Attack of the Clones (2002)
The Phantom Menace wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination but at least we knew there were two more prequel movies to come which could redeem it. Sadly, the next movie was even worse.
Anakin Skywalker was once a noble, heroic Jedi and best friend to Obi Wan Kenobi. At least that’s the picture painted by the original trilogy. His portrayal here is so mind-numbingly unbearable that it is beyond belief. He spends vast chunks of the film whining like a little brat, arguing with Obi Wan Kenobi, and creepily lusting after Natalie Portman. Anakin is completely unlikeable from the start, which is a problem as we are supposed to be engaged with character as he goes on his journey from good to evil. It is hard to care for the character arc.
George Lucas clearly got too excited by new technology as he completely drowns the movie with video game-like, cartoonish CGI at every available opportunity. There’s so much, like at the god-awful droid factory, that it sadly feels like a completely different galaxy from the original trilogy.
The dialogue is clunkier than Iron Man’s suit and the pacing of the story is painfully slow. There’s even more origin stories because we just have to know the origins of everybody in the universe. Seriously, it’s a surprise we’ve not met Yoda’s mum and dad yet. We also have the outstanding candidate for worst lightsabre duel of the entire saga. Seriously, those close up shots are terrible. Positives?
The Phantom Menace (1999)
Trade Federations. Trade negotiations. Chancellors. Blockades. Midi-Chlorians. Jake "Are you an angel?" Lloyd. Jar Jar freaking Binks.
It’s hard to think of too many movies where the hype and excitement was just so enormous, only for the movie to be an utter letdown. And it was indeed a huge disappointment. It doesn’t help matters at all when the plot is just so mind-numbingly boring. Who gives a damn about trade federations and taxation routes? The execution of the plot is terrible as well. The whole film just seems to be talking, talking, then walking, then back to talking.
There’s a whole bunch of unbearable characters thrown in too. It says a ton about the film when Jake Lloyd, the annoying Turbo Man-obsessed kid from Jingle All The Way, isn’t even the worst thing here. Natalie Portman shows just about as much facial expression as a block of wood and Jar Jar Binks makes your skin crawl in attempts to be funny.
There are at least a few glimmers of light here though. Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson put in good shifts as the two leading Jedi (it’s just a shame the script and story sucked) and Darth Maul is a vastly skilled, intriguing villain who should’ve lasted longer than one movie. The climactic lightsabre duel and John Williams’ Duel of the Fates score is both undoubtedly thrilling and excellently choreographed. Obi Wan throwing his rage at Darth Maul after Qui Gon Jinn is cut down is a perfect moment. And at least there were some attempts to create real movie sets here unlike the cartoonish feel of the other two prequels.
Generally speaking though, this movie is a massive bore fest with a few good moments sprinkled here and there.
Revenge Of The Sith (2005)
Nooooooo. Darth Vader’s back. Well, sort of.
The moment fans had been waiting for arrived in 2005, we got to finally see the transformation of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader. It’s just a shame the previous two movies were such steaming turds. This movie is a significant improvement upon the previous two prequels. Despite many flaws, there’re generally more positives to be had here.
The opening sequence is thrilling, capturing an amazing multi-layered space battle. The film then becomes overly long and falls into CGI ridiculousness. The climactic fight between Anakin and Obi Wan is spectacular but way too long and once again falls into heavy CGI territory. General Grievous feels shoehorned in to merely sell toys. The chase sequence between him and Obi Wan with the giant lizard sends shivers down the spine. Bad shivers. Candidate for second worst lightsabre duel comes with the unveiling of the Emperor and his constipated expressions.
The arc of Anakin over three movies was to see him transform gradually from good guy to the embodiment of evil, yet here that happens at the flick of a light switch. One second he’s truly tormented, the next he’s slaughtering young children in the Jedi Temple. The name Vader is just given to him willy-nilly by the Emperor, as if he just made it up on the spot. Yeah we’ll call you Darth, erm, Vader. It’s lazy George, really lazy. There’ve been three movies to tell this story and it all just feels so rushed which is a shame.
However, Ewan McGregor is again a worthy Obi Wan and his reaction to a burning Anakin is a frustrating reminder of what this movie could’ve been. Yes, it’s good to see Vader back on the big screen but did his first words really have to be about Padme? And that prolonged no is about one of the most clichéd movie tropes ever. Again, it’s just frustratingly lazy writing. Please Disney, can you remake these movies?
Rogue One (2016)
To the good movies! The first of a series of anthology movies saw the rebels launch a mission to retrieve the plans for the first Death Star, and it was an absolute blast. The second of Disney’s two movies since acquiring the franchise from George Lucas gave fans a good old fashioned against-the-odds adventure movie paying a good degree of fan service to the original movies.
The middle of the movie does suffer slightly from a few pacing issues but the final act is truly a spectacle to behold as rebel soldiers clash with Imperial forces. The sight of those AT-AT walkers trampling through a tropical beach setting is quite simply a beautiful sight and the battle in space is amazing. This is heightened further by a few excellently integrated stock footage cameos of some of our old favourite rebel pilots.
Vader’s back again and, while we have to wait a while for him to show up, it’s completely worth it. He’s menacing, merciless, and even finds the time to dish out a classic one liner as he ruthlessly chokes Director Krennic in his volcanic lair. That corridor scene at the very end has to rank as one of his greatest moments too. Overall, the movie is a great time and a worthy addition to the saga.
The Force Awakens (2015)
The Force Awakens was a tremendous success, both critically and financially. It has gone on to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time. And it’s no surprise. Gone were the boring politics, depressingly wooden dialogue, and cartoon CGI backgrounds. Returning to the franchise was the sense of adventure, compelling villains, and, alongside returning favourites like Han Solo and Princess Leia, new loveable heroes.
The movie sure looks stunning. A purposeful use of practical effects, specifically in reference to alien creature design, paid an affectionate homage to the original trilogy whilst action sequences were complimented perfectly by impressive CGI. Han and Chewie resurrected that perfect chemistry and there was genuine fun to be had as they accompanied Rey and Finn throughout a new adventure.
Of course, there came a defining moment in the saga with the emotional death of Han Solo at the hands of his son, Kylo Ren. This was followed by a fitting climax featuring a spectacularly lit lightsabre duel in the snow. Those red and blue blades casting their shimmer upon the snow and the sparks from trees as branches were hacked in half were very nice touches. It’s the small things in this one that makes it work.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
This is seen by many as the weakest of the original trilogy. While it does have some flaws, Return of the Jedi is nevertheless an extremely entertaining movie and boasts some of the best scenes in the saga. The opening rescue mission to Jabba’s palace provides some truly innovative imagination in regards to creature design, particularly with the despicable Jabba the Hutt and his pet Rancor. It’s a joy to behold Luke Skywalker at the peak of his power as he hacks his way through Jabba’s henchmen.
There’s some highly emotional scenes to behold also. The death of Yoda signifies Luke as the last remaining Jedi whilst the final duel between Luke and Vader, and the latter’s ultimate redemption, manages to pull the heartstrings as father fights son against the backdrop of a three-tiered epic climax. We witness the battle on Endor, the battle in space, and Luke vs Vader all happening simultaneously. In a true testament to the success of the climax of this film, the template is repeated in subsequent movies, including The Phantom Menace and Rogue One.
The flaws? The incorporation of some CGI singers at Jabba’s palace are indescribably horrible and unnecessary. Hayden’s Christensen’s force ghost still pulls that awkwardly creepy expression instead of a warm smile. Seriously, it’s hard to fathom what’s going on inside Lucas’ mind sometimes. And let’s not forget the opinion-dividing Ewoks who manage to defeat a legion of the Emperor’s best troops. Hmm.
A New Hope (1977)
A true defining moment in the history of cinema came in 1977 with Star Wars. This is a true cinematic masterpiece that spawned not only an entire franchise but a template of filmmaking that still inspires today. Just take a look at The Force Awakens, it is seen by many as a loose remake of A New Hope.
It’s possibly one of, if not the, most quoted movies of all time featuring a host of unforgettable characters and classic scenes. For instance, the introduction of Han Solo just oozes cool as he swiftly dispatches the ugly Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina before tossing a coin to the bartender in apology. The man just sweats charisma. Speaking of which, for the low budget this film had at its disposal, there’s some beautiful creature design and world building going on here. the cantina is crammed full of vastly different, imaginatively designed creatures and aliens speaking different languages and going about their business. It truly is a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing provide a touch of class to the proceedings and the late Carrie Fisher is unforgettable as the feisty Princess Leia. Yet more classic quotes litter the movie before an exciting climax featuring the unforgettable trench run as the X-Wings tackle the Death Star. Every which way you look at it, the movie’s an absolute classic in every sense of the word. 6 Oscars don’t lie.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Yoda. Dagobah. Hoth. AT-ATs. Boba Fett. Vader. Lando. I am your father.
Speaking of classics, The Empire Strikes Back represents not only the best Star Wars movie but one of the greatest movies ever made. Visually stunning, emotionally engaging, and featuring possibly the most iconic movie quote ever, this entry is a complete masterpiece of filmmaking from start to finish.
Vader is at the peak of his evil ways here as he chokes his way through about half of the Empire’s commanders, tortures Han Solo without even asking any questions, and brutally hands Luke his own ass, or hand, as they duel in Cloud City. He’s a scheming, ruthless force of nature and nothing’s going to stop him achieving his plans. Not even a highly dangerous asteroid field. Speaking of which, that score by John Williams as the Millenium Falcon weaves in and out of the asteroids is truly incredible.
There’s classic characters galore. It’s here we see our first glimpse of the Emperor, a larger role for Boba Fett, and the introduction of the scoundrel Lando Calrissian who remains as slippery as a bar of soap. Yoda’s also at his best here, portrayed by some stunning puppetry by Frank Oz as, testing Luke at first with his unpredictable behaviour. He comes to teach Luke and the audience the ways of the Force. Of all the Star Wars movies George Lucas revisited for his special editions, Empire was the least altered of the three. There’s a reason why.