Star Wars Saga Retrospective Review (1977-2016)
Prior to watching Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, I thought I'd re-watch all the cinematic releases in the saga. This includes the originals, prequels, The Force Awakens, and everything in between. If you have not seen these films, there will be some spoilers in this review however the majority of the films have been out for awhile.
Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace (1999):
The prequels, generally speaking, have been known to be bad films due to their direction and dialogue. However after multiple viewings, there is some enjoyment in these films.This film had to bring up new ideas that would show the viewers how Darth Vader came to be. The film is set 32 years before the original film and shows Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) protect Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) while she tries to end an interplanetary trade dispute in a peaceful manner. In between the extremely boring politics, they meet Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a slave with Force tendencies, and Darth Marth (Ray Park), a Sith lord trying to kill the Queen. This film had to introduce new characters while also keeping around some that were loved. Yes, this film has clear problems such as Jar Jar (Ahmed Best), midi-chlorians, and some of the plot does not make sense but there is also enjoyment in this film like the pod race or the final lightsaber duel between Dark Maul, Qui-Gon, and Obi Wan with the always great John Williams in the background. There seems to be little emotion between the characters and the CGI looks a little dated. There are a lot of scenes that seem to totally CGI and that takes away from the scene, especially when the characters have little going for them. While the new Jedi council members were fun such as MaceWindu (Samuel L. Jackson), Yoda (Frank Oz), in the original theatrical cut, looks terrible and somehow looks older than in the original. This was fixed however in the original it looked terrible. The ending seems more over the top than necessary as the conflict between the Gungans and the Naboo never seemed that bad. The film as a whole is quite tedious to endure for the small moments in between that make it fun. The average film is re-watchable when preparing for films such as The Last Jedi but otherwise not so much.
Rating: 2.5/5.0 bowties.
Star Wars: Episode II -Attack of the Clones (2002):
This film is set ten years after the events in The Phantom Menace and there are planets wanting to secede from the Republic. After now Senator Amidala escapes an assassination, her old friends of Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan return to protect her. Anakin escorts her back to Naboo while Obi-Wan investigates the attempt on her life. In his investigation, he is lead to Camino where a Clone Army has been made for the Republic. There are a few scenes that are enjoyable such as the the chase scene at the beginning, the entire fight scene between Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Obi-Wan, the battle with all the Jedi, and the dark progression of Anakin. Specifically,the scene where Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August) dies is very powerful but it is undermined by the next where Anakin yells about killing them and how Padme supports it. While the battle scene was great, it was led into by Padme's declaration of love which lessened it. This film has some things that are good but it is undermined by a bunch of dumb decisions. This is the worst film in the entire saga as visually it seems like a video game and the plot is garbage. The love affair seems lacking as for the majority of the film, it seems one-sided that make Anakin a bit of a creep. He says keeps saying how in love he is with Padme even when she literally says early on in the film, "I am not comfortable with you looking at me like that." I understand true love and whatnot but that's a bit creepy. Christensen is not a bad actor but the dialogue and the character that was written for him is complete trash. He plays essentially a stalker while there's political conspiracy afoot. The latter occurs mostly with Obi-Wan and it is interesting, well more so than politics like in Phantom Menace. However, this film is like sand. It's rough, course and it goes everywhere but it is a Star Wars film. While this reviewer likes it less than The Phantom Menace, it is meh film that re-watchable when preparing for films such as The Last Jedi but otherwise not so much.
Rating: 2.0/5.0 bowties
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008):
This film takes place between Episodes II and III and is a lead into the TV series of the same name. While the tv show became good later on, this film is not as the adventure itself is immensely weak. It is essentially four episodes of the tv show tied together and it is emotionless. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Anakin's new padawan Ahsoka Tano have to rescue a kidnapped Hutt. That's it, nothing more to the plot. There is some misdirection between the characters but because the mission is so weak, you don't care. There is a huge Clone War happening and the best thing that can be shown is a rescue mission. While there is some believable banter between the heroes, the overall film seems unnecessary and one should watch the entire series in addition. But even then, there are some episodes that do lack a little. There is no additional value to watching this awful film in chronological order with the films and it can be easily skipped.
Rating: 1.5/5.0 bowties
Star Wars: Episode III -Revenge of the Sith (2005):
This film takes place three years after the end of Episode II and the Clone Wars are in full effect with the Jedi fighting the Separatists. Obi-Wan is sent to take down General Grievous, leader of the Separatist Army and now Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker grows close to Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and, unknown to everyone but the audience, a Sith Lord. As they grow closer, Palpatine's motives come out which threatens the entire Galaxy as well as and Anakin himself. This is the best film in the prequels as it has all the good stuff, the downfall of the Jedi order, Anakin falling to the Dark Side, and epic lightsaber duels between Yoda and Palpatine and essentially Darth Vader and Obi-Wan. This is a dark film and it starts from the beginning when Palpatine convinces Anakin to execute Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) just because it feels good. Lee, while short still feels powerful here as he did in the prior films. This is the film that people were excited for when the prequels were announced. People wanted to see how the man behind the Vader mask became who he was. The way this film starts off in space looks great and it should have been like that for some of Attack of the Clones.The CGI looks much better than prior prequels and the dialogue has improved though still annoying at times. There are scenes that are just painful such as the "I'm so in love with you" one but there are scenes that are great such as the one where Palpatine tells the story of Darth Plagus. There is some characters that really had no back story such as Grievous. He does have some in the television series but not everyone has watched that so when he's finally killed, there is a lack of caring.When Anakin starts to fall and Order 66 plays out, that's when this film gets interesting. The way the film shows this is great especially when the troops stop following the Jedi. It becomes really sad and touching and that's not even the darkest part of the film. Yeah, Anakin kills younglings which is probably the darkest moment in the Saga.The final battle with Obi-Wan is perhaps one of the best lightsaber battles in the saga. The way the fight plays out in the lava with John Williams score in the back is so intense and feels so real between the two characters. McGreggor here is at his best and its heartbreaking. He and Anakin were brothers and their battle is stronger because of it. In all, the story is pretty compelling but there are problems with it at times. One part that sticks out is when Palpatine is fighting Windu seems to be struggling which is probably due to McDiarmid's lack of fighting ability. It seemed hard to believe that he was one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. In addition, Yoda seemed to give up a little easier than believed he would and Vader's (James Earl Jones) final "NOOOOOOOOOO" is probably the dumbest moment in the entire saga. There was a lot that they had to connect and it does feel rushed at times. There also is some plot inconsistencies with the originals with the birthing of Luke and Leia however this scene is great as Lucas intertwines the "birth of Vader" with the "death of Padme." Overall, this film was good a lot more than it was bad and is worth watching again.
Rating: 3.5/5.0 bowties.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016):
For those who grew up with original trilogy, one big plot hole always was brought up: how did the rebels get the plans of the Death Star in the first place? This film explains that plot hole is probably the best way possible. It was released in 2016 but it felt like it was from the original trilogy. It was the same universe especially how the film used contemporary war movie inspirations. Gareth Edwards had to essentially create a brand new story in a universe that was loved and adored by a lot of people. He had to introduce many characters that most were not familiar with. With some of them, he does well and others, he does not. At the end of the day, the plot is pretty much a "people on a mission" story and that's all. There's not much to it, not to say that's a terrible thing but it is simple. However, even with some lack of character development, you end up caring for them in the final scene when you realize why they aren't in any of the originals. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna were great as Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) was a hilarious addition. While his character, Chirrut Imwe wasn't that developed, Donnie Yen was a lot of fun. The special effects are great and the action is fantastic. The final scene with Vader is possibly one of the best even its short amount. This film made Vader scary again and honestly made the next film in the saga even better. This film is more and more fun each viewing and could not be more recommended.
Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977):
The one that started them all about the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and them trying to destroy the Death Star. As Darth Vader attacks their ship, Leia sends the Death Star plans with R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) onto a strange planet where they meet moisture farmer Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who learns from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) that his father was a Jedi and must return the plans to the Rebel Alliance and rescue Leia from her imprisonment by the Empire. Through their journey together, they meet Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca who join them to rescue the Princess and defeat the Empire. What can be said about this film that hasn't already been said? The music is great, the action is on point, and each character is able to develop enough for you not even to want another film (but we know you really do). This film is able to grab the viewer from the opening shot because it shows scale. The scale shows how small the Rebellion compared to the Empire. You see the Rebellion ship being shot on by a Star Destroyer which makes the Rebellion the clear underdog. You know a lot in just one shot and shows how powerful the Empire is. Then you are introduced to Vader who is one of the best cinematic villains. I remember being scared of him when I first viewed this film that I could not watch the film for a good while. No matter how old the film gets, the effects still look good. It still feels real and it is flawless special effects. The practical effects are great as shown in the Cantina scene.The parallel's between Akira Kurosawa's 1958 film The Hidden Fortress, especially how the film was told from the film's lowliest characters, R2-D2 and C-3PO. After watching the prequels prior to this film, one scene seems more significant. When Obi-Wan is telling Luke about his and his father's relationship, you feel for every word as the prior films really showed that relationship grow. This then expands to the later films and also when Darth strikes Obi-Wan down. John Williams is at his best with this film. Each moment is connected to the music and adds to it in the best way. The cast is great playing each character to perfection. Luke is that young but eager hero, Han is that cocky but likable hero and Leia is that snarky yet loving hero.The film is great and really has nothing against aside from the forced CGI introduced in the Special Editions and some effects look a little dated but it's not terrible. It is always worth a re-watch again and again.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties.
Star Wars: Episode V -The Empire Strikes Back (1980):
If there is a film to model sequels after, this is it. The Empire Strikes Back is not only the best Star Wars movie but it also one of best sequels of all time. It was able to take the universe that A New Hope set up and expand it with philosophy, character development, romance, and pathos. This is the film that had Luke, Leia, and Han go through a lot and the viewer is with them every step of the way. So much happens in this film and it never feels overwhelming. The romance between Han and Leia feels real and not forced. The action is great throughout the film and even when the film has no action, it never feels boring.It is absolutely thrilling. This film opens on Hoth, a new planet, that feels colder every time you re-watch it. The film's cinematography looks fantastic and each scene is so gripping to see. This film has perhaps the best score by John Williams in the entire Saga led by the Imperial March. When Luke arrives on Degobah, he meets one of the greatest characters of all time, Yoda, the all-powerful Jedi. Yoda is funny, wise, and powerful and as a puppet feels more real than the later CGI versions. We also get the first look at the Emperor who pulls the strings behind Vader. However, Vader is scarier in this film than he was in A New Hope. He kills multiple people when they disappoint him and when another character screws up, there is a look of ultimate fear on their face.The lightsaber fight between Luke and Vader is one of the best because it is emotional. It takes the story into a dark place, literally and figuratively. The multiple twists that this film has have become a social norm now but that does not take away from the moments.What also makes this film so great is that it shows that heroes do not always win. This is something that few films have done and when it happens, it keeps the heroes feel authentic and grounded even when there are people who have powers. It makes when heroes actually win in the later films much more significant. This film is great and honestly, the only real flaw is Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) oddly wearing Han's outfit in the final scene. It is a masterpiece and is worth every moment that you take to watch it.
Rating: 5.0/5.0 bowties
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983):
This is the final film in the original trilogy and it keeps up with the others. It is the culmination of Luke's journey to be a Jedi master. He is no longer the boy who "wanted to get some power converters." He is powerful and can battle Vader unlike Return of the Jedi. This film opens at Jabba's palace who has Han captured in carbonite. Luke, Leia, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and Lando put together a plan to rescue him. Jabba, as creepy and disgusting as he is, looks great and all of the creatures in his palace are great, well aside from the weird dance number. In addition, the Empire is making another Death Star to crush the Rebellion once and for all. Since it is not yet operational, the Rebels plan an attack to take it down while the Emperor is on board. This movie has some exhilarating moments such as the speeder chase on the forest moon of Endor and the climax is perhaps one the strongest in all of cinema. The interaction between Luke, Darth, and the Emperor is gorgeously filmed, choreographed, and fantastically scored by the notable John Williams. There are a lot of great moments in this film however how the film's ultimate goal to destroy a Death Star seems lazy. This film perhaps has the worst CGI implanted by the Special Editions but the addition of Christensen was not the worse decision as that was "Anakin" where the original showed "Darth."However, that doesn't take away from the greatness of the film.
Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties.
Star Wars: Episode VII -The Force Awakens (2015):
The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars film not produced by George Lucas. It is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi and follows Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac)'s search for Luke and their fight alongside the Resistance led by Leia. They fight against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order, a successor to the Empire. This film shows J.J. Abrams's fandom towards the Star Wars saga that has introduced to the fans new characters. The action is great and makes you wonder what if the original was filmed with today's technology. The dialogue is fun and it is a lot of fun to see these new characters interact with each other and the older characters. The cinematography looks fantastic along with some great sound effects. This film has some flaws such as the lack of character development. While performed well by Ridley, Boyega, and Issac, there's not given much of who their characters are. You are told one thing and that's it. Poe is barely in this film and honestly, that does not stop there. The only one given many backgrounds is Kylo Ren which honestly was a let down in comparison to Vader. He complains and whines and says he wants to be like him but he's not. He honestly is more like Anakin than Darth. They way they intertwine the old characters is a lot of fun especially when Han and Leia come together once again. It makes you feel what you felt in the originals. However, this film does have some pacing issues as it glosses over some things and makes some characters seem boring such as Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). One might also say that this film copies too much off of A New Hope, however, this reviewer thinks along the lines of "If it's not broke, why fix it?" The prequels weren't the best overall and the studio did not want to repeat that. There are a lot of moments of nostalgia that aren't too over the top and the added humor feels good. While not as enjoyable as the originals, the film is a lot of fun to watch and could introduce a lot of new fans to the saga for many years.
Rating: 3.5/5.0 bowties
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017):
Going into this, I am hoping that it will be equal that of the originals and honestly do not know what to think. The average film for this saga is 3.817 which is between "good and rewatchable" and "really great" for the saga overall. This film, I expect, will bring this score up.
What did you all think of the films? Let me know in the comments section.
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