Star Wars: A Recollection

There is no greater an influence on me than the "Star Wars" saga. Throughout jr. high, high school, and college I have always looked at the stories as a place of inspiration. Watching making-of documentaries of the original trilogy and the individual ones we were given on the prequel DVD's over and over. Now, the "Star Wars"  saga is making its way to Blu-ray and in honor of them I decided I might as well rank the films from my favorite down to the black sheep of the series. I was 12 years-old when I was introduced to the world of Jedi's, Droids, and Darth Vader and needless to say, my imagination has never been the same since. It was a transporting experience, a whole new world of planets and galaxies. It was a classic, mythological quest of a boy on a journey to discover who he truly was and I wanted to be along for every minute of the ride. And I was. It may hurt some of you to know "The Phantom Menace" was my introduction to the world of "Star Wars" but at that stage in my life it was mind blowing (and I actually loved that film and the impression it left on me). I immediately went home and begged my mom and dad to get me the orginal trilogy. I officially became a dork at that point, but I didn't really care. It was a fascinating universe that came from the mind of one man. Though now many look at Geroge Lucas as the guy who ruined their childhoods because of his constant tinkering with the films, more specifically the originals, I can't help but appreciate what he did and in a way can't blame him for constantly wanting to improve his life's work. To the point though, here is the list...

6. Attack of the Clones

I can't hardly pretend to even like the second installment of Lucas's saga. This should have been the pivotal chapter, the one where we see Anakin show glimpses of change from innocent child to that of a disturbed young man who can't seem to find a balance between anger and passion. The film is plagued by Lucas's obsession with CGI and ends up making this look like a cheap space opera. Whereas "The Phantom Menace" still felt grounded in a reality even if it was far, far, away, "Attack of the Clones" was like a poorly written afternoon cartoon performed on green screen. The opening chase sequence through Coruscant seemed like a lazy excuse to infuse some excitement and the addition of a young Jango Fett seemed unnecessary. The beginning of the clone wars and the epic final battle between the Jedi and federation droids in a coliseum like setting is the highlight here, but it is all overshadowed by the wooden romance and wedding of Anakin and Amidala. What really brought the prequel trilogy down as a whole though first appeared in "Attack of the Clones": Hayden Christensen. I would take Jar Jar over that guy any day.

5. The Phantom Menace

Like I said in the opening, this was my introduction to the "Star Wars" universe and at the time it was thrilling. In many ways, it still is. I only rank it this low because I did indeed enjoy the other films in the series more than Episode I, but I never understood why there was such a sense of dread around this one. Yea, in hindsight I can see how Jake Lloyd isn't the best child actor and of course, I get how Jar Jar completely takes away from an otherwise very serious movie, but as an introductory course to "Star Wars" this supplied a new generation with inspiration to seek out the history of what they had just experienced. So, if anything give the film credit for referencing countless young ones to the original series. Still, I found much of this film really enjoyable, the pod race was thrilling and to this day I think the lightsaber battle at the end of this one is the best that has ever been put to film. Not to mention, Darth Maul, while limited in screen time was the most threatening of evildoers I had ever seen on screen before. For me, his physical appearance outweighed the intimidation factor Darth Vader carried, plus the guy was sick with a double-edged saber. for me, "Phantom Menace" is a piece of childhood and no matter how many fans will criticize it, I can't help but love it.

4. Return of the Jedi

Upon delving into the original series I initially thought of "Return of the Jedi" as my favorite. It had Luke going all full on Jedi mode and it had Leia in the gold bikini as well as the simple advantage of being the final film in the series. It would connect all the dots, tie up all the loose ends and no doubt offer thrills along the way. Too bad it also had things like Ewoks in it. Like Jar Jar, these furry little creatures offset the tone of the film and detract in a major way. The opening is great as we find Luke back on Tatooine and looking to free Han and Leia from Jabba. We know going in he will again come face to face with his father and they will settle their dispute once and for all. It is by no means a bad movie, and to this day, I still enjoy "Jedi" very much, but you might notice that "Revenge of the Sith" will rank above it. This is done mainly because for the most part, I find them to be equals. It is just that after seeing "Sith" everything in "Jedi" becomes amplified so much more. The underlying emotions of the dynamic between Luke and Vader as well as being able to see how far Anakin has distanced himself from his young jedi he once was and to see returning glimpses of the man he could have been. This is somewhat achieved by "Jedi" as a stand alone film, but I guarantee you if you watch "Sith" just before this one, it will feel all the more epic.

3. Revenge of the Sith

No one will dispute the fact that this is the best of the prequel trilogy. I certainly won't. As much as I don't mind defending "Phantom" I can't deny that the finale is easily the best film of the series. It has an overall darker tone and Lucas doesn't throw in any gags here to take away from it (unless you count Christensen's acting). The film solidifies that Ewan McGregor was the best thing about the prequels as his Obi-Wan Kenobi is the rock of which the original series grows from, McGregor served as a credible talent that makes Lucas's dialogue sound common, whereas everyone else is almost stiff as a board. Even Natalie Portman, who I enjoyed most in "Phantom" isn't able to stir up any real chemistry with Anakin. I had hoped that there awkward relationship would grow and develop between "Clones" and "Sith", but no. It is more stale than ever here. Good thing this too has the advantage of being the final film in the trilogy and answers questions "Star Wars" fans have been wanting to know the answers to since 1983. We get to see the physical transformation of Anakin to Vader as well as great, moody scenes in which Anakin slowly becomes the scariest guy in the universe. The final battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin was all we expected and John Williams score is more powerful than ever here. It is a fitting addition to the "Star Wars" canon, too bad the feeling that it could have been better had Lucas cast another actor in the most pivotal role of all time will always remain.

2. A New Hope

Close, but no cigar. The original film, the one that started it all ranks second on my list. Of course, the introduction to this world and the film that changed the landscape of cinema from that point on is a national treasure and is literally one I could watch over and over. The chronicling of seeing Luke, ignorant of his past, yearn to leave Tatooine as he re-connects with Obi-Wan is thrilling and meeting Han Solo now feels like something of legend. The film moves at a perfect pace and connects the different plot points with just the right timing. It is nothing short of magical, and not just because of the stigma that surrounds it now, but because it truly is a great movie. It is an action adventure, a coming of age story. It has something for everyone and more importantly can relate to every young child in the audience. It was the first blockbuster, it was the first film to portray a futuristic world as not being all sleek and shiny. It used old archetypes of fantasy such as knigths, princesses and evil witches and placed them in a different universe. Getting to the bottom of it, "Star Wars" was simply innovative. It is a piece of history and though it is not at the top of the list, I would have no problem saying that if you are to ever only see one "Star Wars" film, then see "A New Hope". It is nothing short of classic.

1. The Empire Strikes Back

With time, and in retrospect, it is easy to see why "The Empire Strikes Back" is the clear winner when it comes to deciding what the best "Star Wars" film is. It is the bridge between "Hope" and "Jedi" that is also the darkest of the first trilogy. "Empire" is segmented into very distinct parts and each section is a distinct achievement in all that is good about this saga. The war between the galactic empire and the rebellion alliance rages on and besides the grand opening battle on the snow covered climate of a planet in the Hoth system, we are introduced to Yoda as Luke travels to Dagobah and Han and Leia visit what is probably my favorite world in all of the Lucas universe: cloud city. "Empire" simply feels like such a complex and interesting film. It is intense to a degree none of the other films could touch. This quality of tone I mainly attribute to the film being under the direction of Irvin Kershner. Following Vader as he becomes more determined to track down Luke and of course the startling revelation that he is indeed Luke's father combine to form the most compelling of this space opera's episode's. It is strange to think that the first installment nor the final one doesn't resonate most with the fans, but instead is this middle tale with an unresolved plot that stands out as the best of the series. It is the gold standard for sequels, and every time you watch it is a guarantee you will be left yearning for more "Star Wars".

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