On December 18th (actually the evening of the 17th) something I never thought I would see will occur. A brand new Star Wars movie will be hitting theaters across the nation. Not only will the first Star Wars movie in ten years be released, but it will actually include the original three heroes from the Original Trilogy (OT). Now that is something I NEVER thought I would see.
If you have been following this blog (or the library blog in general) you know that I am a huge fan of Star Wars. So much so that I cannot even count them when I factor in my favorite films. Since Return of the Jedi (the first movie I saw in a theater), I have been slightly (ok really) obsessed with a Galaxy, Far, Far Away. I had Star Wars bed sheets, toys, cups… you name it, I had it. Star Wars is unique in being the first movie to really push the merchandise agenda as well as the movie and that continues today. Just try and set foot in any retailer this year and not stumble across something Star Wars related.
Yet, these films are so much more to me that just simple movies and collectables. They remind me of my childhood and even my early college years, when the Prequels were released. In fact, I was in the paper when tickets went on sale for The Phantom Menace in 1999 (look that up on Microfilm)! I have scars on my hands from lightsaber dueling with metal poles when I was in elementary school. Simply put, Star Wars sparks something in my imagination and memory that I enjoy.
Now we are on the brink of having a new Star Wars film every year for an unknown period of time. Gone will be the years of anticipation. These days leading up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be the last time fans will be left entering a great unknown region of the Star Wars mythos to a great extent. Perhaps for the first time since 1983, when Return of the Jedi was released. For the most part, the Prequels were predestined. We knew where the story would take us in the end, even if the journey was a bit of a mystery. You still knew *Spoilers!!!!!!!* that Anakin would become Darth Vader, that Obi Wan Kenobi would live and that Luke and Leia would be born.
Now, everything is up in there air. Death can reach out and touch any of our heroes or villains and the story can go anywhere it wants. That is something to be excited about! I have great faith in Disney as a studio based on the way they have handled their Marvel properties and I think J.J. Abrams is a fantastic choice for this first part of the new trilogy. Having enjoyed his reboot of Star Trek (which is actually fairly controversial since many Trek fans felt he made a Star Wars flick out of their fandom) as well as Super 8 and Mission Impossible: III, I feel that Abrams has a visual style that will lend itself well to this franchise. Plus he can direct actors, something I think Lucas failed to accomplish to a great degree (keep in mind Jedi and Empire were both directed by individuals other than George Lucas).
Add in touches of nostalgia with updated designs and it looks like The Force Awakens will be a fun and hopefully fantastic addition to the legacy. I find myself trying to scale down my expectations and hopes because they are just that high. Do I expect Schindler’s List levels of storytelling a quality? No, I don’t, but I do expect to be transported away to some place new and exciting but surprisingly familiar. With faces new and old guiding me along the way.
Star Wars has never been about Science Fiction, it is mythical fantasy with Space Wizards and a hero’s journey. I am so very excited that by all appearances this new hero’s journey will be that of a female. Hopefully we are entering a brave new world and I can only hope to be carried along on the ride.
So, just for fun, here is the order in which I rank my favorite Star Wars films.
#1- Return of the Jedi– While this may not be the conventional choice, I think this movie makes The Empire Strikes Back (what I would wager would be most people’s favorite) a better movie. Without Jedi, the conclusion of Empire would be just a cliffhanger with little impact. Jedi brings everything to an end and wraps up so well. Plus the speeder bike chase on Endor is amazing and so it the final duel between Vader and Luke.
#2- The Empire Strikes Back– This movie is an all-time classic. The introduction of Yoda, the Battle of Hoth and the final revelation are the things of movie making legend. Try and imagine watching this film and NOT knowing the big surprise. While not critically well received on release it has become “everyone’s” favorite Star Wars movie.
#3- Star Wars- Also known as A New Hope, the level of world building that occurs in this film is amazing. Not only is the story well crafted but the effects are just mind blowing for the way they were achieved and with the budget Lucas was working with. While some would argue that it tends to be a bit boring at times, I would argue that few scenes are as impactful as the trench run at the conclusion.
#4- The Phantom Menace- Another unconventional choice. I personally think most of the prequels get a bad reputation based solely on Jar Jar and the acting in the films. This just points further to Lucas not being the most skilled director with actors. I mean, if you cannot get a great performance out of Natalie Portman, you might be doing something wrong. Needless to say, the podrace and that final duel between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi Wan really push this up in my ranking. Qui-Gon in general is an great addition to the Star Wars mythos. Despite some a good deal of clunky dialog and poor acting, the film deserves to be seen in a different light.
#5- Revenge of the Sith- What many would consider the best of the prequels I consider a little too heavy on the action and slightly missing the emotional impact it should have. Once again, there are some really great moments (mostly lacking dialogue) that really make the film shine, but the fact that the first 30 minutes is one big action scene and the final 30 minutes is another huge action scene, takes away from what could have been a really emotionally crushing film. Add in some silly elements, such as Anakin’s rapid turn to the darkside (which the Clone Wars cartoon really makes believable) and Padme’s ultimate demise (because she lost the will to live!?!) and the film slightly misfires. Still a very enjoyable movie and the fall of the Jedi is really emphasized with John Williams’ score.
#6- Attack of the Clones- My personal least favorite of all of the Star Wars films. I found the lightsaber fight sort of dull, the CGI standing out in a bad way, and the love story failing on all levels. It is easy to criticize the CGI in these films, but there really is a good deal of practical effects used in the Prequels. It is also easy to overlook the actual story of the Prequels. Sure, it is about the origin of Darth Vader but on a deeper level it is about the fall of the Jedi order based on reliance on an antiquated and haughty code and their own hubris. The Jedi are their own worse enemy and because of that a crumbling Republic becomes the Empire. That is a lot of politics for a movie that is generally aimed at kids. As for Attack of the Clones, I think the only part I really enjoy is the Kenobi and Jango Fett fight in the middle of the film and the following space battle. The sound design in that scene is killer.
So what order would you rank your favorite Star Wars films? Enjoy The Force Awakens and visit the Chesapeake Public Library for all of your Star Wars needs!