#14, #15 & #16 The Star Wars Trilogy

(1977-1983, George Lucas)

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

George Lucas loves his film serials. Before the Indiana Jones series, Lucas had produced another homage to the 1930s serials he grew up with. You may have heard of it. It was called Star Wars. It was quite popular.

For those who have been living under a rock since 1977, Star Wars is a big sprawling sci-fi fantasy epic. To date, it consists of 6 movies, each one an “episode” in an overall story arc. These six movies can be split into two categories. There is the prequel trilogy, episodes 1 to 3, released between 1999 and 2005, and these received mixed reactions. But for the purposes of this review, I’ll be looking at the original trilogy, consisting of episodes 4 to 6 – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi.

A New Hope (or, rather, just Star Wars) was released in 1977. It drops us right in the middle of the action, during an all-out war between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Heading the Empire is the formidable Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), a dark figure whose identity is concealed by a mask he wears on a permanent basis. We open on an attack by Vader’s forces on a Rebel vessel, who is attempting to capture the Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and obtain the Rebellion’s plans against the Empire. During the scuffle, two robots, C-3PO and R2-D2, escape from the ship and land on the nearby planet Tatooine. Here they meet Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the old Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), and together they fly off to rescue Leia with the aid of the roguish Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Eventually, this builds up to a battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire’s Death Star battle station.

The Empire Strikes Back follows on from the previous movie. Following the battle at the Death Star, the Rebels have fled to the ice planet Hoth, while Vader is desperate to seek out Skywalker. After an Empire attack on Hoth, the Rebels leave, and Skywalker journeys to Dagobah where he is to be trained by the ancient Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz). Meanwhile, Solo, Leia and C-3PO are attempting to shake the Empire and escape to a safe place. This movie’s plot gets a little darker than the previous, and in the end, the Rebels suffer a number of losses, and Luke learns something devastating in one of cinema’s most well-known twists.

Return Of The Jedi features the Rebel Alliance plotting to reverse this chain of events, and gain a victory over the Empire once and for all. After rescuing Han Solo from Jabba The Hutt, the Rebels begin an attack on the Empire’s new Death Star, while Luke prepares for the final showdown against Darth Vader and the Emperor.

It’s going to be hard to review these three movies individually, so instead, let’s look at the quality of the trilogy overall. Obviously, a franchise as influential and well-loved as this must be impressive to gain that kind of recognition, and visually, it certainly is, presenting the audience with a huge world with an eclectic cast of alien beings. It’s impressive that this series was made in the 1970s and 80s, prior to the widespread use of CGI. And the visual style is unique to the movie too, making it instantly recognisable.

Plot-wise, though, it’s less impressive. Sure, there’s a big dramatic adventure that’s fun to watch and enjoy, but when examined closely, there are flaws with Lucas’ storytelling. We are dumped into the action, and things aren’t often explained too well. We’re just kind of swept along for the ride. It’s a fun ride, sure, but it sometimes feels a little rushed. And much like the Indiana Jones series, it’s clear that the plot is in place solely to facilitate the big set pieces Lucas has planned, but unlike Indiana Jones, this doesn’t come together quite as efficiently.

In addition, the movie ultimately boils down to a very basic good vs. evil plot. The heroes and villains aren’t too complex and although Lucas does try for depth at times (e.g. Luke’s internal battle against the dark side of the Force), we all know where things are going to go. There are some plot twists, particularly in Empire, but ultimately we know that things will end with good triumphing over evil. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it clear that the movie is more of a fun romp than anything that should be taking itself too seriously.

The characters are hit and miss. The interactions between C-3PO and R2-D2 are entertaining, and Han Solo is a likeable rouge, but on the other end of the scale there are characters like Leia, who is a very bland character. So bland, in fact, that I’m struggling to find a way to describe her effectively. She’s just sort of there as a love interest and a generic “princess” most of the time. Luke sits on the fence. His conflicts against the dark side are vaguely interesting, but most of the time he sits between overeager teenager and a generic heroic type, despite Hamill’s convincing performance. Darth Vader is an imposing villain (especially with James Earl Jones’ iconic vocal performance) and Yoda is as loveable as any other character produced by Jim Henson’s workshop, but the rest of the cast are largely either unremarkable or just grate considerably. Where the line is drawn between the two is pretty subjective depending on the viewer.

But hey, it’s Star Wars. Its impact has been felt throughout popular culture, and while it is a bit shaky, and can seem a little childish at times, it’s still fun, and all three films do entertain. Empire is certainly the best of the trilogy, due to its darker tone and willingness to throw a few twists in the plot once in a while, but really, all three need to be viewed as one cohesive whole. And ultimately, as a whole, it may not be as philosophical as it would like to be, and certainly the rabid fandom the series attracts is a little excessive, but it is worth seeing if you want something to kill time with a big bowl of popcorn. And what’s more, it’s pretty quotable, which probably helps its notoriety.

In short, not as life-changing as Lucas blatantly wants it to be, but still worth a watch.

Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guiness, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels and the voices of Frank Oz & James Earl Jones
Written by George Lucas (entire trilogy), Lawrence Kasdan (Empire & Jedi only) and Leigh Brackett (Empire only)
Produced by Gary Kurtz (Star Wars and Empire) and Howard Kazanjian (Jedi)
Music by John Williams
Cinematography by Gilbert Taylor (A New Hope), Peter Suschitzky (Empire) & Alan Hume (Jedi)
Edited by Paul Hirsch (A New Hope, Empire), Marcia Lucas (A New Hope, Jedi), Richard Chew (A New Hope), Sean Barton (Jedi) & Duwayne Dunham (Jedi)

Favourite Scene: Anything involving Yoda. Clearly I just really like Muppets.
Scene That Bugged Me: Jabba’s party. The whole scene just felt unnecessary

Watch them if: The Force is strong with you
Avoid them if: You shot first

Originally posted on Blogspot Thursday 3 November 2011

Posted on April 2, 2012, in 1970s, 1980s, Fantasy, Sci Fi and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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