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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

We watched STAR WARS IV, V and VI, which as you know are the first, second and third STAR WARS movies.

Weeellll, STAR WARS, the original, is still one of the best movies I've ever seen.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and, particularly, RETURN OF THE EWOKS JEDI, don't hold up so well. At least not in the aftermath of Mike from Milwaukee's devastating PHANTOM MENACE review. There are just so many things that do not make any sense.

/* SPOILERS */ [Like there are people reading this who haven't seen these movies? Okay, both of you, stop reading.]

For example, at the end of RETURN OF THE TEDDY BEARS, the second Death Star is destroyed, and the ragtag rebel fleet is then wiped out by the force of four or five Star Destroyers and their flotilla. Oh, no, wait, they're not. Because, I don't know why. The really big Star Dreadnought was taken out by a single hit from an A-wing crashing into the picture window in the bridge, but the others are still intact.

For example, what the hell was Luke's plan to spring Han Solo? "Let's get everyone taken prisoner by Jabba the Hutt. I'll go in without my light saber, because it wouldn't be fair to just jump on Jabba and hold it to his throat until he releases Han. Instead, No, I better go in helpless, so we can all get captured and nearly fed to the giant desert critter."

For example, Luke, a Jedi in training, who's just been scanning the Hoth planet surface for "life forms," can't tell that there's an Abominable Snowman four feet from him? And why is he looking for "life forms" anyway? And why on a tauntaun when they've got speeders?

What the two movies (V and VI) have that PHANTOM MENACE doesn't have is great, great characters. Yoda as an impish trickster, not a wise, flying kung fu master. Han Solo as a perfect scoundrel. Leia as the Feisty Good Girl who falls for the Bad Boy. You never get tired of watching them. The scenes are often wonderful. It's the connective tissue between them that doesn't always hold up.

And, of course, what all the movies have going for them is a wildly imaginative world full of crazy critters, and nonstop spectacle. So hey, they all made a ton of money, story or no.

But it's interesting to see how the passage of time changes them. The special effects distracted me more when they came out. I'm not sure if they are less distracting now because special effects are better or because I'm older. Or because I'm thinking about Mike from Milwaukee.

Of course a lot of things are clearer now. At the time, it was surprising to find out that Pee Wee Herman was gay. Watching PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE now, not so much.



Luke was out on a tauntaun because the speeder hadn't been "adapted" to cold yet. I think Han mentions it to Leia at some point.

Otherwise, I have to agree. In hindsight the imperial flotilla does seem like a teensy oversight on Lucas's part.

And Pee Wee's gay? Hmm...

By Blogger Patrick Heinicke, at 11:49 PM  

Even when I first saw it as a 'tween, I was disappointed with Return of the Jedi.
- The whole Ben's ghost sitting down and giving Luke all that exposition. Way too convenient.
- The Luke-Leia brother-sister thing felt like a soap opera.
- Luke needing to throw a skull at the button to shut the door on the moster, despite being able to move things with the force
etc, etc.

The Empire Strikes Back did, and still does, kick ass, though. And as Patrick stated, Luke was out on a Tauntaun because the speeders were still being adapted to the cold, as stated later when Han needs to go out to find him.

As for Luke not being able to sense the abominable snowman, he'd only had a bit of training from Ben, remember. This was before being trained by Yoda. He basically had one session with Ben where he stuck on a helmet and tried to hit some laser bolts. Not exactly a Jedi-in-Training.

Yes, I was a big Star Wars fan as a kid.

By Blogger Tim W., at 1:58 AM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger monika, at 2:56 AM  

The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the six. It's the chick flick of the Star Wars franchise.

By Blogger Unknown, at 9:58 AM  

Empire Strikes Back is my favorite, and I think it's the best one ... I wrote about it here in CHARACTER, STORY AND THE UTTER FAILURE OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK:

Irony in title, of course ...

By Blogger Joshua James, at 10:03 AM  

"The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the six. It's the chick flick of the Star Wars franchise."

That would explain why it's my favourite. I've always had a soft spot for chick flicks, a fact my wife has often bemoaned, as she doesn't.

By Blogger Tim W., at 4:33 PM  

I gotta back up Empire Strikes Back on this one, as well.

The first one is great, but there is a LOT of hand waving to make it work.

In simple terms -- What is Luke's main objective in the first movie?

He states "I want to become a Jedi Knight like my father."

If this were a Knights of the Roundtable movie and our protagonist squire made that proclamation, wouldn't we expect to see him becoming a knight at the end of the movie?

This does not happen at the end of Star Wars. In fact, Luke's Jedi Knight training doesn't even start until a 1/2 hour into the 2nd movie.

What lets the first movie get away with this is that we, the audience, doesn't really know what a Jedi Knight is until much later in the series.

And really -- is there anything less believable than how Luke and Han simply run through the entire Death Star yelling, screaming, and shooting blasters without getting caught ever? The thing is -- we don't care. Everything up to these points has been fun. And them running around being unrealistic is also fun.

But Empire Strikes Back is just a better all around movie, imo. It cuts right to the heart of the whole saga. The characters are stronger. The relationships more defined. Better story twists. And Luke is actually taking steps toward achieving his goal.

By Blogger James, at 7:31 PM  

Out of all 6 movies, Lucas had the least to do with Empire. I think it shows...

By Blogger Emma, at 9:37 PM points out the biggest plot hole in "Empire" at the bottom of this page:

So true. And so funny how, through dozens of viewings, it never, ever occurred to me.

By Blogger Doug Sinclair, at 12:05 AM  

The failure of The Phantom Menace and its sequels is that there's no discernible premise. The original trilogy, yeah it's fairly easy to come up with a simple premise for each. But the "prequels" are all over the place -- no wonder the characters are lacking, they're crushed under the weight of an ossified, lumbering plot.

By Blogger daveed, at 1:25 PM  

I've noticed a bit of a generational thing in how people rate New Hope versus the remaining movies, in that people who saw it in the theater were so stunned by it that nothing later ever compares. The first one I saw in the theater was Return of the Jedi and I grew up watching the others on TV first, so I don't have that "wow, that space ship sure does keep on coming, doesn't it?" response that I've seen in people who are just a touch older than I am.

My favorite of the original trilogy is Empire. The characters are portrayed most strongly there, and the plot and themes are actually interesting. New Hope has struck me as juvenile (which is fine) for a long time now. "Yes, my aunt and uncle are dead and Leia's home planet is dead and we just killed a ton of people on that Death Star while my former best friend died...but yay!"

I view the new films as just of a different /type/ than the originals. The originals are character stories, the new ones are historical dramas. That doesn't explain away the clunkiness of Menace and Attack, but it's why I so appreciate Revenge (even if Lucas still has a stultifying effect on his actors' performances).

The tl;dr version of all this is that I think people overrate New Hope, which is a technically astonishing "fun" movie -- like Avatar. Empire is actually a better all-around movie.

By Blogger Alex, at 3:55 AM  

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