There's a new Star Wars movie this week so I'm back to talk about the most popular space fantasy series ever made.
In preparation for the "final" movie, I decided to go back and watch all the others in order of their internal chronology. Unfortunately, that means starting at the bottom of the barrel with the prequels but there you go.
(Not an ad:) Watching the SW movies has never been easier, now with Disney+; they're all there in 4K HDR for the first time (except Solo which is coming in July, and The Last Jedi, which is coming the day after Christmas, but I have them on 4K blu-ray, so it's moot).
As of this writing, I've watched, in order:
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
- Revenge of the Sith
- Rogue One
- Star Wars (I'll be damned if I call it A New Hope. Ah dammit, I just did.)
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are next on the docket but I'll get to those later.
Obviously, a lot has been said about these movies over the years so instead, in bullet points, I'm going to jot down some stray obversations I've made this time around that I've never really given too much thought about before.
If you're a fan of bullet points, you're in for a feast.
If you're a fan of bullet points, you're in for a feast.
- The prequels remain awful; the less said about these incompetently filmed, acted and written movies, the better.
- But I will add the acting is so low-energy, as if everyone is mired in cold molasses, underwater, with tranquilizers coursing through their Midichlorianic veins.
- The exceptions to this:
- Ewan McGregor as Obi-wan. He's doing more of an impression than actually acting but he has some life to him.
- Ian McDiarmid: he's one of the very few who knows what kind of silliness he's in and he's playing it to maximum potential, especially in RotS where he goes bananas once unveiled as a Sith. ("No...no...no!")
- Watto. I kid you not, the movies just come to life during his handful of scenes in TPM, and his tragic underuse in AotC.
- The Naboo fighter is a great design.
- The MVP of the prequels is John Williams. His music stands out where the actual movies themselves don't.
- Christopher Lee is totally wasted in two movies. They hint at a lot of story that's never developed for his character and his role in the prequel story. But oops, nothing comes of it.
- I only just realized that smaller ships don't have hyperdrive in the prequels. The Jedi Starfighters have to connect to a hyperdrive ring. By the original trilogy, ships like X-wings (but still not TIE Fighters) have hyperdrive.
- The Trade Federation control ships aren't one piece. That giant sphere in the middle can detach. I only realized this during the battle at the end of AotC when a sphere is rising from Geonosis (and gets shot down). Later, in the background of a space shot, you see one of the spheres that managed to escape the planet dock in the centre of an enormous ring, giving us a Trade Federation control ship.
- I know that Palpatine is the main villain but each movie gives us a new lightsaber-wielding bad guy who they almost instantly dispatch (Maul, Dooku, Grievous
). What a waste.
- So Palpatine created Anakin inside Shmi Skywalker by manipulating the Force? That's weird.
- If you're going to hide a baby that's the future key to taking down the Sith, maybe change his last name? Just a thought.
- Is it me or is Yoda murdering a bloody swath in the prequels a distasteful betrayal of his character as established later (before) in ESB.
- The Emperor makeup in RotS is just laughably amateur, orders of magnitude worse than the job in RotJ over 20 years prior.
- I still can't tell whether this was done on purpose but in the original trilogy, we have oppressed planets resisting the central government, wanting to be free. The Empire is the bad guy here by subjugating them. But in the prequels, we're supposed to side with the Jedi who are fighting a war on the side of the government trying to forcefully keep independently-minded planets from leaving. Huh?
- Solo is actually pretty good, too bad it wasn't seen as much as the others. And speaking of being seen, whose decision was it to make the entire movie a grey blur. The worst I can say of Solo is that it's really difficult to see what's happening from dark filter it feels like they applied to the whole endeavour.
- Shame Solo didn't set the box office on fire because they plant the seeds of some sequels I would have liked to see, namely Han taking a job with Jabba, and then taking down Maul and the Crimson Dawn gang.
- Jyn Erso's turn in Rogue One is conjured almost out of thin air. The whole time, she's on about how she's in it for herself. Then, before the epic last third, she gives a rousing speech about hope and rebellion to marshall the forces. I get it, her father died in her arms, but it's much too quick a turn and falls flat every time. I'll chalk it up to heavy reshoots that significantly changed the movie. At least those reshoots gave us the final product's spectacular endgame, which is better than the rest of the movie that came before and remains one of the best acts of any SW movie.
- Pressing play on the original SW immediately after Rogue One ends is very satisfying and near seamless.
- I never noticed Threepio’s silver leg when I was a kid but now, with our higher resolutions, I can’t not see it anymore.
- Why are the ships and droids in SW-world named after our letters when they use an alien alphabet (Aurebesh) in these movies?
- Since when does the Empire save their energy and not shoot things? Allowing the escape pod to land on Tatooine with the droids directly leads to the downfall of the Empire. It's a Death Star-sized contrivance that could only be excused because the movie that follows is so good.
- Not until RotJ does this series start to suggest that the Force is passed through family. Prior to that, especially in the first movie, it's heavily implied that anyone, with training, could become a Jedi. While not exactly the same, the idea that a hero can come from anywhere makes a welcome return in TLJ.
- Yes, ESB has bombers in space. It's not a big deal in TLJ, and it's not a big deal here. Again: fantasy, not scifi.
- How exactly do Han and the rest survive on the tongue of the giant exogorth space slug? Their bodies are open to the vacuum of space, they should be dead. But again, this is fantasy, not science fiction.
- Just the concept of Force ghosts in general. It's so strange, especially since others can interact with the ghost, as when Luke has a conversation with Yoda and Ghost Obi-wan.
- Also, Ghost Obi-wan gets tired apparently and needs to sit on real-world logs?
- Also also, RotS ruins the already tenuous concept with a throwaway line right before the credits, saying it's something Qui-Gon discovered by studying. Did he study this...after he died somehow? If he was researching this in his life, it should have been mentioned earlier. Also, if Qui-Gon was the first to discover this ability, how did Anakin figure it out?
- Luke's insistance throughout RotJ that Vader has good in him comes from absolutely nowhere. (Its out-of-nowhere-ness reminds me of the whole "chicken" thing from the Back to the Future sequels.) He keeps saying Vader has good in his like it's self-evident from what we've seen but it's not. He gives lip service by saying Vader didn't kill him yet, so that's proof but I call that a real flimsy justification. Vader's motivation to spare Luke in ESB came from a desire to overthrow the Emperor and claim absolute power for himself. It's unconvincingly retconned in RotJ to redeem Vader's character.
- Can Vader's character even be redeemed? In a chronological rewatch like mine, we saw him not three movies ago slaughter a room full of schoolchildren.
- I always laugh when people complain that a new SW movie is introducing new Force powers. Every Force power is new until it's not. ESB introduced moving objects with the Force, Force ghosts, and Force telepathy. RotJ threw Force lightning in there. Introducing previously-unseen powers is not new.
- I never quite understood what happens when Luke leaps off that...jutting structure in the hollow of Cloud City. He's falling into nothingness, then for some reason gets sucked into a porthole on the side that conveniently drops him outside, underneath the city, to get picked up. Do I have that right?
- Why do many bottomless pits everywhere? When the Emperor designed his throne room, did he specifically ask for one adjacent to his chair?
- Luke Skywalker remains a hotheaded (not Hoth-headed, which would clearly be the opposite), whiny, dithering guy who none of us liked growing up. Let's not pretend anyone was a big fan of the character.
- Luke mentions how great a pilot he is but we never see it until he pilots an X-wing and destroys the Death Star. That's a big leap.
- Luke gets what, a day of training from Obi-wan? Then a couple days with Yoda before quitting and suddenly he fancies himself Jedi Knight? If the Internet were around back then, it would have launched a thousand whiny articles about how overpowered he is.
- Luke vacillates between murder and pacifism. He kills so many people in RotJ, some unnecessarily (#justiceforgamorreanguards). He goes to town on Vader, trying to kill him before stopping himself and throwing away his lightsaber. All this tracks with the Luke we see in TLJ, who almost kills his nephew (probably should have? amirite? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) before changing his mind.
- The space battle at the end of RotJ is still untopped. The end of Rogue One comes close.
- There's a zero percent chance that Leia was originally supposed to be Luke's sister. I think it's one of these "everything's connected" shoehorned plot elements you often see that just creates too many coincidences.
- Yes, I admit, some of the Ewok antics make me laugh.
- When that one Ewok pulls on the arm of its friend only to realize the friend died...that's the most emotional thing to happen in the whole trilogy.
- In the original movies, he's simply called "The Emperor". The name Palpatine came from ancillary material that we somehow just knew from osmosis in a pre-Internet world.
- Ian McDiarmid rules. He has all the best lines in RotJ.
- A bunch of things don't line up. The classics being:
- Leia apparently remembers her mom.
- Obi-wan says Yoda was his teacher.
- Obi-wan doesn't remember R2-D2 or C-3PO.
- Everything about the special editions sucks.
There you have it. I have two more movies to go before Episode IX, which will no doubt create an avalanche of think-pieces and heated arguments among people who spend way too much time on the Internet (🙋♂️). I'm already so tired, knowing what's coming down the pike.
See you on the other side of this milestone event!