Wednesday, May 04, 2016

May the Fourth Be With You

May 4th is also known as Star Wars Day to many fans. Don't quote me on this but I'm pretty sure it started out as a joke before it became known as Star Wars Day. At least that's how I remember it. All my fellow Star Wars nerds would gather would come up to you, knowing you were a Star Wars fan, and say "May the Fourth be with you." Some would even use a really bad Yoda voice. Or wave their hand in front of you like it was supposed to be a Jedi mind trick.

1983 Me - About as 1980something as you can get. Watching Garfield.

This is not going to be a re-hashing of the entire series of movies. That would just bore any fan out there. There's no need to summarize the plot, prattle on about random points of trivia, or give favorite quotes. Instead, I'm hoping to look at the series as a whole and how it stands up over time. The movies were created generations apart but do they still hold their sway for an old fart like me?

Prologue (1980 something)

I was but a child when the first string of movies came out. I remember seeing one in the theater and being afraid of Chewbacca. He was hairy, roared really loud, and he had big teeth. But growing up watching, and re-watching, and re-watching the original trilogy has left me jaded towards these three movies. When George Lucas re-released them, I was excited. But I didn't like all of the new edits he made. Don't even get me started on Greedo.

1977 Me. Too young to watch Star Wars.

When the second trilogy came out, I was again excited but things were a bit more tempered. That may be why I enjoyed the movies more than some of my fellow fans. Sure, I'm not a huge Jar Jar fan, but I don't hate him. I just see him as a patsy for Palpatine. But the trilogy turned dark in a hurry and the acting wasn't what I had hoped for. But seeing Darth Vader at the end made up for some of it.

1980 Me. This was not the Yoda I was looking for.

Now as a father of a young boy who loves Star Wars as much as I do, I'm falling in love with Star Wars all over again. As a kid, I never would have seen Star Wars in the theater as much as I did with my son. But it was fun. I think we both enjoyed the experience but on different levels.

Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

The visual beauty of the movie is clear and crisp and sometimes stunning. Yes, some of the effects are plainly, or painfully, obvious, but at least it looks pretty. The battle droids and Jar Jar are clearly comedy generators. And just like young Anakin Skywalker, it seems to be a movie made for kids.


I think what strikes me the most is how clean everything is. I'm hoping it's part of the overall trend where things get more run down and dirty and re-used as the Jedi fall out of power. But I think there's a part of it that comes from the nature of films from that time where things are just cleaner and more crisp. We see a lot of this in the special effects and how props are built in the movie. It's almost like they knew they had the power but instead of using it wisely, they just used it.

This is Roger Roger. I won him as a book signing.

So how does it hold up? It does okay. There's political intrigue, podracing, space battles, and of course lightsabers. I think visually it holds up quite well. At least a stand alone movie. Within the franchise, not so much. It doesn't have that gritty, realistic feeling the others do. The acting is okay. Story is okay. So I guess overall, it holds up okay. But it holds little sway over me now. It was very easy to get distracted while watching.

Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

Here we go again. Another movie with crisp and clean shots and not a lot of grit and grime that makes it realistic. The acting takes a step down unfortunately. The overacting by Hayden Christensen and painfully obvious scheming by Palpatine is sad and at times enraging. The overt plots by Palpatine are mostly enraging. But even the Jedi were irritating at times. Mostly because of their lack of action. Patience they say. Bah.


And oof dah, the acting. It starts out small but then develops into a growth that just can't be ignored. Like a bad mole that starts out like a cute little freckle but ends up sending you to the doctor because you know it needs to be removed. Ouch.


At least the clones were interesting. Now I can see why they spun those off into TV shows of their own. They certainly had more depth than a lot of the other characters. And I think that's why it holds up a little better than Episode I. But it holds little sway.

Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)

A more battle heavy and emotionally heavy movie. But it's also heavy with some over-acting. Again. While the CGI seems to be a bit better than the last movie, it's still a struggle so see some of the reality of things.

Um, yeah. That's me.

I know it's a sci-fi movie and it's just a movie, but that's what the industry lacks is the believability of special effects. There are a few exceptions of course, but as a whole, I think the movies of today lack something. That rustic feel of physical film is a part of it, but even then, there's something to be said for practical, physical effects. Movies like this that rely on so much computer generated magic lose some of that magic when they go too far.

Taken circa 2005.

Speaking of going too far, the movie again shows Palpatine going too far with his schemes. He's so overt it makes you wonder if he's so strong in the Force that he can dupe Jedi into thinking he's the good guy or if it's just bad writing. Then we have Anakin going too far with his pouting teenage angsty self. He's like Kylo Ren but so much more obvious. And like Palpatine, we're left to wonder if he's so strong in the Force he can dupe Jedi or if the Jedi are just blind to the obvious.

Just a minor glimpse of my collection.

In the end, it holds up about as well as the other two prequel episodes. But holds no sway over me. As with the other movies, there's just not much these first three movies seem to add to the franchise other than a bit of backstory. ::sigh::

Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

I'll admit openly and freely that this is my favorite movie of the series. Which means I have a lot of bias towards this movie and how the others measure up to it. With that said, this is also the first time I've watched it on Blu-ray and the first time I've watched it right after watching the previous movie. In fact, this is the first time I've watched all of the movies in order and within a relatively short time frame (3 days to be specific).


The first thing I noticed was how clean the newly released versions are. Some of the older special effects have been feathered out and it's generally brighter and cleaner. But there's still enough grit and grime to make it more realistic than the prequel movies. So yeah, it's going to be hard to top that.

My old car.

Despite the modifications Lucas made well after the original release, the movie holds up. The story is solid, the acting is great (for some characters but not others), and it still holds sway over me. It is the epitome of the franchise. Yeah, like I said, I'm a bit jaded in my opinion.

Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

I know a lot of people love Empire but for me, it loses me after the Battle of Hoth. The rest of the movie is fine, better than the prequels, but it just leaves me feeling a little meh. I will say that the character development of Luke is progressing nicely. We see him grow from a wimpy farm kid to the leader of the Rebellion and, even though he whines on Dagobah, he's at least growing as a Jedi Knight.


Speaking of Dagobah, it just creeped me the heck out as a kid. That's probably part of why I never liked Empire as much. But at least Yoda was real. Jim Henson's magic is so clear and obvious even after all these years. That's not just a sock puppet talking or some computer generated character using the Force. That's a person acting there and it shows.


In the end, Empire holds up over time but holds little sway over me. Yes, Hoth was great and the final battle between Luke and Vader was good, but still, it just doesn't make my lightsaber rattle much.

Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

Sure, sure, there's Ewoks and they're cute and vicious. But the scenes on Endor really make this movie. I think it starts out well enough with Luke going full Jedi but I was never a fan of Yoda's death. I guess it was too sad for me as a youngling. But as an adult, it was an appropriately emotional moment between the two. Three I guess if you count Obi Wan.

An animation cel I own.

I think what makes this movie hold up over time, and hold some sway over me, is that the effects are mostly physical and those computer effects that are used, are done so sparingly but with enough quality to keep you in that particular moment in the movie. In other words, it doesn't gut-check you when you see an Ewok or an AT-ST on Endor. Nor are the space battles so full of CGI that you don't know what's going on anymore.

One of the only comics I have.

So yeah, Return of the Jedi is right up in the top three for me and easily ranks higher than Empire.

Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

As we enter a new generation, we get a new trilogy of movies. I went into this with my jaded thoughts about which movie was best and how little I expected of the new installment. While I expected a good movie, I just didn't think it would carry much weight with it. To use an out-of-universe analogy, I figured it would be like a new Star Trek movie and just be meh.

My movie collection.

It wasn't. Time will ultimately be the final judge but for now, I'm ranking this right up there with the original trilogy and would even put it ahead of Empire and Jedi. That's right, I like this movie just as much as I like A New Hope. Some days I like it more, some days less, and some days the same. But in the end, it's always in my top two of all Star Wars movie out there.

Chewie (Peter Mayhew) and the man who killed him (R. A. Salvatore).

As a collector of the books for many years, I was seriously disappointed that they would not hold true to the stories they came out with revolving around the Solo and Skywalker families. They were pretty darn good and a solid arc of storytelling about the galaxy. But as much as I wanted to see those stories on screen, and still do, I'm okay with the new direction they've taken things.

Epilogue (almost 40-something)

So where does this leave us? Well, how about I keep things simple and rank my favorites based on how much they've held up over time and how much I think they've impacted me.
  1. A New Hope
  2. The Force Awakens
  3. Return of the Jedi
  4. Empire Strikes Back
  5. Attack of the Clones
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. The Phantom Menace
But there's more to it than that, isn't there? No, I don't think so. That pretty much sums it up. But remember, that's just the movies. That doesn't take into consideration any of the spin offs and homages.

You want to check out the FANBOYS movie by Adam F. Goldberg.

Finally, one parting shot of the next generation of fans.

Note: Many of the photos in this post are not mine. I'll freely admit I downloaded them years ago and take no credit for them.

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