STAR WARS: The Original Trilogy Review – A Thematically Rich Space Opera That Appeals To All Ages
It would not be unfair of me to say that the ‘Star Wars’ movies are the biggest film franchise in the history of cinema. While many may only know of the 6 feature length films spawned by the franchise, there is also an animated film, 2 animated Series (as far as I last recall) many graphic novels and comic books, and hundreds of novels that have created an expanded universe of the ‘Star Wars’ stories that have gone beyond the films.
Now, we are going to be treated with future films of the franchise with Disney (the new owners after Lucas sold the rights, because 4 Billion Dollars!) announcing that they will make one ‘Star Wars’ movie a year! If this is news to you, I’ll do a quick paragraph break here while you grab a bag for all that hyperventilating over there.
So before we dive head first into a completely new era of ‘Star Wars’ that blows the universe wide open on December 18th with Episode VII ‘The Force Awakens’, let’s take a look back into the original trilogy to see how each movie stands up over time. And yes, this will be in order of threatrical release. Always, theatrical release.
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977)
‘Star Wars: Episode VI – A New Hope’ tells the story of a young boy, Luke Skywalker, played by the now legendary Mark Hamill, who discovers his destiny through unforseen circumstances and realizes his significance in the universe. He’s basically the Harry Potter of this world. When some strange and lovable robots come into his possession, Luke finds himself on an adventure that takes him beyond his small home planet and gets him directly involved in the rebellion by the Allied forces against the evil Galactic Empire, in ways that he never expected. It’s basically a War all over the Universe. In space. Which has stars. So wars among stars. Or… Star Wars. Genius!
So, through these adventures, Luke meets certain future life long friends like a capable and outspoken Princess (played by the outspoken Carrie Fisher) and a devilish rogue with a heart of gold, (played by Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford) and other relationships that affects their universe for decades to come. It’s straight forward story, with likeable characters and amazing effects makes this film enjoyable and fun without being too bogged down by its own flaws. Of which there were many.
The acting isn’t always the best; the dialogue, too punchy and flat. However, the novelty of a space opera with homely down to earth (pun intended) characters who are sincere and eager, in contrast to the overbearing bad guys with deep voices and cheesy foreboding presenses, balance out the performances and makes the whole thing quite enjoyable. Add to this a very basic concept of good vs evil, and a simplicity of execution that appealed to all ages.
With philosophical concepts introduced like the philosophical ideologies of an order of monk-warriors like the Jedi, theistic concepts of The Force, and other allussions to stories and a world that went beyond the story within the film, ‘A New Hope’ gave us just enough of this amazing world that made us crave more, and successfully started a series of films that has had a massive impact on the world of cinema. The movie also stunned audiences with its never before seen special effects, the creation of which has now become an industry standard for visual effects, as creator Lucas founded his own VFX company that is now the most used in Hollywood. ‘Star Wars‘ is a universe created unlike any other, that featured stories rich in characters and back story that went beyond the run time of the film itself.
STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
Known as the darkest film of the original franchise, and highly regarded as one of the best films ever made, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is the only movie that I can think of, which has the worst and unhappiest of endings of any movie. Ever! All the subplots end in a manner that is most unsatisfactory to audiences, but it has maximum dramatic impact, setting up the third film later on. The fate of our beloved characters, as well as their own psyches, are left in shambles by the end of this movie, especially due to a very well known twist, which is now part of pop culture lore.
After their massive defeat with the destruction of the Death Star, the Galactic Empire, led by Darth Vader, springs a trap for our heroes after attacking them on their new ice planet base. Barely escaping, Leia and Han, along with their robot friends C-3PO and R2-D2, and the always loyal Chewbacca are ran aground by the forces of the Empire, before heading to find new refuge with a friend. Luke in the meantime, heads to find a legendary old Jedi, to further his training in the Jedi Arts. The story takes darker turns than the more optimistic and cheerful first film, and ends on a note of complete devastation.
‘Empire…’ (because too many words) very effectively spends an entire movie, raising the stakes and providing more dramatic connections to these characters, while showing us exactly how a Trilogy can be properly used to tell a long form story that culminates in three movies, and a larger universe.
STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
The final film of the original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy returns to similar themes of the first film, while concluding this story being told in a very satisfactory and happy sigh inducing manner. The movie opens with the rescue of Han & Leia as an older, and more wiser Luke, now fully trained in the Jedi way, makes his first appearance. The Rebellion decides to make a final stand against the Empire with Han and Leia battling Imperial forces on an unknown planet with the unexpected help of some small friends, while Luke attempts to plead to the humanity within Darth Vader to turn the tide.
As has been the overall theme of the original Trilogy of the ‘Star Wars‘ franchise, the last film is pretty optimistic and ends on a very happy note. The story effectively ties up all loose ends and brings the thematic journey of the characters full circle, and gives the audience closure. While it’s not as great as ‘Empire Strikes Back’, the movie returns to its more cheerful connotations, and brings back the adventure aspects that everyone can enjoy, especially kids. There’s enough happy go lucky moments, as well as moments of stand-up-and-cheer scenes making it the perfect end to this amazing story.
For everything ‘Star Wars’ was and is to audiences from the past 40+ years, it was ultimately a fun family friendly series that, while featuring elements of darkness like the Dark Side of the Force, the ultimate message of the series was about good overcoming evil, and light defeating dark, against all odds through sheer determination, will, and the help of friends. The concepts of will power, and strength of the mind can all be translated into ideas that are very easy to understand for kids of any age. And my 3 year old daughter recent obsessions with everything ‘Star War’s related is undisputed proof of the appeal that the movies have on young minds.
The original Trilogy is regarded as the better ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy, while creator, writer & director George Lucas went back, and decided to create a prequel Trilogy to show us the ‘Star Wars‘ Universe prior to the events of the original Trilogy. The success of that Trilogy is much debated, but I will take a look at that in another post.
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Which is your favourite movie from the Original ‘Star War’s Trilogy?
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