Labor Day weekend is one of those long, lazy weekends when a lot of TV channels run viewing marathons (of TV/movie series, like Star Trek and Twilight Zone). In the spirit of this tradition, I decided to post about my recent Star Wars movie-viewing marathon, which took place 2 weeks ago. At the time, my 13-year-old son and I had the house to ourselves (my husband and daughter were on a college visit to DC), and he suggested a movie marathon. There were a lot of great choices (Marvel superheros, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones), but, in the end, we went with Star Wars, partly because we’d never viewed ALL the movies in chronological order.
Here are my thoughts after watching all 6 movies, back-to-back (over two days). Keep in mind that these are issues/thoughts that came up during our viewing. I wrote them down right away, without bothering to look up anything for verification, because I wanted to document my immediate reactions.
And, obviously, SPOILER ALERT (in case you haven’t seen all the movies).
- R2D2 is Awesome – I always thought of R2 as a fun sidekick and a form of comic relief (along with C-3P0), but there are numerous occasions, in BOTH trilogies, where he saves the day. He saves various spaceships mid-flight, often while under attack (when he’s riding along with Luke, Obi Wan, AND Anakin). He is constantly plugging into other computer systems to open/close blast doors, stop garbage chutes, and find out about captured prisoners. And it’s because of his “mission” that Luke connects with Obi Wan and sets events into motion for Episode IV and the movies that follow.
- C-3P0 is Annoying – At first, he’s kind of funny, because he’s so neurotic, and he’s often the voice of reason. But by the sixth movie, I just wanted him to shut up, especially because he’s always ragging on R2D2.
- Han Solo is (Also) Awesome – After watching the prequel trilogy*, where most of the characters act formal, and often refer to each other as “my young apprentice” (in that slightly condescending way), and most of the humor is so forced (Jar Jar, anyone?), Han Solo is a breath of fresh air. He’s not a hero at the outset. He’s cocky, self-centered, and in it for the money. He’s a great counterpart to Luke and Obi Wan, because he doesn’t take the Force seriously. That’s why his swooping in at the end of Episode IV to help Luke is such a huge victory. He becomes a hero by how he chooses to act, not because he’s the “chosen one.”
- The Emperor is a Cool Villain – When you watch all six movies in a row, you realize that the Emperor has an awesome character arc as the villain of the entire series. He starts off as a senator, becomes the chancellor, then the Supreme Chancellor with Emergency Powers, then Emperor, and by Episode VI, he has almost gone insane, but still wields so much power. The fact that Luke and Vader/Anakin team up to defeat him is a bigger victory than anything else in the movie (including blowing up both Death Stars)
- Special Effects: Old vs New – For obvious reasons, the special effects are way, way better in the prequel trilogy—cool creatures, great spaceship battles, awesome interior shots and visuals (especially planets like Mustafar and Corsuscant). I’m pretty sure CGI didn’t exist when Lucas made the o.g. trilogy, so I think most of the spaceships were models and the monsters/aliens were people in suits. (I could be wrong about this). However, most of the time, the primitive special effects weren’t noticeably bad (not to me, that is). The BIG exception is the computer screens or viewing devices. The graphics are primitive—not much better than Pong or early Atari. My son snickered at the “targeting computer” used by Luke when he’s trying to blow up the Death Star in Episode IV.
- Strong Characters Matter – There are a lot of reasons why I like the original trilogy better, but the number one reason is the characters. I love the Luke-Han-Leia friendship/love/rivalry that starts in Episode IV and grows through V and VI. These people start out as strangers, but in the end, they grow super close and make sacrifices for each other. My son said it reminded him of the Harry-Ron-Hermione friendship in the Harry Potter series. The prequel trilogy has nothing like this. The closest it comes is in Episode II, when Padme, Anakin, and Obi Wan are fighting huge monsters on Geonossis.
- Storytelling Matters – Another reason I like the original trilogy better is that it’s easier to understand. When I first saw Star Wars IV as an 11-year-old (during its original run in the theaters), I understood the basic premise right away. Empire=bad guys, Rebels=good guys. I didn’t need to know the politics of the Empire or how it grew to be so powerful. The prequel trilogy tries to explain the Trade Federation and the blockade, and has a bunch of stuff about the Galactic Senate and so on. Whatever. In the o.g. trilogy, the Empire was evil. Boom. We got it.
So, these are my own (completely biased) opinions. What about you? Any thoughts on the movies? On the original trilogy versus the prequels?
*In this post, the prequel trilogy refers to Episodes I-III. The o.g. trilogy refers to Episodes IV-VI.