Felix Vasquez Jr.'s "Star Wars" Report Card

star-wars-revenge-of-the-sith-sliceThis list is ranked by my most favorite to my least favorite, and regardless of my feelings for each film, all have the utterly amazing score from master John Williams to show for it.

RETURN OF THE JEDI – A –
I have a nasty habit of appreciating the more under-appreciated films. I loved “The Last Crusade” and this last installment is my all time favorite. By now, Luke is a jedi, Leia is captured, Han is frozen in Carbonite and things just keep becoming more chaotic as the last installment plays out. I adore this movie simply for its down to earth opera of father and son battling to the death. Father is overtaken by the darkside, his only son who has made his peace with the force is attempting to bring his father back to good. Palpatine, a menacing figure in the mythology also makes his first appearance.

Despite a slow opening the film is filled with some compelling human drama, and displays characters with excellent depth and personality while character relationships become more defined here. Leia and Han continue their romance, Luke discovers he isn’t the only hope for the Jedi to re-emerge and restore balance to the force, and we witness the best lightsaber fight simply because of its emotional weight. The climax is without a doubt my favorite moment in the entire series as Vader struggles with the good watching his son slowly dying and makes a decision that will dictate how the force is re-established. It’s an excellent finisher to an excellent trilogy, and my favorite of the series.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – A+
Ah, the big revelation, the cornerstone of this installment which is arguably the best in the entire series and it’s not hard to imagine why it gets so much respect and has become the prime example of sequels better than its predecessor. While I love “A New Hope” and I honestly do, this is better simply because of its impact on pop culture and modern storytelling–if there’s such a thing anymore. Though Lucas never really excelled at incredible dialogue, he managed to top himself this time around though the director was different. The surprise in this movie was utterly shocking, especially to first timers. Though now it’s the most commonly known movie surprise that everyone spouts in passing, it’s a shattering revelation to this series. Aside from that, the acting is much better this time around and the story is much darker and linear in atmosphere, tension and mood.

We get a more layered look at the character’s; Luke has conflicted emotions, Darth is also conflicted, the emperor makes a small appearance, Yoda plays a big role in Luke’s transformation, Leia and Han’s romance blossoms and they experience their first obstacle and the movie ends on a low note with the empire winning this round leaving the good guys to run off with their tails between their legs and regroup. Originally, Han was supposed to have died during his carbonite hibernation, but Lucas convinced Ford to reprise his role. It’s a good thing too, Lucas would have remained in infamy had he killed off arguably the best character of the series. Han is bad-ass here; he controls the Millenium Falcon getting the group out of jams, makes a sacrifice for the team though he doesn’t have to, he and Luke become closer, and he gets off three shots at Darth before he takes the gun away with his powers. No one has ever done that. This is an excellent movie.

A NEW HOPE – A+
True though it is on my top ten list of my all time favorite films, it’s not my favorite “Star Wars” film mainly because Lucas hadn’t really known what he was going to focus this movie on or the direction it was going, so in turn it becomes a completely different film. While the last two focus on the Jedi, and the force, we only get a glimpse of that here, and we’re mostly exposed to a story about star fighters trying to bring down the deathstar. The tone, atmosphere, and overall mood is completely different to anything in the further installments, it’s lighter, faster, and just more exuberant in energy. But it’s still a damn good film and a masterpiece.

We’re introduced to my favorite character of the series Obi-Wan Kenobi, and we’re introduced to one of the best movie villains ever created Darth Vader. This entire movie just spawned a new era of pop culture icons that many people would come to love and it’s just an amazing epic that is only a step forward in a more grand journey of Luke Skywalker and his inevitable fate to bring down the Empire. This is an utterly amazing film, and sans the Lucas alterations, it’s still an amazing movie.

REVENGE OF THE SITH – A –
Every time I’m convinced there are stupid people running rampant in this world, there are still some people that change my mind and show their intelligence. Recently, I engaged in a large debate with a friend on a horror movie message board about this movie. It’s what geeks do, we debate endlessly about movies. Regardless, my buddy “Ebonsun”, who is a hardcore fan as well, nearly convinced me to see his point of view. I still like the prequels, he hates them, but he made some excellent points, the main one that really struck a chord with me though, was that the problem with these prequels was that there wasn’t a human story for the audience to relate to. The first two films were so filled with political jargon and confusing plots, and he explained that the original trilogy gave us simple human stories for the audience to relate to. We had Leia and Han’s great romance, Luke and his father’s antagonistic relationship, Han and Chewie’s friendship, and so on, but with the prequels there wasn’t a lot of it.

I loved “Revenge of the Sith”, and it was the closest Lucas has come to a masterpiece in decades prior to the original trilogy. The story is very dark, the characters compelling, the acting is much better this time around, the action is sleek, and I have a feeling this will end up becoming one of my favorites of the series given time to boil. Most notably there is a good plot, a plot that isn’t mired in political ranting though does have the subtext of political tyranny within the seams and does manage to pull off compelling human drama, most present in the dramatic and stunning climax where Obi-Wan and Anakin just go at it chaotically. It’s an amazing scene that still gives me goose bumps when I think about it. I still insist, excellent movie, and best of the prequels.

ATTACK OF THE CLONES – B+
This was supposed to be the film where Padme and Anakin truly fall head over heels, but really it’s just two beautiful people who bear a strong physical shallow attraction. The dialogue between them is utterly atrocious with dialogue like “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.”, and “When I’m around you, my mind is no longer my own”, gag me. Lucas truly could not write a single lick of believable and appealing dialogue or romantic material. Would it have hurt to get a consultant to help with it? But I assume he didn’t just so he wouldn’t have to pay royalties or pay anyone else.

Meanwhile Hayden Christensen is grossly miscast. I always pictured a more muscular imposing young man to play Anakin, but Christensen is scratchy voiced and thin and not dark enough. Regardless, this is a really good movie and is a lot of fun. Take out the romantic sub-plot and you have one hell of a fun action flick which not only emphasizes the nature of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship as friends, but there is also the introduction of Count Dooku played with amazing skill by the versatile Christopher Lee who adds a touch of class to this affair. Meanwhile we’re also given much more layered looks into characters like Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and we’re given a foreshadowing in to the future bounty hunter Boba Fett. The climax is truly exciting as the Jedi take their last stand against droids and creatures, and we’re given yet another amazing light saber duel with Anakin and Obi-Wan battling Count Dooku, who beats them and then takes on Yoda who we see in action, prime and kicking ass. This is a really good movie and works on many levels.

THE PHANTOM MENACE – B –
Don’t ask me what the plot is for this film, because I just don’t know. It has something to do with the Imperial Senate and politics. The problem with this movie is that it was just too esoteric for any Star Wars fan to enjoy, and I feel sorry for parents who brought their kids to see this expecting a rollicking good time with Wookies and droids yet got this elaborate story. The entire movie felt like Lucas trying to make this something more than it really was. It’s a serial space opera with simple characters and a simple story, there’s no need for all this repetitious dialogue and situations. This is a decent film for what it is, it’s well-acted and most of the film consists of set-ups.

Setting up Palpatine, the sith, Anakin, Padme, Obi-Wan, C-3PO, R2D2 and so on. Lucas spent so much time setting up characters he forgot to tell a story that was worth watching. The dialogue was very poetic, not what I was used to, and there were many inconsistencies. Jake Lloyd gave a horrible performance, the acting was wooden, but its main downfall? Jar Jar Binks, he was such an obvious ploy to pander to children and was irritating. Regardless even though it’s my least favorite of the series, it’s still very worthy of watching and features excellent lightsaber duels including the finale which feature the duel of fates in one of the most amazing lightsaber fights I’ve ever seen. This is still a stunning and entertaining movie, it just drags on for a while without anything to show for it, so it’s my least favorite.