better phrasing…)
When held against the original trilogy for comparison, Attack of the Clones is lifeless and lacks all wit. It’s as bad as Christensen’s laughable acting. It felt REALLY long, and I doubt that had anything to do with me getting soda while sitting in the theater. The delivery of everything was flat and dull, and the only thing that saved it was Christopher Lee. (Again…My heart really hurts.)
GETTING THERE: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
This is definitely the best of the prequels. It’s the darkest the saga has been since my personal favorite, The Empire Strikes Back, illustrating Anakin’s final fall to the dark side.
The biggest issues I had were with the horribly written romance between Anakin and Padme, Christensen’s acting, and the addition of General Grievous. I wasn’t too big on Ewan McGregor’s acting in this, either, but that wasn’t as bad as the other issues I mentioned. On a plus side, though, the opening space battle and execution of Count Dooku (sniffle) was AWESOME. Even then, the move doesn’t consistently stay as dark as it should have.
Lucas comes full-circle with the saga, though there is a 20-year gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. The space raid at the beginning pulls the audience in, and watching it in a great theater really added to the combustion of sound and light, and everything the special effects added to the movie. There is some lack of logic but, you know, it IS a space opera. It’s not always going to be logical.
So, what sinks it? The moment the characters start their dialogue.
Many of the salient aspects of the film are ruined by cheesy, inane comments, such s Padme’s line to Anakin of, “Hold me, Ani. Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo.” It was cringe-worthy. Who says that? Who talks like that? It was awful.
Then, there’s the birth of Darth Vader and his horribly campy, “NOOOOOO!” and the really bad tone and dialogue of Anakin’s slaughtering of the Jedi temple. The standoff between Mace Windu and Emperor Palpatine was also lacking, but mostly in the fact that it had ZERO emotion. This should have been one of the biggest, most monumental moments in the ENTIRE saga, but it lacked emotion and direction.
In the end, though, it’s not as bad as the other two. However, it doesn’t live up to the promise that the opening sequences set up for us. It promised to be SO much more than it was. Such a shame, really.
OUT OF THE MURKY WATERS: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
While Return of the Jedi is definitely not a bad movie, I consider it to be my least favorite of the original trilogy. It’s the weakest in terms of heart, character development, and intensity.
The opening sequence in Jabba’s palace, introducing a brand new Luke and Hano Solo still in peril, was awesome. Boba Fett’s demise was decidedly anti-climatic, but it was still very well executed. It may have even been one of the best executed sequences in the entire saga. Again, I would like to emphasize that this is all just my opinion.
Now, I know this is something that you were probably expecting me to say, but. . .I LOVE THE EWOKS. I know there is a lot of argument here. I consider them to be cute and cuddly, and underrated. However, I understand why many fans consider them to be the worst thing about the original trilogy, especially when you take into account the plausibility behind their victory over the Empire. Even still, I love them. Dearly. Don’t judge me.
I really like Mark Hamill as an actor, I think he was PERFECT in the prior two movies. However, in Return of the Jedi, he really needed to be more mature and serious than he was. A lot of the time, Hamill looked uncomfortable and like he wasn’t really sure what to do. Some of his lines were awkwardly delivered, too.
Still, it’s an awesomely rad movie. It’s not as dark as my favorite, The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s a lot of fun and a fitting end to the original trilogy.
ALMOST THERE….: Episode IV: A New Hope
A New Hope has the biggest heart of all the Star Wars films, and is one that I really love watching again and again. It engages you right away as Darth Vader’s imperial starship pursues and overtakes Princess Leia’s rebel cruiser. From that moment on, it’s a wild, intense ride.
It’s been a magical, unique film since 1977, and I’ve never tired of it. It’s your basic story of good vs evil, and rebellion against oppression, but it’s riveting and emotionally engaging. It’s a space/sci-fi fairytale with the wholesome and adorable Luke Skywalker and the charming, swoon-inducing Han Solo. Oh, and you musn’t forget Obi-Wan Kenobi, in all his noble glory.
The narrative is strong, even though the basic idea behind the storytelling is simple enough. Going back to A Phantom Menace, it’s like he did everything wrong in THAT movie that he does perfectly in this one. It appeals to all audiences, and all ages, without being stilted or forced. Oh, and I can’t gush enough about the climatic assault on the Death Star!! I don’t know a lot about the technical aspects of film, but I do know I loved the camerawork and the angles used in the battles in this movie. They lend to the intensity and the ferocity of the intergalactic wars that go on.
I SERIOUSLY love this movie.
BEST: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
This is, by far, my favorite of the entire Star Wars saga. It’s the most emotionally engaging, thought-provoking, intense film that has a sinister edge you just can’t beat. The bleakness of the ending makes it tower over the original trilogy and prequel crap, defying the viewer an immediate resolution to the perilous state of Han Solo and the demise of the Empire.
The Empire Strikes Back was a great playground, of sorts, has Lucas had nearly three times the budget that A New Hope had. It was a challenge to produce, since the sheer scale and ambition were formidable factors that caused a bit of issue. The weather in Norway made filming of the Hoth sequences dangerous, and creating new settings Bespin and Dagobah proved to be quite the challenge.
Even with all of these challenges, it’s a cinematic masterpiece. Just look at how the At-Ats trampled over Hoth, how Boba Fett escaped into Bespin’s fiery skies, and how Yoda taught Luke the ways of the Force with such incredible, albeit subtle, emotion. That sequence gets me every time. Frank Oz definitely is a miracle worker when it comes to being the puppeteer of Yoda. Yoda was as real as the human characters, and brings just as many tears to the audience’s eyes.
The emotion in the climatic showdown between Luke and Vader is MASTERFUL. It builds in emotion and intensity, and then explodes in what is perhaps one of the greatest plot twists of all of movie history. The Empire Strikes Back is the triumph of the Star Wars saga. How can it NOT be my favorite??