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Back To The Nostalgia-Episode 1-The Star Wars Trilogies

First Posted: Dec. 18, 2015, 7:56 a.m. CST
Last Updated: Dec. 18, 2015, 8:13 a.m. CST
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... <Contains spoilers for Star Wars Trilogies, but not Episode VII.>

Back to the Nostalgia-Episode 1: Star Wars Trilogies and Episode VII

A long ago in a city far, far away in the year 1983, I was conceived and fell out of a placenta in a room filled with bright lights and men wearing surgical masks and rubber gloves. George Lucas finished writing his Magnum Opus—the first Star Wars Trilogy. All was well. I would like to think of my man-fetus as an imbalance in the force, but one thing was clear: Star Wars was big. Even my parents who watched Elvis marathons and weeping to Loretta Lynn cassette tapes on the daily were hooked. It had everything for everyone: fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, and even a well-written story. The best family nights in my house were either movie nights or Star Wars marathons. No one could separate me from the TV screen when Luke Skywalker crossed sabers with Darth Vader. Being a kid with asthma, I felt a strange attachment to Darth Vader and his sporadic breathing. I do not think anyone could have been as iconic as James Earl Jones as Darth Vader. They even had a professional bodybuilder play the first version of him, though this would change in later verses. Everything was perfect, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Some would argue that this is perhaps the best trilogy in cinema history ever achieved. George Lucas could do no wrong.

And then... the first Trilogy happened. But was it really as bad as people made it out to be? Look, I know droves of people that place the 2nd Trilogy (being IV, V, VI) on the highest echelon of sci-fi greatness and those same droves would demonize Episodes I, II, and III. Even mentioning that the first Trilogy as a great film series is considered to be a borderline blasphemy. I would probably get placed in front of a firing squad of angry Storm Troopers who would all proceed to miss. So what made these films so “bad?” To start with: we should look at them side-by-side. If you haven't seen these, you have been living under a rock and I'm about to spoil these films like month old fruit. Seriously, skip ahead to end of spoilers, if you don't want anything revealed in the story-line. And yes, I am taking into account the whole CGI vs. location and animatronics arguments. And yes, I also realize you lived a sheltered life.

Episode I vs. IV- We begin Episode 1 with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi in Episode I and Luke Skywalker in Episode IV. In Episode I, it starts out in space dealing with some crooked traders that make the Fallout Barter System seem benign. There is a seemly convoluted plot about tax and trade and how there is a corrupt politician pulling the strings. Qui-Gon and Obi Wan do some cold reading banter with a tinge of cynicism due to the fact they are Jedi interfering politically. Fast forward and you have scenes about Darth Maul and one of the most imaginative abominations known to man: Jar-Jar Binks. I mean Episode I would have been a lot better if Jar-Jar was less clumsy and annoying. You already have C3PO which is a toned-down, tolerable annoyance. C3PO is likable at times and is one of the reasons why I studied multiple languages. The banter between R2-D2 and C3PO works and it is very charming. Han Solo, Qui-Gon and Jar-Jar, don't even come close. This is seriously like Geppeto produced three Pinocchios. You really want these moments to succeed, but the actors delivery and performance is flat out flat in Episode I. Sure Mark Hamill wasn't known for his acting chops, but he wasn't wooden. I mean the guy went on to be the Joker, so he has some range!

Then we have the villains: the forgettable robot troopers that roll into impenetrable balls vs. Storm Troopers. There is no comparison. The Storm Troopers look clean and very menacing, while the robot troops were perhaps effective at what they do until Jar-Jar causes an exploding marble avalanche and makes the whole audience facepalm at his dumb luck. I could not believe the army on Naboo was defeated in dumb luck and neither could many others. I mean JarJar stumbles more than George W. Bush giving a speech. It had to be calculated. I'm thinking maybe there's some truth to the whole “Darth Jar-Jar” theory. Then we have the supporting characters: Anakin Skywalker and Han Solo. One we all know is a Vader-kid enslaved by a space creature and the other is a suave space pirate up to his eyeballs in debt. In mean seriously, if we didn't know Anakin would become Darth Vader, he would go down as forgettable in Episode I for all things other than the space pod race and him commandeering a spaceship.

There are however two things that Episode I does have over part IV. One is Darth Maul. Two is Darth Maul. I do not care what anyone says, Darth Maul was the reason to see the film and he was only in it for about 10 minutes! If they would have totally scrapped all the Gunguns (Thank you, Disney!), and developed the plot of Darth Maul and Senator Palpatine more, Episode I would have been better than IV. The light saber battles between him, Qui-Gon and Obi Wan vs. Darth Maul on planet Naboo versus just Darth Vader and Obi-Wan on the Death Star were just far more superior. It made sense for them not to talk during the intense battles, but when Darth Maul struck Qui-Gon, part of me cheered and part of me felt remorse and even if the production of the second half of the fight seemed rushed the choreography it is still a better piece than Episode IV. The endings to both were similar, so I won't go into excruciating detail. Both were pretty good. But I have to edge Episode IV as the better film for round 1.

Episode II vs. Episode V- We see developing of the supporting cast and characters in this and thankfully less of Jar Jar in Episode II but he still plays an important part. We now have Hayden Christensen as a whiny adolescent Anakin who is wet behind the ears vs. a mature Luke Skywalker with no one to turn to at first. The Jedi council in Episode II plays a more prominent role as the we start seeing more of the Jedi Code on display. We get plenty of Jedi who wish to have nothing really to do with Anakin, but hide their actions. For a council that is supposed to be unbiased, they really have a thing against orphans that have brutally murdered parents. Oh and they're a bit ageist.

The Clone Wars continues with the behind the scenes cloak-and-dagger developments of Jango's clones and the Empire Strikes Back deals with planet Hoth and the Rebel Army running with their tails between their legs. We have Anakin, trying to fulfill his promise while Count Dooku is being investigated. That sounds all great on paper, but here's my take on it: Episode II might well be one of the most annoying gap fillers of any Trilogy and before you board a plane to come to South Korea with knives and pitchforks, here me out. Episode II is good, but there are a lot of the same things that made Episode I mediocre. From more cardboard acting to awkward rom-com scenes, Episode II is hard for me to watch.

On the other hand, a lot of people like Episode V, but there are so many things that it suffers from at the start. While the fight was good at the beginning when the Storm Troopers were invading the base, a lot of the pain with this comes from the incestral kiss scene between an unbeknownst Luke and Leia, but the plot picks up in the latter half of the movie. Also why wouldn't the near planet sized star destroyers just simply blast the planet Hoth to smithereens? This just didn't make sense as I got older and begun reflecting on the logic of the invasion and the logistics of the Imperial numbers. I guess watching these films is a lot more enjoyable with a little willful ignorance.

Episode II had many throwaway scenes that should have been cut. We didn't need the overly painful, contrived relationship between a wooden Anakin and Padmé. The scene with the apple was kind of a bit of foreshadowing between conflicting ideas-the Bible meets Bushido and I thought philosophically this was brilliant on Mr. Lucas's part, but all the more forgettable for general audiences. The overuse of CGI and continuation of the wooden acting drag these little insights down. For those not in the know, most of the ideas behind the Jedi Code were inspired by Bushido. It would be a franchise cardinal sin if I didn't discuss how Luke and Anakin handle the Jedi code. Comparing Episodes II and V, shows off the majority of the code and the logotherapy of being a Jedi and what they are all about. Luke, while tempted, never gets fully swayed into doing something regretful and succumbing to the Dark Side, while Anakin here, seems to have been dealing with a major Opedias complex that comes from a emotionally neglectful Jedi council that seems to think killing your emotions and thinking like Spock is the answer for everything--even neglecting one's mother. I mean seriously, the angle is good and it should be well executed, but Hayden, just Hayden, comes off whiny through the majority of this process. They should have toned that down if they were going to make him more menacing. Luke in Episode V is coming to grips with the responsibility of the Force and that sacrifice he might have to do. He is pulling himself together while Anakin is whining and pitching a fit, so that makes Luke all the more believable as a character trying to become a hero.

In Episode II, Obi-wan matured and became more well rounded, so switching to Ewan Mcgregor was worth it for the franchise. This actor makes the struggle of being a Jedi seem all the more believable and I can picture him getting older and turning into Old “Ben” Kenobi. While I do harp on Hayden's acting, he at least does make the scene where his mother gets slayed, all the more believable. His reaction is just about what any sane person would want to do if their mother was killed in front of them.

Just seeing Hayden's cardboard romance scenes is cringe worthy at best. It drags down Anakin as a person. The Sith are supposed to give into passion, but really just feel artificial and contrived. Compared to the blossoming spontaneity of Han and Leia, sometimes less is best because Episode II over-sells the romance. You're kind of shooting yourself in the foot if you think Star Wars is supposed to be about psuedo Rom-Com moments. The best scenes are surprisingly not the ones you expect. I never expected a good scene from Jar-Jar, but I have to concede that him turning over Amidala's powers to the Galactic Federation as an adjunct stooge was hilarious to watch along with the fights from Han Solo/Dooku/Grevious.

Instead of a long-winded play-by-play of the events that lead up to this, the foreshadowing of both Luke and Anakin losing their hands deserves an applause and seeing Yoda both semi old and very old were amazing to watch. This is easy to decide which one is better. If you are action inclined-Episode II, but if you're acting/writing inclined Episode V. However, if you hate the cheesiest of Hayden's acting and romance, you will find Episode V being all around better. Also being quite frank—the big reveal in Episode V throws the series over the top for me. Finding out that Luke's father was Darth Vader was a big shock for people who grew up with the second Trilogy first. For those who watched them in order coming into to this, were probably less floored by the experience because they might have already known it coming from Episode III. With this in mind, it still holds up, because the pain and anguish of Luke meeting his dead-beat dad and losing his freaking arm drives the point home that Vader isn't one to “hand-over victory”. Except he did just that in Episode II when Dooku when all Musashi on him and gave us one of the biggest legacy foreshadowing moments in history. Then we're treated to Yoda with a saber fencing with Dooku and the Jedi Council coming in with the Clone Army/Storm Troopers as they opened a can of Jango. But for me, Darth Vader with that big reveal and Luke being shocked by this made this a scene along with the introduction of Yoda and the planet Degobah makes me cede my vote to Episode V.

Episode III vs. Episode VI

When George Lucas finally got the whole series back on track it seemed the damage was done, but Episode III did its best to tie them all together. It was a genuine effort and it felt like he listened to his audience on this one. If there was any doubt that an all CGI effect Star Wars could not be done, this was dispelled in Episode III when that rematch between Dooku and Anakin was carried out. Obi-Wan was incapacitated and Anakin stepped in to take a little off the top of Dooku and by top I mean his head. Episode VI has Luke saving Han from Jabba in his gambling den with a slave Leia. This part gets a lot of feminists wound up, but it makes sense for a sleazy corrupt gangster like Jabba wanting Leia in her skives and the way she administers justice makes it in lieu to this all the more appreciative. And seriously, Boba Fett is one of these most overrated villains in the series. He is introduced in Episode VI and is feed to some living sand trap that resembles a vagina with teeth. What is most interesting here is the comparison of Luke rejecting the Dark Side while Anakin gives in to it. Don't get me wrong, Hayden is still whiny and wooden as can be, but visually--he was a very imposing character. The make-up artists and CGI people deserve to be commended for the performance of giving us this transition from Anakin to Darth Vader.

There is actually not much to say in the gripe field except how contrived the conclusions were. Padmé and Anakin still have the creepy romance scenes in Episode III and there are the Ewoks in episode VI. The fight with the emperor was a bit of a let-down. Vader just sacrifices himself by giving the lighting rod, the heave-ho. But when you reach the climax of the movies, you know it. Obi-Wan and Anakin going at it in that light saber battle is worth the price of admission alone. You feel the hatred Anakin has for the Jedi and for losing Padmé. Luke Skywalker having that final showdown with Vader with his lightsaber battle was unforgettable. But were they worthy climaxes and which one is better in my opinion. Yes, they were and Episode III.

Now before I get forced choked to death here are the following reasons. It starts off more epic and over the top than Episode VI. I mean for its time the fight with Jabba was good and saving Han Solo was a great way to start the movie. But, you cannot say seeing the Anakin fight with Count Dooku and the start of his admission to the Dark Side is not for good pacing. We feel the struggle of Han Solo being trapped in carbonite and Palpatine luring Anakin to the Dark side. The fight on Tattooine in Episode VI was good, but no one can deny that this fight was blown out of the water in Episode III. In Episode III, Anakin is falling from grace so hard that the build up to the Windu vs. Palpatine fight was perfect. He is totally caught off guard and the actor for governor Palpatine is hardcore hamming it up. I mean, he makes the Trilogy that much more enjoyable. If he wasn't in any of the movies, it would have been a total fail. Seeing him corrupt Anakin versus Luke coming to terms with a dead Yoda makes for a much more interesting plot device. The one thing I will give Episode VI the credit for is Leia and Han's romance. The chemistry between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher is just much more believable than that of Hayden and Natalie Portman. And giving the fact Padmé was originally more of a caretaker/babysitter to a young Anakin drives up the creepiness a notch. Visually this is one movie where CGI works better than the animatronics. That lava fight scene would not have turned out well if they just used a lava model and just magnified the scenery on a green screen. The scenes in Dagobah were good, but the pacing was different. I prefer seeing a demented Anakin waltz into the Jedi Counsil and start offing younglings and padawans. They both accept their side of the Force but Anakin's struggle is the more empathetic as he doesn't want to lose Padmé or his newborn twins, even though he as a person is the reason he loses them. Luke's journey is more of a spiritual one. I can accept both of these, but I'd rather see that epic fight at the end than the Ewok scene. The Ewoks are cute, don't get me wrong, the pacing in Episode III always kept me on my seat—even the puesdo spy mission with Obi-Wan breaking into the clone facility to do investigating. We also have one of the most epic lines ever contrived “execute Order 66.” When those Storm Troopers turned coat and showed their true loyalties, I was cheering because the Jedi, thought they had the advantage with using Clone Soldiers. I'm going have to turn to the Dark Side and go with Episode III.

End of Spoliers
Going into Episode VII

I have already seen it and admittedly JJ Abrams did better than George Lucas did on the first Trilogy. All the actors have good acting and performances. There will be some missable references going into the whole lore starting from Episode VII. For example, the opening crawl references a lot of back story. There is also the whole lore of the Jedi that you may not be familiar with and I would certainly like to know what rock you have been lying under because Star Wars is perhaps more mainstream than even Star Trek. You have to understand how momentous this is for me. I was born in 1983 and when Return of the Jedi came out, so I've been literally waiting my whole life to finally see what happened between Luke, Han Solo and Leia. It did not disappoint and I'm not going to be one of those who foam at the mouth and say the “classics were better.” Just go see the movie for yourselves and give me your opinion. I'd be happy to debate these things as it is getting hard not to log into Facebook and spoil the crap out of it.

For those that seen the first Trilogy and hated it—relax. JJ Abrams is actually well-attuned to the lore and while he does deviate from Lucas original conception of the story-line, I think it is for the best. Lucas was also hired as an on-site adviser, so Disney made sure not to defecate on his whole legacy. But given Lucas, tarnished résume I think the direction reigns should have been handed over to someone else because Lucas lost the magic that made his ideas applicable. It is one thing to envision, but entirely another thing to actually produce them. He doesn't pull a Micheal Bay and proceeds to shatter your childhood like clay pigeons at a rifle range. When you actually pay the money for Star Wars, you will get Star Wars. Most of the original cast is back and is worth seeing how they have been progressing. Kylo Ren is a much needed, refreshing antagonist that rates up there in the bad-ass villain department right behind Darth Maul. I do not want to gave too much away, but I do want to emphasize that the acting is actually good and there are some genuinely funny moments. I always loved Star Wars and I accept the bad entries with the good, because even if they are “bad”, they are still OK movies when compared to many other movies out there. I like Disney's marketing behind this whole series because it keeps everything shrouded in mystery while giving us just enough excitement for the hype machine. And thank you JJ Abrams for finally incorporating both CGI and animatronics well! I want all movie studios take note that if you want to make a good movie with special effects—sometimes animatronics might be needed to better sell the feasibility of the story. Imagine if everything is just CGI: might wind up with a Dungeons and Dragons movie or worse—another Micheal Bay Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remake.

So what do you guys think? Which Star Wars Trilogy is a better series? Leave a comment on my Facebook and I'll try to respond to each of them in a timely manner. I'm always on so I'll likely see it. If you have any suggestions for nostalgic things that you want analyzed let me know. The next up will be my take on the whole Micheal Bay TMNT 2. Have fun watching Star Wars and may the Force be with you!

This article was written by Charles Eggleston. Charles lives in Korea. He has a background in...and enjoys...

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