Why had I not seen Star Wars for the longest time? I honestly not sure. I was a diehard Trekkie when I was a teenager and got caught up in the Trek v Wars debate because it did not occur to me that it is possible to like two opposing things. I knew Star Wars from the Family Guy parodies, but that’s sort of a poor replacement because they loosely retell the movies in a humorous way. I’d also played the LEGO Star Wars games with my brother, so I felt like I just didn’t really need to watch them. But, I did decide a few years ago to finally watch the series in full before The Force Awakens came out, and because I like watching things in story order, I started with The Phantom Menace. That was not a good decision on my part because the sequels bored me to tears. The experience that I had with trudging through the prequels put me off continuing with the series and now it’s 2019 and the final movie is due to be released next month.
Because it is Sci-Fi Month, I decided that I would watch all three original movies and give mini-reviews of each of them. I don’t usually like to follow lists of “movies you must watch or else you’re a social outcast what is wrong with you” because I’ll watch whatever I damn please, but Star Wars is something that has been on my bucket list for a very long time. Also, I piloted the Millennium Falcon at Disneyland last month so I kind of feel like it’s about time I watched them. i was han, my brother was chewie.
I think I may have had a little mishap when watching the original Star Wars movie. I watched this through Sky Cinema on demand because they have all of the Star Wars movies available. But it turned out that they don’t have the original theatrical cut of A New Hope, they have the Special Edition instead, which I did not know existed until I Googled where there was suddenly a bunch of CGI alien thingies in a movie from 1977. And the sudden appearance of a CGI Jabba the Hutt.
But whatever. Star Wars, the original one from 1977 was a really good movie. Like I’d said earlier, I already knew the story from Family Guy and through pop-cultural osmosis, but it was great to see the actual story play out without any silly cutaway gags or jokes that run on for too long. I liked how the plot moved at a pretty steady pace for the most part, but one part that I thought did drag on for too long was the garbage chute scene. To me, it just felt like they were stuck down there with not much happening other than Chewie growling while the others argued before things actually started happening. Other than that, the only other problem I had is Obi-Wan’s lightsaber battle with Darth Vader. Maybe watching the prequels first spoiled me, but the lightsabre battle in this movie was just boring. I get that it would have been difficult to have Alec Guinness and David Prowse to do the kind of stunts that Darth Maul does in The Phantom Menace because of age and difficulty of movement, but it was just a bland battle. Maybe I expected too much of it.
Moving on to the characters, I can’t really think of any characters that I outright disliked but I didn’t really care for Obi-Wan Kenobi since his role in this movie is to introduce Luke to the Force, get them all to the Death Star, and then die at the hands of Vader. The rest of the characters I really liked and couldn’t find many faults with them. Luke was the standard young action hero, but he wasn’t dull; Han was the snarky rebel guy, but one that didn’t get on my nerves; the droids were the perfect comic relief duo as they don’t have the unbelievable obnoxiousness of Jar-Jar Binks; and Leia is my favourite character in the whole movie because she’s kind of set up to be a damsel in distress, but once she’s broken out of her detention cell, she completely smashes that character trope by showing how capable she is. Even though she’s a princess and a diplomat, she doesn’t have to be nice and isn’t afraid to talk back to people. Can I just be Leia when I grow up?
Because I unknowingly watched the Special Edition, the effects ended up stopping this movie from getting full marks from me. The scenes that use primarily practical effects still look incredible to this day and the scenes of space crafts don’t look like they were made in the 1970s at all because of how good they are. So I don’t really understand why George Lucas felt it was necessary to add in CGI creatures and droids here and there, as well as add in new scenes with CGI, like the aforementioned Jabba scene. It just felt unnecessary to me and was incredibly distracting because the CGI just doesn’t blend into the rest of the movie very well at all. It’s not the best CGI because it’s from the late 1990s, but it just seemed way too out of place for me.
All in all, I really enjoyed this movie and I’m glad that I finally watched it. Who knows, this may be one that I revisit in the future.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
After my “mishap” with watching Star Wars, I’m now pretty sure that Sky Cinema only has the special edition versions of the original trilogy, but this movie didn’t have as many glaringly obvious differences as the first one did so that’s okay.
I think I enjoyed the story of The Empire Strikes Back more than I did the first one because this movie sort of jumps right into the meat of the story, whereas Star Wars spends a lot of time doing worldbuilding and introducing characters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because the first instalment of a franchise needs to have worldbuilding and take its time to let us get to know the characters. But then again, that’s not really the movie’s fault because I went in already knowing who everyone was and where they were because this is a 40-year-old franchise now. Moving away from things that are my fault, though, I don’t really have any complaints about the plot of this movie other than Han and Leia’s romance. To me, it just seems completely bizarre to me that they can go from Han goading Leia into admitting she likes him to no success to them being fully in love after he corners here in a corridor and sort of forces her to admit her feelings for him that she kept extremely well hidden. Maybe I’m looking into it a little too much, but it just unsettled me a tiny bit.
Most of the same characters return here so I don’t have much to say about them, but I will talk about my favourite character who has been my favourite character long before I even considered watching these movies: Yoda. I have been a fan of puppetry for a very long time, and I adore The Muppets, so the fact that Frank Oz was brought on to perform Yoda for this movie just makes it incredible for me. Yeah, it’s obvious that Yoda is a puppet made out of foam and fabric and he sounds a lot like Grover from Sesame Street, but that didn’t bother me because Frank Oz helped to make Yoda his own character who is nothing like any of the other characters he’s performed. My only issue with Yoda is actually a technical thing and not anything to do with him as a character. It’s painfully obvious that Frank Oz and Mark Hamill’s dialogue was picked up on two different microphones, as while Luke’s speech is very clear, Yoda’s can be a little distorted and muffled at times. Combine that with his voice and speech pattern, and you have me struggling to hear. And unfortunately, I couldn’t turn any subtitles on because there weren’t any. Sky, why do you hate people who have difficulty hearing?
Just like the first movie, the practical effects in this movie still hold up incredibly well to this day, and although I’m sure there were added in CGI in the edition that I watched, they blended in a lot more seamlessly than the special edition of Star Wars where it was glaringly obvious that things had been added in that weren’t there before. I’m not sure if there were any scenes or lines edited in here that weren’t present in the original version, but that’s because I’m not as familiar with this movie as I am with the first one.
RETURN OF THE JEDI
You can already guess what’s coming next: I watched another Special Edition. And only some of that bugged me, but I will get into that later.
Out of the three, Return of the Jedi is probably the one that I enjoyed the least. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it at all, because I still think it’s a very good movie, I just thought the first two were better. This one was also the one that I was the least familiar with so I kind of didn’t know all that much of what to expect.
Plot-wise, this one felt a little more the prequels than the first two, because there are a lot of scenes of talking at the beginning, more going into a more action-heavy final third act. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because politics are an important part of Star Wars as a whole (you can’t have war without politics after all), and it was nowhere near as overbearing as the prequels, but after watching the action-packed first two movies, Return of the Jedi does feel a lot slower in places. Not slow enough for me to be bored, but slow enough for me to switch off just a little.
Speaking of the action scenes, I think this movie has my favourite final battle scene out of the original trilogy because it takes place on ground rather than in space. Even though this is Star Wars and a space opera, I liked that the battle took place on Endor because it showed that the Rebels can be versatile in their battle styles, instead of just relying on spacecraft and shooting things. Plus, my eyes can only take so many flashing beams of light in the space of two hours, so my eyeballs are very thankful for that.
Again, there’s not much to say about the characters because not many new characters were introduced here other than the Emperor, Jabba the Hutt, Admiral Akbar, and the Ewoks. I don’t remember much of Palpatine from the prequels because it’s been a long time since I watched those (and likely will never watch again), but I do like how creepy he was here. He doesn’t really do much other than sit in a chair and manipulate both Luke and Vader, but it does show that he’s a somewhat powerful enemy. I say “somewhat” because his defeat was pretty unsatisfactory to me. He just gets picked up by Vader as if he weighs nothing and is then thrown down a hole. No struggle or anything. It’s as if he just gave up and that kind of sucks. One thing that I did find more satisfactory though was Luke’s final battle with Vader, which was so much more exciting to watch as it has more stuntwork and just comes off as more brutal.
Because I watched the Special Edition, I have to talk about the added in CGI. Here I felt kind of the same way as I did towards the CGI in the first movie, as there were areas here and there where I can understand adding in CGI to enhance the scene – such as any scenes of spacecraft moving, and the celebration scene at the end where the statue of the Emperor is pulled down – but there were a couple of elements that I thought where completely unnecessary and just didn’t seem to add anything. Did we really need some weird sand monster thing taking up screentime by eating another monster and then burping before the scene changes? Or worse, did we need those gross looking singers in Jabba’s palace, once of which has a lipstick coated mouth to signify that it’s female and then shoved its mouth into the camera? No. We really didn’t. Why Lucasfilm decided to put that in, I will never understand.
Oh, and while Hayden Christensen’s presence at the very end as Anakin’s force ghost didn’t bother me as much as it did other people, it doesn’t look that good. It’s painfully obvious that he’s just standing there on his own and that Christensen didn’t really know what he was doing because while Yoda and Obi-Wan are looking at each other and Anakin, Anakin just sort of stands there and looks directly ahead. It’s a little awkward to look at, but I’m not mad about it because I haven’t seen the original version of that scene.
While I didn’t enjoy this movie as much as the first two, I don’t think this was a weak movie at all, and it’s a pretty good conclusion to the original trilogy. I do think it’s very likely that I’ll revisit these movies sometime in the future. But only after I’ve caught up with the sequel trilogy. And maybe given the prequels another chance.