The Making of Star Wars Documentary: A Retrospective

Release Date: September 16, 1977

One of the strongest ways Star Wars has influenced others is how it inspired entire new generations of filmmakers. Directors like James Cameron, Peter Jackson, J. J. Abrams, and Guillermo del Toro all have cited how Star Wars showed them what could be done with cinema and its influence helped direct their future careers.

Important special effects laden films are especially prone to having movie buffs want to know more about how they were made and so a wealth of making-of documentaries and retrospectives continue to crop up years after their release. One of the best examples is Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films whose Extended Edition releases come with hours and hours of special features that go over every aspect of how the films were created.

Star Wars has a long history producing such content and the 1977 Making of Star Wars TV special was the beginning of a long tradition of behind the scenes looks that offer a poor man’s crash course in filmmaking.
What makes this special unique among what came much later is that it was catered more toward the younger viewers who made up the majority of the film’s fanbase in the ’70’s. With young children in mind the documentary is hosted by Artoo and Threepio playing themselves as they observe the cast and crew discuss the movie combined with BTS footage of the film’s scenes being shot and the special effects being designed and created. The documentary continually cuts back to them commenting on the actors and footage being shown.

A large portion of the documentary is devoted to the classic cinema that inspired George Lucas when he first wrote Star Wars. We see generous amounts of clips of films and serials like Flash Gordon, swashbuckling classics, sci-fi B movies, and Ray Harryhausen projects. This is great for many of the younger viewers obsessed with Star Wars who otherwise might not be exposed to older movies and such clips could engender interest in them and keep them alive as the decades go by.
We also spend some time getting to know the cast and hear their reflections on making the movie. Aside from the many talk show interviews this would be the first time for many of Star Wars’ fans to get acquainted with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford who over the years have become beloved icons of the fandom. Many of us have tried to keep up with them; watching all of their talk show appearances and going to see other movies they appeared in as they come out. The special also gives time to George Lucas and his thoughts on the film and its future as well as some time given to speculation on future sequels. It is amusing to see the cast talk about what they hope to see in the future films especially when it is concerning whom Princess Leia may end up with by the end of the Saga.


The Making of Star Wars has been a wonderful introduction to classic adventure cinema and to the soon to be household names involved in the making of the movie.
Sadly the portions of the documentary that focus on the actual making of the movie are not quite as in depth as they could be. While plenty is given to its influences, its writing, and even its premiere we aren’t given a lot of info on how the shots were filmed and the special effects that were created. What little we are given is interesting, but much of it apparently was deemed to be too dull for the young audience and much of the discussion is presented more to amuse than inform. We see plenty of outtakes of actors having to redo scenes when mikes fall into frame and the remote Artoo’s falling over. But aside from very short bits on matte paintings and models being built and then set on fire there is not much more to see. However, this complaint of mine may come more from my interest in filmmaking and perhaps I am expecting more than is appropriate. And as I pointed out above this documentary was made for kids after all.

Such gripes aside I really enjoy this special and I have rewatched it a number of times. Maybe this was admittedly done due to their marketability, but the inclusion of Artoo and Threepio as real characters talking about the making of the movie they are featured in is charming and makes the special memorable. Silly moments like Artoo becoming frightened at David Prowse in his Darth Vader outfit and Threepio morally objecting to the actors being humiliated by bloopers offer nothing useful to anyone wanting to know how Star Wars was made, but it makes The Making of Star Wars stand out among the hundreds of other making-of specials that came out afterward.

It’s also very easy to track down. It can be found on Youtube and was released on video twice. The second time was a mail-in special through the Kellogg cereal brand. This version had a different narrator from the version first aired on television. For whatever reason the voice of William Conrad was replaced with Don LaFontaine.
Most recently the special was released as a bonus feature on the 2011 Complete Saga Blu-ray and the Skywalker Saga 4K sets. I highly recommend it because it is an entertaining piece of vintage Star Wars media. It also forms a trilogy of making-of documentaries that cover the original films which includes SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back and Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi. Both of which are on the Blu-ray set.

To purchase a copy of your own here is a link: https://www.amazon.com/Star-Wars-Complete-Saga-Episodes/dp/B013GTX6JI/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2WYLNWR3KJF3O&dchild=1&keywords=star+wars+the+complete+saga&qid=1625860122&s=movies-tv&sprefix=star+wars+ther+co%2Cmovies-tv%2C187&sr=1-1

Next Review: The Keeper’s World

The Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Soundtrack: A Retrospective

Release Date: June 1977

In my previous review I covered the original Star Wars film by going over its influence on pop culture, its timeless hearkenings to old myths, and the creativity and thought put into the characters. I also put in a brief note about the special effects, but one vital piece of the film was left out in my discussion. John Williams’ famous musical score was a subject I wanted to save for a separate essay which I am presenting here.

During the initial stages of Star Wars’ development George Lucas knew early on that he wanted the film’s score to be of a grandiose orchestral type reminiscent of classical opera like Wagner’s work based on Nordic sagas. To give Williams a guide to what he was aiming for Lucas compiled a temp track consisting of classical pieces attached to key scenes. One of these was Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and, indeed, its influence can be heard in some of the tracks composed for scenes on Tatooine. Gratefully John William’s soundtrack received a much more positive reception than that ballet did on its opening debut.
Other pieces can find their inspiration in such works like Swan Lake, Holst, Korngold, and William Walton.

John Williams gave Star Wars’ music a lot of life and flavor by creating for each of its characters and themes leitmotifs that became instantly recognizable and engendered associations that immediately come to our mind when we hear those tracks. Upon hearing the Force Theme and Binary Sunset we instantly get swept away by visions of Luke Skywalker embracing his connection with the Force and the Jedi passing their knowledge to new generations of knights. Leia’s own leitmotif can have no other effect, but to make us think of young Carrie Fisher dressed in her white gown, donning her hair buns as she first meets the heroes that will join her on her crusade against the Empire. And the jazzy beats of the Cantina Theme instantly brings to mind bug-headed Bith playing their exotic instruments in the dingy, seedy bar in Mos Eisley.

In my review of the film I pointed out how the general landscape of modern cinema had been changed when Star Wars was released. The sorts of stories that became popular on the silver screen and the enhancement of movie special effects were indelibly marked by what Star Wars brought before its audiences in 1977. The music is no exception. The sort of orchestral classical scores with unique and recognizable tracks were more and more uncommon in movies of the day. An exception deserving of note would be Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey which used classical pieces to comprise its entire score. Lucas had, in fact, toyed with the idea of using classical pieces in a similar fashion before finally going with John Williams and his original score.
Nowadays popular blockbuster epics would be considered remiss if they did not feature an equally epic soundtrack performed by an orchestra.

Throughout its history of commercial releases on vinyl, CD-ROM, and even digital the soundtrack to Star Wars have been presented in a number of ways. Two of the most distinct ways it has been arranged have been one where the tracks are listed in chronological order of how they are heard in the film and the other is Williams’s own preferred arrangement where the tracks are arranged in a fluid fashion in which the themes and motifs musically move from one to the other in a more natural way. This latter listing leaves the tracks out of order of chronology, but presents the score more as a concert. This is the order I prefer and is the one I listen to more often.
However order you listen to them and whatever medium you use the music of Star Wars is undeniably one of the greatest compositions of classical music of the 20th century. It is moving, exciting, and a source of comfort. You can listen to it in your car, in your living room, or even in the background as you go to bed. When my daughter was a baby I had compiled a playlist of some of the more soothing sounds composed for the Saga films by Williams and it helped ease her passage into sleep. Another way Star Wars has shown its diverse accessibility and use for everyone.

To purchase a copy of your own here is a link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-wars-episode-iv-a-new-hope-john-williams-composer/123504

Next review: The Making of Star Wars Documentary: A Retrospective

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Timeline Date: 0 BBY-0 ABY
Canonicity: Canon/Legends

The original Star Wars movie from 1977 is the ultimate comfort movie. I was not having the best weekend when I popped this into my Blu-ray player and within only a few minutes the comforting familiarity, beloved characters, and classic story began alleviating a ton of stress and I began to feel better. I am fond of a lot of movies, but only a few have this guaranteed affect on me and Star Wars is one of them.

Its influence on pop culture has been so profound that it has entered near mythical status. The story, the characters, the settings, and even the dialogue (memorized by fans word-for-word since childhood) are so ingrained in our personalities and culture that they are as well known to us as Jack and the Beanstalk, the Greek heroes, and the gods worshipped by our ancestors. The desert landscape of Tatooine and the dark halls of the Death Star hold the same mythic reality for us as the hanging gardens of Babylon and long lost Atlantis. And the archetypal menace embodied by Darth Vader haunts our dreams just as the fireside tales of bogies, goblins, and spirits of the dark did for those growing up with stories from their grandmothers and nursery maids generations ago.
All of this is no accident either. George Lucas drew heavily upon mythology, history, and the classic fairy story as he first gave to this Saga life.

The story itself, first being told over 40 years ago, needs no introduction and elucidation at this point. In my original review I spent a good deal of wasted time providing a detailed synopsis of this and the other film’s plots and in retrospect I see this was a mistake. We know the story by heart. Any reviewer of any sufficient social awareness would not approach a retelling of Snow White or Cinderella by describing the story beats, but would focus more on how the age old tale was told.
Among the many things that make Star Wars special is how well such a simple story is presented to the viewer. There is nothing overly complex about tales of rescuing princesses from evil Empires, mentoring under old wizard warriors, and common farming folk being drawn into a heroic quest. What draws us into the story that by all rights should be all too familiar to those growing up under old myths and fantasy is how it balances creativity with the loving attention given to classic storytelling. The characters are colorful and memorable without becoming so larger than life that any relatability is lost. They aren’t godlike dei ex machina strutting into perilous situations and saving the universe and they aren’t bland portraits of types filling copy/paste roles to fulfill a plot’s formula.
The story is largely told from the perspectives of the droids Artoo and Threepio who both provide not only levity and comic relief, but also show a down-to-earth perspective and relatable separation from the epic scale of their adventures and the battles they witness. The story’s heroes are not bearded Spartan warriors, fantastical magic beings, or high school vampires. They are common people like you and I from various walks of life who are thrown into their quest by circumstance. Luke Skywalker is a simple farm boy living under poverty, Han Solo is a social rebel scraping for every meal in his old rust bucket on the outskirts of the law, and the droids mentioned above are simple observers who are old friends who bicker and stress over their problems. Characters like Leia (the princess raised in the lap of luxury) and Ben Kenobi (the old hermit with mystical powers) don’t force themselves into the forefront of the story and instead represent the goals of Luke as he undergoes his journey. Obi-Wan is the elderly mentor who guides Luke toward learning more about his destiny and understanding the Force; and Leia, a figure of beauty and allure for Luke, provides the impetus that drives him on his quest.
Kenobi does not overplay his part and he dies a heroic death giving Luke a further drive to pursue the quest he had set on him and Leia (with the loss of her planet Alderaan) will in later movies come down from her high pedestal as a noble lady of the court to another common-minded character like her friends.
But with the balance I had mentioned earlier these characters are more than stock types pushing the plot along. They have unique personalities that make us love them and yearn to see where their journeys take them. Luke is a wide-eyed daydreamer with a strong sense of ethics and naivete, Han Solo is a roguish, cocky, rebel who is brash and practical at all times, Leia is fiercely independent and opinionated, and Ben Kenobi is patient and nurturing who never wastes a word or speaks out of turn.

Adding to the movie’s appeal is its settings and visuals. George Lucas’s special effects teams pioneered techniques that forever changed movie-making. When I view the original edit of Star Wars as it was shown in 1977 without any of the Special Edition changes it is amazing to me how ahead of its time and stunning its visuals are for the time. No one had prior seen anything like it and I can only imagine the young viewers who would go back to the theaters continually just to soak it all in again. CGI-laden special effects extravaganzas are a dime a dozen nowadays with Marvel pumping out movies with solid regularity and sci-fi/fantasy flicks being more popular than anything else. As these sadly begin to lose their magic through over-exposure the same could not be said in 1977. Outside of the works of Harryhausen there was not much that could be said about fantasy cinema in those times. Movies had moved away from adventures, swashbuckling, and outer space and were becoming more and more grounded in harsh reality. It was the era of gritty crime dramas, anti-establishment road trips, and pathos-drenched human stories. Even the epic westerns with their wide landscapes and duels harkening back to the Samurai films of the ’50’s were beginning to slow down in production. Star Wars brought spectacle back into the theaters and young children didn’t need to just see Disney to get their taste of unmuddied ethics and legendary heroes anymore. Which is a good thing since Disney in the ’70’s had sadly been going through a rather stagnant and stale period and other films were dallying with controversial themes and morals completely shaded in grey.
Star Wars brought magic and timeless narratives back into the lives of the youth; many of whom were becoming poisoned and embittered by Vietnam, Watergate, and drugs.

As I said in my opening statement Star Wars is the ultimate comfort movie. And it continues to comfort us to this day. No amount of jaded philosophies, frightening times, and constant questioning of our ideals has wholly killed its popularity and appeal. The world needs Star Wars and we live in a better place because of it. It can be disheartening to see many of its fans falling into hostile behavior: bitterly fighting over opinions on new content, name-calling, and cruelly shaming and insulting one another. I don’t think this fits at all with what George Lucas had intended or wished to say and such divisions only serve to miss the point of what Star Wars is all about.
But as this movie and its sequels and connecting stories continue to inspire not only new filmmakers, but also regular people like you and me; improving our perspectives on life and our relationships; Star Wars will never lose its relevance and purpose.

To see the movie for yourself here is a link: https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/star-wars-a-new-hope/12fVeZxD2fWJ?cid=DTCI-Synergy-StarWars-Site-Acquisition-Library-US-StarWars-StarWarsANewHope-EN-CatalogueModule-StarWars_ANewHope_CatalogueModule-NA

Next review: The Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Original Soundtrack: A Retrospective

Classic Marvel Star Wars 1-6

Timeline Date: 0 BBY-0 ABY
Canonicity: Legends

For the most part the first six issues of the original Star Wars comics published by Marvel faithfully adapt the original film. These issues ran from April to September of 1977 which means that the first two were released to the public just shortly before the movie itself was released. Nowadays it would be unheard of for the Disney Canon to release any adaptive material prior to a film’s release, but back in the early days of the Star Wars Expanded Universe it was common practice continuing even as far as the Prequels, with their respective books and comic adaptations, being provided to the general public months before the theatrical debut.

This adaptation, in particular, has been largely superseded by the 1997 Special Edition mini-series that followed the film more closely and features artwork more polished and detailed than what we see here. It is also that version which is favored in the Star Wars Omnibus trade paperback which collected the comic adaptations of the original six Saga films leaving these issues pretty much behind and forgotten.
While the 1997 mini-series may have certain technical superiorities these six issues have a special charm of their own and they deserve some recognition for what they achieved both artistically and how they contribute to the lore. Unlike the 1997 series which was a limited series these issues debut the ongoing classic Marvel Star Wars comics that ended after 107 issues, 3 annuals, and a four-part mini-series. It was a fun and entertaining journey filled with stories that were often kitschy and ridiculous, but also surprising well-written at times. Retrospectives on the Marvel run has been a little unfair given how people seem to mostly remember the more absurd and cheesy stories and characters of its early days and give less credit to some excellent narratives that appeared later on.
These six issues are quite good, in fact, and make for an enjoyable read. The art has more vibrant color than the 1997 series and the unparalleled charm and liveliness of the hand-drawn panels I personally find more pleasing to the eye. Especially the single large one-page panel showing the destruction of the Death Star in the sixth issue.

Like the 1976 novelization this adaptation features many scenes that had been deleted from the film’s final cut and also features dialogue not quite word-for-word of what was spoken in the movie. Unlike the novel, however, the majority of the dialogue is still closer to the final product and doesn’t suffer from as much of the same awkward clunkiness that characterized the book.
Also a good deal of the narration text is repeated verbatim from the novel which raises some questions I am not currently knowledgeable enough to answer. Alan Dean Foster is not credited at all in these issues as a writer which means that either he was uncredited, the text from the books is actually in the script, or else once again Foster’s work is remaining ghost-written.

Of special significance for this adaptation is Darth Vader’s use of the term “Cosmic Force.” To fans back in the day this is a seemingly strange way to refer to the Force, but over three decades later in the sixth season of The Clone Wars the Cosmic Force would reenter Star Wars canon as a distinctive aspect of the Force in connection with the Living Force.
Little differences like this alongside with the inclusion of the deleted scenes definitely make these comics special, but I would be remiss if I did not now mention one less welcome oddity found in the second issue. The scene where Han Solo speaks to Jabba in the hangar bay is the most out of place and mystifying sequence in the adaptation. And I am not saying this because the scene is absent in the original film (until its re-inclusion in the Special Edition), but rather because the manner of Jabba’s presentation here poses innumerable problems for established canon and lore. For one thing he is called Jabba the Hut instead of Jabba the Hutt, but more seriously he looks nothing like the corpulent slug we first came to know him as in Return of the Jedi. Instead he is a yellow-skinned biped with the facial features of a seal.

He must have really let himself go by Return of the Jedi

Legends canon has over the years made some attempt at cleaning up the mess this caused with retcons, but the contradiction is nevertheless unsurmountable given his presence in this scene and his conversation with Solo.

But gratefully Jabba’s bizarre appearance in the comic is the only serious problem this adaptation has and overall I find these issues to be an appealing and entertaining piece of retro comic art and would recommend the series to anyone who enjoys old comics and classic Star Wars fandom.

To purchase a copy of your own here is a link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-wars-roy-thomas/1133429220;jsessionid=6CB9C564D39E1A822A5C88BA748AD973.prodny_store02-atgap13?ean=9781302923792

Next review: Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope

Star Wars (1976 Novelization)

Timeline Date: 0 BBY-0 ABY
Canonicity: Legends

Aside from a brief preview of the film featured in the second issue of Starlog Magazine this book marks the very first piece of Star Wars media and lore made available to the public. The magazine laughably describes Star Wars as “a galaxy-wide civil war set in the distant future when Earth and its past have been entirely forgotten.” It also goes on to name the hero “Luke Starkiller” (Skywalker’s original name in early drafts of the script). While such inaccuracies make for a fun look at how Star Wars was being perceived in the late ’70’s they are a massive headache for aficionados who aim for a tidy timeline of lore already chockful of necessary retcons and reevaluations just to make early Star Wars content fit with the larger Expanded Universe.
Thankfully the Starlog stuff about the future and Earth is no more than an ad and can be neglected, however the 1976 novelization is another matter. In my original version of this review I had spent a great deal of time looking over the various differences and contradictions to the film and other future EU content. I would much rather not do that again since I now believe it is more prudent to review the book as a novel in its own right rather than bully it with comparisons. Nevertheless some of the more marked differences bear mentioning and I shall get them out of the way here.
The most striking difference from the movie is the dialogue. Many of the classic lines from the film are still present, but many of them are said very differently. Comparing it to the movie I would say the dialogue present here in the book is nowhere near as good as what we get in the film. Much of it is clunky, unnatural, and overly-technical. The film’s dialogue is much simpler and more refined. There are also a few scattered references here and there that are tonally inconsistent with what we know of Star Wars now. One scene has Luke remembering a dog he once owned and Obi-Wan even mentions a duck at one point.
The rest of the book’s differences are minor and overall I would say the book’s canonicity within the Legends canon is a grey area at best.

The book itself was published in 1976 and ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster who is well-known for his Pip & Flinx books and his other contributions to Star Wars include the first original Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, as well as the novelization to The Force Awakens. Being ghost-written most copies of the book feature George Lucas as author on the front.

Leaving the book’s background behind I would like to turn to a more simple matter: Is it a good book? Not an easy question to answer and my own opinion is just one among many. Overall I would say, no; but I admittedly had to give it some consideration before coming to that final verdict. The story itself is, of course, excellent; it being Star Wars after all. But the nature of the book’s prose has a host of problems that I find unforgivable. The text is largely badly written and Foster’s descriptive power’s as a writer are sorely lacking. Much of it is over complicated and renders scenes that should be simple to comprehend difficult to make out. In the very first chapter his description of the Star Destroyer firing on the Tantive IV is odd and requires a close read to even make out what he is saying. He writes, “Long streaks of intense energy slid close past its hull…One of these probing, questing beams succeeded in touching the fleeing ship, striking its principle solar fin.” This is frankly a very strange way of describing laser beams firing on a ship.
He also too often describes climactic moments from the story in extremely quick and “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” terms. The death of Biggs and even the destruction of the Death Star are caught up in only a few sentences with no thought given to pacing or focus. He moves the plot too quickly and lazily. A novelization’s descriptions of key moments in a film should never feel faster than how it is in the movie. If anything it should be the other way around. Reading from Bigg’s dying to the Death Star being eliminated to the final scene in the throne room takes a matter of minutes rushing from point to point until the novel just kinda stops. The climax is handled in a very dissatisfactory fashion. To summarize this book is just not a very good read. How readers may have felt in 1976 is unknown to me, but I can only imagine that as a marketing piece for the upcoming movie it could not have triggered much excitement.

As a curiosity for people interested in classic Star Wars EU before it was organized in the 90’s with the help of people like Timothy Zahn, Leland Chee, Sue Rostoni, Kevin J. Anderson, and others the book is certainly one of the essentials. And with the mass amount of 40+ years of Star Wars content being produced it is interesting to take a look at the very first piece ever produced. As a novel in its own right and as a contribution to the lore it is problematic. Poorly written and tonally inconsistent with the rest of the EU it cannot achieve much more than being an interesting antique.

To purchase a copy of your own here is a link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-wars-episode-iv-george-lucas/1101922886;jsessionid=61236129B4B2AA8CA997DCF67A109683.prodny_store02-atgap12?ean=9780307795472

Next review: Classic Marvel Star Wars 1-6

Star Wars EU Reviews Update

So it has been a couple of years since I last wrote for this project and I hope that the lost time has not wholly robbed me of the steam I once had.
When I first started I was less busy and more ambitious. However, the rigours of work, parenthood, becoming engaged, moving, and other less justifiable distractions unfortunately allowed my weekly review series to slow down to the point that I had to admit I was becoming burned out with it.
Initially my intentions were to go on hiatus for a limited period of time, but as that “limited” time became more and more prolonged it was soon apparent that the hiatus was, in fact, a poorly planned retirement.
I was mostly okay with this since the strain of maintaining the weekly format was becoming too much and despite the multitude of inexcusable distractions I did have a number of legitimately important personal matters that required my attention. But throughout the last few years I looked back on regret that I had never finished the series and frequently toyed with the idea of going back to it in some form.
And that is pretty much where I am now. It’s the middle of 2021; the Star Wars Saga had released its final episode; Disney+ was released with loads of original and classic Star Wars content available; and the new canon has been in full force for seven years with new novels and comics being released every few weeks. It’s still an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan even with the Skywalker Saga concluding nearly two years ago.

So finally after giving it a lot of thought and being affected by the stale sort of boredom that quarantine during a global pandemic tends to inflict on a person I have decided to come out of retirement and begin writing again. In the very near future this review series that I had abandoned is going to be come back with new reviews coming out hopefully as soon as next week.

That being said I am not going to continue exactly where I left off. When I ended things I was still less than half-way through the original Marvel comics run of Star Wars and after almost two or three years of producing nothing the kind of warming up I would need to do to get back to that point would be impossible. I am instead going to reboot the series with revised versions of my original posts leading up to and continuing past where I left off. And this time I am going to be much more thorough and exhaustive with the content I review. I still plan on going in order of release and publication as before, but the reviews will now include various magazines, comic strips, and content that I had failed to review last time.
Also the series will not be exclusive to EU content and will in time begin encompassing canonical content as well. And I will no longer be holding myself to the weekly format. The reviews will admittedly come out less consistently depending on the time it takes for me to read each item I review. Comics and magazines will follow each other more closely, for example, than, say, novels, which will require more time for me to digest and provide reviews for. But the reviews themselves will maintain the same standards of quality and attention that I have given them in the past and may perhaps be a but better since my writing prose has improved a bit with practice.

I hope that these changes to format will not be a disappointment to those who read my content back when I was still writing (all two of you). The inclusion of canonical content in the future especially may upset a few of the purists, but I like to feel that much of the dust has settled and the ongoing controversy over Lucasfilm’s story group discontinuing the old Expanded Universe has not the same venomous bite it used to among the fan base. It’s still there, of course; (just mention the words Last Jedi and watch the rabid fans come flying out of their kennels!), but it is not what it once was.
At any rate I am excited to get back into this. Not just because I am bored and needing something to do, but also because I am still passionate about Star Wars and have had a desire to become involved with the fan community again for some time.

I shall see you all in a few days with a revised review of the 1976 Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker novelisation. In the meantime as always, may the Force be with you.

The Diversity of Star Wars

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Since the publication of the Star Wars novelization in 1976 we have had 41 years of Star Wars content being released nearly every single year. Whether it arrived in the form of films, books, games, toys, action figures, or other paraphernalia it is clear that Star Wars came and never went. There are other popular multimedia franchises of course, but nothing seems to have had the same lasting impact and level of diversity that Star Wars has had.
Presently we now have hundreds of Star Wars books, hundreds of comics, action figures of nearly every single character, popular or obscure; dozens of video games of various genres, hundreds of board games, a number of films, TV specials, Television shows, and other collectibles.

Star Wars covers everything. There is not a single medium, tool, household appliance, item of clothing, etc. that does not have a Star Wars iteration of some kind. Hell, I once saw an ice scraper for your car that was designed to look like a wampa arm. You can buy coffee mugs that look like Vader’s head, Star Wars bed sheets, Star Wars shower curtains (I’ve got one), soap, towels, and literally anything else you can think of.
If you wanted to you could turn every facet of your life into something Star Wars related. There are enough Star Wars T-shirts out there to make a full wardrobe for your casual wear. And they have Star Wars ties for other occasions. They have Star Wars watches and clocks if you need to tell the time. You can turn your phone’s ringtone to the Imperial March. If you manage to injure yourself they have Star Wars band aids.
You could practically educate your children with it too. There is a large number of phonics books, ABC’s, 123’s, and other school subjects that have materials presented in a Star Wars theme.

And with the entire body of Star Wars media being in nearly every genre there is no shortage of content catering to one’s taste. Do you like war stories and military fiction? Well, you have Rogue One, Karen Travis’s Clone Wars novels, some of Timothy Zahn’s books, and the recent Battlefront books. Do you like Battlefield and CoD? I personally don’t, but there are the Battlefront games if you want a Star Wars equivalent. Do you like Halo? There is Republic Commando which is similar. Do you like Mass Effect? The Knights of the Old Republic and SWTOR games are a close equivalent as well. How about Doom? Dark Forces was made in the same game engine. Were you an avid Goosebumps reader as a kid? The Galaxy of Fear series are very much the same. How about Choose Your Own Adventure? There are Star Wars versions of that too. If you are more into hardcore horror there are the Death Troopers and Red Harvest books. Do you like snack food? I’ve bought Star Wars Cheeze Its, fruit snacks, and candy before. There is even Star Wars cereal. Are you a masochist? Well there is the Star Wars Holiday Special, Masters of the Teras Kasi, and Kevin J. Anderson’s books to suit your needs when the call for self abuse arrives.
And for you new parents out there I have seen for sale onesies that look like Chewbacca’s fur and mobiles with X-Wings and TIE Fighters. My two year old has several stuffed Star Wars toys, Star Wars Little Golden Books, Star Wars colouring books, and she watches an episode of the old Droids or Ewoks cartoons every morning with her breakfast. When she is a little older I will probably go and pick up some of those aforementioned educational materials for her.

It’s clear that Star Wars has covered everything. From your entertainment, attire, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, to even your office space or cubicle. There is a way to make anything in your life Star Wars. Whether you should or not is a question discerned by the individual I suppose. The Star Wars makeup that was being released to promote The Force Awakens might have been going a bit too far in my opinion, but that is a matter of taste and since I do not wear makeup I will refrain from further comment. After seeing Star Wars toothbrushes and even lightsaber chopsticks you can see Star Wars has something out there for you down to the last detail. There is even Star Wars themed porn out there which just goes to show that in addition to the Little Golden Books, Saturday morning cartoons, and onesies Star Wars covers a wide age range which doesn’t pander to specific economic status, gender, political affiliation, or race. Every sort of taste, interest, need, want, and hobby can be effectively Star Wars’d.

Some might argue that this diversity is not a good thing and that it is more of a byproduct of immaturity than healthy fandom. While I agree that anything can be taken too far (just look at the people camping out in front of department stores at midnight) I think Star Wars’ing your life doesn’t necessarily have to be an unhealthy obsession. If you can afford to pay for a Star Wars toothbrush I highly doubt you will suffer much from using it instead of a more mundane kind. The people using lightsaber chopsticks don’t seem to be having problems any more or less than others using the regular kind. You aren’t negatively affecting your sleeping habits by having a C-3PO bedspread. People who use Princess Leia shampoo and an A New Hope poster shower curtain aren’t less cleanly than others. Those who read Heir to the Empire aren’t less literate than readers of Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, or Tom Clancy. If my kid learns phonics from a Star Wars themed book then she still learned phonics. A is for Artoo as much as it is for Apple.
If people are splurging on this stuff to the point of financial ruin or if their Star Wars fandom somehow or other affected their social life negatively (which it rarely does by the way despite what naysayers may claim) then I would concede that that would be a serious issue. However, such a principle would not apply solely to Star Wars. There are people who waste money on other things as much as anything else. Anything can be addicting and unlike drugs or alcohol Star Wars is not special in this regard. But you aren’t hurting anyone by putting blue die in your milk or wearing a Darth Vader tie. A Star Wars life can be a good life. If the only downside is people taking you less seriously then I don’t think there is much to worry about. Because I don’t take myself that seriously either.

 

NOTE: Due to some time constraints involving family, school, and other projects Star Wars EU reviews will not likely return until around November. However, for the time being I will try to periodically post these non-review articles every once and awhile to keep the blog alive. Everyone have a great day and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Yeah, yeah, I know; this is supposed to be Star Wars EU Reviews and I am reviewing new canon material. The only thing I can say in my defence is that May 25th was the first of the last seven days of the month and it just seemed appropriate to do all seven movies to fill in the rest of May. And, to be honest, I really like The Force Awakens anyway. I must confess to liking both the New Canon and the Expanded Universe. Do I like them both equally? No, but which one I like better is a subject I will get into at a later date. For the time being I am going to review the latest film in the main Star Wars saga.

Since episodes I through VI are universally known by the fans who read these reviews I thought it best to avoid reviewing their respective stories and instead discuss my feelings on the films in general and my overall impressions of them. However, since The Force Awakens is more recent I am going to review it more like I do my comic reviews and go over the plot in more detail. Obviously this means there are going to be spoilers in this review and if you haven’t seen the film yet (which I kinda doubt by this point) it may be best to turn away.

For the rest of you who have seen the film or at the very least those of you who don’t give a womp rat’s butt about spoilers here goes:

The Force Awakens is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi in a galaxy so far away that there are no Yuuzhan Vong around, Chewbacca is still alive, and the Solo family only had one child. And there is not a sign of any Mara Jades, Kyp Durrons, or Jaxxon the Green Rodents to be found. If Disney’s axing Jaxxon from the canon infuriates you then avert your eyes from The Force Awakens.

The story opens with the opening crawl declaring that Luke Skywalker is missing and General Leia, who is leading a Resistance against an evil organisation called The First Order, has dispatched her best pilot Poe Dameron to find him.

On the desert planet, Jakku, Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) receives from an old man named Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow of Ingmar Bergman fame) a star map which will reveal the location of Luke Skywalker when combined with additional maps. The other maps are thankfully all stored in R2-D2’s memory banks so the Resistance doesn’t need to go looking for them, but getting this final piece to R2 may be harder than it sounds.
Their meeting is interrupted by a sudden attack of First Order Stormtroopers led by a Dark Side user (he’s not a Sith, remember that) named Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver). With Kylo is a chrome plated stormtrooper named Captain Phasma (played by Brienne of Tarth herself, Gwendoline Christie).
To prevent the First Order from getting the star map to Skywalker Poe gives it to BB-8, his ball-shaped astromech side kick. He tells the droid to get as far away as possible and find a way to get the map to the Leia.
Lor San Tekka is soon killed and Poe Dameron is captured and taken to Kylo’s Star Destroyer. Kylo Ren orders Captain Phasma to have all the villagers from where Lor San Tekka resided to be executed, but one of the Stormtroopers named FN-2187 (played by John Boyega) is too horrified by the carnage to take action and watches in silence.
Meanwhile, BB-8 wanders the desert when he is nearly captured by a junk dealing alien named Teedo before he is rescued by a young woman named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley). She, who can understand astromech language, reluctantly lets the droid follow her, but resists at first only giving in when the little robot tugs at her heart strings by making wimpering sounds. Why she didn’t want BB-8 following her in the first place is beyond me since the droid took up little space and it wasn’t like she needed to feed it.
Rey lives by herself in an abandoned ruin that was once an AT-AT and she makes a living scavenging parts which she sells to a dealer named Unkar Plutt who gives her meager payment which she spends on food. She has lived on Jakku since she was a little girl and she hopes some day that her family will come back for her. Spoiler: They don’t.

Elsewhere, Poe Dameron is being interrogated and tortured by Kylo Ren until he is forced to reveal the location of the map. When Kylo finds out that the map is located in a BB unit he informs his colleague and rival, General Hux (played by Domhnall Gleeson). While preparations are made to return to Jakku, FN-2187 finds Poe Dameron and busts him out of his cell. FN, whom Poe nicknames Finn, decides he wants nothing to do with the First Order and he defects. But, lacking the training to pilot a TIE Fighter he recruits Poe Dameron to help him.
How a low ranking stormtrooper whose specialty is sanitation knows that there is a high-profile prisoner aboard who is a pilot for the Resistance is beyond me. He was not there when Poe was captured and he was ordered to shoot everyone in the village. Either the First Order is fairly open with their intel or some water cooler gossipers are overdue for a good Force choking.

They steal an X-Wing, but they are almost instantaneously shot down and crash on Jakku. Finn survives, but Poe Dameron is nowhere to be found and Finn assumes his new friend is dead. He treads through the desert until he reaches Niima Outpost where BB-8 and Rey happen to be. BB-8 spots Finn and recognises the jacket he is wearing which he scavenged from the crash. BB-8 tells Rey that that is Poe’s jacket and she charges at Finn with a big stick and knocks him over with it. She demands to know where he got the jacket and he tells her that he is with the Resistance and the jacket belonged to Poe Dameron who gave it to him.

But, before any introductions can be made they get attacked by low flying TIE Fighters hellbent on retrieving BB-8 and the map.
Rey, Finn, and the droid escape inside the Millennium Falcon which just happens to be in the possession of Unkar Plutt and take off. Just moments after going into hyperspace they get caught and are tractor-beamed into a large cargo freighter. The Falcon is then boarded by none other than Han and Chewie themselves who are pleased to have their old ship back. Apparently in the past several years the ship had passed hands from thief to thief and having tracked it down, Han is intent on claiming it back. When Han sees that Rey, Finn, and BB-8 are not the original thieves he decides not to lock them in the brig. And when he learns that the droid is carrying a partial map to Luke Skywalker he tells Rey that years ago Luke had tried to start a Jedi academy, but a young student rebelled, turned to the Dark Side, and destroyed it all. Luke felt responsible and he fled in search of the first Jedi temple. Kylo Ren, the boy who rebelled, who we learn is Han and Leia’s son had worshipped Darth Vader and sought to mimic him. He joined a Dark Side cult called the Knights of Ren and changed his name from Ben Solo to Kylo Ren. Han became devastated over his son’s betrayal and left Leia to return to a life of smuggling. Leia continued leading the Resistance against the First Order which is being led by an evil being called Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame). The origins of Snoke, the First Order, and the Knights of Ren are not elaborated on in this movie and barring reading the new canon material I feel that most of the information that is missing is going to be expanded upon in The Last Jedi.

After Han discusses the state of the Galaxy they are suddenly boarded by pirates who are bent on collecting a bounty on Solo’s head. This goes poorly for the pirates, however, when Rey accidentally opens all the cell doors containing Han’s cargo. The cargo happens to be giant man-eating rathtars which are basically huge tentacled monstrosities that make the dianoga in the trash compactor in A New Hope look like a kitten. While the unfortunate pirates are getting devoured by the rathtars our heroes escape in the Falcon and leave the cargo ship behind.
They head to Takodana to meet a thousand-year old alien woman named Maz Kanata who runs a bar that hosts a variety of unsavoury patrons, but is a good and friendly source for information. Like Lor San Tekka she venerates the Force while not being a Force-sensitive herself. When the main characters arrive she detects Han’s presence almost immediately and shouts his name across the bar. You know, because that is what friends do. They loudly and obnoxiously declare the presence of their friends with bounties on their heads in a seedy bar.
This goes exactly as one would expect and while Maz and Han converse several patrons secretly dispatch messages to the First Order notifying them that BB-8 and by extension the map to Luke are here.
Maz tells Rey that she has the power of the Force within her and that she can use it to fight the First Order. Rey refuses as she still believes her family will come for her on Jakku. She storms off but starts to hear a child crying in the bar’s cellar. She goes down to investigate and finds that the sound is emanating from a wooden trunk in a closet. She opens the trunk and finds inside an old lightsaber. When she grabs it she is suddenly plunged into a Force vision in which she sees her younger self dropped off on Jakku crying for those who abandoned her to come back. This is followed by images of Luke sitting by R2, Kylo killing students at the Jedi academy, and visions of locations such as Bespin. When the vision ends she is accosted by Maz Kanata who tells her to take the lightsaber which once belonged to Anakin and Luke Skywalker. But Rey refuses despite Maz’s pleas that Rey’s future is ahead and not behind on Jakku. Maz tells her she needs to stop waiting for someone who isn’t gonna come back, but Rey doesn’t want to hear it.
I am not sure why Rey is so upset. I would have been relieved persoanlly. If I was in some seedy backwater bar and heard a child crying in the basement my first assumption would not be that it was Force vision.

Rey runs off into the woods and around this time the First Order arrives and attacks Takodana. But before doing so they demonstrate the full power of their new super-weapon, Starkiller Base. This weapon is a planet whose core has been converted into a device that can annihilate several planets at once. With this weapon the entire Hosnian Prime system (It’s not Coruscant so you can stop saying that!) which is the current seat of the New Republic is wiped out.
Han, Chewie, and Finn manage to get out of Maz’s bar and the old woman gives Finn the lightsaber Rey wouldn’t take. Finn who is trained in melee as well as blaster combat proves effective with the blade and takes out several stormtroopers with it (TRAITOR!).
However, in the end Han, Finn, and Chewie are captured by the overwhelming forces and Rey is abducted in the woods by Kylo Ren who takes her to his Star Destroyer; though Han and his gang are soon rescued by the Resistance who fly in with a squadron of TIE Fighters. These are led by Poe Dameron who is alive and well. After the First Order flees a Resistance shuttle lands and out comes General Leia and C-3PO who is sporting a red arm. Don’t ask; the canon explanation is really quite stupid.
After a brief bonding moment Han tells Leia he saw their son carrying Rey away. The heroes all head to the Resistance base on D’Qar and discuss plans to destroy Starkiller Base. Finn who has by now fessed up to being a former Stormtrooper claims that he knows the inner workings of the facility and can help them not only rescue Rey, but also destroy the base. The base is heavily shielded which protects it from attack, but Han and his friends devise a plan to infiltrate the base and plant explosives that would shut down the shielding system.
They take the Falcon to the base and get to the surface of the planet by taking advantage of the shield’s refresh rate. The Falcon has a rough landing but they all make it in one piece. Inside the base they find Rey who had already escaped by herself using a Jedi Mind Trick on one of the guards (fun fact: he’s played Daniel Craig in an uncredited cameo!). After Maz told her she could use the Force Rey apparently decided to try it by using her guard as a test subject.
After Han and Chewie plant the explosives Solo sees his son Ben walking along a catwalk. Han calls out to him and tries to convince him to come home and leave the First Order and the Knights of Ren. Kylo feigns remorse and offers to let his father take his lightsaber. Unfortunately, when Han make a grab for it Kylo Ren ignites it and the blade penetrates through Han Solo’s chest. The wounds are fatal and the last thing Han Solo does before he dies is take his hand and gently touches his son’s face before falling off the catwalk to his death. While I am not the biggest fan of how Han is killed off for reasons I will get into later, I do like this scene as it shows how Han feels about his son. Touching his son affectionately was his way of showing Ben that he forgave him and still loved him at the end. We see Han Solo grow in the Star Wars films from a cynical self-serving scoundrel to a loving father who firmly believed in the good of the Jedi and the Light Side of the Force.
Chewie roars in grief and immediately ignites the bombs effectively shutting down the shielding network for Starkiller Base. The Resistance then attacks and destroys crucial segments of the base causing it to explode and begin falling apart. As the forests of the planet begin to quake and come apart Rey and Finn encounter Kylo Ren for one last time on their way to the Falcon. Finn tries to take him out in lightsaber combat but is easily overcome by Kylo’s superior skills and he is wounded and rendered unconscious. Rey draws upon the Force a second time and Force-pulls the lightsaber to herself. She then fights Kylo Ren in a duel that is both raw and rough demonstrating both of their need for further training. Rey eventually gets the upper hand and slashes upward and strikes her enemy in the face. He survives but is badly injured and she and Chewbacca take Finn back to the Falcon to escape the base that is falling to pieces around them. As they leave Snoke tells General Hux to retrieve Kylo Ren so he can finish his training.

While Chewbacca is aboard the Falcon weeping for his lost friend Rey pilots the Millennium Falcon back to D’Qar. At the base R2 takes the map and adds it to a larger map revealing that Luke Skywalker is on a water planet consisting of small islands called Ahch-To. There Rey takes the Falcon with just herself and R2-D2 and finds the ruins of an old temple. She climbs the steps and after several hours she finds an old man in a Jedi robe standing looking over a cliff. He turns around and looks at her revealing himself to be the long lost Luke Skywalker. Rey opens her pack and takes out his lightsaber. The same lightsaber he lost on Bespin thirty years ago. She holds it out to him with a look that is almost pleading in its intensity and he looks at her with a quizzical and somewhat sad expression as she holds the weapon toward him. Before Luke utters a word the film ends cutting to credits and leaving its audience two years to wait for him to say anything.

Now what did I think of The Force Awakens? Well, I liked it a lot. I think it is a step in the right direction for the Star Wars films which had hitherto degenerated into convoluted plots with little to no character development and an overabundance of CGI and green and blue screen photography. Episode VII uses more practical effects and actual sets, balancing state-of-the-art special effects with old methods that have withstood the test of time.
The story is very reminiscent of the original trilogy and the characters have colour and interesting characteristics unlike the Prequels which tended to ignore the characters in favour of expanding the backstory. Some have complained that The Force Awakens borrowed too heavily from A New Hope and while I can see what they are referring to I never saw it as an issue. The Phantom Menace does the same thing if you really think about it and I think at this point it should be realised that Star Wars is like a musical composition or an epic narrative poem that repeats and rimes themes, motifs, and ideas to form a rhythmic symphony. The echoing and repetition is a part of the natural flow of the narrative.
I do, however, have reservations about Starkiller base. It seems a bit cheap to add another super weapon to the mix. The Death Star II was an unoriginal and unimaginative bit of overkill itself and Starkiller Base is no better. The fact that it is bigger, can destroy more than one planet at a time, and is built inside of a planet is not a major difference to me.

Speaking of Ben Kenobi I find it a bit odd that Han and Leia decided to name their son after him. Leia never knew the man and Han only met him briefly while spending the entire time mocking him for his “hokey religion”. It was Luke who connected with the old man, not Han and Leia. I think the old EU made the smarter choice in having it be Luke who named a child Ben and not Han. They might as well have had Han name his son Owen or something. It just doesn’t make sense.
I also seriously dislike the way Han is killed off. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Han Solo’s character dying. Done correctly it would have added a dimension to the story that would have been both meaningful and emotional for the viewers and the characters. But, this is not the case though. There is no real sacrifice and Han seems to achieve no end that benefits his friends. He is simply tricked by a false redemption and killed for it. Han didn’t die saving anyone. He didn’t die doing something that benefited the heroes or the Resistance. He just died. And the revelation that he had not been with Leia at this time also negatively affects the impact this scene could have had. I am not sure why the writers even thought we wanted to see this. Why would they think we, the fans, wanted to find out the love story between Han and Leia fell apart? It would have been better if Han had remained with Leia and stayed with the Resistance. That would have added a stronger meaning to his death and a deeper sense of loss. Han Solo’s death was a missed opportunity and I was disappointed with it.

I am also a bit perturbed by how much use of deus ex machina is in the story. Finn meets Rey and BB-8 by accident because they just happened to be in the same outpost at the time. They steal the Millennium Falcon which just happened to be there. They meet Han and Chewie who just happened to be near enough in the sector to track it. They go to visit Maz who just happens to have Luke’s old lightsaber.
A bunch of pieces fall into place so easily in this movie and I am uncertain if I should just explain it away as the “will of the Force guiding destiny” or lazy writing. Oh wait, this was co-written by the writer and director of Star Trek Into Darkness. OK, so lazy writing it is.

But seriously, for the most part I have had no issues with the story and I found it a welcome addition to the Star Wars saga. I like the characters, new creatures, and space ships; and I like how Kylo Ren contrasts Luke in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In those films Luke struggled with the temptation to turn to the Dark Side and resisted until he made a final resolution to be a Jedi by tossing his lightsaber aside. Here, Kylo does the opposite. Ben Solo is tempted by the Light Side of the Force and resists its pull. This is a concept we have never seen in Star Wars before and I find it a unique take on an individual’s relationship with the Force. And like Luke he makes a decision to demonstrate his final resolve. In this case, by slaying his own father.

There is another complaint that I have with this film that I also share with Attack of the Clones: The music.
John Williams is a master composer and all of his Star Wars soundtracks are masterpieces. However, some of them are less good than others and Episode II and Episode VII’s soundtracks are sort of the black sheep of the bunch. The music in both of these films are not that memorable and only a few tracks stick out to me.
Also I am not sure if I am the only who noticed this, but the first note that plays when the words STAR WARS appear on the screen doesn’t sound the same way it does in the other six episodes. Listen and compare next time. It’s a little different.

Another thing I have noticed that few others realised is relating to Kylo Ren’s name. When I first heard the announcement that his name was going to be Kylo Ren I was appalled. The reason was because I had watched some of the old 1980’s Droids cartoons when I was a kid and I distinctly remember there being a villain named Kybo Ren. He was a portly, mustache-twirling, midriff-showing pirate who always referred to himself in the third person. In a word, he was ridiculous! The fact that the villain in The Force Awakens is called Kylo Ren cannot be a coincidence and the decision baffles me. That would be like making a movie about a badass action hero and then naming him Dorrest Gump! It’s such an odd thing to do.

If The Force Awakens seems to lack something to the viewer; whether it be the lack of memorable music, unique planets, or a story that expands on the lore in a major way, I understand where you are coming from. I have similar gripes. Episode VII takes too few risks. The planets are mundane and are not much different than anything else we have seen before. The music sounds tame and standard. And the plot feels small and less epic than the last few Star Wars films we have seen. There is a certain characteristic dullness to The Force Awakens’s aesthetic and the more I watch the movie the more I become aware of it. It hasn’t led me to hate the movie or even put it on a par with the Prequels, but I do think it has some lacklustre aspects that did hurt it inevitably.
However, I am truly expecting more from The Last Jedi and I am excited to see where we are taken next in this galaxy far, far away. Despite its imperfections The Force Awakens is a refreshing revival of the Star Wars films and it is an awakening we have all felt. I believe Episode VII is only our first step into a larger world.

Stay tuned Friday for a review of Star Wars Classic Marvel #64: Serphidian Eyes and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

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 My last two reviews may have given off the impression, despite my insistent protestations to the contrary, that I really dislike the Prequels. I hope with this final review of the Prequel Trilogy that I can make clear how I feel about them as a whole since I can and do hold them in high regard while still criticising them.

Revenge of the Sith is the best of the Prequels and even fans who hate them agree this one had the least problems. The story, while still having its own flaws, proves to be an excellent culmination of the entire trilogy and a riveting climax to all the events that were built up in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

As Episode III closes we can see the full extent of the subtle machinations of Palpatine as he rose to power. People complain how the Prequels had too much politics in them, but when you really think about it the integral theme and point of the Star Wars Prequels was to be a political commentary. While I agree the pacing of The Phantom Menace could have been improved by cutting some of the slower sequences, much of the Senate scenes and political dialogue are crucial plot points which enhance the story of how the Sith and the Dark Side ate at the Republic’s core, weakening it to the point that it was ripe for the taking. It had to be slower and less exciting, because having the Sith simply storm the Galactic Senate and conquer the Galaxy all at once would not have made sense. If certain things did not happen first the people would not have gone along with it and no Empire would have arisen. Slowly, but surely, we see Chancellor Palpatine create an environment within the Senate that isfriendly and open to reorganising the government into a Galactic Empire. When Senator Padme observed that “liberty dies…with thunderous applause” she knew she was in a room full of people who were scared. They endured a nearly three year long war with billions of losses across multiple worlds. The Jedi, who were supposedlyt keepers of the peace had been suddenly converted to generals and war leaders eventually causing them be not as popular as they had been. Much of this is why it was not difficult for Palpatine to turn others against the Jedi under the pretense that they were plotting to overthrow the senate. The senators and citizenry of the Republic felt threatened and they gave up their freedom for security. The “thunderous applause” was not for the death of liberty, but for a sense of safety after years of war, economic disasters, and massive loss of lives and resources.

Anakin was another victim of Palpatine’s machinations. The Sith for over a thousand years were plotting how to overthrow the Republic and the Jedi Order. The Rule of Two (that is there being only a single master and apprentice at any given time) helped keep the Sith hidden for centuries as they bided their time setting in motion the events that eventually led to Palpatine’s rise. Anakin had a natural desire for power and emotional insecurities and weaknesses that left him vulnerable to suggestion. When Anakin first met Palpatine he was a Senator from Naboo which was the same planet that Padme was from. He was also the only person who seemed to sympathise with Padme’s cause. In addition to Obi-Wan Palpatine became a second mentor who encouraged his feelings, pretended to empathise with them, and patted his ego. Palpatine would frequently tell him how he envisioned him becoming more powerful than even Master Yoda and that he did not need much guidance. This was followed by Palpatine’s continual interference with Jedi affairs such as recommending Anakin a seat on the Jedi Council and suggesting him to be the one to defeat General Grievous on Utapau. The Chancellor predicted that the Council would grant the request while withholding title of Master from Anakin which would naturally offend and anger him further contributing to his distrust and disillusionment with the Jedi Order. And if Palpatine had his way and got Skywalker on Utapau the defeat of Grievous would have left Anakin in the eyes of the people a war hero who effectively ended the Clone Wars. Anakin was one of the few Jedi popular with the Republic populace (no doubt encouraged by Palpatine) and this would have further ingratiated Anakin to the people prior to Palpatine becoming Emperor with Anakin at his side.
Unfortunately that side of Palpatine’s plan failed and the consequences may very well have contributed to the Emperor’s downfall in the end. As we know Anakin never defeated Grievous, but Obi-Wan did instead. And when Anakin and Obi-Wan fought on Mustafar Anakin was left so badly injured that he was required to wear the Darth Vader suit for the rest of his life. Anakin was thought by the people to have been killed during Order 66 and the emergent figure of Darth Vader was assumed to be a separate entity.
I believe that if Anakin was not injured on Mustafar and not subjected to the limiting and uncomfortable rigours of the suit he would have been more powerful than even Palpatine could have imagined. And the citizens of the Empire would still have had their war hero supporting the Empire making the Rebel Alliance less likely to gain any support.

Anakin’s growing distrust and disillusionment with the Jedi was not the only thing Palpatine preyed on. His fear of loss which was exacerbated by the death of his mother was probably Anakin Skywalker’s weakest point. Anakin’s attachment to Padme was such an important priority for him that his reverence for the Light Side and loyalty to the Republic were expendable. Yoda tried to warn him by saying that he needed to let go of what he feared to lose, however, Padme dominated Anakin’s thoughts and the advice was unheeded. So when Palpatine revealed to him that he was in fact Darth Sidious his following actions became confused and misguided. He attempted to do the right thing at first by informing Mace Windu of what he learned. Unfortunately, Anakin was too concerned with the possibility that Sidious might actually be able to teach him to save Padme from death which led him to interfering with the Chancellor’s arrest, causing Master Windu’s death, and ending with his conversion to the Dark Side of the Force.

Convinced the Jedi were the enemy Anakin proceeded to commit heinous acts of violence within the Jedi Temple including the murder of helpless children. Elsewhere Order 66 was executed and the majority of the Jedi throughout the Galaxy were extinguished. The Clone Army that was initially commissioned to fight tyranny became the military arm of the tyrant. It becomes evident very quickly that the Clone Wars and the formation of the Clone Army had been intentionally orchestrated by Palpatine and Count Dooku as a means to cripple the Republic, make it open to becoming an Empire, and providing a strong loyal military force to enforce the change in government.

In the end Anakin’s own motivations fail completely. His body is all but destroyed, Padme dies in childbirth, and all those he once called friends are either dead or left him. Anakin failed to learn the lesson he should have learned on Tatooine when his mother died. Anakin refused to acknowledge that death is a natural and inevitable thing and instead desired to find a way to stop it. At his mother’s grave he expresses self-loathing at his perceived failure to save her. Seeing power as the only solution to anything Anakin thinks every failure or every event that displeases him happens because of a lack of power. Wishing to avoid losing Padme he seeks more power and ironically it is that very power that kills her in the end. And once again in The Empire Strikes Back it is with power that he tries to seduce his son to the Dark Side. Craving power is a Sith trait and it is for that reason that I believe that Anakin was unconsciously partway converted to the Dark Side since Episode II already. His final initiation into the Sith Order and taking on of the Darth Vader mantle was achieved only when Anakin finally admitted that everything including the Light Side and his own conscience were expendable if Padme was saved. He only regretted Windu’s death for a moment before declaring “I will do whatever you ask…Just help me save Padme’s life. I can’t live without her.”
Yoda’s statement about fear (“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”) in The Phantom Menace was prophetic. Anakin feared losing Padme and the resultant anger caused him to hate the Jedi enough to cause the suffering of not only them but also of himself when Padme died and he was disfigured on Mustafar. All his hope was gone and he found himself wholly loyal to Darth Sidious the only friend he believed he had left.
Unlike seeking power, hope is not a Sith trait. But it is a Jedi one. And it was that hope that led Yoda and Obi-Wan to have Anakin’s twins, Luke and Leia, sequestered. Bail Organa took Leia and adopted her into his family. Eventually she became a senator like her mother and served the Rebellion in secret and later openly following the Battle of Yavin.
And Luke was the titular New Hope itself. On Tatooine living with his aunt and uncle Obi-Wan kept a close eye on Luke until he was ready to learn the ways of the Force, revive the Jedi Order, and defeat the Empire.

Now that is a fairly good story. But like the previous two films it had problems in its execution. While, I do appreciate how Palpatine subtly manipulated Anakin to join the Sith I do think there are some things that happened too quickly and are ergo less believable. Killing Younglings is such an evil, despicable thing to do that it bothers me that Anakin does it without any misgivings. His motivation isn’t supposed to be evil at this point. He is trying to save the woman he loves. While I do believe that if he was fully convinced that killing Younglings would somehow save her he would probably do so it would still stand to reason that he would do it with some reluctance and remorse afterwards. I also think he would question the decision initially since Younglings are hardly a fit scapegoat for his complaints against the Jedi. No one could reasonably accuse Younglings of trying to take over the Senate. And Younglings did not tell Anakin to spy on the Chancellor. And Younglings did not refuse to grant him the rank of master. Anakin isn’t a cruel brute like Darth Malak or someone trying to devote himself to the Dark Side by intentionally doing bad things like Kylo Ren. He is at this point a good guy trying to achieve a good thing by doing bad things. Killing Younglings should have bothered a man in his position.

I am also severely miffed at Padme’s treatment in this film. In the first two Prequels she was fierce, independent, and a strong leader who was setting the template for who her daughter would become in the future. But in Episode III she is none of that. She cries a lot, blindly defends Anakin to her friends, becomes an emotional train wreck, and dies of a broken heart.
They softened her up. Dying of a broken heart is such an undignified way to make her character go and I would rather have had George Lucas write that Anakin killed her accidentally in anger. That would have made more sense.

I also wish the film had done a bit more to emphasise that one of Anakin’s motivations for turning to the Dark Side was a lust for power. In the Original Trilogy Darth Vader dominated every scene he was in, showcasing his power of intimidation as well as his mastery of the Force. He was bad in a cool way.
In Revenge of the Sith a lot of this becomes lost and the story opts instead to make Anakin come across as naive and pathetic. He whines too much, gets choked up on dreams he is having, and becomes a Dark Lord of the Sith as a response more to heartbreak than power lust. Some viewers complained that this ruins the badass-ness of Darth Vader; and while I won’t go that far, I do see some fundamental flaws in how his character is portrayed in the film.

Some of the best points of Episode III are the soundtrack and special effects. John Williams creates another beautiful score for Revenge of the Sith with many of the vocal pieces being some of the best tracks he has ever composed for the Star Wars saga.
And of course the sound effects and sound design are top notch. It does suffer a bit from the same blue screen problems that Attack of the Clones had, but overall the effects and sound are great. The opening battle over Coruscant is really cool and some of my favourite shots are the city scenes at night. The exterior shot of the opera house looks absolutely amazing and there are many other shots that are just breathtaking.

The Star Wars Prequels are good movies. And, yes, I am saying that with a straight face. I legitimately think they are good movies. They have some severe problems and they are very much far from perfect, and I have harshly dealt all the criticism I can dole out in these past reviews. But leaving all of those criticisms on the table I must add that I like these movies. I even like Episode II.
Episodes I, II, and III tell a great story that is sums up to a crucial part of the Star Wars Saga. We see the Republic and Jedi at their prime. We see the rise of Emperor Palpatine and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. It’s an epic tale that continues to show that George Lucas is a national treasure and one of America’s greatest storytellers. And, again, I say all that with a straight face.
Problems like Jar Jar, the execution of some of the plot points, the awkward dialogue, and bad acting among other things were never enough to make me call these bad movies. If you wanna see something bad in Star Wars go watch The Holiday Special, one of the Ewok Saturday morning cartoons, or play Masters of the Teras Kasi. Believe me, the Prequels are no where close to the bottom of the barrel. I, for one, think they are pretty great.

Tune in tomorrow for a review of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and may the Force be with you.