Our critic/fanboy revisits his Star Wars past
In preparation for this week’s release of The Force Awakens, I recently had a Star Wars marathon and rewatched the six films—in episode order (not order of release), I-VI, starting with Menace and ending with Jedi. (And I held my Darth Vader Deluxe sixth-scale figure the whole time.) As part of the exercise, I also rerated each film and included the new scores alongside my original ratings. I’ve also ranked them from best to worst.
As you’ll see, I was a little too enthusiastic with my original reviews of the prequels. It must’ve been the psychedelic mushroom and bourbon cocktails I took before the showings.
1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Yes, the cliffhanger ending traumatized me as a kid, but given that I have Jedi now, I can watch comfortably as an adult, knowing that the next chapter is just a button push away. I submit that this is the greatest sequel in movie history.
Original rating: 5/5; 2015 rating: 5/5
2. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977): While it is the second-best film in the franchise structurally, technically and performance-wise, it remains my sentimental favorite. It’s a timeless creation that performed major film miracles on a meager budget. However, the special edition, something I originally had an OK time with, is now quite awful to watch.
Original rating: 5/5; 2015 rating: 5/5 (Take a half point off for the special edition.)
3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005): George Lucas deserves a lot of credit for this one. It’s a solid movie in the classic range of the original trilogy, and it’s a nice link up to Episode IV. Watching Sith into A New Hope is actually a nice, clean transition, impressive for a film produced 30 years after the sequel. Sure, it’s weird that Obi-Wan doesn’t know who R2-D2 is, but we’ll chalk that up to his getting on in years. And hey, Darth Vader is born in this movie. That makes it quite the big deal, even if he does do that stupid “Nooooooo!!!” scream after the Emperor punks him with the whole “You killed Padmé!” thing.
Original rating: 4.75/5, 2015 rating: 4.25/5
4. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983): It’s still a little soul-crushing that the original Star Wars saga ended with Ewoks defeating Stormtroopers with big rocks. Each time I watch it as an adult, it loses some of its luster. Still, it’s often-breathtaking entertainment, and that final showdown with the Emperor is a franchise highlight.
There was an overall goofiness to this one, but it is admittedly funny when it tries (Salacious Crumb, the droid torture chamber, the rancor keeper crying). The musical number added for the special edition is a discordant, grating touch in retrospect.
Original rating: 4.75/5; 2015 rating 4/5 (Take an additional half point off for the special edition.)
5. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): There’s no getting around it; Jar Jar Binks is one of the very worst things about the Star Wars universe. He’s worse than Greedo shooting first, worse than midi-chlorians, worse than the Ewoks. Even so, he still isn’t the worst thing in the Star Wars films. I’ll point that out in a later paragraph. The movie has gotten a bad rap over the years, but it’s not the unforgivable misstep many fans have called it. It’s just somewhat less than great, which is a major sin to Star Wars buffs. Mind you, the 3-D release a few years back was so terrible it derailed plans to do the same for the rest of the films.
One more weird observation from recent viewing: When Anakin says to Padmé, “When the storm is over, I’ll show you my racer!” it sounds like a thinly veiled dick reference.
Original rating: 4/5; 2015 rating: 2.75/5
6. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002): While not a total embarrassment, this one has a strong, solid standing as the worst in the series. The Hayden Christensen-Natalie Portman love scenes are painful, painful, satanic stuff. Christensen’s “You aren’t like sand … you are everything soft and smooth” speech, along with that levitating pear, are cringe-worthy. They are easily the worst moments in this series. Yes, worse than Jar Jar.
Still, the movie does contain that great moment where Yoda goes all crazy samurai, and that coliseum scene still stands as a decent sequence. I like the movie, but I hate things about it.
Original rating: 4/5, 2015 rating: 2.5/5.