What more can be said about the original Star Wars Trilogy? Widely loved, critically acclaimed, technically revolutionary…all these and more have been used as descriptors. Yet with nostalgia comes a continual push to revisit these classics, maybe just to see if they still hold up. The common answer? Of course, they do.
(Warning….there are spoilers here. Also….I’m writing this with the assumption that most who would read it has probably seen or know something about Star Wars. If not…I’ve tried to do my best to explain things clearly. Bottom line….GO WATCH THESE MOVIES!! You won’t regret it.)
In the original 1977 Star Wars film (no it’s not A New Hope!) the audience is introduced to Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3P0, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader among other characters. Viewers are placed in the midst of a conflict between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, a classic good and evil battle. Luke Skywalker, a teenager living with his aunt and uncle who are farmers, is by chance introduced to 2 seemingly inconspicuous droids. He comes to find out that one of them, R2-D2, is carrying an important message for someone named Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke finds “Ben” Kenobi and is made aware that he has “the force,” a power his father (who Luke has never met) also “had.” They are sent on a journey with Han Solo to save Princess Leia and deliver the contents of R2 to the Rebels. This ultimately leads to a final showdown between Rebel fighters and the Empire’s Death Star. What is most effective about the original Star Wars film is not only the revolutionary special effects but also the way in which the audience is invested in a story with almost no backstory. Though this film pioneered an entire franchise, it is important to realize that it could’ve stood alone.
While Star Wars could’ve been a stand-alone film, The Empire Strikes Back is a logical continuation. Many questions were left unanswered despite the lack of a cliffhanger ending. In this film, Darth Vader is out for blood and desperate to find Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, Luke visits one of the most famous and recognized movie characters of all time….Master Yoda. After escaping the attack, Han Solo, Princess Leia, R2 and C-3P0 have nothing but trouble flying Han’s signature ship The Millennium Falcon (which we are introduced to in the first film). While Luke breaks away from the group to train and master his force abilities and become a Jedi. Meanwhile, Han and Leia meet Lando Calrissian an old friend of Han. He sells them out to Darth Vader and all hope seems lost, but Luke leaves Yoda to help save them. This sets up another one of the most iconic moments in all of film. An epic duel between Luke and Vader is followed by Vader’s now infamous revelation that he is Luke’s father. The main characters, with a little help from Lando who again flips to betray Vader, are able to escape. That is except Han, who is frozen and sent to yet another infamous Star Wars villain.
Following a cliffhanger ending comes the final installment in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi. In this film, the now beloved crew of Rebels are tasked with rescuing Han and destroying a big and badder version of the Death Star. We are introduced to Jabba the Hutt, who keeps the frozen Han Solo as a prize in lieu of a debt that was owed to him going back to the first film. Luke and Leia combine forces to save Han and ultimately kill Jabba. To destroy the improved Death Star, they must remove the ships energy source on the planet Endor. Here we introduced to the very controversial Ewoks, who some Star Wars fans deem unrealistic and unnecessary. Luke also must deal with another major revelation….Leia is his sister. The Rebels embark on an epic battle with the Empire and Luke is given another opportunity to face down the man he now knows for sure is his father. As told by Yoda, he must confront his father to become a Jedi. Once again, Darth Vader is attempting to flip Luke to the dark side of the force. When Emperor Palpatine of the dark side begins torturing Luke, a long-held suspicion is confirmed….Vader still has conflict within him. Old and tired, Vader makes it his final act to save Luke and help destroy the Empire once and for all. The film ends with a party held by the Ewoks, celebrating a great victory for the rebel alliance.
If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to say that I appreciate you for taking the time to read through 3 plot synopses before getting to any sort of real analysis.
It is the ability to transcend its genre that has allowed the Star Wars trilogy to stand the test of time. Though it is true that mind-blowing special effects riveted audiences, particularly in the first 2 films, there is more to the story than epic space shootouts and lightsaber battles. To be human is to have constant internal conflict, like Luke and Vader and even Han. Furthermore, almost everyone has faced a moment in life where they must decide between what their parents want and what they want. It is unique and special the way in which a trilogy such as Star Wars can keep an audience on the edge of their seats both visually and emotionally.
If one film in the series could be identified as a weak link, it is definitely Return of the Jedi. Visually…it takes a step back from the other two films. Particularly in the desert scene where Han and Luke are being led by Jabba to the Sarlacc pit. The surrounding scenery is not only bland, which is understandable for a desert, but also undefined. It is like they are driving through a tan blob. This is one of a few examples. Though the Ewoks do seem a bit unnecessary, they are not totally unforgivable in my eyes. Also, in the battle on Endor, the Empire has AT fighters, which in this film appear much easier to destroy than in Empire Strikes Back. To me, this seemed like a plot hole or element not clearly thought through. Emotionally the characters are often given little time to experience or express their feelings before another big battle or scene.
I could go on and on picking apart each film, but I feel what I have here is a pretty good summation. Overall, I obviously am a fan of the films. I would recommend everyone at least give the original Star Wars film a shot. If you enjoy that, The Empire Strikes back is equally as good if not better. Return of the Jedi is a fun watch as well, just hard to stand up to the two masterpieces before it.