Tag Archives: George Lucas

Review: Star Wars:Episode III – Revenge Of the Sith

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This movie is my favorite Star Wars movie out of the original trilogy and the prequels. Does it have its flaws? Yes. Is it a cinematic masterpiece in the same vein as Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back? No – there are some acting issues, strange lines, and wonky visuals. In spite of that, this is, in my opinion, the best movie. George Lucas’s brilliance and vision for the tragedy of Darth Vader comes to full fruition in this emotionally intense tragedy and it’s genuinely beautiful and devastating.

The plot picks up some time after the end of end of Episode II- Palpatine has been kidnapped by General Grievous and we jump into Anakin and Obi-Wan trying to rescue him. The moment the film starts the action kicks off. We go from a great chase scene, to a frantic air battle involving my favorite little droid, into an series of epic battles. This film redeems the disappointing battles of the last movie and then some. The action is on point and features some of the best moments from the entire franchise. There are FOUR amazing light saber/force fights that are really fun to watch ( even if some of them are shorter than I wanted). I couldn’t believe my mind that we got to see this many duels. Two of these fights are so spectacular that I literally had to pause and go re-watch scenes because of how amazing the choreography and intensity felt. Even R2-D2 gets to fight MULTIPLE TIMES in the film and it shows a real sense of creativity and fun.

Acting in this film is also leaps and bounds better than the previous two installments in the prequel trilogy. Ewan McGregor gives Obi-Wan Kenobi some much needed emotional weight and makes Anakin’s decisions feel that much more painful. Hayden Christensen still has some wonky expressions as Anakin but shines through when it comes at depicting his darker more broken side. Natalie Portman really stepped it up as Padme and gave the pivotal romance between her and Anakin a much needed sense of depth. I could believe in the feelings and intensity between them more so than before and it made the unfolding tragedy that much more meaningful. Ian McDiarmid steals the show everytime he’s on screen as Palpatine and is wonderful to watch. I love how evil he really is and his emotional manipulation skills are on full display here. It’s a masterclass in portraying pure evil and I absolutely adored him.

Presentation also feels a lot nicer in this film. The digital effects are a lot better and don’t feel as dated. There’s a closeup of Grievous that looks absolutely stunning and I kind of want it as a screensaver – the point being that some of the animation looks stunning. It makes the action feel more fluid and hits feel like they have more heft and weight behind them. Lighting, set design, and selection of color palette amplify the epic nature of scenes. The score and mixing also feel on point and help amplify the adrenaline and devastation. The third act and final battle is monumental and feels otherworldly because everything just melds together. There’s so much care put into this film and you can tell how important this climax is.

Anakin’s character arc is satisfyingly concluded and presented . It’s crazy to think about how much heavy lifting the film had to do given the lackluster job the latter two films had done at developing his descent into the dark side. Somehow the movie manages to take those threads, develop them, and be entertaining in its poetic tale. I love that Lucas decided to really embrace doing dark/twisted things in this film. There’s no holding back and when the dominoes start to feel the film feels like a doomsday scenario. There’s a real sense of tragedy and it serves as the emotional weight of the first six episodes. This movie is not only amazing in it’s own right – it retroactively makes the prequels more beautiful because the tragedy of Darth Vader is finally complete. It also makes the original trilogy more believable and emotionally charged because we understand Darth Vader. Certain lines from Episode VI already feel like they hit harder because of how this movie progresses. Somehow managing to make amazing movies even better – I think that’s a feat only a masterclass film can have.

This movie made me cry. There are gut wrenching scenes and the third act just hits you with a slew of them. The implication of certain moments tinges previous events with a feeling of melancholy and tragedy. But the ending is absolutely brilliant and rekindles a sense of hope – leading perfectly back into Episode IV.

Rating

TLDR: Revenge of the Sith was well worth it and proves that George Lucas is a visionary genius. The prequels might have started off rough and had a series of issues, but the end destination made everything worth it. Amazing action, great acting, and a poetic tragedy befitting one of the greatest characters of all time- this film was a home run.

Final Rating: Rating this movie was hard for me – I can recognize its flaws but it’s nothing like I’ve experienced more. So for the first time ever, I’m giving a movie two ratings – my personal rating on how the film felt to me and a rating that’s more “objective” and in line with the criteria I use to rank movies normally.

Actual: 8.8/10
Personal : 10/10.

There are glaring flaws with this movie and I’m aware of them. I just think the movie does so much in spite of that and contains so many phenomenal scenes, moments, and ideas that I can’t help but not mind the issues. For me this movie is everything I wanted and more. It’s a unicorn. If you want to experience the beautiful tale of a tragic anti-hero – you owe it to yourself to watch Star Wars Episodes I – VI. I’m stoked to watch the other movies and get into The Clone Wars.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode II – Attack of the Clones

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After the ending of The Phantom Menace, I was really curious to see how Anakin’s character arc and relationship with the Jedi order would develop. The way that the ending of Episode I positioned Anakin in relation to where he is at the start of Episode IV was staggering and I didn’t know how the movie would forward his corruption. While George Lucas’s sequel, Attack of the Clones, is flat and awkward , it’s poetic undertones and emotional contours are commendable and moving.

The movie picks up 10 years after the end of the last one and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan as they protect Padme (Natalie Portman) from some unknown assassins. The movie continues the discussion on politics from Episode I and kept me interested in how it developed. Some of the discussion might seem dry to others, but I enjoyed the way that concepts like emergency powers were discussed and introduced. In particular, Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine breathes life into these scenes and watching his political maneuvering was a joy. The twists in the second and third act keep the ploys interesting and I’m excited to see how he continues his machinations.

Outside of McDiarmid there are only a few other note-worthy performances. Ewan McGregor’s is great as Obi-Wan and he manages to bring some personality to otherwise drab scenes. Frank Oz’s performance as Yoda also helps lighten up the mood because he’s funny again. Episode I Yoda is too serious and boring, so I’m happy that he’s a better balance of serious and fun. Everyone else comes off fairly similar to one another. I don’t blame them. It’s probably hard to give a lot of emotion in your words when you’re surrounded by a blue/green screen instead of a real environment.

I had a love/hate relationship regarding the romance between Padme and Anakin . Personally, I love cheesy dorky romance and am a huge romantic at heart. Even the cringy dialogue and “interesting” delivery of said dialogue couldn’t stop me from smiling at the romance between the parties. Christensen’s creeper faces as he stares at Padme had me laughing, but I didn’t think they were that bad given how strange the dialogue is. I wish there was more of a noticeable chemistry between the two. Outside of a few choice scenes on Naboo everything feels so rigid. Plot wise, I think the entire relationship would have benefited from a better initial set up. Padme never feels interested at the beginning of the movie (in fact she actively seems against a romance) and the transition towards her change in feelings is never explained. I would have loved to see her slowly lowering her barriers or showing more interest in him in their initial encounter. Anakin’s obsession with her makes sense (to me at least because I gave The Phantom Menace a lot of credit with the ‘angel’ comments). I just wish it came off cuter and less creepy. It’s hard to get into it, when it feels like he’s a stalker. I do appreciate why the romance exists and know it’s going to gut punch me in the next movie. I can just feel it.

Speaking of emotional gut punches – wow. I didn’t expect to cry while watching this movie. There’s a scene that happens in the second act that really tugs at your heartstrings. The impact of the scene was so profound that no amount of odd acting could stop my heart breaking. I’m a softie in general, but this just got me hard. The scene also highlights one of the issues I had with the film- it’s rating. I wish it was rated PG-13, because I think that some of the scenes needed a darker and more violent tone to really drive in the impact of certain scenes. There’s one moment in particular where a dark event plays out, but before it starts getting really intense we just cut away from it. It feels like it does a huge disservice to a major character arc.

Now it’s time for the bad. The dialogue in this movie is nothing to write home about and illustrates one of Lucas’s biggest problems- emotional dialogue. A lot of moments that could be resounding or interesting come off as plain and drab because they’re described in the most cliched or bland ways. Add on the monotony in acting and I can see why the movie can feel boring to people.

Additionally, the green/blue screens in this movie feel rough. I could tell that characters felt imposed on their backgrounds and this hasn’t ever really been a big problem for me in other movies. It feels unpolished . In addition, the problematic CGI in this movie comes up a lot more often way sooner. The light saber fight (the first part) in the third act is probably my least favorite on screen fight. The camera doesn’t highlight the choreography of the fighters and isn’t satisfying in its resolution either. It’s disappointing after how great the Darth Maul fight from Episode I was.

Finally, there are certain plot elements that are just so bad that I couldn’t ignore them no matter how much I tried. There’s a key element that’s introduced early on – literally characters talk about how this is something important to discover- and then it’s completely dropped. The implication of it is HUGE and is pivotal to the events of the entire movie and it is literally never mentioned again. There’s another action encounter that also makes a scene from Episode VI a lot less meaningful and I was kind of in shock when it happened.

Rating

TLDR: Attack of the Clones isn’t perfect. The film is filled with acting flaws, graphics issues, and corny dialogue. In spite of that, i think there’s a lot of beauty in its more emotional moments and I enjoyed a handful of scenes.

Final Rating: 7.5/10. This movie isn’t for everybody but it has a lot of enjoyable and meaningful moments. People who like cliched romances or subtle political discussions can find a lot to have fun with here.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode I – The Phantom Menace

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Almost a decade and a half later I’ve finally returned to the movie that turned me off of Star Wars through my adolescence. The infamous Phantom Menace. But this time, I came prepared. Armed with the knowledge of the original trilogy, I felt like even if the movie was as bad as I thought it was going to be, I could maybe immerse myself in the fun and ambiance of the movie. Thankfully, it didn’t have to come to that. Though George Lucas’s direction is messy and dry at times, there’s something beautiful being attempted here and a few great scenes fans of the series can get behind.

Because the movie assumes the viewer has already seen the original trilogy, all the story elements take on a new meaning. We know how a lot of things will end, so the only thing left to find out is how. This is a place where the movie ends up doing well. From the Jedi Council, to the Gungans underwater city, to the screeching pauses in the Senate – we get to see a world in disarray. Capital is the name of the game and experienced players are getting to ready to pounce.

The movie also does a great job exploring the way subjects approach politics. Machiavellian ideologies are contrasted with liberal politics premised on faith and good will. There’s a political leader who literally changes their entire domestic policy based on resolving an incorrect cultural perception. There’s a real sense of frustration in seeing violence happen and watching bureaucracy grind to a screeching halt. The idea that groups would literally sell out other planets for profit hits a chord a little too close to him. Yes, at times it feels boring. There’s a lot of dialogue and its delivery leaves a lot to be desired. Despite that, the criticism still feels resoundingly poignant and I’m excited to see how its explored in Episodes 2 and 3.

The movie looks and sounds great when it wants to. The overabundance of CGI can feel daunting and there were moments that felt like they had been ripped out of PS2 cutscenes. However, this only became really distracting for me in the third act. Outside of that, a lot of the renders and effects look dazzling. The practical effects take a backseat, which is a shame, because they were some of my favorite parts of the original trilogy. There’s still a lot of beautiful effects to be had, but I can’t help but feel that better presentation would have made the movie hit its themes a lot harder. The podracing scene is a ton of fun and the last few moments felt really intense when John Williams score started blasting adrenaline through my veins. I wish that the music had been playing earlier on in the scene, because the shot composition of the race feels similar the whole time. Music would have helped shake up the pacing and make the entire race more dynamic. Thankfully, the light saber fight at the end involving Darth Maul more than makes up for it. Duel of the fates plays loudly and prominently in the background. Combined with great fight choreography, that fight is one I’ll definitely be replaying in my head for years to come.

Now let’s talk about the less than stellar stuff. It’s something that’s been talked about a lot so I won’t get too into it, but the acting in this movie is less than stellar. Most of the performances feel the same and it’s hard to get a true feel for the characters inner thoughts. This is something the original trilogy did really well and is probably what I disliked the most. Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine was a bright spot in the movie and I loved how he played off his deceptive nature.

The only other performance I wanted to spend time talking about was Jake Lloyd’s as Anakin Skywalker. Yes, the performance isn’t amazing. It feels childish and out of place with the severity of the events at play. However, getting an older or a more experienced actor wouldn’t make the underlying issue with Anakin easier to portray. Anakin is supposed to be a prodigy. The events and proclamations from the original trilogy and this movie are indicative that he’s a child genius. However, underlying all of this talent is an innocent emotional core. Anakin is a child – that’s why his innocence and desire to help others feels more believable. These traits are necessary for Anakin to exist as a tragic villian figure. How could someone so pure and powerful fall so hard?

Casting a much older actor would take away the belief in the childlike innocence of Anakin. Teenagers are symbolically susceptible given that they’re on the precipice of adulthood. A teenage Anakin would’ve made certain story decisions less meaningful and believable. However, expecting a child to convincingly retain their innocence while portraying a inquisitive prodigy is hard. That’s why Anakin is so interesting as a character – it’s almost like diametrically opposed characteristics are being forced to align with each other. But while this makes the character more interesting, it also makes him that much harder to portray.

Rating

TLDR: The Phantom Menace is a messy but has rare moments of greatness that are engaging. Yes , there’s a lot to nitpick, but if you take the film for what it is and just give yourself to the experience, there’s a great time to be had.

Final Rating: 7.7/10. I get why the movie has a bad rap, but its aspirations are commendable and I know I’ll return to the movie after finishing all the major movies.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

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Finally, the end of the original trilogy. A New Hope was amazing. The Empire Strikes Back was an absolute gem. So it’s reasonable to say my expectations for the conclusion were sky high. Thankfully, Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, serves as a satisfying conclusion to this amazing journey. It didn’t do everything I wanted and felt uneven at times, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t absolutely enjoy the ride and conclusion.

The film picks up sometime after the end of The Empire Strikes Back and follows Luke and the gang as they try and rescue Han from Jabba’s palace. Personally, I wish the movie started off immediately after the ending of the last movie or sometime close to it. The scene’s ambiguous chronological placement makes things like power scaling and character development harder to appreciate or understand. This causes weird discrepancies later on because it feels like there should be more tension between certain characters or a wider variety of emotional responses. Thankfully, the latter portions of the third act are so emotionally cathartic and symbolically powerful that I could get over these issues.

Now that we got over the beginning rant, let’s get into the more interesting and fun stuff. A lot of the visual effects are amazing. Jabba looks a living creature and oozes a creepy and disgusting feeling. I felt revolted every time I saw him on the screen. The Rancor is terrifying to look at and despite having watched the visual wonder of the past two movies, I couldn’t believe how fluid the creatures movements look. Space battles still look great and evoke a sense of grandeur. However, some of the effects felt like they missed the mark. In particular, there’s a racing scene in the third act that has great choreography but looks dated, which is strange given how great the previous two films looked.

This movie nails characters for the most part. In particular, I loved Ian McDiarmid’s portrayal of the Emperor. From his speaking pattern to the way he held himself as he moved, he constantly felt malicious and evil. Yes, he mentions the “Dark Side” a lot, but because he feels so dark it feels aesthetically cool in spite of how sparse some of his dialogue options are. James Earl Jones sells the emotional weight of Darth Vader’s lines which serve as the undercurrent of so much of the weight of the entire movie. His scenes with Mark Hamill were my favorite because of the way they played off each other. I won’t spoil anything, but certain lines hit me in my feels hard. Frank Oz is also great as Yoda and made me desperately want more of him than what I actually got. The only character that I didn’t really like was Han, which is surprising, because I loved him in the previous films. Before, he always felt like a cool adventurous badass, but he feels “grayer” in this film and it doesn’t feel like it stems from a believable character arc.

This movie was also philosophically beautiful and expanded a lot on my want’s from the previous movie. I enjoyed the way that good and evil and their relative malleability were challenged and the resulting discourse made me feel a sense of hope. Unfortunately, there are a lot of missed opportunities that would have elevated that discourse to something more cinematic. The starting point of the film means that a lot of the despair of the past movie is kind of glossed over. As a result, certain character conclusions and reactions feel less deserved and more artificial than I would have liked. There’s also a lot of exposition scenes that are used to explain these gaps or hammer in plot points , which compounds this effect. I wish some of the bloated sections of the second act were taken out, and that the exposition/backstory was shown instead of told. It would’ve helped make the themes more cohesively tied to the narrative.

Rating

TLDR: Return of the Jedi is a satisfying conclusion to the original Star Wars trilogy and I’m genuinely surprised at how cohesive the entire story feels. This movie has a few bumpy spots and feels rushed at certain points , but is by and large emotionally cathartic and satisfying.

Final Rating: 9.0/10. I already know I’m going to watch the original trilogy again. The only question is how soon. Give it a shot if you haven’t.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

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After watching this movie, I had to take a few moments to pick my jaw back up and compose myself long enough to write out just how much I loved each and every moment. Irvin Kershner’s sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, manages to improve and innovate on what its predecessor did in amazing ways. The story follows up with our motley crew of heroes as they’re on the run from the Galactic Empire. Except this time, things aren’t going to be nearly as easy.

Just like A New Hope, the practical and visual effects in this movie are off the charts. Spaceships look gorgeous and the chase scenes in this movie genuinely had me clamping down on my knuckles. I don’t know if it was just my love for what I was seeing or if there was an actual improvement, but the light sabers feel more “solid” in this movie which I appreciated a lot. It gave them the impact I thought they deserved. There’s also an pivotal character (I’ll avoid naming them for those rare people who have somehow avoided all spoilers) done exclusively through CGI/puppet work and the attention to detail with said character makes them feel almost even more well realized than some of the human characters. If that isn’t good special effects work I don’t know what is.

That isn’t a knock on any of the characters by the way. They all feel more realized and grounded in this movie. Whereas in the last movie, we had to watch our main group constantly stay on the run, this movie affords some time to help develop new interactions and milestones. It’s not that the arcs themselves are revolutionary. Rather, they’re just presented and executed so masterfully that I couldn’t stop getting giddy at watching them unfold- especially in regards to the Han and Leia scenes. The acting by our main cast is also stellar and makes these moments more engaging.

However, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention how much the Empire gets developed in the aptly titled Empire Strikes Back. Vader’s motivations and choices are interesting and paying attention to differentiation in his actions helped me infer quite a lot. I appreciate that he’s not a “big bad.” He’s brutal and cruel, yes, but there’s also an underlying nuance to him that makes him mesmerizing. I also enjoyed getting to explore more of the political side of the Empire and how communities respond to their presence in more direct ways. It makes the evil organization feel as grand as it really is and a far more menacing presence than the one that allowed a Death Star to blow up.

Despite knowing certain spoilers (most people would if they weren’t living under a rock the past 40 years), the impact of certain key moments are rewarding. There was a scene that made me tear up quite a lot and another where a character reaction made the movie feel more akin to horror than anything else. These aren’t feelings I felt in the previous film. Somehow, this movie managed to deliver these feelings in conjunction with the same sense of wonder and adventure from the past movie. The emotional resonance this movie creates is what makes it a true masterpiece.

Rating

TLDR: The Empire Strikes back might be one of the first times where I’ve thought a sequel was better than its predecessor. This film takes everything I loved about A New Hope and then decided to add more while fine tuning other elements.

Final Rating: 10/10. This movie is so good that you should watch A New Hope, just so you can experience what this film has in store. I can’t express how much more I loved this movie.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode IV – A New Hope

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I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t the most optimistic about watching all the Star Wars movies. My previous (AKA my first) experience with the franchise had been watching Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace , and it hadn’t left the best taste. Even after being told that the original trilogy was better than the prequels, I was left wondering by how much and entered the disc for A New Hope with anything but hope. Thankfully for me, George Lucas’s magical space tale filled me with a sense of adventure and awe I haven’t felt in years and had me grinning for most of the run time.

The story, as most of you know, follows Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as he embarks on his journey to become a jedi and learn the ways of the mystical “force.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like every main character I saw. Mark starts off as a self-centered teen who lacks a more robust understanding of the world and watching his journey unfold was rewarding. Harrison Ford as Han Solo is the perfect blend of cocky and charming and despite my annoyance at some of his antics, I couldn’t help but appreciate how much I jived with him. C-3PO and R2-D2’s relationship was also surprisingly heart-warming. Despite being droids and having one of them not being able to speak in a normal sense, I was surprised at how much agency they had. I could go into how much I loved every character in a similar fashion, but then the review would go on too long so I digress – I loved most of them and can’t wait to see what they end up doing.

On the topic of characters, dialogue in the movie was hit-or-miss. I thought some lines felt strange? Characters would go from feeling real and personable, to feeling strange and wordy. However, this issue wasn’t that pervasive and most of the lines were cool and provocative.There’s definitely dialogue from this movie I won’t be able to stop saying.

Lucas nails aesthetic. This movie looks and feels immaculate most of the time. The practical effects really shine through and the moment I saw the huge ships in space, I was amazed. The fact that the movie can still stand up with current movies despite being released over forty years ago speaks to how spectacular the craftsmanship on display is. I can only guess how shocking everything must have seemed on the big screen back when the movie came out. Some of the digital effects seem a bit dated- lightsaber transitions, certain explosion shots, space lasers, etc, but the intensity of the action and the real feel of the universe around make those issues seem less important. From the two suns on Tatooine to the bar in Mos Eisley, the environment always feels like it’s filled with magical and other-wordy creatures. It feels real and as such, actions feel meaningful and incorporated.

The soundtrack and shot composition is also stunning. The main theme is something I couldn’t get out of my head despite never watching any of the movies, and I highly doubt that I’ll be able to get the song out after having experienced the magic myself. John Williams’s score sells the epic feeling the scenes necessitate and make every bit of action feel that much more special. The only thing I found tacky was some of the transitions felt out of place and elementary- almost like they were placed from the old school Windows Movie Maker.

The movie feels awkward in certain sections, particularly in the first act. Thankfully, like most elements of the movie, everything only gets better as the film progresses. Every time I felt even slightly irritated about something, another event would happen that would immediately knock the nit picked thought away and force me to just enjoy the experience that was going on.

Rating

TLDR: A New Hope certainly ignited a hope for me in this franchise, and I can say I’m eagerly looking forward to Episode V. If you can get over some minor annoyances, and resist the urge to nit-pick, you’ll find a world of wonder and adventure beyond your dreams.

Final Rating: 9.6/10. I get why people like Star Wars. If you, like me, have never given the movies a chance, at least spare a moment to watch this one. There’s something magical and relateable about the galaxy far far away.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!