Beginners Guide to Star Wars

Dominic Narcissi, Staff Reporter

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In all of the 120 years since the first movie was ever made, no franchise has ever made as big of a cultural impact on the entire world as much as Star Wars. Back when Star Wars (better known today as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was first in production, no one thought it would succeed, not even the actors or director for that matter. The producers gave almost all of the rights to the genius behind it all, George Lucas, a big indicator of the skepticism of its success. That was a decision they indubitably regret today. Once the first Star Wars was released in theatres, it almost instantly became a worldwide hit. Within a very short period of time, it became the second highest grossing film at that time, second only to Gone With the Wind. The franchise has grossed billions of dollars in the movies and the thousands of types of merchandise released. This is one of the miniscule number of films that the majority of nearly any room can say that they have seen. Yet, despite the franchise’s massive scope, some have not seen all or any of the films. With the new Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens only months away, now is the best time to familiarize oneself with the franchise.

Of course, many can describe the characters and some of the plot points regardless of seeing the films, but not everything can be picked up in this manner. If you happen to be one of those who has yet to see the films, this is the article for you. A big question you should be asking yourself is “Where do I start?” Episodes four through six, otherwise known as the “Original Trilogy” were released first, but episodes one through three, “The Prequels,” describe the events leading to the original trilogy. It’s very confusing, but there is a simple order of viewing known as “The Machete Order” that is considered the optimum first time viewing experience. The order goes as follows: Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Episode II: Attack of the Clones,Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. You may notice that Episode I: The Phantom Menace is absent from this list. That is because the film provides nothing valuable to the lore of the franchise that isn’t established or reasserted in episode two. Episode one is still worth watching, but is considered an optional film to be seen in between Episode five and two. So, without the Roman numerals, the optimum viewing experience is by watching in this order: 4 – 5 – 1(optional) – 2 – 3 – 6. This order is intended to avoid spoilers given from the prequels and add interesting story arcs (such as Luke potentially turning to the dark side during episode VI). Now, many may have heard that some of the films, particularly the prequels, are lesser quality films and you may be curious to see which of films are worth watching based on quality alone. If that is the case, look below to see brief review on each. I, a Star Wars fan since childhood, re-watched all of the films in the most objective fashion that I could manage in order to bring the least biased assumption I could offer. To avoid confusion they will be presented in chronological order.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

            Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is often considered the worst of the bunch, and, sadly, it is very easy to agree with this statement. Starring Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jin, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenoboi, Natalie Portman as Padme Amadala, the film tells the story of a corrupted democracy, the uprising of an evil threat, and the meeting of Anakin Skywalker (whose identity is that of a familiar character in the original trilogy). Many will chalk up the hatred for this film to the over excitement and high expectations of diehard fans, but, in truth, the movie is a little flat. It’s not AS bad as people claim it to be, but the acting is pretty unbearable, there are a couple of plot holes, the characters are either annoying or boring, and the computer graphics are a little dated. Some elements of the film, such as the inclusion of Jar Jar Binx and the prominence of a certain child actor, make the movie appear to be intended for children. That all might make the movie sound horrible, however, it does have some redeeming qualities. The best thing to come out of the film is undoubtedly the soundtrack. Some may even claim that it is superior to the original series. The ending itself is pretty entertaining, but it remains unfocused, jumping between four separate stories all at once. In short, the movie is a little boring and the cons definitely outweigh the pros, but there are enough small entertaining moments to make it worth another viewing.

Final Rating: 6/10.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Episode II: Attack of the Clones is definitely a step above its disappointing predecessor. Featuring the new characters such as the older Anakin played by Hayden Christensen, Count Dooku by the renowned Christopher Lee, and Jango Fett (who is arguably a better character than the more iconic Boba Fett) by Temuera Morrisonb just to name a few. Compared to The Phantom Menace Attack of the Clones is significantly more captivating. It tells the story of the “Clone Wars” briefly mentioned in episode four all while further developing the characters and the overarching plots leading to Episode III. The soundtrack is just as good as its predecessor as well. Nevertheless, the film still has some glaring flaws. The biggest of all are the acting and the over use of CGI. Some of the actors, such as Christopher Lee and Ewan McGregor, give some very powerful performances, while others, such as Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, are very cheesy. In fact, the romance scenes between the two which plague the movie are practically all unnecessary and unbearably corny. And, in contrast to these scenes, are the massive battles which are, typically for this time, almost entirely computer generated. This may lose some who are appreciative of the original trilogy’s clever uses of practical special effects, but most can find the scenes passable. The action and fights are good, but just not as good as they could have been.

Final Rating: 7/10

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

            Talk about underrated movies. Revenge of the Sith is often ignored and considered trash by association with its predecessors, but in fact it is one of the best Star Wars films and a great film in general. Now all the tedious and boring plot points of the prior two films come together to give the world one of the, if not the, darkest Star Wars movie. Massive amounts of character development take place all while connections to the original trilogy are finally being properly established. The fight scenes are superb and filled to the brim with emotion. During these scenes some of the best performances can be found. Just look at the climactic fight between Anakin and Obi Wan. The soundtrack is arguably the best in the franchise, the perfect amount of emotion and darkness are present, and the acting is greatly improved. Ian McDiarmid steals the show as Chancellor Palpatine. He has been one of the best actors in the entire trilogy, but this film is the one in which he shines the most. There are some minor negatives however. The dialogue can be a little cheesy at times, but not to the extent of the prior films. The fight scenes can also drag on a bit longer than needed, but they’re visually appealing all the same. Lastly, the character of General Grievous really didn’t need to be included and really only serves as a cool toy design. In general, this is the best of the prequel films and definitely worth the title of Star Wars.

Final Rating: 8/10

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

The one that started it all. One may think that, having been released in the late seventies, the film wouldn’t hold up today. In that regard they would be wrong. Everything from the special effects to the story and characters are timeless. The greatest feature of all, however, would be how in depth and immersing the universe is that Lucas creates. The story goes as follows: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) lives on a planet on the outskirts of the galactic empire and desires to fight their oppressive rule in the alliance known as “the Rebellion.” Once his guardians are killed by Storm troopers looking for the droids they recently acquired, Luke sets out with Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), C3P0 ( Anthony Daniels), R2D2 (Kenny Baker), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) in hopes of saving Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) to stop the empire. Of Course, all of the characters are extremely iconic, especially Darth Vader who, despite only eight minutes of screen time, creates a commanding presence that remains throughout the entire movie. Some of the dialogue and acting are a little cheesy and the film’s start is a little bit slow, but the movie still manages to be highly entertaining.

Final Rating: 9/10

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

            This time directed not by George Lucas, but rather Irvin Kirshner, Empire is often considered the best of the Star Wars films. It has a much darker tone than its predecessor, it introduced new characters and worlds such as Boba Fett, Lando Carlissian , and Yoda and the planets Hoth and Dagobah. The acting and dialogue are both improved in this film as well. The part that sets this film above the rest is the incredible twist near the end. Almost anyone could tell you it despite not seeing the film. That is the greatest example of its significance and shock. The only real negative to the film is that everyone already knows the twist. Otherwise, it’s another superb film, slightly above the ranking of its prior installment.

Final Rating: 9.2/10

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Directed by Richard Marquand and written by George Lucas, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is another great installment in the franchise, but it is by no means the best in the original trilogy. As iconic and stunning as parts of the film may be, there is a hefty portion dedicated to the fluffy, slapstick Ewoks, indicating the appeal to children the franchise was beginning to focus on. The tone is much lighter the Empire, and only really approaches darkness in the final confrontation between Vader and Luke. The start is a little slow again and the film is very much designed for children’s viewing, but maintains the same entertaining quality as the IV and V. There’s not much to say other than that without spoiling the film.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

And those are the brief reviews of the all the films in the franchise. Each does something better than the others and are all definitely worth watching, but they vary in quality. That’s all for now, happy watching.

 

 

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