Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A STAR WARS Retrospective

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

These are the movies that brought a sense of wonder to a generation (although not mine). They inspired a generation to create, no matter what stood in their way, and dream BIG. The STAR WARS Saga is a testament to what makes going to the movies such an experience, Gungans and all.

Recently, a couple of other geeks and I (yes, I'm a geek, I've accepted it and am proud of it) banded together to do the rarely-attempted movie viewing trial of a lifetime. That's right, we watched all six of the movies, back to back, in chronological order. The way George Lucas envisioned them, and the way few really experience them.

And I've learned some things from it. First of all, if you're a new viewer, HEED THIS WARNING. You will enjoy the STAR WARS Saga immensely more if you begin with Episode IV-- A New Hope. There are great, classic moments which will only be ruined if watched in chronological order, or their significance will be lost, at least. And the original does the best job of introducing the viewer to the overarching story, in medias res.

So here's a little play-by-play of my thoughts while watching the Saga of a lifetime.

Episode I-- The Phantom Menace: Another reason to start with the 1977 movie. While it is fun, and the effects still hold up, the film is a lot more childish than the rest of the Saga. I enjoy little moments when Jar Jar is talking and the Jedi are looking at him, annoyed, as if silently pleading he shut up. It's also interesting to look at some of Anakin's lines and see how loaded they are as foreshadowing. I love Liam Neeson in a totally non-romantic way, so his appearance here is much appreciated. John Williams's score is epic in scope, especially the climactic piece, Duel of the Fates. And there's quite a bit of eye candy like only STAR WARS can deliver.

My rating: 7.5/10

Episode II-- Attack of the Clones: The Saga's weakest link. The acting is at its low point, partially because of George Lucas's diminishing ability to write dialogue, partially because of the poor casting choice of Hayden Christiansen as Anakin. He just has this... whiny quality to his voice that gets to be a bit grating over two hours. The special effects hold up the least in this Episode as well, with too much reliance upon computers that weren't completely up to the challenge. They came pretty darn close, though. Liam Neeson is gone, but Christopher Lee is present, so I can live with that. And there's a fanboyish delight in finally getting to see how the oft-referenced Clone Wars began. That sequence doesn't disappoint at all. Don't forget Yoda, either. You don't want to mess with that little green guy.

My rating: 7/10

Episode III-- Revenge of the Sith: Here we go, this is why the prequels were made. This is a dazzling tragedy of simply huge proportions, an action flick that doesn't let up, and a nice way to complete the circle began almost 30 years prior. Jar Jar is almost nonexistant (hallelujah). So is Christopher Lee's Count Dooku (aww). Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine truly steals the spotlight in every scene he's in, being so deliciously creepy that you can't help but watch. Ewan MacGregor's Obi-Wan is so close to Alec Guinness's it's frightening, from both appearance to mannerisms and inflection. And the final duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin is stunning, complete with Battle of the Heroes, John Williams's finest hour. A random thing I noticed: In the opening shot, one of the pieces of shrapnel from where a ship has been blasted is actually a tiny kitchen sink. I guess the animators decided they'd already thrown everything else in, so what the hey.

My rating: 9/10

Episode IV-- A New Hope: This is one of my favorite movies, period. There's a timelessness to it that has captivated me since I saw it for the first time at age 4, and it the best way to enter the STAR WARS Saga. I don't know where to begin, but let's just say it draws you in, right from the very first shot and that imposing Star Destroyer. This film holds up remarkably well, and it's use of the Joseph Campbell archetypal "Hero with a Thousand Faces" makes it easily accessible. James Earl Jones has the perfect menacing voice for Darth Vader. Harrison Ford as Han Solo is always fun to watch. Simply put, a classic that defies time.

My rating: 10/10

Episode V-- The Empire Strikes Back: Another movie event from the mind of George Lucas, a cinematic achievement that enchants the mind and arrests the eyes. The characters are put through some really dark stuff here (not like Revenge of the Sith, but still dark), and it enthralls from start to finish. Standout moments include Frank Oz's masterful puppeteering of the eccentric Yoda, the carbonite freezing scene (did you know that Harrison Ford improvised his "I know" line?), and the game-changer of a lightsaber duel... which has one of the greatest reveals in movie history. All in all, a must-see.

My rating: 10/10

Episode VI-- Return of the Jedi: I can't give much away about the plot here, so I'll just say that everything comes to a head in this chapter. Yes there were some bizarre moments (here's looking at you, Ewoks-- and you want to click on that), but it still works marvelously well. Some randon thoughts now. I like this version of Jabba the best. The weird tentacle guy behind him will occasionally open his mouth as if he is silently screaming, which I find to be mildly hilarious. At the end of the DVD version, there's a shot of a celebration on Naboo. Atop one of the buildings, there are a bunch of Gungans, one of which is unmistakably shouting, "Weesa free!" So yes, Jar Jar lives, but only in an Easter Egg from the filmmakers. I love the musical cue with the low voices at the climax of the lightsaber duel between Vader and Luke. And seeing the whole thing end always makes me a little bit sad, since that's the last Episode there will more than likely ever be.

My rating: 9.5/10

So that's that, in a pretty overlong post. I don't know how many of you made it to the end, but congratulations if you did. This movie marathon of epic scope is not for the faint of heart, and I would only recommend it to the greatest of STAR WARS afficionados. You'll probably be delirious by the end, and you'll have uncovered a few new Easter Eggs. I will return again very soon with the second season of LOST, as well as a bunch of books in no particular order.

May the force be with you. Always.

The Writer


logankstewart said...

Aye, Star Wars has been one of my life's obsessions for many years now. All the movies are fun and entertaining, for the most part, with the obvious exceptions (Jar Jar, Dooku, horrible script, etc.) All in all, though, this is the kind of stuff I haven't done in a while; watching a movie marathon. Fun times.

By the way, LotR extended DVDs are awesome to watch as one big marathon, too!

The Writer said...

Yeah, I'm planning on doing LOTR sometime later this year. These marathons are surprisingly draining, but fun, too.