Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rogue Wonderful: Ranking the New Star Wars Story in the Pantheon



Another holiday season is upon us and we have another Star Wars movie, the second since Disney bought Lucasfilm. I've been seeing some rankings online lately, listing the SW movies from top to bottom, and I figured my hungry and adoring public wanted me to briefly chime in.

Rather than a simple list, I'm feel we can separate the eight movies (I'm not familiar enough with those Ewok movies, so they're not considered) into three distinct groups of quality:

Classics


  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars
For obvious reasons, these two are a cut above everything else. I don't have to get into it but I'm sure not many out there would argue too hard about this placement.

Solid Entries


  1. Return of the Jedi
  2. The Force Awakens
  3. Rogue One
Mind you, while the above three are numbered, at the moment they are very close together in my mind, just a hair away from each other. I know RotJ has dropped in favour with many fans over the years (Ewoks!), but there's just so much that's great about this one. The rescue of Han to start things off, the weird aliens in Jabba's palace, the sarlacc pit, the speeder bikes through the forests of Endor, and of course the space battle at the end (intercut with Luke/Vader/Emperor and the shield generator action) that still hasn't been surpassed by anything that has come since.

In the year since it's release, it's become cool to hate on The Force Awakens but I haven't jumped on that particular bandwagon. Rehashed plot notwithstanding, TFA has great pacing (barring a slight dip when they get to Maz's castle), and wonderful characters brought to life by instantly charismatic actors. For these reasons, it edges out the newest but still great entry, Rogue One.

Rogue One has one of the best last acts I've seen in a while, its space battle almost on par with RotJ. Gareth Edwards's sense of scope, imagery and direction of action is a revelation for a SW movie. The subtle ties to the original SW are great for observant fans, it even strengthens A New Hope. There's no denying any of this, and that's why I think it's a great and worth entry into the SW canon. But on the other hand, the first half is slow and the roster of characters aren't memorable, outside the droid and the villain Krennic. Sure, the blind guy has a cool gimmick and look, but we hardly know anything about him. And so it goes with the rest of the team. Perhaps that was the goal: to show that the mission was the important thing, and to demonstrate how tragic the life of the unknown rebel solider is. I'm not taking away anything from the actors, they all did fine jobs with what they were given.

I get it: both movies had different sets of goals and both succeeded in their respects. I can't wait to see Rogue One again, having loved it the first go-around. However, right now, if I want to be purely entertained, TFA gets the slightly higher ranking on my list.

Unmentionables


  • Revenge of the Sith
  • The Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
Notice the bullet points? That's because, on any given day of the week, my ranking for the prequel movies can change depending on my mood. Let's say the order in which they appear above is my usual ranking, though.

The less said about the prequels, the better. Sure, there are bits here and there I appreciate and actually like but on the whole, they're misfires. (Yes, I've read the exhaustive "ring theory" defense of the prequels but that doesn't change that they're failures just the same.)

I could go on about the prequels but I don't want to be here all day, or to think about them for too long.

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So there you have it: my list as of this date. Over time, I might even change my mind about some of these, who knows? Be sure to check back this time next year when the oddly-still-unnamed Episode VIII comes out in order to find out where I think it fits.

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