The Return of the Jedi

The wrap-up to the first trilogy (chronologically, not narratively) should have served as a warning of the pain we were to endure upon the release of the prequels twenty years later. All of the flaws that dogged episodes I through III were visible in Episode VI for anyone who cared to look.

Of course, back then we simply assumed that it was George Lucas unable to top the success of The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe he hired the wrong director in Richard Marquand or, as we have often seen in the case of movie trilogies, the filmmakers can’t always write an ending that lives up to the promise of what’s gone before.

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The Empire Strikes Back

Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.

While the 1977 original may have launched the Star Wars phenomenon, I would make the case that this film was responsible for creating the enduring franchise. Had The Empire Strikes Back fallen flat on its face, had it not been, in many eyes, a superior film to the original (or equal in quality at the very worst), there would have been no special editions, no prequels, no Disney sale, and no one would be talking about whether J. J. Abrams wants to direct a seventh film.

I think the strength of this film lies in one simple fact. This is Darth Vader’s movie, more than any other in the franchise. Continue reading

Star Wars

Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.

Looking back on it from more than 30 years, it’s hard to imagine a time when Star Wars did not permeate our culture. It informs both our popular arts as well as high-level policy debate during the Cold War. It rewrote the rules of summer movies only two years after Jaws wrote them in the first place. This one movie took merchandising from a tidy little sideline to a stratospheric cash cow for Hollywood.

In short, a little movie made for less than $10 million, of which the studio thought so little that they willingly parted with all the ancillary rights that studios normally hang on to until hell freezes over, ended up being the greatest single act of creative destruction in the history of the business since The Jazz Singer. After Star Wars, the artistically ambitious films that were a hallmark of the early-to-mid-seventies were shuffled off to the independent filmmakers, while Hollywood became a factory for blockbusters.

At this juncture, it’s pointless to review this movie like I would a “normal” film, other than to offer my conjecture on why this little movie worked like no other movie before it and few since. And yes, I’m calling it Star Wars, not Episode IV or A New Hope. The movie that hit theaters in 1977 was called Star Wars, so that is the name of the movie.

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Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones


After the bitter disappointment that was Episode I, Star Wars fans were understandably leery about the release of Episode II. The good news was that the second prequel was marked improvement over the first, but there was still enough wrong with the movie to have the faithful collectively pulling their hair out.

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Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace


Having seen the original Star Wars films more times than I can count (and more times than any adult cares to admit), I so wanted to love this movie. I was mentally prepared to be swept back into a world I haven’t seen anew since I was 17. With the imagination behind the first trilogy re-invigorated by a long rest, and equipped with technology not even imagined in 1977, I expected an unequaled triumph of the imagination.

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Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith


After the bitter disappointment of Episode I, The Phantom Menace, and the almost-but-not-quite-there glimpses of hope in Episode II, Attack of the Clones, the third time was finally the charm for Star Wars fans. They finally got the prequel they deserved with Episode III.

Despite the diminished expectations created by the first two prequels, the third installment still had a lot to live up to. This was the episode that would have to deliver all that the fans had been expecting from the sequels, namely the story about how Anakin Skywalker turned to evil and became Darth Vader and of the birth of the twins Luke and Leia who would be the heroes of the second, er, first, I mean, the other Star Wars trilogy.

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