STAR WARS FEATURE FILMS RATED
(Only films which have had a theatrical release)
- THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) Irvin Kershner 10/10
- A NEW HOPE (STAR WARS) (1977) George Lucas 10/10
- THE FORCE AWAKENS (3D) (2015) J.J. Abrams 10/10
- RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) Richard Marquand 8/10
- ROGUE ONE (3D) (2016) Gareth Edwards 8/10
- REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005) George Lucas 7/10
- THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999) George Lucas 5/10
- ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) George Lucas 5/10
- THE CLONE WARS (2008) Dave Filoni 7/10
- CARAVAN OF COURAGE: AN EWOK ADVENTURE (1984) John Korty 5/10
- EWOKS: BATTLE FOR ENDOR (1985) Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat 5/10
Collected reviews of the Star Wars Saga 1977 – 2015
All reviews have already being published on nEoFILM.
First things first…
A QUOTE FROM GEORGE LUCAS…
“People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or an exercise of power are barbarians.”
George Lucas speaking against the colourisation of films back in 1988.
One year later, the Library of Congress requested an original negative of Star Wars (1977) for preservation but he would refuse to provide it, instead trying to fob them off with his Special Edition from 1997. Suffices to say that The Library of Congress are STILL waiting for that print and everybody else is STILL waiting for a HD version of the original trilogy. I cannot think of many films of this scale which are unavailable in their original formats besides those which had been lost of irrevocably damaged.
Even silent masterpieces such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) are still being reconstructed, Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1945) is still incomplete but films such asBen~Hur (1959) spring to mind as a prime example of an epic which has being preserved with each digital release.
The colour and sounds are always subject to upgrades with most films but this is usually in an effort to keep the film at its peak as technology improves and our standards are higher. A 1959 print, even a pristine one might not meet our expectations in 2015 but the art direction, sound design and tone and feel should remain unaffected, preserved for all time.
Lucas has desecrated his own work, beginning as far back as 1978 when he added the Episode IV: A New Hope suffix as his sequel was under way. But this was not a grievous change, nothing so much as from 1997 onwards with his not so “Special Editions” and the subsequent changes right up until the 2011 Blu-ray release.
With line changes, endless CGI tinkering and the change of scenes with subtle but character redefining consequences, such as the notorious“Greedo shoots first” scene from Star Wars, in which the scene changes from Han Solo being a ruthless smuggler to that of defending himself against a bounty hunger who can’t shoot!
But I have no problem with these special editions as long a the Original Cuts are available too, but beside the 2006 DVD release of the 1993 Laserdisc versions, which are are watchable but poor by today’s standards, they are lost. Lucas has stolen them from us. This is the only example of this kind of artistic barbarism, to quote George himself, that I am aware of.
Let us just hope that Disney, never ones to miss a trick when it comes to milking their films, will see the value of releasing the original versions and hopefully ALL the significant versions on Blu-ray, sooner rather than later. A film does not need to be perfect to be great and lest we forget that Star Wars, which Lucas tries to claim failed to live up to his vision due to technical limitations of the time, won and was nominated for several Academy awards, in categories which he would alter later! Clearly he did something right back in 1977, but has been getting it wrong ever since!
Now on to the films and TV…
1977 (Theatrical Version (“STAR WARS”) (DVD)
1977/1980 (Theatrical Re-release (“A NEW HOPE”) (VHS & Laserdisc)
1977/1997 (Special Edition) (VHS & Laserdisc)
1977/2004 (Enhanced Special Edition) (DVD)
1977/2011 (Blu-ray Enhanced Special Edition) (Blu-ray)
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
May Contain Spoilers!
Is there really much left to say about Star Wars, seriously? This is the most famous Science Fiction film of all time and well deserved too. The simple story of a farm boy from the planet Tattoine who finds himself embroiled in an inter-galactic conflict, or Star Wars, as it were, is handed brilliantly. The pacing is good and a firm step into the 1980’s in terms of action and special effects, let alone away from the more dour 70’s era of realism and slow burn pacing.
But Star Wars is somewhat derivative, sourced from The Seven Samurai (1954) and The Dam Busters (1955) to name but two, and with The Lord Of The Rings flanking them both, does this film really deserve the adoration of so many? Yes, it does. Just because it can be said that Lucas was very liberal with his homages to other men’s work, does not mean that this was not one of the grandest productions ever put on to film; boasting state of the art special effect, a real cinematic vision and a story of pure heart and spirit.
In this galaxy far, far away, good and evil exist, where shades are grey are almost no existent; redemption is a way of life and murdering Stormtroopers and anyone associated with the Galactic Empire is perfectly acceptable. The death toll in this U rated film is astronomical, with the Deathstar obliterating the peaceful planet of Alderaan and the Deathstar itself being destroyed with all hands by the well placed Proton Torpedo delivered by Luke Skywalker. Millions were left dead.
But, there’s no blood, no gratuitous violence, just the bad guys getting it at every turn,Obi-Wan’s death and Uncle Owen and Aunt Buru’s smouldering remains not withstanding, this was palatable for kids. The film has true universal appeal and unlike its prequels, is aimed at everyone and not just the children who are being market for with the endless supply of toys and merchandise.
But even after 35 years, Star Wars’ still impresses, with pure spectacle, excitement and fun. But even the endless “Upgrades” from Lucas himself fails to destroy the magic, though it would nice to see them as they were originally released on Blu-ray, and my views on Lucas’s lack of respect for Star Wars are well documented (see The Raping Of Star Wars By George Lucas).
Star Wars is a classic, pieced together from other classics to create something legendary; the phenomena which even after 35 years, is still going strong. Lucas may well have failed to recreate the success of this one, but that certainly does not detract from this gem.
DIRECTOR: Steve Binder
Where to start with this, one of Cinema’s most infamous television tie-ins and one which has continually re-surfaced after over 30 years of trying to bury it. In 1978, just over a year since the phenomenon that was Star Wars had taken cinemas and the world by storm, Someone, somewhere had the idea to bring Star Wars to the small screen and it aired on CBS a week before Thanksgiving.
It is nothing short of terrible. Should be buried? No. Nothing should be intentionally lost but I doubt that after you have seen this travesty once, you will be game for a repeat viewing. George Lucas claims to have had little involvement with this, but I do not trust him or his retroactive views on his own work as far as I could through a CGI Jabba The Hut! Personally, I believe that he simply sold out to raise money to fund The Empire Strikes Back and if so, it was worth it but this is NOT Star Wars as we know it, or is it?
The pros are few and far between but there are a few. Being made of the back of Star Wars and before The Empire Strikes Back (1980)expanded the universe in an irrevocable way, this does at least feel like Star Wars as it felt back in the early 80’s, before The Force consumed everything Star Wars, before the dark times, before midichlorians! The characters and the cast of the first film are all here sporting the same costumes and generic interpretations of their characters which had yet to be fleshed out any further. In this way, it does have some of the fun which made Star Wars a hit.
And the even though it is ludicrous here, the introduction of Kashyyyk, Chewbacca’s home world in consistent with its future incarnations, most notably that of Episode III and the clear inspiration for the Ewoks, who were of course originally envisioned by Lucas to be Wookies.
And then there is the cartoon introduction of Boba Fett, which is great but is so much better than everything else that I refuse to consider it when rating the special.
But this was essentially a Holiday season variety show cashing in on the Star Wars phenomenon, clearly pitched to sell toys for Christmas too. Some of the skits may have worked better at the time before we knew just what Star Wars was to become but now it is just of collection of songs, acts and comic moments which do not even make much effort to tie into the franchise, just tell a few jokes as they reuse the sets and costumes from the hit film in similar way to that Carry On Cleo and Cleopatra (1963) and of course recycled stock footage. But when the stock footage is of the Millenium Falcon, Tie Fighters and the Star Destroyers, then they are forgiven.
I was just two months old when this originally aired back in 1978, as well as being British, which means that I never had a chance to see a broadcast of this as it has NEVER been broadcast since, never have. Its life has evolved from bootleg VHS’s in the 90’s to Youtube nowadays, with the Boba Fett cartoon being the only clip worthy of official release being included as an Easter egg on the 2011 Blu-ray set.
This is a curiosity and as they say, curiosity killed the cat! Well, it has not turned me against Star Wars but it is one of those things which once seen, cannot be unseen. So watch with caution.
Here is the 97 minute version of the Star Wars Holiday Special which aired 37 years ago today on CBS in the United States.
The Boba Fett Cartoon is rated independently at 8/10
1980 – (Theatrical Version) (VHS & DVD)
1980/1997 – (Special Edition) (VHS & Lasredisc)
1980/1997/2004 – (Enhanced DVD Edition) (DVD)
1980/1997/2004/2011 – (Enhanced Blu-ray Edition) (Blu-ray)
The template for modern cinemas love affair with sequels. “The Godfather: Part 2” proved that a sequel could surpass the first but this introduced the audience to something different.
Darker, different and unpredictable whist maintaining the magic that made “Star Wars” a hit, this lifted the saga from being just a sci fi blockbuster to new heights as a movie iconoclast.
Nothing is safe after this. Sequels need not be more of the same but expansive and ground-breaking. Without this you might not have “Terminator 2”, or “The Dark Knight”.
The story is advanced concisely as is the universe as a whole. Then, there’s the twist, let alone the cliffhanger ending. Ground-breaking cinema is something to behold and here we have one of the best examples.
Unfortunately these heights would never again be reached with the Star Wars saga, but this should stand tall as a tent pole as to how we do that…
A MUST SEE!
1983 – (Theatrical Version) (VHS, Laserdisc & DVD)
1983/1997 – (Special Edition) VHS & Laserdisc)
1983/1997/2004 – (Enhanced DVD Special Edition) (DVD)
1983/1997/2004/2011 – (Enhanced Blu-ray Special Edition) (Blu-ray)
DIRECTOR: Richard Marquand
This is often thought of as the weakest of the original trilogy, and whilst I would agree with that, that’s not to say that it is bad. The phenomenon which had begun with“Star Wars”, six years earlier was about to conclude, or so we thought, with Jedi.
The first film had pioneered the technology and concepts of which to present and achieve such a franchise in the 1970’s and ’80’s, and “The Empire Strikes Back” is still the benchmark for part twos, but where this film falls down is that it has sacrificed narrative quality for Lucas’ realisation that he could finally do what he wanted, without any hindrance from studios or production limitations.
He had the best of best in visual effects with his Industrial Light and Magic, and he had a vision which had remained unrealised in the previous two films, such as the so called failed Cantina scene in “Star Wars”, which is presented here, only this time in the walls of Jabba’s palace.
The first half I believe, is George Lucas’ real film. Monsters and Muppets, pure fantasy as our heroes wrap up the events of the previous film, and make their daring escape from Jabba the Hutt. The second part is almost a separate film, focusing quite rightly on the Empire and the destruction of the second Death Star. But this plot is very matter of fact, and has no real charm or heart, just epic visuals and a theatrical sense.
Meanwhile, Han Solo and Princess Leia are leading a rebel assault on the forest moon of Endor, populated by the most annoying Muppets of all… the dreaded Ewoks! The Ewoks must be one of cinema’s greatest misjudgements, the first real misstep in Lucas’ handling of the “Star Wars Saga”; but with the prequels and the constant tinkering with the originals, this was to be the thin end of the wedge.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plot elements revolving around the Muppets which I liked, such as the nature vs. technology metaphor, but that does not excuse the Ewoks and nothing ever will! But elements such as the Speedbike chase and the final battle, all of it, the final Vader/Luke dual, the assault of the Death Star itself, and even the ludicrous Ewok assault, are excellent, visually stunning and exiting and it is enough to save this film from being bogged down by the bad.
And like I said, the money grabbing, almost narratively illiterate George Lucas has damaged and defamed his franchise with his constant tinkering, firstly with the Special Edition in 1997, and then with his Enhanced Special Edition in 2004 for the DVD release.
Lucas is a visionary and has done so much for the film industry and we should be grateful but in the end, he needs to stop milking this franchise, stop pretending that it is never finished, when he has finished it THREE times now and realise that the best of the original trilogy was directed and written by other people, all of which display more talent. Lucas is not a good director but he is a good producer and he has brought this franchise to the screen and the movie industry is better for it. But the Special Editions bring nothing important to the mix, with the exception of the finale, which does carry more scope that 1983 original.
Overall, the weakest of the “Star Wars Trilogy” is a fair assessment and at its worst, it’s still leagues above any entry in the prequels, even the Episode III, which is the closest to this high standards of this series.
THE CARAVAN OF COURAGE: AN EWOK ADVENTURE
DIRECTOR: John Korty
Feeling more like Willow meets The Lord Of The Rings, this so called Star Wars spin off, originally a U.S. TV Movie Of The Week, though shown theatrically in certain European countries including England, has fallen out of mind of so may fans. This is one of two movie made which follow the exploits of the Ewoks after Return Of The Jedi (1983) even though this is actually set a year before the events of Jedi, there is no reference to the Empire building their second Death Star.
The effects are quite good as are the production values for an 80’s family fantasy adventure, though Star Wars, this is not. The Ewoks seem to be able to channel a more straight forward magic than the more plausible Force, but the Ewoks themselves felt very consistent.
Burl Eves provides a narration throughout to help us through the “complicated” plot which follows two kids, one looking remarkably like a younger Mark Hamill, who have been stranded on the Forest Moon of Endor after their parent’s ship crashed and have been kidnapped for some reason by a kind of giant, as they assemble a ‘fellowship’ of Ewoks to rescue them.
As the years of passed since this was produced, so has the world’s fascination with the furry Ewoks but a DVD was released in 2004 to coincide with the release of the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD but due to lack of interest, few where pressed and now they are fetching around £30 each. I watched the Laserdisc version from the 1990’s which has been uploaded to Youtube and whilst expecting to be bored to tears, I must admit that I was not.
They are very much of their time, but as a child of the 80’s, it was my time and it felt quite nostalgic but that was not all; The look of the film was good, solid. So, as a child friendly fantasy loosely associated with Star Wars, this more than serviceable.
EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR
DIRECTORS: Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat
Taking off right where the last one (Caravan Of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984) left off, this is somewhat darker in tone from opening. Where as the first film spent its time rescuing our little heroine, Cindel’s (Aubree Miller) parents from an ogre, they are quickly dispatched along with her older brother and hero of the last film, Mace, leaving her orphaned and on the run from an evil band of marauders along with Ewok, Wicket.
This is a bold start so there are no complaints here, but Wicket on the other hand, after spending time with the human family has learned some English, a skill which he did not have in the supposed to sequel to this, The Return Of The Jedi (1983).
But putting that on one side, the production values are okay, reasonable for a TV movie of the time, but this was released theatrically in some markets, Europe and the U.K. for sure.
This is pretty simple fair, having more in common with Lucas’ next big movie, Willow (1988) and He-Man than Star Wars (1977) but as family fantasy film it works just fine. Evil witch, even more evil monstrous marauder leader, a little girl in peril coming of age, Wilford Brimly!, this has it all.
But is it worth seeing now, 30 years later? Has this or its predecessor got any staying power? NO, not really.
I have only finally decided to watch this after all this time because of its Star Wars connections and without that I would not have bothered and would have miss nothing
STAR WARS: DROIDS: EPISODE 1
“THE WHITE WITCH”
DIRECTOR: Ken Stephenson
May contain spoilers!
Premièring on the same day as Ewoks in the U.S. on the 7th Sepetmber 1985, Droids was a prequel Saturday morning cartoon series following the exploits of R2-D2 and his counterpart, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) in the period between Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith and IV (A New Hope).
This opening episode sees the duo abandoned on a desert planet and picked up by two speeder racers, with the titular ‘White Witch’ being their suped up Landspeeder. But after getting into trouble with a local gangster with intentions to take over his rivals, the group have to flee the planet.
Considering the ill will this show has, this episode was not half bad. Mildly funny, entertaining and action packed. Granted, this is a poor cousin of the franchise and it was clearly designed to sell toys, many of which were Kenner’s left overs after Star Wars’ popularity waned in the late 80’s but looking back, certainly with the prequels in mind, this could have been a lot worse. In fact, there are several elements which seemingly inspired the prequels…
I remember hating this a kid myself and that is one reason why I have been loathed to revisit this less than classic series. Something which has been made more difficult by the fact that Lucasfilm will not properly release this on DVD, nor repeat it on TV. The DVD is an edited version of eight of the 13 episodes, cut into two features.
But, if you can watch these yo might just be surprised as to not necessarily how good they are, but how bad they are not. They certainly entertaining enough for 22 minute cartoon.
STAR WARS: EWOKS: SEASON 1: EPISODE 1
“THE CRIES OF THE TREES”
DIRECTOR: Raymond Jafelice
May contain spoilers!
Never being a fan of this cuddly cartoon about even more cuddly teddy bears which would both defeat the Galactic Empire and kiddify the Star Wars universe in a way would lead to the Prequel Trilogy 15 years later, I returned to this childhood pariah with trepidation.
Being about eight years old when this aired on childrens TV here in the U.K. in the late 80’s, I just wanted more Star Wars. Instead we were given this, Droids and two life action Ewok movies which I have only just gotten around to watching last month, 20 years later!
There is not too much to say about these really. Ewoks has a lot in common with other 80’s cartoons such as The Smurfs and Furngully etc… and I suppose this is perfectly harmless. But it also offers little else. Yes it is a cartoon as a functional one but a classic, no. A testament to Star Wars? Equally, no.
For those of us old enough to remember these from the time it might satisfy your nostalgia but for anyone else, I would not bother. Nowadays there are plenty of ways to get your Star Wars fix and this probably will not satisfy it.
1999 (Theatrical Version) (VHS/Laserdisc)
1999/2001 (Uncut) (DVD)
1999/2001/2011 (3D Version)
1999/2001/2011 (Blu-ray Enhanced)
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
Dreams shattered. Never has a film or a film maker been subjected to such castigation as The Phantom Menace or George Lucas for adding to their own body of work like this.
Alarm bells rang out once the title was announced. The Phantom Menace… What do that even mean? It was not The Clone Wars or Rise Of The Sith, or anything that we had come to expect, instead, like the entire contrived screenplay, we were subjected to a campaign of “This is not gonna be what you think it is.” (Or want, apparently!)
The problem here is that if you wait 16 years to begin a three film prequel arch, then you better have one hell of a story up your sleeve and maybe you should have been a little more selective over the vast array of tie in novelizations, comic books and computer games, all of which seem to have used the best elements and plots for Star Wars.
What’s left? Well, nothing except for what we would expect, but is that bad thing? No, not really. We all knew that the Titanic would sink but that did not prevent a film about it becoming a top grosser in 1998. The problem here is Lucas himself.
He believes, and I am sure that the entire company of sycophants which he surrounds himself with would agree, that Lucas is a fantastic director and screenwriter. WRONG!He is a decent, and no more, decent producer and visionary as to visual effects and the infrastructure of film making, but nothing more. His work to advance sound and picture quality with his THX standard is worthy, as was his now seen as rather hypocritical stance against colouration in 1980’s, only for him to butcher his own films and reissue them in 3D later! (This included)
I feel that he thought that he could give his loyal audience a new and fresh take on his saga, whilst tying it in to the established back story. That’s before the more cynical me would suggest that he also wanted to secure his toy and merchandising industry for decades to come, and sort out any plot complications by re-editing his treasured originals until they fit the new mould, something which first reared its ugly head in 2004 with his second Special Edition versions for the DVD’s.
But here we are in 1999, and the opening titles appear on the screen. Words such as“Trade Federation” and “Taxation” began to appear. Gone was the standard opening of an Imperial Star Destroyer and welcome some tiny rubbish looking spaceship, as it approached a fleet of little Death Stars.
Soon we meet Qui-Gon Jin (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) and the childish adventure begins. My first thought as a 20 year old was,‘Was Star Wars really this childish? The answer: No. It was a family adventure and it wasn’t as high brow as many fans would like to believe but it wasn’t anything like this either.
Jar Jar Binks was a prime example of where this film went wrong as per the tone, as was the entire Gungan plot; Pointless. Eventually we finally end up on more familiar ground, Tatooine and we meet an 8-year-old Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd). The future Darth Vader was far from the villain which we all wanted but it could have worked if executed better, but instead this was cynical move to add something more relatable to Lucas’ key demographic, the toy buying children.
Is this what we wanted. No. But does Lucas care? No. What he seems to think is that we should swallow whatever pills he gives us and we will, quite frankly, but he is hardly doing himself any favours in then process. Star Wars has become his own personal toy to tinker with at his leisure and this was phase two for him, after his Special Editions in 1997.
The main problem is here is the back story. As I said earlier, he didn’t seem content to give us the most plausible and thematically relevant version of events before A New Hope, instead in an attempt to give us something new, he contrived a story out of elements dismissed on never even dreamed of by others.
And there’s a good reason for that, because it’s crap! It seemed that Lucas was intent on having Anakin turn to dark side in Episode III, which is fine, so he needed to build a story to work towards that. But he never really archives this and starting here, 30 years earlier when nothing will have a direct influence on Anakin’s motivations to turn, seems to be waste of time.
And then there’s the lack any real villain. Granted we have the double act of Darth Sidious (Get it?) and Darth Maul (Ray Park), who is without a doubt the best character in this and they kill him off! For a franchise which delivered one of cinemas greatest villains in the form of Darth Vader to ignore this most basic need, was ludicrous. Maul was a wasted character and would have made the subsequent prequels better with his inclusion, I have no doubt about that considering what we were given. Sorry Christopher…
To me, this film should have started the franchise with something closer to what Episode II’s was in terms of plot, if it were, as with The Empire Strikes Back, making the second part the pivotal one, with the introduction of Darth Vader in the second film, leaving an entire third film to Darth doing what was quoted in A New Hope, “Hunting down and destroying the Jedi”.
This just seems a long, long prologue and extended filler. But as filler goes, there’s no arguing with some of the sequences here, particularly the Pod Race, based on Ben~Hur’s Chariot Race, even down to the hero and villain’s flag colours and the march of charioteers homage. And then there’s the lightsaber battle at the end, which in spite of many complaints about it being unfair, two on one and all that, I don’t care, it was cool!
Overall, it would appear that Lucas still has a flare for the visuals, but lacks any real story telling ability and anyone to edit his rubbish, but that’s not to say that if you let it wash over you and watch it with the children, it can’t be a reasonably enjoyable two hours especially, the Pod Race and The Final Duel.
But in an attempt to be clever and outsmart his own fans, he lost sight of his own intriguing back story which he penned over 20 year earlier, one in which Darth Vader was a pilot, not a smart-arse kid who raced jet engines around sand dunes and The Clone Wars sounded pretty cool.
And the two plotting styles of trade disputes and Jar Jar Binks style comedy just didn’t work well together. But I think it’s fair to sum up this film with one question:
To start with, for this example, there never was an original trilogy. It’s 1999: A film called Star Wars: The Phantom Menace comes out as a tent-pole summer release. The director was previously responsible for flop Howard The Duck and this film has a plot which is as all over the place as this. Would there have been a sequel?
If the answer is no, then you can surely agree that this is not the film to start one of cinema’s greatest and most successful franchises and there would never have been episodes IV or V, let alone VI. In real terms, this must be one of the most success films to be derided by its own fans in movie history. What kind of accolade is that?
2002 (Digital Theatrical Version) (DVD & VHS)
2002/2011 (Blu-ray Enhanced)
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
Three years on from the omen of foreboding which was The Phantom Menace, I doubt that I was on my own when I was hanging the fate of the entire Star Wars franchise on this film redeeming itself, and not replicating the first major mistake of the saga. The big question is, did it work?
No. But it could have been a lot worse! Lucas seems to have taken his true premise and motives from the first film, by creating an even bigger universe of exotic characters, but selling any form of narrative cohesion or integrity down the river.
The effects became more pronounced and there was a change in the aesthetic from the Episode I, which for all it’s faults, was grounded and a more reasonable blend of visual effects and real life than this. A major misstep in a film by shot with green screen, and it shows.
It would take James Cameron the rest of decade to perfect this with Avatar, and you would think that if Lucas with all his wealth and power behind him, could either had waited or worked within the limitations of what was available at the time, because trust me, the technology that he was using, just simply was not up to it. The matt paintings from his original trilogy were leagues better than most of the CGI effects here, but that’s not to say that they were all bad.
The sound design worked very well and effects such as the chrome starships from Naboo likewise, but I do feel that Lucas was again “inspired” by other sources for his production design, such as Courasent for example, which was basically is right out of Blade Runner.
But enough about the VFX, sound design and plagiarised production design, what about the narrative? What about it; The story is, without being distracted by the contrivances meant to convince us that this is a real grown up drama, that 10 years after The Phantom Menace, Anakin has grown up and fallen in love with Padmé, now a senator for Naboo.
Obi Wan Kenobi had continued his training, though little interest is show in developing this plotline, it’s just stated, and the pair of Jedi Knights are assigned, like two New York cops, to investigate an assassination attempt on Padmé.
Is this what you think of when you think Jedi Knights? I didn’t think so. So they separate, with Obi Wan winding up at the Planet Kemino, a planet of cloners (Hey up! Wink!) where he is introduced to the Stormtrooper army Mk1 and the clone army’s father, Jango Fett along with his son, a direct clone of him, Boba.
It’s this wish-fulfilment Fan-boy plot which pits Jango, who is basically Boba Fett for all intents and purposes, and Obi Wan against each other. They engage in a physical battle on a landing platform, in which Jango escapes only for them to fight again, this time in the rings of a planet.
This and many sequences in this film hark back to better days in the Star Wars franchise, in this case, the asteroid chase from The Empire Strikes Back, but it all plays out quite well. Meanwhile, Anakin and Padmé are falling madly in love in the corniest way possible and as part of some of the worst scriptwriting that I have ever seen.
The acting isn’t much better either, something which we should be surprised about from the Oscar winning Natalie Portman, but that’s the same story with everyone in these prequels. There’ no flair, no Harrison Fords, just good actors being green screened to death!
Then, as their forbidden love is on the brink of being explored, Anakin has a dream, a recurring plot device to move characters around in the prequels and mush return home to find his mother. She is killed by the Sandpeople, so Anakin “Kills them all” but whilst teetering, still fails to turn to the darkside, seemingly brushing this incident to the back of his mind as they set off to rescue Obi Wan, who has been captured by the Trade Federation and Count Dooku. Yes, they’re back.
So, after a computer game styled sequence in a Droid factory, everyone is captured and they must battle a series of monsters in an arena… blar, blar.
So, it’s come to this we’re thinking, when suddenly “begins, The Clone Wars do”. The action kicks off, Anakin looses his arm, bad guy, this time in the form of Christopher Lee’s, Count Dooku, gets away for the next film and finally, the rubbish is out-of-the-way, and the story which we actually want to see is almost upon us.
Just three years later, and 22 years after Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi, we would finally see the creation of Darth Vader in a film, whilst far from what we would have hoped, was certainly more in tune with fans that these two.
On a plus note, the nod to fans that Jar Jar was now relegated to a supporting role was much appreciated, though I’m sure that many wanted him dead. But how well would a death scene have gone with Jar Jar anyway, it was probably best to simply cut their losses, tough it was nice to see his stupidity set up Emperor Palpatine in office, ready to take over the galaxy, thanks again, Jar Jar!
Overall, like the first film, not a bad watch as a glossy entertaining film, but not on par with the originals, lacking any real weight, with a screenplay which would not have passed any rigorous form of editing, and no theatrical of creative flair what so ever; Confirming that Lucas is the Ed Wood of our generation, only through one great film,Star Wars, and one of his most well judged decisions not to direct of write the screenplay for the sequel, and the best film of the franchise, The Empire Strikes Back, has been managed to become something that the famed “World’s Worse Director” (Ed Wood) couldn’t and make a ton of money in the process!
But I’m back with the same question. Would a film of this quality, after the last one, have spawned another sequel? If it was up to these two films, then we would never have seen Anakin become anything more that a piece of the scenery, let alone the iconic Darth Vader.
STAR WARS: CLONE WARS
(CARTOON NETWORK MICRO SERIES)
2003 – 2005
Seasons 1 – 3
DIRECTOR: Genndy Tartakovsky
Could this be Star Wars at its best?
In many ways, I would say yes. Beginning with a 20 chapter, three minutes each serial on Cartoon Network in 2003/2004 and then concluding with five, 15 minute episodes leading directly to the start of Episode III in 2005, Clone Wars offers a true sense of fun to the franchise.
It is for kids but its lightness of touch, ambition and visual flair appeal to fans of all ages. Here we see a vision of Star Wars, in many ways a franchise built as much around selling toys as it is telling stories, fulfilling the imagination of its child audience.
The characters can do anything, fight hard, fast and jump high, at times even fly. They face off against cool machines, evil and imaginative foes and take us on a tour of a galaxy far, far away to see worlds that we could only imagine, engrossed in a war that is as violent as it is fun to play in.
There is a good sense of humour too, with zippy dialogue, clever visuals and intriguing scenarios. But this also has many themes from John Williams iconic score, dropping us into the Clone Wars right from where Episode II (2002) left off and will take us toPalpatine’s kidnapping which is resolved at the begging of Revenge Of The Sith (2005).
Genndy Tartakovsky animation style is awesome, known for his work on Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory and more recently, Hotel Transylvania 1 (2012) & 2 (2015), he is in my opinion, one of the most imaginative animators working today, able to mix a blend of iconic, stylized cartoons, with a great sense of maturity and humour, a real understanding of the agelessness of good animation.
This sold toys and even I want to play them after watching this. This is how we play with them, short bursts of imagination, then onto something else. Lightsaber duels, clone trooper battles, space battles, underwater battles and that chapter with Mace Windu is nothing short of brilliant!
A real hidden gem almost lost behind the newer much more successful CGI series, The Clone Wars (2008 – 2013), which may expand the universe more narratively, but this is a shorter, more concise work of art, one which should be rediscovered.
2005 – (DVD Release)
2005/2011 – (Enhanced Blu-ray Edition)
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
After 22 years of waiting, since 1983’s“Return Of The Jedi”, we were sat in the auditorium ready to witness the epic moment when Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker would finally turn on one and other and Darth Vader’s conception would be complete.
As the ‘Clone War’ came to a close, the Jedi had been all but wiped of the face of a galaxy far, far away and Chancellor Palpatine had ascended to become the emperor of the newly formed ‘Galactic Empire’, that moment had finally arrived. Was it worth the wait?
Well, since the bar had be not so much lowered, but obliterated by the the first two prequels, measured with those in mind, then yes, absolutely! In fact, it does stand up well, and on the initial viewing, it was outstanding. A visual feast or choreography, visual style and epic art direction, everything you would expect from the man who had changed cinema forever, 28 years earlier.
The only issue is that even though the fans wanted nothing more that to see this duel, the rest of the prequel franchise was merely filler, and a series of plots designed to delay the inevitable battle and to give the audience anything but what they had expected. But after a ridiculous 22 year wait, there was almost no good ideas left that hadn’t been explored in two decades of fan fiction, leaving all the bad ones to be included in Lucus’ second, no rather third rate scripts!
We had been told that he was waiting for the technology to make these films, but what was he waiting for exactly? The technology to animate the, perhaps? The visual effects in these films, though sparkling and perfect in its details, are hollow and do not match the standards of the original films, and begs the question as to why not?
Four years since the release of “Revenge Of The Sith”, James Cameron would finally release a film which he had being developing the technology for, for over 10 years,(“Avatar”) and the result: Groundbreaking cinema, in both the 3D and Mo-cap tech, raising the bar, as “Star Wars” had done three decades earlier.
But this film had restored something which the franchise had all but destroyed with episodes one and two. This finally felt something like the original films and was a joy to watch, even though it still falls short of the mark. The acting is poor in all the prequels, which account to Lucas’ directorial style, favouring green screen and CGI over acting. But John William’s score is first rate, as it has been throughout the entire saga, but this was both classic and moving, a score truly in touch with the audiences love and feeling towards the films, sadly devoid in most other aspects of the production.
That’s not to say that technically this was well produced, because on paper, in the computers, and certainly in sound editing suites, it was perfect, with levels of audio visual detail to die for and the scope was awesome. But in the end, it is a hollow shell of what it should have been. “Episode III” though, is the most fulfilling of the three, but all of them rely of the decades of loyalty given to them, because without it, these would probably be laughed out of the auditoriums.
But having said all that, I enjoy this film, as a part of the saga, and still look forward to seeing it, and some of the sequences in this film , though far from perfectly realised, are fun and enjoyable. This is leagues below “Star Wars” and the superior “The Empire Strikes Back”, but still worth a watch.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
DIRECTOR: Dave Filoni
Coming just three years after Episode III (2005), yet set between Episodes II (2002) and III, The Clone Wars (2008) serves a feature length pilot for what would become the successful Cartoon Network series of the same name.
But this would in fact be the second series to bear the name on that particular network, with the superior yet much smaller cartoon micro series lead by Genndy Tartakovsky. This is somewhat more realistic, yet heavily stylised as we follow our heroes from the prequels through the Clone Wars, something which is brushed over in the theatrical trilogy.
The television series would go on to expand not only the titular conflict but the Star Wars universe itself, as this is cannon, unlike many of the books are now, after Disney bought the franchise and has reset a lot of the expanded universe.
But being the pilot that it is, it does suffer from being somewhat televisual, lacking the grand scope of the space opera which inspired it. The plot is episodic and it feels more at home on the small screen, with a plot which feels like a three episode arch, rather than one grand story.
Saying that, this is action packed from the opening frame and never lets up. Fun, exiting and light-hearted, this feels more like the Star Wars that we have come to expect but were denied with the prequels, well, up until Episode III at least. But no-one dies. The villains live to fight another day and our heroes grow in numbers, preparing to fulfil their roles in the then up coming series, one which after six year was cancelled following Disney’s Lucasfilm buy out, Disney not being happy with rival Cartoon Network airing their new franchise.
And this suffers from being the prequel to a prequel. Treading water in a muddy lake as it were. Count Dooku (voiced by the late Christopher Lee) for example, is destined to meet his end three years later in the Star Wars Universe at the hands of Anakin Skywalker at the beginning of Revenge Of The Sith (2005) so there is little tension as to his fate whenever his raises his lightsaber.
But this is not bad and quite enjoyable as a child friendly actioner and offers some much needed light hearted fun for adults too.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS: EPISODE 1: SEASON 1
DIRECTOR: Dave Bullock
The first episode of the hit Cartoon Network series, The Clone Wars, not to be confused with the earlier 2003-2005 Genndy Tartakovsky Micro Series Star Wars: Clone Wars which tells the story of the titular conflict between Episodes II and III much more succinctly, focuses on Yoda and his efforts to win over the support of the Toydarians, Watto’s race from Episode I.
He is challenged to prove the Jedi’s strength and prowess in battle by single handedly taking down a Droid army on the planet by Count Dooku and his apprentice, Asajj Ventress.
This is Yoda so he of course succeeds, though with a little help from three Clone Troopers who have accompanied him to the surface. Delving in to concept that there is more to the Clones than meets the eyes, something which I know from later episode will be a major theme of the series and the importance of proper, motivational leadership, there is in fact more to this series than you may expect from a Cartoon about Star Wars.
Whilst still action packed, there is a concerted effort to flesh out the universe, focusing on characters in away not seen properly since Episodes IV and V.
I also like the fact that this has been filmed in 2.35:1, though I understand that it was shown on TV in some cases in 1.77:1 but still, the commitment to the theatrical scale of the project is appreciated, as is the high quality of the production on the whole.
The music, whilst not being composed by John Williams, the series’ composer, Kevin Kilner manages to work the classic themes in when necessary and Ben Burtt’s sound design is till present too.
Overall, reviewing the opening episode alone, I would say that it was a bold choice to focus on Yoda rather not Anakin or Kenobi and whilst it sets the tone for the series well, it was not as enthralling as I would have liked.
It felt more for fans than casual viewers. I am a Star Wars fan but I am not someone who follows the franchise 24/7 and in fact it is only now, after the show has finished and seven years after this episode first aired that I have taken to time to sit down at what it properly.
I have seen later episode casually and the opening feature film but again, only recently. This animated series just did not appeal to me as much as I wanted it to and maybe it is because yet again, we are in the prequel era. I was raised with the original trilogy and it seems that this time period is left solely to the theatrical films.
But so far so good and on the back of this I will certainly be watching more so in that sense, “Ambush” was a success.
STAR WARS REBELS: SEASON 1: EPISODE 1
“SPARK OF REBELLION”
DIRECTORS: Steve Lee & Steward Lee
Opening with Darth Vader’s (James Earl Jones) head looming over The Inquisitor (Jason Issacs) sets the tone from the opening of this, Disney’s answer to The Clone Wars. Set between Episodes III and IV we finally get a series which delves into the “Dark times”, the rise of the Empire and the Rebellion, along with Star Destroyers, Tie Fighters, remnants of the Jedi and the characters and settings from the original trilogy.
The era of the Prequels dominating the franchise may well be over. Rebels finally returns us to the pitch that created the phenomena that is Star Wars in the first place. Good and evil, black and white, Rebels vs. The Empire.
This episode is good start but how the series will progress throughout the first season is yet to be seen, by me at least, but off the back off this, I am defiantly interested.
The first thing I noticed, besides the decent script and intriguing characters, was the production design. The design of the Tie Fighter for example is that of the Kenner toy rather than the live action version and though I am skipping to a later episode, the Imperial Troop Transport which was an original toy that never appeared in the films has made an appearance here. Clearly with an eye to reisuue old toys for a new series/generation.
This tactic is reminiscent of Droids (1985-1986), a series either created or perverted to sell the remains of the Kenner toy line in the late 80’s. They had versions of the toys which were made as toys only, such as the Mini-rigs, included in the show simply to market them for the toy aisles.
But the difference here is that so far the focus does seem to be the on story and the production values are high, with uses of John Williams themes and Ben Burtt’s Oscar winning sound designs.
Overall, I was impressed with what I have seen so far. Finally telling stories from the era of Darth Vader before Luke, Han and Leia come on to the scene is something to get exited about… right?
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS!
What can I say. Let’s not drag this out any longer…
…I LOVED IT!
This was the Star Wars movie that I had been waiting for since I was five years old. Following on from the events of Return Of The Jedi (1983), we are reunited with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) along with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 to name but a few.
But we are also introduced to the next generation, Rey (Daisy Rider), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), along with our new Darth Vader, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). It is here that this film hits it’s stride and literally within minutes of the iconic opening crawl, we meet Poe Dameron as he is on a mission for now General Leia (Fisher), a mission to track down the long lost Luke Skywalker when his is captured by the villainous Ren and his Stormtroopers.
But one of these troopers, who adopts the name Finn, has a severe attack of conscience and escapes the First Order, the reformed Empire under the leadership of the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and they end up crashing on a Tatooine like planet, Jakuu.
It is here that Finn, now fearing Poe is dead, meets Rey (Rider), a young scavenger who has found Poe’s Droid, BB-8 and is being hunted by The First Order to retrieve the robot and the information whcih he is carrying. After escaping from Jakuu on a “Piece of Junk” spaceship, no prizes for guessing what ship this is, they meet Han Solo and Chewbacca as they want their ship back!
There is so much right about this movie that I cannot go into everything, but the tone is perfect. Both 1970’s sci-fi and 2015 action packed event movie spectacle. But as is the case with any good action movie, action is only has good as it’s heart and this is built on the solid foundation of strong and likeable characters, something with prequel trilogy missed completely.
The motivations are clear and palpable; from the enigmatic Snoke, to his right hand man, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), who channels the menace of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, and his Sith like apprentice Kylo Ren; as well as the Resistance, the new name for the Rebel Alliance, all seem to have been fleshed out with real characters and enjoyable moments throughout.
This FUN! Something which a movie of this scale and tone should be. Something with George Lucas had lost sight of during in rein over the Prequels. Maybe it is just the shock that Star Wars was not just the kids film that Lucas insisted that they were with his second toy marketing campaign, sorry, the Prequels, because they are not! They were and ARE family entertainment blockbusters, accessible for ALL ages.
The film harks back to glory days of Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) without contriving too much. This is often done through humour though relevantly. But this is both Han Solo’s movie and the newcomers, who quite frankly were so well realised that they could have held this movie together on their own.
This comes complete with iconic Star Wars visual references, such as the Millennium Falcon, new takes on the Tie Fighters, Star Destroyers and X-Wings, this draws us right back into a world which we had all but given up on seeing on the big screen again.
There is no doubt that my fears have be overturned and J.J. Abrams has pulled it off and not only saved Star Wars from Lucas but finally made a brilliant film himself! I felt that he may get away with this after his take on Spielberg was so successful with Super 8 (2011) and Star Trek (2009), for its many faults, were clearly being used as show reels to demonstrate his credibility to direct Star Wars. As a Trekie, this infuriates me but at least he has managed not to ruin another franchise, so that is good, right?
And even though the prequels are not mentioned as such, the planet Courasant, referred to only as the Republic was destroyed by The Starkiller Base, the Death Star of this movie, also referencing Luke’s original surname from the early drafts. This is very similar to Abram’s earlier method of distancing himself from the past of his franchises, as he did the same thing when his destroyed Vulcan in Star Trek (2009).
But whilst this scene was a big F*** You to Lucas’ Prequels, it was also hauntingly effective. Epic in scale, referencing a Hitler rally in tone a showing the horror of the doomed planet’s residents as they watched the red laser beam streak across the night sky.
Overall all, this is Star Wars for everyone. The adults who watched the first movie in 1977; my generation, the kids who grew up with the original trilogy that followed, the prequel generation who have just grown up and all of our children and grand-kids.
This is the film which four generations can enjoy and since I went to cinema with my parents (both in there mid to late 60’s), my girlfriend and best mate (mid 30’s) and his 11 year old nephew, this is a point well proven, especially as all six of us left the theatre raving about it!
Hats off to J.J., a man who’s work has not failed exactly but failed to set the world on fire either. As a Trekie, I found his interpretation of Star Trek to be flawed but his understanding of what made a good Spielberg film was realised perfectly with Super 8, this literally being my go to reference for his credibility in directing THIS film. Though I will not deny my scepticism of him and his attitude towards directing a franchise so damaged by its own creator, George Lucas, scepticism which has now been blown away by the results.
I believe that it is a fair quote to say that this is an instant classic and possibly one to depose Return Of The Jedi from its 32 year number three spot in the list of best Star Wars film, being good enough to join The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars (A New Hope) as one of the best films of the saga so far…
J.J. Abrams. You have been vindicated.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
This is not the first Star Wars spin-off, but it is joining a legacy of sub par entries to the franchise, certainly as where the big screen has been concerned, with two Ewoks movies and The Clone Wars TV pilot come movie to contend with. But Rogue One is first to take on the mantle of a blockbuster and attempt to compete with the very best of the Saga, if not join them.
In many ways, Rogue One is the prequel that we have been waiting for, taking place directly before the original movie, A New Hope, Gareth Edwards of Monsters (2010) and Godzilla fame, has managed to create a fan boy’s dream following the events which are mentioned in the opening crawl for that classic movie, the theft of the Death Star plans which would ultimately lead to Luke Skywalker’s “shot in a million” to destroy the moon sized planet killer.
But here, the task was to both take Star Wars in new new direction as well as to flesh out the story of the Star Wars saga itself. They manage to pull this off with the only real complaint being the pacing which is sporadic at best. With a combination of contrived plotting and uneven pacing, the starker, war movie which this is, can feel at times, like a check list of everything that fans have wanted to see on the big screen since 1983 and as such, runs the risk of being a vacuous, through-away movie, the “greatest hits” as it were.
But I feel that it skirts this issue and manages to stay on the side of narrative integrity, just about. We finally see Darth Vader, post Episode III for the first time in a life action film since 2005, something which the prequels failed to deliver and whilst at first it seemed to be a crowd pleasing cameo, by the finale, it paid off perfectly, as did the resurrection of the late Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, with the aid of ground breaking, if not morally questionable CGI effects. This was also used to bring us a cameo from Princess Leia (1977) to great effect.
Also, integrating stock footage of the original Red and Gold Squadron pilots from Star Wars (1977) and the demise of the original Red 5, who’s place Luke Skywalker would assume, were all nice touches.
In the end, at best Rogue One serves to turn the original Star Wars movie into and two part epic, with this movie seamlessly leading into the opening of Star Wars but how does it hold up in its own right?
Well, it is entertaining, well acted, if not let down by Gareth Edwards’ slightly uneven direction, but how the notorious re-shoots, which have clearly left several key shots form the trailers on the cutting room floor and possibly changes the finale significantly, effected this is as yet unknown, and Michael Giacchino’s slightly over the top bombastic score, Rogue One will certainly be an entertaining and action packed entry into the Star Wars universe.
But the true success of this film lies with its expansion of the Saga as a whole, bridging the less popular prequels with the original trilogy for the first time on the big screen, taking on finally, what J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens (2015) deliberately chose not too. Hopefully Episode VIII (2017) follow in the same vein, finally repairing some of the issues which Lucas’ much derided prequels, which at their heart, may have had much more to offer than Lucas’ poor direction let us see the first time around.
OTHER STAR WARS…
EMPIRE OF DREAMS (TV DOCUMENTARY)
DIRECTOR: Edith Becker & Kevin Burns
Empire Of Dreams first appeared as a bonus disc on the 2004 Original Star Wars Trilogy Boxset and charts in detail, George Lucas’ journey of bringing Star Wars to the big screen and in less detail, that of its two sequels.
This is an insightful look at the franchise and those who went on to change cinema in the process. Though somewhat Lucas-sentric, allowing his ego and re-writing of history to take the fore, with, for example, his insistence that he had a huge saga planned out from day one, which by all accounts simply is not true but it is hard to prove what was going on inside his head, this does cover a lot of interesting ground and for those who enjoy a good Hollywood documentary, this should be a treat.
But even if you are a more casual viewer or just a Star Wars fan as opposed to a film buff, this is still an enthralling look at the saga’s evolution, but only as far as Return Of The Jedi (1983). There are only a few references to the prequels but that is not a great loss.
Definitely worth a look.
STAR WARS: THE LEGACY REVEALED (TV DOCUMENTARY)
DIRECTOR: Kevin Burns
(Contains mild language)
This is one of those “let’s read way too much in to everything” type of documentaries, in which every aspect of Star Wars is analysed and assigned a root in existing mythology or history.
Also, its talking heads are hardly visible as they are firmly rooted up George Lucas‘ Arse!
They over analyse the entire saga as it stood 2007, to both correctly and contrivably drive meanings and associations with myths and Nazi Germany. Well, so what! and Well done! As a four year old boy back in 1982 I had worked this one out for myself! The Empire where a combination of Romans and Nazis, get over it!
But they even miss a couple if more obvious examples, such as likening the Ewok battle in Return Of The Jedi (1983) to David and Goliath rather than the more direct reference of Luke defeating the Rancor earlier in the same movie with a STONE!
All in all, it is worth a watch but take this sycophantic nonsense with a pinch of salt. If you want a proper objective analysis then I would suggest searching Youtube for an endless array of unsanctioned and unlicensed videos on the subject and you will learn so much more.
It is all subjective but at least the opinions of the internet are real and not polished by Lucasfilm.
In this documentary, George Lucas is a genius. Sorry, but at his best he can create some brilliant derivative interpretations which I like, such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but the notion that the failed Prequel trilogy is just misunderstood to the extent that is actually a work of art is just ludicrous!
FAMILY GUY: THE STAR WARS SAGA
2007, 2009 & 2011
DIRECTORS: Dominic Polcino, Peter Shin & James Purdum
May contain spoilers!
- BLUE HARVEST (2007)
- SOMETHING, SOMETHING, SOMETHING DARKSIDE (2009)
- IT’S A TRAP! (2011)
Family Guy is all about spoofs. But none better than the passionate take on the original Star Wars Trilogy. The love for this franchise is oozing out of every crevice of this foul mouthed, over sexualised yet witty, smart and on the nail spoof.
Combing the best of Family Guy’s comedy with an incredibly accurate retelling of the saga, complete with nit picking commentary, observational humour which fans will recognise and understand instantly, with a well edited digest of the trilogy, Seth MacFarlane’s team capture the essence of the films in much short running time.
My main complaint though is that these are not suitable for children though many of the gags are child friendly. This is a real shame as if this had been toned down a bit it could have served as a magnificent introduction to the saga for a young audience but as it stands, with paedophile jokes, frequent bad language and sexual humour that is incredibly close to the bone, this is squarely aimed at adults.
But it is what it is and it is executed brilliantly and is tremendous fun, communicating with its audience well, never patronising yet a detailed and insightful critique of the much loved saga, mocking without malice, a loving homage and spoof.
STAR WARS: EPISODES I – III: THE PHANTOM EDIT
2014 (1999, 2002 & 2005)
DIRECTORS: GEORGE LUCAS (ORIGINAL FOOTAGE) & ANDREW KWAN (RE-EDIT)
A fan edit making waves on Youtube, The Phantom Edit attempts to make the best of what are, whether you like the prequels or not, poorly written and conceived scripts. The execution is weak, acting and direction is clunky and too much time is spent on plot lines which defy exceptions to the point of wasting valuable screen time.
Episode III (2005) salvages the trilogy to a degree but with the first two episodes, the damage was done. In many ways, the prequels are not worthy of the disrespect that they garner, but lets face it, if they were not part of the Star Wars Saga, then they would have fallen into obscurity long ago.
It is due the loyalty of Star Wars fans that they are still so popular and efforts are made to salvage and excuse them today. And here is one of those examples.
Andrew Kwan begins his two hour re-edit of the seven hour saga by jumping straight into a swifter version of the Darth Maul duel at the end of Episode I (1999), the only scene from that movie to appear. No podrace, shame, not Naboo or Gungan rubbish, no tax issues, just a refocus of the opening crawl to imply that Maul was after the “Chosen One”, Anakin Skywalker and Qui Gon Jin along with Obi Wan Kenobi were fighting to protect him.
Then, straight on to Episode II and the focus is squarely on Anakin and Padme. Jango andBoba Fett hardly appear, which is a shame but the romance, made up here of deleted scenes as well as heavily edited theatrical cuts, is back up to a standard worthy of the trilogy.
Hats of to Kwan who has managed to salvage one of the most poorly written romances ever committed to the silver screen. He achieves this by focusing on the couple without any interruption, removing all the creepy scenes of ‘stalker’ Anakin as well asPadme’s resistance to there coupling and playing the whole affair as a straight forward loving relationship. They both fall in love, simple as that. And it works!
But there is now no wedding, which actually makes more sense. Do they need to get married?
By the 56th minute where are hovering over Courasant and Episode III (2005) begins. With the opening battle cut short, Anakin’s portentous dream is used to better effect to flashback to his arm being cut off by Count Dooku, his mother’s death and his marriage to Padme, but this is only a fleeting shot and this reference never again used in this version. The second half of this focuses on the rise of Darth Vader and theEmpire, a little else.
The Clone Wars are shown as background and motivations rather than plot points. Meaning that General Greivous, defiantly one of the better characters from the prequels is missing. But like Jango, he was superfluous to the core story, that of Darth Vader so neither are particularly missed here.
All in all this is a decent work, allowing us to see what story lies at the heart of the prequel trilogy, despatching four hours of gumph and extraneous filler. Granted, not everything that has been cut was rubbish; The Podrace was fantastic and it was great to see so much more Jango/Boba Fett and the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan was alluded too more in the opening of Episode III, but even here, it is hard to find a way to show it properly, proving that even though the love story could be salvaged,The Master/Padawan relationship was still poorly developed and underwritten.
Reminding me of the old Super 8 and 16mm digests of the 70’s and early 80’s, this cut down captures the essence of the saga in a way that Lucas’ bloated and poorly realised epic failed to deliver. A story so littered with nonsense and focusing of plot points which nobody really cared about that it managed to bury its own half decent story in itself, imploding under its own weight as it were.
Here we can catch a glimpse of what could have been and whilst still working with the material which could have been shot better in the first instance, Kwan manages to salvage Star Wars Episdoes 1 – 3 with great effect, a credit to good editing.
A job well done.
Watch it here: