Cool Papa E Reviews Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episode I-VI)

star-wars-series

Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) 1977-2011

Nobody really needs to review this series. It is, for better or worse, part of the world lexicon of enduring stories. How this evolved from the story of Luke and his friends to eventually just the downfall and reacquired mojo of Anakin has filled many books, often more effectively than the movies themselves did. In truth, there are really only two superior films in the George Lucas era of Star Wars. The rest, while great to look at, is a measure of the tragedy of story-boarding over storytelling.

Thing about it is, those first two films are so good, a thousand ships of dreams have been launched by those in pursuit of the magic that they promise. Unfortunately, in the cinematic world we are boxed in a harbor. The Force Awakens is a prime example of another ship that ends up in familiar waters. It feels great, but there is nothing new aside from 3 humans and a delightful robot. Who’s counting more than me, though, that the next ship, Rogue One, will be far enough into this wonderful world for us to anchor for a while and dream about our next move into dreamland.

What I will do here will amount to more a list than anything. There will be a basic review and a best of and worst of for several facets of each film. I am kind of making it up as I go along, but I am sure this will be no worse than the script for Attack of the Clones.

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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Written and Directed by George Lucas
Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Ahmed Best

Best Line

Daultay Dofine: This scheme of yours has failed, Lord Sidious. The blockades is finished. We dare not go against the Jedi.
Darth Sidious: Viceroy, I don’t want this stunted slime in my sight again!

Worst Line

Jar-Jar Binks: Count me outa this one. Better dead here than dead at the core. Ye Gods! What is mesa sayin’?

Best Scene

Any of the fight scenes between Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon.  Too bad they are split up with crap like “My give up.”

Worst Scene

I feel so bad for Ahmed Best. He is given a thankless, poorly conceived and even worse written role. His character gets in the way of so many scenes, he seems even to be a source of irritation for the ever calm Jedi. I would say his queries to Amidala when they are at Coruscant are a perfect example of this.She’s busy pondering their planet’s very existence while being manipulated by Palpatine and all he’s allowed to say is “Yousa thinking yousa people ganna die?” No wonder she never looks at him.

Best Effects

The film is pristine. Everything except for eye contact with the digital characters is worthy of praise. Naboo and Coruscant have joined Tatooine as places we all feel we have been. Nothing matches the sheen on the Naboo cruisers sleeking through space or the vibrant sheen of a lightsaber in the the rest of the cinematic universe.

Worst Effects

The afore-mentioned eye placement for digital characters is severely off-putting. Seeing the Jedi stare absently at Jar Jar is a touchtone to every bad effects decision that follows in the prequels.

Biggest Win

The one on two matchup of Sith vs. Jedi was a daunting decision that made everyone realize these Sith are for real and they are dangerous as hell.

Biggest Mistake

Too bad they ended that duel making Maul look stupidly on as a defenseless Obi-Wan jumps over him and then slices him open. Killing off good bad guys early and making them look like doofs is a Star Wars tradition, though.

Review in 50 words or less

This film is the beginning of a lengthy series of misadventures that have Lucas continually following his whims (Jar Jar, Pod Racing, green screen) without giving a strong story to back it up. The fault lies with hiring a bunch of talented digital artists, but no real story tellers.

Rating / Rank (*** out of *****) / 4 of 6

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

Directed by George Lucas
Written by Lucas and Jonathan Hales
Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Temeura Morrison, Jimmy Smits

Best Line 

Obi-Wan: I was beginning to wonder if you’d got my message.
Anakin: I retransmitted it to Coruscant, just as you’d requested, Master. Then we decided to come and rescue you.
Obi-Wan: [looks at his handcuffed hands] Good job.

Worst Line

Padme: Please don’t look at me like that.
Anakin: Why not?
Padme: Because it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Anakin: Sorry milady.

Best Scene

Gotta go with two here, because the pickings are so slim. #1 is Windu’s dispatching of Jango Fett. Even if it is yet another early exit for a bad guy, it makes Sam Jackson look as cool as we all know he is. #2 is the space fight between the Fetts and Obi-Wan in the planet ring. It’s the best space battle in the prequels.

Worst Scene

Everything else. Everything.

Best Effects

There are so few decent aspects to this film, it’s not hard to define. The spaceship that Dooku / Tyranus flies from Geonosis to Coruscant is not only wonderfully conceived, but it is very cool to look at.

Worst Effects

Could be just the clones.  They all look painted onto the screen. It never looks like they are actual humans, or breathing beings at all. The gladiator stadium is ill conceived and even more poorly executed. Dexter is horrible too. Sure, they make the table move when he sits, but his there is no sound when he makes contact with the table afterword. Kamino looks like a latter day Elizabeth Taylor perfume commercial; beautiful and unreal.

Biggest Win

We all win when Mace is allowed to kick ass.

Biggest Mistake

Digital filming was the concentration for this movie, and there was increasingly little thought given to the story. Lucas pieced it together in a few weeks and then gave Hale about a half-week to clean it up.

Review in 50 words or less

Not only the worst Star Wars film, but one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The script is deplorable and the poor acting encouraged by Lucas’ inability to communicate makes it worse. Saddest of all is the movie looks more like a cartoon than anything.

Rating / Rank (1/2* out of *****) / 6 of 6

palpatineskywalker

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

Written and Directed by George Lucas
Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Temeura Morrison, Jimmy Smits

Best Line

Supreme Chancellor: I know what’s been troubling you. Listen to me. Don’t continue to a be a pawn of the Jedi Council! Ever since I’ve known you, you have been seeking a life of great significance, far more than any Jedi.
[turns his back on Anakin]
Supreme Chancellor: Are you going to kill me?
Anakin Skywalker: I would certainly like to!
Supreme Chancellor: I know you would. I can feel your anger. It give you focus… makes you stronger.

Worst Line

Padmé: Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo; so long ago when there was nothing but our love. No politics, no plotting, no war.

Best Scene

I’m going to go with Obi-Wan dropping in on Grievous and his army. The winsome smile is a reminder of why this guy was picked to play a young Alec Guinness.

Worst Scene

Jedi Youngling: [a group of younglings are discovered by Anakin] Master Skywalker. There are too many of them. What are we going to do?
[with a cold, emotionless face, Anakin draws his lightsaber]

Best Effects

Everything looks pretty good this time around. A much better color palette and much clearer look to everything. The most cohesive mix of effects and scene go to the seduction of Skywalker by Palpatine at the Opera. That is the lasting image in my mind for this film. 2nd would be Windu vs. Sidious.

Worst Effects

The clones still look pretty damn bad, but the continual scenes of characters walking together in front of a blue screen will be remembered as a goofy descendant of the Scooby Doo scrolling background. The fight on Mustafar fails whenever the two Jedi start hovering on a variety of objects.

Biggest Win

The best thing about this film is easy: McDiarmid’s Palpatine. His performance is a standout in the series. Really, if one can remove him from the rest of the prequel trilogy, his performance is nearly award worthy. His look of actual lust for power is made all the more rewarding when one considers the fact that it takes him so long in movie years to get that for which his is plotting. His lines all roll off the tongue and none of them have the stench of Lucas’ middle school playtime prose.

Biggest Mistake

Having Padme die of heartbreak is lame as hell. George had years to think of something with which to kill her, and we get that?

Review in 50 words or less

It’s the film that is the most concise, if for no other reason than Lucas is backed into a corner and can only move forward. It is still a tremendously flawed film, but at least with the over-reliance on Palpatine we get to see some real Machiavellian shit go down.

Rating / Rank (*** out of *****) / 3 0f 6

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Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977 originally – 2011 version)

Written and Directed by George Lucas
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Best Line

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

STAR
WARS

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…

These words changed a lot of lives for the better.

Worst Line

Han Solo: Jabba, you’re a wonderful human being.

Only if you leave all of the dialogue in from that redundant conversation and wholly unnecessary added scene. Jabba was a fat guy in the original deleted scene.

Best Scene

Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader. My friends and I have replayed this scene a hundred times or more in our back yards growing up. That it was decided during a later draft shows the power that collective writing had back in the early days for Lucas.

Worst Scene

In any post 1997 version, its the addition of Jabba. It slows the film down with repeated and confusing dialogue, and makes Han look like he repeats himself like a daft man.”Han shot first” and the flying robot teasing thebigger one and getting hit also rate quite high.

Best Effects

It has to be the opening 10 minutes. Vader’s entrance onto the hapless ship filled with old guys who couldn’t shoot straight. This is one of the few firefights the Stormtroopers win, even if they all miss the droids.

Worst Effects

Why George ever thought to mess with the classic “Han shot first” scene will be subject to debate until shortly after Lucas is dead, and then will be restored by Disney.  Any version but the 1977 cut makes no sense, no matter how the director tries to explain it away. Do you want Greedo to be an inept bounty hunter?  Do you want Han to lose his ambiguity? Do you want to suck the charm out of the movie? If so, then any version post 1997 is for you.

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Han stepping over Jabba is a very close second, even if they worked on that 1000 hours and made it better than 1997, it still sucks.
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Biggest Win

Everyone who ever liked movies wins with this film. The crappy alterations cannot change the history that was made when Star Wars was first released. Everything good and some bad about movies stems from May 25, 1977 in Mann’s Chinese Theatre.

Biggest Mistake

The post 1997 edits take this film down a notch. It’s still a classic, but it’s got a few dings since then.

Review in 50 words or less

It’s hard to quantify how important this movie is to people. The original release is the most important movie I have ever witnessed. Without this film, I would not be obsessed with movies now. They could replace the edits with stills of Dom Deluise and I would still happily watch.

Rating / Rank (***** for original and ****1/2 out of ***** for post 1997) / Both are 2/6 

Iamyourfather

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Directed by Irvin Kirshner
Written by George Lucas, Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz

Best Line

I sincerely think this whole script qualifies for best line. There are too many great lines and as far as I can see, only one bad one. The two best though, have to be as follows:

Princess Leia: I love you.
Han Solo: I know.

And

Darth Vader: There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you.
[pauses]
Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.
Luke: I’ll never join you!
Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
Luke: No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!
Darth Vader: Search your feelings, you know it to be true!
Luke: [anguished] No! No!

Worst Line

General Reiken [to Han Solo]: A death mark’s not an easy thing to live with.

Best Scene

Again, there are so many iconic moments in this film. I have to narrow it down to Luke learning the truth and Han, Leia and Chewie’s surprise betrayal.

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Worst Scene

I have to nitpick here, because I really think there no obviously bad scenes. Seeing Luke blindly swatting at large things obviously lumbering towards him in his Cloud City battle with Vader makes him look like he would need training to beat a fat guy blue belt Jiu Jitsu who got his stripes fighting small kids.

Best Effects

Everything bursts off of the screen beautifully. The space flight of the Millennium Falcon takes the prize though. Inventive, crisp and smooth at once.

Worst Effects

Again, this is quibbling, but it has always felt like the Wampa was just one big giant arm on a stick swung by a stage hand.

Biggest Win

George Lucas owes his entire empire to the images and character possessed within this film. Everything started with A New Hope, but this is the film that cements Star Wars into the world’s psyche.

Biggest Mistake

Letting go of Kirshner and Kurtz. There has not been as good a Star Wars film by a long shot since these two were shown the door.

Review in less than 50 words

This is one of the greatest films of all time. It is the fount of imagination that springs forth for so many. Lucas deciding to make Vader Luke’s father and Leia falling for Han is storytelling at it’s peak. This is the lynch pin for all that follows.

Rating / Rank (***** out of *****) / 1 of 6

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Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Directed by Richard Marquand
Written by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan
Starring  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz, James Earl Jones

Best Line 

Admiral Ackbar: It’s a trap!

Worst Line

Good God they turn Solo into an absolute moron in Return of the Jedi. Everything he does is beyond annoying. If it weren’t for the Ewoks, he’d take the prize for worst thing about the film. I don’t know if it was a misread of the character they’d created or if George was mad that Ford wanted to be killed off. Or if it is an indication that Lucas’ creative vision was clouded by personal problems. Whatever happened, they get a head start at ruining the franchise before they even land on Endor.

Han Solo: Chewie and I’ll take care of this, you stay here.
Luke: Quietly. There may be more of them out there.
Han Solo: Hey, it’s me.

Best Scene

This film has not aged well. Scenes that are good are often tied to scenes that are just absurd. The fight on Jabba’s sail barge is the best example of this. While Leia is kicking some ass and killing the big slug, Han is blindly knocking Boba Fett into the Sarlacc pit, in what is the first of a long line of stupid bad guy demises. Still, this is the best moment for women in the entire series prior to Rey’s arrival in Episode VII.

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Worst Scene

Many to choose from here. The afore mentioned end of Boba Fett ranks high, but it’s nowhere near the assault to the senses that are the Ewoks. They have many a horrible scene, but nothing quite so bad as their attack on the heavily armored Storm Troopers with sticks and trees.

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Best Effects

The speeder bike race was cool at the time, and it still has some resonance. Not as much as the space battle over Endor though. Many good moments and exceptional editing win the day here.

Worst Effects

There are a few grainy scenes, like the Rebel planning room for the attack on the second Death Star, that have not improved even in the reissues. There are some updates that work, like the new song at Jabba’s palace, even if you can tell the cartoon figures from the real. I hate seeing Hayden Christensen standing next to Yoda and Ben in the end.

However, everything the Ewoks do look like little people in a loose fitting suit. They should have stuck to the original plan and just made a few more Wookie outfits.

Biggest Win

Initial Marketing and box office win the day. This movie was a tremendous hit at the time. It made a ton of money in its initial release.

Biggest Mistake

Long term. Return of the Jedi has no shelf life. The toys from the film stopped selling, especially when Lucas said he wasn’t going to be making any more. No one I have ever met owned an Ewok play figure of any kind.

Review in 50 words or less

Sorry folks, this one is a turd. The good is even with the bad here. The good on one side being most of the first act, the showdown with the Emporer and the space battle. The bad is most everything else. It completes the trilogy with a thud.

Rating / Rank 

(**1/2 out of *****) / 5 of 6

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