The greatest sequel ever made! The best Star Wars movie ever! Superlative Star Wars superlative! What movie was up for watching this week? You guessed it! The Empire Strikes Back.
A few thoughts:
-This movie really does improve on the first one in many ways. The characters have more depth. The Empire has more compelling story elements. Plus, the end takes viewers to unexpected places and leaves characters with difficult choices.
-The stop motion animation used for the Imperial AT-AT walkers is still impressive 39 years later. Those walkers look and feel scary on screen.
-There is so much visual contrast between dark and light in Empire. Hoth and the surface of Cloud City are bright and vibrant, while Dagobah, the asteroid field and the bowels of Cloud City are dark and foreboding. This had to have been an intentional choice, especially the way that a light scene is followed by a dark scene and vice versa.
-The Yoda puppet is a work of pure genius, and Frank Oz deserves all the praise for his puppetry skills.
-The addition of background Cloud City out the windows in the Special Edition is a worthy and subtle inclusion. I like the expanded feel it gives to the location.
-There are so many little elements in this movie that you will miss if you blink, but they deepen the mythology and the characters. One of my favorites is Vader's helmetless head in his meditation chamber.
A few memories:
-When I was a kid, Empire was definitely my least favorite Star Wars movie. The good guys did not win, and there were no space battles! As I have aged, however, I have grown to appreciate this movie more than ever. It is a master class in how to make a sequel.
-I have loved the Han Solo in carbonite prop my whole life. I remember waiting for it to be released with the Power of the Force line in the mid-90s and feeling so happy to add it to my collection.
-The Hoth battle has become a favorite of mine partly thanks to the video games of my teenage years: Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron, both for N64. Both games let you take the seat of a snowspeeder and harpoon those AT-ATs to your heart's content.
Of all the Star Wars movies I have been rewatching, Empire Strikes Back has aged the best. The characters face dilemmas and complex situations that mirror those we face in real life, and therefore it is easier to relate to than a simple "good guys always win" plot. As I near the finish of the original trilogy, I think I have developed an even greater appreciation for this movie.
It's time for the movie that started it all! A New Hope, or as the OT fans would say, just Star Wars. Most people would agree this movie is nearly perfect, so here are my meager thoughts about it.
A few thoughts:
-I don't think I could recount the number of times I have seen this movie, and it never gets old. It is hard to say that about many movies in history.
-Thanks to Disney+ I transitioned right from watching Rogue One into the beginning of A New Hope. The continuity is perfect, but the difference in film making style is quickly apparent.
-I am actually a fan of many of the changes made in the Special Edition. The addition of more fighters at the Death Star battle and the establishing shots of Mos Eisley on Tatooine add a lot to the movie. On the other hand, I do not love the silly CG shots of rontos and droids in Mos Eisley and that heinous scene between Jabba and Han in Docking Bay 94.
This scene is not terrible until Han walks behind Jabba and steps on his tail. The reason for the weirdness is because Jabba was played by a human originally and Han walks around him. When digital Jabba was edited in, the only way to solve the problem was have Han step on the tail. The edit is terrible and ruins the whole scene.
-I use this movie in my classes to help teach the Hero's Journey because it aligns so closely with Joseph Campbell's research. It is always interesting to watch students react who have never seen it before.
-I had the privilege of watching A New Hope with a live symphony orchestra earlier this year, and it took my appreciation for the music and sound design to an even higher level. The experience helped me think about the conscious choices that had to be made about when to include music and when to let the sound take over.
-There are lots of X-Wings, and if you read my previous post, you know I love X-Wings.
-The march at the end of the movie is one of my favorite pieces of music in all soundtrack history. Everything about it gives me joy.
A few memories:
-Many people can share their first Star Wars movie memory, but for me I cannot pinpoint any specific moment when I first watched it. I mainly remember having picture books around the house and playing with my older cousins' toys as an introduction to the saga.
-So much of my childhood (and let's be honest, my adulthood also) was wrapped up in Star Wars. We hunted for used toys at garage sales or got hand-me-downs from my cousins. I poured over the storybooks with stills from the movie and waited to watch it when we could record it on a VHS tape from the broadcast airing. I was technically born outside of the prime range of the first wave of Star Wars fans, but I caught a lot of it second hand through my dad and cousins.
-Now, I am building my own memories with my kids surrounding the movies and showed A New Hope to my son this past spring. There is definitely a joy in sharing something you love with the people you love.
It is hard to believe that this movie is over 40 years old and still holds up so well. In 40 more years, I am confident people will still be talking about it and praising its many merits. Next up, the greatest sequel ever to grace film!
I debated whether to include Rogue One in my Star Wars rewatch because it is not officially part of the Skywalker saga, but I caved and watched it this week, mostly because it does not take much convincing to watch another Star Wars movie. Also, Darth Vader is in it, and he is a Skywalker, if not the most pivotal Skywalker of the entire saga. Justification complete. Here are some brief thoughts about Rogue One.
A few thoughts:
-The visuals in this movie are spot on. Everything from the streets of Jedha to the halls of the various Imperial establishments look like they belong in the world of the original Star Wars.
-I love X-Wings. A lot. And there are a lot of X-Wings in this movie. The equation is simple. The number of X-Wings is directly proportionate to the amount of enjoyment.
-I particularly enjoyed the POV shots from the top of the X-Wings looking down the nose. See the picture below for a reference of what I mean.
-The beginning of this movie is by far the weakest part. It feels hastily thrown together with a lot of plot chucked at the wall to see what sticks. In the first 25 minutes alone, the movie has introduced several characters and several planets in a whirlwind.
-Everything on Scarif looks amazing and builds tension unlike any other Star Wars movie. The cuts between the ground and space battles resembles Return of the Jedi but actually takes it up a notch.
-I like that everyone died at the end. There was no shoehorned escape to satisfy some unnecessary need to keep the lead characters alive. Everyone's sacrifice felt real and justified.
-James Earl Jones is a wonderful actor and the one and only voice of Darth Vader, but his voice in the scene on Mustafar definitely sounds different from the Original Trilogy. It was only slightly jarring.
A few memories:
-As one of the newer Star Wars movies, there is a lot less nostalgia wrapped up in my memory surrrounding Rogue One. My main memory is that this is one of the last movies for which we stood in line early to get good seats. Since then, reserved seats have made the opening night experience easier, but also a little less fun.
-I was able to see this movie in Laser IMAX at the Indianapolis State Museum. That was pretty cool.
-I remember a lot of drama surrounding reshoots and behind the scenes shake ups regarding this movie. That now seems to be the regular narrative when various outlets report on any new Star Wars movie.
The prequel era is over with this week's viewing of Revenge of the Sith!
-As is the popular opinion, this movie is definitely the best of the prequels. The pacing works better than the previous two, and it does not feel too cartoon-y.
-The portrayal of the Jedi is still one of the weakest aspects of the whole trilogy. I understand that Lucas was attempting to show a disconnected and arrogant group, but most of the time they came across as little more than cardboard standups. Outside of Obi-Wan, there was no complexity or character to the Jedi Council. Definitely a waste of Samuel L. Jackson also.
-The design work was once again a major highlight of the film. I particularly liked the look of the planets Utapau and Mustafar, and the character design for General Grievous.
-Ian McDiarmid steals every single scene in which he plays. I wish he had played a bigger role in the first two prequels because his gravitas combined with the veneer of charm over layers of evil makes for a nuanced and engaging performance. The opera house scene between Palpatine and Anakin is the perfect example of McDiarmid's masterful acting.
-Watching the Clone Wars TV show elevates this movie to entirely new levels. The relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan that was dubiously strong between AotC and RotS plays out in the Clone Wars in ways that make the high ground scene on Mustafar extra emotional.
-The more I think about it and as I watched it this time, Padme's death seems connected to the Dark Side of the Force in some way. The way Vader's birth and Padme's death are cut back and forth leads me to believe that somehow her life force helped save Anakin. I am definitely not the originator of this theory, but it is growing on me.
-This movie came out two days before my wedding, and I went with two of my groomsmen on opening night as a sort of pre-bachelor party night out. I think I saw it at least one more time in the theater.
-Because this movie released so close to my wedding, there was some musical confusion at my wedding. We played the Raider's March from Raiders of the Lost Ark as our recessional and notated it in the program as "Groom's Choice." In the receiving line after the wedding, several people commented on how much they loved the Star Wars music at the end. I blame Revenge of the Sith for that.
By some fortuitous luck I got a chance to watch several Clone Wars episodes this week. Thus, I get to sneak in a bonus post as I countdown to Episode IX.
I would have loved to watch more episodes, but I have a job, am a parent and prefer to sleep rather than binge a whole ton of TV episodes. What I did get to watch was primarily from the end of season 1 and about half of season 2, namely the episodes introducing Hondo Ohnaka, the Ryloth trilogy, the first Cad Bane story arc, the Zillo beast story arc, and the first part of the second battle for Geonosis.
-While the character animation in the early seasons is basic, the lighting and effects work is outstanding. One visual that stands out is of Cad Bane standing next to a window with blinds that cast shadows in a film noir fashion.
-Some of the galaxy's most memorable characters are in this show. Ahsoka is obviously an amazing character, but the supporting characters of Hondo Ohnaka and Cad Bane are masterful creations.
-Anakin Skywalker in this show is far more watchable than in Attack of the Clones. He is energetic, passionate, and clearly troubled but not in a heavy-handed way.
-The episode Landing at Point Rain is a visual feast and does a great job depicting the intensity of battle.
-I remember that I was in Graduate school when this show first debuted, and it was a light in the depressing darkness of endless grad school work. I hosted a couple parties at my tiny duplex to celebrate the season opener. The house was packed, but great times were had. I even convinced Melissa (my wife) to make a clone helmet cookie cake for one of the parties!
-This show reinvigorated my Star Wars fandom during a time when it was starting to fade from the cultural consciousness. I was a tireless evangelist for the show, and my fandom has not abated since.
I definitely cannot wait for the final season to release on Disney+ early next year! Next up, the last of the prequels, Revenge of the Sith.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES! Where do I start.....?
-This is by far my least favorite Star Wars movie. I keep trying to give it a chance to change my mind, but it has yet to be successful. Most of my dislike comes from the cartoon-y look of the whole movie.
-The entire droid foundry scene feels like a video game or a goofy, animated sequence from a Saturday morning cartoon. It might have had a better home on the Clone Wars TV show.
-Anakin is a straight up creeper for the first half of this movie, and then Padme has a sudden, weird change of heart about their relationship for the sake of the plot. All of the love story feels weird and forced.
-I do really like the design of the clones, and the asteroid scene with Obi-Wan and Jango is one of the highlights of the film.
-Actually, anything with Obi-Wan is a highlight of the film for me. I love Ewan McGregor/Obi-Wan Kenobi. They are essentially interchangeable for me.
-I really only have one memory of this movie. It was the only time I did not go to a Star Wars movie on opening night. I think I went the next day for a matinee. It was right in the middle of college.
-I remember being fairly pumped about the movie after it ended, but it has only grown less appealing with age.
-I also remember being super envious of Hayden Christensen...
If I have some time this week, check back for some thoughts on a few episodes of the Clone Wars TV show.
I love my family and this is the place to find all of the adventures we experience.