Yesterday, along with a couple friends, I engaged in the ultimate geek test and watched all six Star Wars films back to back (on a 73 inch HD TV). We started with the prequels and ended with the special editions of the original trilogy in an effort to watch “George Lucas’ vision” of the series. Or rather, the updated “vision”.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Sadly, the opening crawl sucks and it sets a bad tone right from the get go. Made before Lucas decided to fully switch to shooting in digital, Menace was shot on film and is stunning. The colors are rich, the sets appear more real and the whole film is simply beautiful. Sadly, that doesn’t save the film from being epically boring. Menace is a bad film to start a 13 plus hour movie marathon as it sucks the life from the room. The movie is one Senate meeting after another with a lot of political talking, one missed fight that had potential (why didn’t Maul jump on the escaping ship and try to slaughter them all?), a Jedi DNA test (really? seriously? it is just that easy?), and thankfully, it ends with a glimmer of hope for the rest of the series with one of the best on screen duels ever put on film. The acting was sub par all around, except for Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn, who is spot on perfect. After filming, Neeson commented on shooting the film by saying “We are basically puppets. I don’t think I can live with the inauthenticity of movies anymore.” And after watching The Phantom Menace again, I agree with him.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
After Menace we can only go up from here, right? Well, we start off with a really good opening crawl that sets the tone perfectly. What follows… I can’t even begin to describe. The film is a mess of a hundred different things happening with no reason at all or even any importance. The most interesting concept that is brought up is the history of the mysterious Jedi that ordered the clone army to be created. This will have a huge pay off in a later film, right? Lucas wouldn’t introduce a cool concept than just ditch it right? (Spoiler Alert!) It is never mentioned again throughout the whole series. Fail. In fact, after a pretty cool opening sequence, the whole movie just fails.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Okay, after watching Episode I and II back to back, Revenge of the Sith is awesome (although it is still not a good film). The story is straight forward and the action is intense and fast. The “reveal” of Palpatine being the Emperor is done in a lackluster throwaway style (after two films of building up to him), and the reason of Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side is goofy and abrupt. He wants to be able to get the power to stop death? Really? That is it. And to do so he is perfectly fine with killing a room full of children. Um… okay. Portman is underused, but that is probibly a good thing with how bad her romantic scenes with Christensen were in Clones. It is good to see Obi-Wan Kenobi finally become a complete badass. Mace, we barely got to know you. The end fight is good, in fact, all of the fights are pretty good. In the last five minutes Lucas despertly tries to tie the prequels into the later films. He wipes the droids memories (and apparently everyone else just forgets about them), has the last of the Jedi go into hiding, etc. Um, why don’t Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Jimmy Smits try to band together with any other survivors to stop the Empire from growing into what they become in…
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Ah, what a breath of fresh air. We slow down a bit from the breakneck pacing of Episode III. We find out what the force is again, and hey, it is completely different than how it was described in Episode I. In fact, every fact we get about the past is completely different than the prequels.You know, watching his original Star Wars would have been a good place for Lucas to start before sitting down to write the prequels. Rewatching A New Hope after the prequels makes me remember how important Han Solo is to the series. The prequels have no one that is anything like him. An outsider (much like ourselves) that is drawn into the conflict and doesn’t believe or care about the nonsense that is the force or the rebellion. This got me ready for…
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Empire is entertaining from the beginning to the end. It expands upon the first one. Vader steps up from coming off as a hired muscle to being a vicious leader (who only answers to the Emperor). From the release of Empire we should have expected Lucas’ later behavior with changing things around and redoing the series, because the film changes a lot of things that were established in A New Hope. Yoda’s introduction as crazy old creature stole the show and is absolutely perfect. That sequence alone excels The Empire Strikes Back into being the best Star Wars film.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
I HATE HATE HATE the new opening to Return of the Jedi. This was my first exposure to the big lip song and dance number and it is a horrible way to start the film. God, what was Lucas on when he inserted this sequence into the film? Once we get past that, we get a really great closing act to the series. From the moment he steps on screen to the film’s close, this is Luke Skywalker’s movie. He steals and chews through every scene he is in. I have to ask, after rewatching everything, why in the world do people like Boba Fett? He is a completely useless character that doesn’t even do anything before he meets his end through physical comedy. There are a bunch of logic gaps and plot holes, but overall the film works. I know this has been said time and again, but having young Anakin’s spirit at the end of the film doesn’t make a lick of sense with having Yoda and Obi-Wan’s spirits being old. He should have replaced everyone, or kept them all old, or as a friend suggested have them morph from old to young, or… you get the picture.
Wow, that was a long day and I have a Star Wars hang over, but it was well worth it. In conclusion, after watching all six Star Wars movies back to back, I have come to the firm realization that they are two completely different film trilogies that don’t fit together at all. Completely different universes that share some similar characters.