I don’t really think it’s necessary to go through and do a full fledged post for each film in the original Star Wars trilogy. Instead, I’d like to talk about the whole trilogy in one post. I want to give my personal thoughts to what makes these movies so special to me. So to be clear, this isn’t exactly a review of these, but just a post on my own experience with them. I don’t need to go over what’s already been said by everyone else.
These are amazing movies. They changed the way films were made. While ‘Jaws’ created the blockbuster, this defined the blockbuster, and how an entire franchise could be built around it, with sequels, merchandise, cartoons, holiday specialzz?zz. You get the point.
To help me get across these points, I’ve compiled a bunch of questions. Without these, I would probably veer off task as I could honestly talk about Star Wars all day long if I could. A special thank you to my girlfriend for coming up with these questions!
So let’s start.
Which movie of the original trilogy is your favorite and why?
My personal favorite of the original trilogy is ‘Return of the Jedi’. I’m well aware of the flaws that the film has, in that there’s some exposition scenes that might not be necessary now that we have the prequels, and maybe some other things. I hear the complaints about the Ewoks, and that it’s totally unrealistic that they took out all of these stormtroopers with sticks and stones. But I just don’t care. The Ewoks are cute and I love that battle. What totally grasps me with ‘Return of the Jedi’ though, is that it almost feels like the best parts of ‘New Hope’ and ‘Empire’ are mixed together. I’m also a fool for conclusive happy endings, and this movie is the epitome of what a grand finale should be. Growing up, I think I watched this one the most, and I remember seeing the Special Edition in the theater. It’s very close to me for nostalgic reasons, and the confrontation with Vader, Luke, and the Emperor is the key element to why I feel so emotionally invested in this movie.
What is it about the Star Wars movies that makes you love them so much?
I’m a firm believer in a quote that I’ve seen many people say over the years. “You either love Star Wars, or you’ve just never seen Star Wars”. For the original trilogy, this is pretty accurate.
It’s a cultural phenomenon. We all know this. But what is it about these 3 movies that I love so much? What does it all mean to me?
The first time I saw ‘A New Hope’ was when these Special Editions were being released. My father showed me the unaltered cut, but only once. After that, I can vaguely remember watching ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ the next day, and then seeing ‘Return of the Jedi’ in theaters shortly after that. So I was only exposed to the original cuts once. And that didn’t even include ‘Jedi’. Soon after, the VHS set of the Special Editions were released, and these were the tapes that I watched every single day of my life starting at age 4.
Right after seeing all of these movies, I started collecting any merchandise I could get my grubby-toddler hands on. I became just as obsessed with Star Wars action-figures as I was for the movies themselves.
I’d put these movies on, run around acting like Luke Skywalker, and play with my action-figures simultaneously. I even remember before owning a toy lightsaber, I would run around with cardboard tubes from wrapping paper and whack everything in the house.
So basically, I was obsessed. And I still am. But now to a different degree. Instead of action-figures, it’s the Star Wars sub-reddit. Instead of pretending I’m Luke or Vader around the house, I’ll watch ‘The Clone Wars’ on Netflix or the show ‘Rebels’.
I just feel like these are more than just movies when I watch them. There’s just something weird about it that I can’t truly explain. I watch them, I see flaws everywhere, and yet I still love them so much, and always want to re-watch them. I think it’s because there’s such a rich mythology that exists beyond the films, that they give me something that I can think about and discuss endlessly with friends. This is why I can never bring myself to hate the prequels. Even though the acting can get rough and there’s annoying characters, those films opened up more to the mythology that has really come into play with a lot of theories and speculation among fans. We have two television shows, books, comics, video games, and all this stuff that help expand on this to the point where it’s not about just the movies anymore. It’s basically a religion.
What do you like/dislike about the Special Editions?
The Special Editions are the versions I grew up with. I know that there are a lot of fans out there that hate on them. I on the other hand, feel a little bit differently.
Over the years I’ve seen comparisons with how the films looked before all of these alterations, and I have to be honest and say that many of them were done for the better. I love just about everything that was done in ‘Empire’, between adding more footage of the Wampa on Hoth, and having Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor hologram. The addition of background visuals to the Cloud City of Bespin made the universe seem larger, and more grand in scale. This was something the prequels accomplished, and I think it’s good to see that it was touched up on where it could for these older movies.
Some changes that also improved the movies were some effect shots in ‘A New Hope’, with the Falcon and the X-wings. Perhaps my favorite change is the music that now closes out the trilogy. I like the song ‘Yub Nub’. It’s cute and really catchy. But ‘Victory Celebration’ is so much more fitting and the shots of different planets like Naboo, Corusant, and Tattooine showing their celebration of the Empire’s fall is very cool to see.
There’s a lot of changes that I don’t really have an opinion for. I don’t really care who shot first. If George Lucas says that’s how it happened, then I don’t really care. I agree with the overall critique of this Greedo/Han scene, but Han still kills Greedo, and the Blu-Ray edition is actually edited it so they shoot simultaneously. Now it looks like Greedo fires his weapon as a reaction to Han’s shot. So at the end of the day, this is just something I don’t feel the need to waste my breath and complain about.
The Jedi Rocks scene is a bit weird, but I enjoy the song and I don’t find the CGI all that horrendous. It’s a bit dated, but it doesn’t really take me out of the movie.
Hayden Christensen’s Force ghost at the end of ‘Jedi’: Whatever. I don’t care who it is. Fans will make the argument that Anakin was redeemed and was a Jedi as an old man and should have taken the form of his old man self. He was also a burn victim with no arms or legs. This whole thing could go either way, but I think the reason I don’t hate this change is because it just helps the continuity. If it wasn’t Hayden as the ghost, I kind of feel like anyone coming into this series that’s new to it, would have a slight moment of confusion as to who that is. The people that really complain about this one are those who hate the prequels, and we all know I don’t hate them. So this change isn’t something I feel obligated to hate.
The one change I do hate though, is Jabba the Hutt in Episode IV. This is the worst CGI in the world and it truly takes me out of the movie for that one scene. The dialogue is also completely unnecessary as it’s basically the same thing Han and Greedo talked about earlier, but paraphrased.
As these are the versions I grew up with, they are actually my preferred versions. Although, I wouldn’t mind owning both if they decided to release them unaltered on Blu-Ray someday. It’d be cool to watch both. It would remind me of theater, and how nothing is the same each performance when you watch something live. Something different always goes wrong in different spots, while another element shines better in one presentation than it does another. In the end, these types of flaws add to my enjoyment of the series for some reason.
Do you remember your reaction the first time you watched the “I am your father” scene, and found out that Vader is Luke’s father?
For ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, I got to hear the famous words muttered before any parody or something stupid could ruin it for me. I do remember ‘I am your Father’ giving me a sense of shock, and even though the memory is vague, I can honestly say that I got to experience the twist in a decent way. But I can only imagine how epic and shocking that line was for those who got to see it in 1980. I envy those individuals.
Who is your favorite character from the originals?
I think there’s something to love with every character. If I had to pick one, it’d be Luke. I always wanted to be him as a kid. As I’ve gotten older though, I feel like I can relate a lot to Han. He’s a normal guy that is seeing all of this crazy stuff happen. He helps where he can, but he knows he can only do so much, but he always does what is necessary. I think Han is the coolest and most fun character. But Luke on the other hand is an epic character. When you first meet him, he’s honestly pretty lame. Then when he learns that he is destined to become something greater than he could ever have imagined, he gets very interesting. Luke in ‘Return of the Jedi’ is my favorite character because this is the wisest we’ve ever seen him, and he’s no longer there to make careless mistakes. He shows the greatest amount of development in the series and that’s probably the biggest reason he’s my favorite.
Which plotline do you find most compelling?
Like I said previously, with Luke being my favorite character; it’s his Jedi training that I find most compelling. It’s really the backbone of the series, and there’s so much to learn from it.
Speaking of learning: Seeing as you grew up watching the Star Wars movies and have loved them from a very young age, what are some lessons and morals you have that these movies have taught you?
There’s tons. Just thinking about all 6 movies, I think I take something new away from them each time I view them. A big one to take away is that even some of the most evil beings out there can be redeemed. In retrospect, you almost see this coming when you take a character like Han, who is by no means evil, but he is a scoundrel and you’re not so sure if he cares about anything but money. When you see this character flip around and help Luke at the Death Star, it’s just awesome. Then jump forward, you see a truly evil and twisted character like Vader, who is redeemed completely.
One of the big things that Yoda teaches to Luke in ‘Empire’ is for him not to focus on what could happen in the future. He urges him to stay and train, but Luke resists because he wants to rescue his friends before he is even ready to do so. He leaves to help his friends, but sure enough, he failed. Han was taken into custody by the bounty hunter, and Luke got his hand chopped off.
This is definitely something that I feel applies to me, and should apply to everyone too. I’ve always been one to kind of go with the flow a little bit more than worry too much about what’s to come. I much prefer to focus on the present. This is because I’ve known people that seem way too focused on where they want to be in 3-5 years, and meanwhile they don’t even see that there are aspects of their life right at this moment that are causing them stress. Things that could easily be changed if they weren’t so burnt out on managing a life that isn’t even in motion yet. I myself have fallen in this trap before, focusing on what I want so much that when it doesn’t happen, I’m a wreck and feel lost.
I guess this lesson Yoda teaches is a bit hard for me to explain, but at least it’s something that I understand and try to apply in my own way of life. I’ve just found that my happiness has always come to me through patience, and not having too many expectations. It’s good to have ambitions for yourself, but it’s not good to let them define who you are, because in reality, these things haven’t happened to you yet. I consider myself to be very happy and content with my life at the present moment, and I think that’s all to do with the fact that I didn’t let my ambitions come between me and the other things that I found along the way.
How does the fantastic score by John Williams contribute to the movies for you?
If I could choose a film score that plays over my every day life, it would be this one. And that’s kind of already a thing. I listen to this music constantly.
As far as contribution to the movies, I think without it, these movies would be completely different. The correct emotions that you’re supposed to feel when watching these films are all heavily complemented by this music. If it wasn’t there, these movies would probably suck. I think this is a big case where the film score has an equal importance to the visuals, story, and script.
Do you think Vader is the ultimate villain?
Yes. I remember the first time seeing ‘A New Hope’ and being so scared of his figure and his breathing that I ran over to my Mom for comfort. As a 3 or 4 year old he really scared the living crap out of me.
Now I view him more as a tragic hero, which also lends himself to being a great villain. Even knowing that somewhere underneath that suit is a good person, actually makes him more haunting. He’s definitely one of the greatest characters ever put to screen.
Favorite scene of the three movies?
Luke just letting loose on Vader, knocking him down, and Vader raising his hand up for mercy. This whole scene is so powerful, with the music and just showing all of the emotion coming from both sides. Then after realizing he just used his hatred to defeat his own father, Luke then resists to fight any more. His father then sees that his own son would rather resist and die, than go down the same dark path as his father did. Vader takes this to heart, turns back into Anakin Skywalker , and becomes the hero.
‘A New Hope’, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, and ‘Return of the Jedi’ all get an A+.
Do they have flaws from a filmmaking perspective? Yeah sure, maybe they do. But what matters is what they mean on a personal level. These are the most important works of art that I’ve seen in my life, and for that reason alone, they are perfect to me.
And finally, I have great news to leave you with. The Force Awakens opens this week. That is all.