Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
This movie shuts me up. Every time I watch it, I end up speechless. To me, everything surrounding "Order 66" is like the end of THE DEER HUNTER and from then on... wow.
I won't argue with anyone saying it's the best STAR WARS movie, hell I won't even argue with anyone saying it's the artwork of the last decade (like Camille Paglia) - in time, maybe I will overcome my own rules of judgment (that prevails me from giving it a full 5 star rating) and see the perfect, oddball masterpiece that really quite obviously shines through here.
Whenever I've talked to people who have seen STAR WARS for the first time in their lives in the (correct) I to VI-order, this is the one they always remember the strongest. So while I think THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is a perfect film, I really do believe that a 100 years from now, REVENGE OF THE SITH is the STAR WARS movie that will be remembered the longest and, in the end, it will probably be the most cherished one.
It's the heart of the saga, it carries some of it's most heartbreaking and profound moments, it shows off not only the best things in the cinema of old but the best technology that the 21st century can offer - Thea Von Harbou could have written the script, so much so that I find the title fittingly close to KRIEMHILD'S REVENGE; it's the truest, purest and most STAR WARSy of all six movies and totally fucking overwhelming in almost every aspect. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Thematically, this movie is about secrets and/or supressed feelings. One of the reasons Vader's reveal becomes so cathartic is because every scene leading up to it has dealt with secrecy and reveal, in one way or another. Even Luke going to Dagobah in the beginning is a sneak-away. I also can't help but wonder if Leia's drawn to bad boys because she senses that her dad's a bad guy.
Really, if you take away Freud, this movie makes no sense. But why should you. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
"Nightmare", "take a deep breath", "I can't breathe"
The screenplay is more obvious, with instructions (some would say "actual" direction) that Lucas ignore when in the director's chair, instead filming Palpatine in his first scene from afar, somewhat unnoticable (the script basically suggests close-ups, as in Episode I and III; my guess is that Lucas realized, after a while, that he needed much iceberg logic on this one)
"I don't like this idea of hiding"
MYSTERY: Lies, agendas, suspicion, deception, corruption, secrets
CONFLICT: Democracy, politics & philosophy; order - passion, confusion, love, family, unpredictable behaviour; chaos (life is not a puzzle).
Episode I - unity, symbiosis
Episode II - one core dissonance, tearing up mirror images and absurd contradictions from every would be "whole"
Anakin is in a state of constant chaos
Hayden's performance is excellent and as underrated as a supposedly dead volcano suddenly erupting, killing thousands. Every line he delivers is relevant, every wink and wince is of key importance, and his expression is totally pure.
For instance, how he can't look Padmé in the eyes when mentioning (as quickly as possible, as if it hurts to speak the words) how "possession is forbidden" - - - yet throughout the movie he's got a gaze of possession frequently directed towards Padmé. His panic when she falls out of the cruiser is also a neurotic panic, not a passionate or loving one.
Kamino-data is deleted on purpose, it has Palpie written all over it ("It was I who..." etc etc)
"Any order without question"
What a telegraphing, given the circumstances
Episode I: Introducing the world
Episode II. Introducing the conflict - good and evil, "balance" suggests being somewhere close to the middle, somewhere close to the middle is a slippery-slope between good and evil; who's who?
Technology and industry. War machinery.
Anakin lies to suit his mood, yet he can't lie to his dying mother, though he automatically goes for it: "Everything..."
- will be alright?
Anakin & Padmé lacks adherence to rules and have a hard time making sense out of their sensibility. Part of the match.
How does Jar Jar specifically end up giving Palpie the emergency powers? One of the icebox mysteries.
Fix things = stop people from dying
A horrifying metamorphosis between technology and the organic
i.e. a metaphor of Vader
We begin in the city, go to the province, end up in the outskirts and finally go backstage into the underground, industrial factory world of pitiless, cruel and mechanical causality.
Every player is confused into actions (of war)
Gripes are very minor ("Around the survivors a perimeter create!") and the one big sad thing about the movie is how much of Padmé's stuff got cut out, specifically the initial speech and the plea at Geonosis. Having them cut out not only puts two holes in the movie - now, Padmé arrives at Coruscant to discuss the army of the republic, yet never does, and she goes to Geonosis to negotiate, yet never does - the thoroughness of the exclusion, and the blunt way in which Padmé gets shunned now, has a murky old spice smell to it.
Nevertheless, endlessly fascinating stuff. 5/5 if seen in a marathon. Episode I: The Phantom Menace Fascinating, completely unique retroactive introduction to George Lucas' Star Wars story. Essentially a two hour preamble depicting the time before the first films (which now serve as the back-end of a six part narrative) when the galaxy was a republic, once peaceful and optimistic but now threatened by political corruption and an elusive presence named Darth Sidious. The foreground plot involves the peaceful planet Naboo, whose queen (Natalie Portman) is trying to prevent a war against a greedy intergalactic trade federation - Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his young padawan apprentice Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are tasked with protecting her, and along the way they pick up nine-year-old slave Anakin (Jake Lloyd) who may be a type of cosmic Messiah. No one else could have the vision, goals and means to make such an interesting story of what has seemingly just been a series of matinee films. This episode (saturated with cultural history as well as intricate philosophical themes) completely redraws the map, clarifies the depth that laid inherent in the previous films, and at the same time manages to be a classic, spacebuckling adventure movie with multiple highlights, fundamental special effects and a true devotion to pure fantasy. It's in a way unsurprising that the film annoyed large parts of the audience and became infamous for many - a prophet has no honour in his own country. Episode IV: A New Hope
As a prequel defender, it's sometimes difficult to throw more love at the old trilogy - it's already beloved, who cares, and I almost wish I could say it was dated, boring, overrated and only loved because of nostalgia; that is in my mind perhaps an attractive, but incorrect, opinion. Much like prequel bashing - so much tar and feathers from angry consumers upset that the product Star Wars has been altered, so little love and understanding for the artwork that is the Star Wars saga. But just to be fair (and mean to myself), I've decided to watch the movies IV-VI, I-III, something I haven't done before and have never really dreamed of doing, me being a purist of the new school of Jedi Younglings and all. In a not too distant future, I suspect I'll be standing there weaving my cane at THE FORCE AWAKENS just like the 30-somethings I loathed as a kid, who were relentlessly spewing their hatred for Episode I. But... anyway.
Ultimately, seen in context, the original STAR WARS is where the French New Wave (very ironically) ends, by ways of New Hollywood (which was also singing it's final refrain). This was the movie that brought "editing for editing's sake" to the mind of commercial, mainstream Hollywood. Although it has sprung from all kinds of lore, and carries a deep retro love, it's also original, it has in itself a unique style and holds a very personal set of values (that would evolve, as Lucas continued to expand his saga).
And finally, as storytelling it's certainly the most straight-forward and organized of all six movies. In an attempt to watch the movie as a stand-alone piece, I realize it's probably the only Star Wars movie that works on it's own and perhaps even warrants nothing but a single viewing (if you watch it as a part of a greater saga, no matter what order you prefer to watch the movies in, this one will basically just leave you joining the dots). I love how it builds and builds and builds, and while I do remember being beyond blown away by it as a kid I still admire it while pushing 30.
Essentially, it's a movie that starts out by knocking you out, and then it just gets all the more enticing, scene after scene. It's like a tractor-beam pulling you in. Escapism is an over-used word (I'm not even sure if it's a positive one), but STAR WARS really is effective in how it transports you somewhere else altogheter. It's not my favorite of the six - too much cheap B-movie dumbness (they really should have cut that embarrasing scene with the big needle!) - but then again, there's a refreshing lack of pretension to it, and it's a good reminder that Star Wars is for dorks. Rogue One
I find this tremendously rewatchable
That is because, despite its nuts and bolts being pretty basic, Star Wars is with this film and it is one with Star Wars. Unlike Abrams, I get the feeling that Gareth Edwards, Weitz and Gilroy want to do Star Wars, they're not merely obliged, can't say no, honored or gitty about it.
They get that it's a religion.
Shut up, it is.
If you want to make Space Adventure nr. 52, fine, do that
If you want to make Guardians of the Galaxy 3-10, great, I have nothing to say
Indiana Jones in space? I can probably live with it.
If you want to do something up your alley, go there. May your forces be with you.
But if you want to do Star Wars, get with your own program and do Star Wars - open up those textbooks and find those broad strokes, Big Moments, stylized speech, high falooting self-importance, fortune cookie hooey, warm blood, a heart of gold and take it seriously. We in the audience aren't even here, we're just privy to what goes on. Fantasy isn't reality and therefore it must be so real it shuts you down.
ROGUE ONE is, categorically, what it should be. It is a very satisfying starting point. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
As a run of the mill-action movie in space? Sure. Why not.
As a worthy conclusion to this story? No.
The problems are too many for me to go into them all, and most people know about them anyway. But one crucial quality that a fantasy movie needs to have is believability beyond suspension of disbelief. The events in the story must work primarily because the world works. When the real world shines through, you loose the illusion and much of the point. When the movie relies on cliches from other movies, and not ideas or content from within the unique world created for the story, it betrays itself.
So I'm all for the Ewoks, they're at least something. The real annoyance for me is in the acting and characterization. Lando Calrissian is the only character from EMPIRE that is recognizable as himself - Luke has turned into a psycho, Leia is Pocahontas and Han Solo is an insufferable goofball (Harrison Ford is phoning it in so hard here it's sometimes painful to watch his smirking deuchebaggery). None of them break a sweat and there's no sense of momentum - at all really - to their disappointingly humdrum attack at Death Star II.
Man... Death Star II. I guess Palpatine is actually just an idiot.
The effects are great, the storytelling is efficient enough and everything with Luke, Vader and Palpatine (underdeveloped as it is) is pretty strong. Momentarily the film really works, then it fades out of focus again. The story itself is weak, the acting is lazy and since so much sturm und drang is missing, the key idea of the movie (Luke redeeming his father and destroying the Empire) doesn't have the gigantic impact it should have.
Stylistically, we're at home, sure, and there are moments of pure STAR WARS beauty, but it's no payoff to EMPIRE and the sad thing is that everyone involved seems to know it. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher look like they shot their scenes in between their lengthy SPA sessions and you can tell that Lucas' focus is absent from the movie like a ghost, as he was occupied getting a divorce.
Say what you want about the prequels, but they were at least inspired and original. I used to think they repaired some of the damage in RETURN OF THE JEDI but all they really do is give a little more context to what's going on; as for the special editions, adding a couple of "No":s to Vader in the end is a futile attempt to make the scene better, but not entirely unsuccessful (though that song number is admittedly horrible).
Anyway, I can't see how anything could make this study in high-fuelled mediocrity live up to the reasonably mega-high expectations it fails to meet. It's just too much Indiana Jones in Space, too much "Random Adventure - the movie", too much "State of the art bang for the bucks and whatever story we have time for in between", too much "kids who play with their action figures"- or Joe Popcorn-Star Wars.
I'd say 1983 was the true lowpoint of George Lucas - this is a guy who's head is full of knowledge and ideas, but here he was just slumming it. No other STAR WARS movie proves how much of it works because of Lucas' vision and his understanding of his own creation. When he's lazy, like here, the movie dies and we get a nice-looking, rattling tin-can. When not, we get something personal or unexpected, something truly unique (like the prequels for instance or - just to beat you to the punch - HOWARD THE DUCK).
Here, he is just a tired man with no ideas left, making assumtions on what tired cliches some general audience may settle with. While there are pieces of original content in there (mainly Luke's plot-line), too much of RETURN OF THE JEDI consists of million dollar spare fumes. Though it's loud and sparkling and impressive - visually and technologically - as a finale to this story, it just allows the story to go out with an expensive whimper. Goes to show nothing's ever perfect. "Episode VIII": The Last Jedi
I will freely admit I don't understand Rian Johnson.
BRICK was a noir but not because that shit's old. It was a high school movie, only not because fuck that. LOOPER was a time-travel movie but who gives a shit about time travel so whatever. THE LAST JEDI is a Star Wars movie but hold, hold, wait, let's not go overboard here, let's not fall into the trap of making a Star Wars movie, fuck yeah, we dodged that one too. Recently I had a conversation with some friends saying "I bet KNIVES OUT is a whodunnit that's not a whodunnit" and yesterday I heard Ri on a podcast saying that he wanted to make a whodunnit but without all that whodunnit sag because who fucking cares who did it. "Episode IX": Rise of Skywalker
The only surprise to me was the weird Harry Potter vibe. Don't ask, it's not important. If you've seen the trailers you already know C-3PO has turned into Dobby for some reason. Now there's the Emperor of the Sith, whoever that is.
RISE does little for anyone. Anyone who liked the two previous movies will like this one too, I guess. Anyone who had issues with any or both will have the same issues again, only in some new package. For me, it was just weird feeling so utterly indifferent to something that once mattered so much to me. It was like having that final date with your ex, just to dot the i:s, clean the air and conclude that you're on two places, you're going different ways and that was all she wrote.
I likely won't touch Star Wars movies for some time. Into exile I must go. Solo
A so-so Star Wars story that feels like what I suspect it is - a cancelled movie, organized rather than directed by Ron Howard.
He has directed actors through the script. They do exactly what you'd expect and nothing more, as if they want to get it over with.
Howard, or someone, has then made sure that the whole thing be filled with as much prequelite-ooh-aah, as many references to as much other stuff, as many characters and sideplots as possible - and still hold together (which it really kinda only barely does). This, at least, makes the movie firmly connected to the other entries. It never betrays its obligation to the fantasy genre, and much like ROGUE ONE there is a real sense of presence here, in terms of it being a movie about human beings in a rough galaxy.
It's then especially frustrating when you consider the wasted opportunity. Looking at the story, there's potential for style, tone and personality that just lays there. There's elements of a war-movie here, the plot clearly suggests a crime-movie, and it certainly has enough going for it to be an adventure-romp - somehow, somewhere, this should also be about Han Solo right?
Well, maybe. In any case, none can say, because SOLO becomes none of these things. There's no salt or pepper, just a whole lot of raw meat. A real director would have cut stuff out to highlight other stuff, or push the actors towards this or that. The studio has hit auto-pilot here and nobody's actually driving - Howard is a mere temp, overviewing the rig.
Now to be fair, I don't blame him. What could he do? Push it yet another way, perhaps to Disney's dislike? He seems to have been chosen because he won't rock the boat. And a boat is all this is. It doesn't carry much of importance, and it's only headed towards the harbor to sell its merch.
"Episode VII": The Force Awakens