Star Wars Recap

On a whim, I decided to do a re-cap of the entire ‘Star Wars’ series, covering every theatrical film from the original to Solo, plus the Holiday Special and, as a fun bonus, Phineas and Ferb Star Wars. Below are links to the series in its entirety.

-Thoughts on ‘Star Wars’
-This may be a controversial opinion, but it’s a really, really good film: just a very enjoyable, action-packed adventure, bursting with creativity. You could, and I’m sure many do, give a whole course on storytelling just from this one film. The opening scene alone is a brilliant piece of visual exposition, letting us know at once who are the good guys, who the bad guys, and how badly the good guys are out-gunned, all without a single line of dialogue.

-Thoughts on ‘The Holiday Special’
The actual writers, I can only imagine (and at least one has confirmed), were all higher than satellites, to judge by the results. Among other things, we have about a quarter of an hour of Chewbacca’s family, done entirely in Wookie language. So, those growling noises Chewie makes? About half the special is done in that, without subtitles (this, apparently, was entirely Lucas’s idea). Then there’s the softcore porn film starring Diahann Carrol that Itchy gets from Art Carney. Believe me, I wish I could make up something as crazy as that.

-Thoughts on ‘The Empire Strikes Back’
-‘Empire Strikes Back’ is generally regarded as the best of the ‘Star Wars’ films, and for good reason. This is where the fun space adventure of the original film becomes something grander: something epic, yet without losing the adventure and excitement of the original.

-Thoughts on ‘Return of the Jedi’
-What started out as a simple fantasy adventure in space with ‘Star Wars’ was turned into an epic by ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ ‘Return of the Jedi’ faced the daunting task of bringing the whole thing to a satisfying conclusion. For my money, they succeeded spectacularly, though not without a small, but noticeable dip in quality from the previous film.

-Thoughts on ‘The Phantom Menace’
-I’m not going to pick on Lucas much, because God knows he’s been put through the wringer enough for his terrible writing choices. He badly needed a co-writer or a script doctor on this film: the plot is confusing and painfully contrived, the dialogue is often horrendous, and that’s not even getting to the acting or staging.

-Thoughts on ‘Attack of the Clones
-It is in no way a good film, in fact it’s arguably worse on a purely structural level than ‘Phantom Menace,’ but for my part I enjoyed it considerably more than I did the previous film. Or at least, I found there to be more good parts to ‘Attack of the Clones’ than I did ‘Phantom Menace,’ though at the same time the lows of this film are worse than anything in its predecessor.

-Thoughts on ‘Revenge of the Sith’
-It’s still clunky at times and there are still stretches of terrible dialogue, but the storytelling is much stronger than the previous two, and despite its poor foundations the film actually manages to be remarkably solid and carries real emotional weight.

-Thoughts on ‘The Force Awakens’
-The filmmakers put absolutely no effort into establishing this scenario: they simply declared that it was so because they wanted to recreate the ‘Rebel-Empire’ dynamic and didn’t care that it essentially violates the ending of ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Now, you could get to that point again, or recreate the dynamic without gutting the established canon, but that would have required a modicum of imagination, so instead they arbitrarily declare that there’s a new Empire and new Rebellion, only this time they’re called ‘the First Order’ (that’s a stupid name, by the way) and the ‘Resistance,’ and oh, yeah, the Republic is in there too somewhere, at least until we get the chance to take it out so we don’t have to deal with it.

-Thoughts on ‘Rogue One’
-In the end, the film is nothing like the disaster that ‘The Force Awakens’ was, but it is rough and very uneven. The parts that work really work and the parts that don’t really don’t. But the good will on the part of the filmmakers, especially Gareth Edwards, is palpable, which puts it in stark contrast with the previous film. 

-Thoughts on ‘The Last Jedi’
-‘The Last Jedi’ is not just the worst Star Wars film by a considerable margin, but it’s one of the worst Hollywood films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s amazingly bad: bad to a degree that is hard to believe for such a major film.

-Thoughts on ‘Solo’
-Well, the good news is that Solo is immensely better than the abomination that was ‘The Last Jedi.’ The bad news is, that still leaves it plenty of room be be pretty darn bad.

-Thoughts on ‘Phineas and Ferb Star Wars’
-The first thing to note is that, even though it’s a spoof, the special actually puts in the effort to tell its own story, with its own character arcs, progression of events, and themes. Where ‘The Force Awakens’ was just an awkward retread of the original, ‘Phineas and Ferb’ comes up with an original story that works on its own terms…and does so while literally being a retread of the original. 

-Star Wars Conclusion
What strikes me most of all is just how far above every subsequent entry the original films are in every substantive way: story, plot, dialogue, character, theme, you name it. Comparing the original trilogy to the modern trilogy or the prequels is strange. It isn’t just a difference in quality; it’s a difference in competence. It’s a little like watching young Mark Hamill acting opposite Sir Alec Guinness (or, alternatively, Daisy Ridley trying to act opposite the venerable Mark Hamill): one side knows their craft in a way the other simply does not.