Sunday, November 29, 2015

Star Wars Review

I've now finished my reviews of the prequels and so it's time to tackle the much more daunting task of writing movie reviews for the original trilogy. Star Wars has been a part of my life since before I can remember. Literally. I was born six years after Return of the Jedi was released and since my whole family were huge Star Wars fans, I grew up watching these movies from a very young age and I've always loved them. In reviewing the original trilogy, I think it's important to mention that I will be reviewing the ORINGAL trilogy. As in the movies George Lucas made before he learned he could screw them all up with modern technology. There's so many dumb things he did in the Special Editions as well as the subsequent DVD and Bluray releases. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. These movies weren't broken, yet he tried to fix them. So I choose to ignore those changes. As such, I will also be referring to to these movies by their original titles. So this first one isn't Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. It's just Star Wars. I think there's a beauty in the simplicity of that title, which is what I will get into. So let's begin!

One thing that really stood out to me as I was watching Star Wars this time around was the simplicity of it. This simplicity starts with the opening crawl. We're given a very minimal introduction, which I think is fantastic. There's an evil Galactic Empire that's planning on building a huge weapon called the Death Star. There's a rebellion that's trying to stop this empire. As a part of this rebellion, Princess Leia is attempting to steal the plans for the Death Star. That's it. This simple introduction allows us to dive right into the action at this space station in the sky where Darth Vader is. Leia is trying to sneak around unnoticed but ends up being captured by the Empire, but not before she uploads these plans onto a random droid called R2-D2. No one from the Empire pays much attention to R2-D2 or his buddy droid C-3PO and thus they are able to escape to the planet Tatooine where Obi-Wan Kenobi is hidden. R2's mission is to find Obi-Wan because, as the message states, he's Princess Leia's only hope. After this opening sequence, the movie is split into three easy-to-follow sections: 1- Obi-Wan, Luke, and Han's introductions on Tatooine; 2- The rescue of Princess Leia; 3-The attack of the rebel forces on the Death Star. That's it. That's Star Wars.

With all this, we are introduced to several amazing characters, all of whom experience beautiful character arcs. First, we have Luke Skywalker. He starts out as a pretty whiny teenage boy who we learn is the son of a great Jedi named Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was one of the best pilots around and was a great friend of Obi-Wan. Sadly, Anakin was betrayed and killed by the Jedi known as Darth Vader, who was a pupil of Obi-Wan's. This betrayal led to the fall of the Jedi, who were defenders of the Galactic Republic for 1,000 years, and the rise of the evil Galactic Empire. Almost all the Jedi were killed. Obi-Wan and the later introduced Yoda appear to be the only two Jedi remaining. Thus the ways of the Jedi, including their use of the Force, are pretty much seen as mere myth and legend that few people seem to believe in. This whole background is relayed to us by a simple conversation between Obi-Wan and Luke, who seem to meet up almost by chance. Because of the death of his father, Luke is living with his Aunt and Uncle on Tatooine and they go to buy some droids. R2 and 3PO are their choices. R2 runs away to find Obi-Wan. Luke hunts down R2. After being attacked by Tusken Raiders, Obi-Wan finds and rescues Luke, the message is relayed. Obi-Wan tries to convince Luke to come with him, but Luke declines until he learns that in his absence, his Aunt and Uncle have been brutally killed by the Empire, so he is in.

This is a really beautiful introduction to this universe. This whole history of the Jedi and their fall paints a great picture in our minds of what happened in the past and where we are in the present. Thus we are immediately submerged into this amazing story. And it's all done through simple conversation between Obi-Wan and Luke. George Lucas decided to turn this beautiful past into a trilogy of movies, but ultimately they fail in comparison to this simple conversation. Thus I feel that it would've been better if the prequels had never been made. Let this picture that is painted in our heads remain in our heads. There is an element of imagination that is actually rather powerful. This is the strength of Star Wars. What we are shown on film in this first movie is a very, very small portion of this universe as a whole. It's just a sliver in time where plans for the Death Star are stolen, which in turn allows for a small group of rebels to attack said Death Star. But this universe that is created is so huge and so beautiful that it literally provides an endless bank of stories that could be told. Think of all the books that have been written. The video games that have been created. The TV shows that have been made. The movies that are being planned now that Lucas has given the rights to his universe to Disney. Yet we've barely scraped the surface of the stories that could be told. Not everything has been deemed as official cannon. These stories still exist and they're still a lot of fun.

That's why Star Wars is so great. It's not just because of the specific story that is told. It's the universe that has been created and the millions of people that it's inspired. This universe has been embedded into our culture. It is a part of our souls. There's a reason why so many people passionately hate the prequels. They didn't live up to the extremely high bar set by the original Star Wars. This universe that is a part of our souls got messed with and tarnished. This backlash represents how important and nearly sacred this Star Wars universe is to so many people. There's a reason why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is about to become the highest grossing movie of all-time. Advertising has led us all to believe that we are finally going to get the follow-up movie in this universe that we have all deserved. Most of us purchased our tickets a month ago. Those who haven't purchased their tickets still plan on going within the first week or so. If the movie is as good as we all think it will be, how many people will go see it twice? Three times? Four times? Five times? More? Getting my vibe? Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon. That's why this review has been so daunting. How do I put this into words? Is it possible to write a review that does this movie complete justice? Perhaps not. But I'm trying my best anyways.

Now that I've gone off on that tangent, let's get back to reviewing this movie. Whiny, young Luke has decided that he's going to join Obi-Wan and learn the ways of the Force. Which by the way, whiny Luke doesn't mean bad Luke or bad acting on the part of Mark Hamill. Bad acting is Hayden Christensen. I'd call Mark Hamill's acting good because the character of Luke goes through a whole lot of progression. Compare Luke at the beginning of this movie to the Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi. It's impressive to see who he becomes. Major kudos go to the writing of his character as well as the acting on the part of Mark Hamill. Same thing goes for Harrison Ford's character of Han Solo. He starts out as a selfish, almost unlikable jerk. He doesn't care about the well-being of others. He doesn't seem to care about this war between the rebels and the Empire. He's only looking out for himself and his money. He has this huge debt to pay off to the mysterious Jabba the Hutt (who does NOT appear in this movie George Lucas) and when confronted about that by an alien named Greedo, he shoots and kills Greedo without even giving Greedo a chance to defend himself. And he feels no remorse about that. He joins Luke and Obi-Wan not because he wants to do good, but because they offer him a huge sum of money. He doesn't even believe in the Force. In fact, he spends his time mocking Luke and Obi-Wan for believing in it.

So now we have the whiny kid, the selfish jerk, two droids, and of course the temperamental Wookie Chewbacca joining the wise old sage on this mission to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader. This is quite the underdog story as a very unlikely group of heroes are out to save the day. After a beautiful introduction to this story and universe in the first act of the movie, this second act is quite the blast. Han and Luke dress up as Stormtroopers after killing the ones that were guarding their ship. They use Chewie as their "captive" to get all three of them around. R2 and 3PO play the behind-the-scenes heroes as still no one from the Empire pays them any attention. Finally, Obi-Wan is out to hunt down Darth Vader. Stormtroopers are everywhere making for a lot of fun showdowns involving blasters, since Luke isn't well trained with a light saber yet. When they finally find Princess Leia, she is definitely no damsel in distress. She is a very strong lead female character who actually does most of the work in getting them out since Han and Luke don't really have a good escape plan. At the end of this scene, we get our first light saber fight. Even though it's less exciting than some light saber fights in the prequels, this feels more honest and less choreographed. It also ends pretty quickly as Vader strikes down Obi-Wan, which he'll later regret as ghost Obi-Wan quickly proves to be much more powerful and important that old man Obi-Wan.

Enter act three. Luke has made the decision to learn the ways of the force. Princess Leia has been rescued. Our unlikely group of heroes have succeeded thus far and now it's time to use these Death Star plans that have been stored in R2-D2 to start an attack on the Death Star. Luke joins the rebel squadron in this attack. He hopes Han will help as well, but Han refuses. He collects his money and appears to be gone. Luke and the rest of the pilots board their X-Wings and fly to the Death Star. Once they get there, Darth Vader leads a group of TIE Fighters to stop them and now we're on an intense race to see who destroys who first because now the Empire knows where the rebel base is and is about to launch an attack to destroy them. We saw them early on blow up Leia's home planet of Alderaan, so we know this thing is powerful. In order to stop them, the X-Wings have to have the absolute perfect shot. This makes for a really epic conclusion that captures the essence of Star Wars, or what Star Wars should be. Think of the title. Star. Wars. Wars in the stars. Yeah we have our scenes on land, but those are more or less supplements to the scenes in space. In fact, most of this movie takes place in space. The whole second act is in space. Most of the third act takes place in space. Even a portion of the first act is in space. It's Star Wars. The prequels kinda missed that as most of the important scenes were in land with the space stuff being the supplement or the afterthought.

Wrapping this up, who is the one that saves the day? Luke. Our whiny, young farm boy. While a lot of his team is being blown up around him by Darth Vader's crew, he listens to ghost Obi-Wan and instead of using his own skills of what he can see, he lets the Force guide him and this is what allows him to make the perfect shot that is needed to blow up the Death Star. He's far from the level of a true Jedi, but he already shows a lot of progression in this one film. But he's not the only one who saves the day. Han Solo, the selfish jerk who only cares about himself and his money, finally comes around. Before Luke takes his shot, Darth Vader is onto him and his about to destroy his ship as well. Who stops Vader's crew? Han Solo with his Millennium Falcon. At the very moment when Luke is about to be shot down and the Death Star is about to blow up the rebel's base, Han flies in and shoots the group of TIE Fighters, which allows Luke to take his shot as guided by the Force, destroying the Death Star. Our unlikely heroes have won. The following sequence shows Han and Luke being awarded medals by Princess Leia, which is super epic mainly because of John Williams' fantastic score.

There is so much symbolism that can be taken from this movie. So many lessons to be learned. Not only is this a fun movie from beginning to end, but it's also pretty deep. It's the movie that I have decided to call the quintessential good vs. evil story. When I came up with this phrase, my first reaction was to figure out exactly what quintessential actually meant. defines the word as follows: "of the pure and essential essence of something" and "of or relating to the most perfect embodiment of something." Yeah that's a pretty darn good word choice if I do say so myself. Pure. Essential. Perfect. Those are great adjectives for Star Wars. Many people have attempted to tell a good vs. evil story, both before and after Star Wars, but Star Wars is definitely the perfect embodiment of a good vs. evil story. I could dive deep into the specifics of all the symbolism and how applying the story of Star Wars can really help you out in your life, but I'm going to let your creative juices flow through you and let you come up with that on your own. I'm also excited to share with you my thoughts on The Empire Strikes Back, which takes all of these amazing goodness that this first movie provided and builds upon it, taking this series to the next level. The best level. But that's next week. As for now, it's time to give you my grade for the movie Star Wars. I'm sure you could see this from a mile away, but of course I'm giving Star Wars a 10/10.

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