Thursday, August 13, 2009

The "Star Wars" Trilogy (1977-1983)

These are my takes on the original versions, not the re-tooled versions, of the original and only trilogy. To use a terrible and unnecessary phrase, "Fuck them." Sorry, I said it. (There was a prequel trilogy, what?)

My childhood defined in a single film. "Star Wars." The 1977 science fiction master of all blockbusters is too deep within my DNA to mock, dismiss, or patronize. It is a religion to me. No, correct that, it is religion to me. Period. Untold hours of play and imagination, simply staring at the poster of the film. That said, this saga about an elderly warrior (Alec Guinness) and his young apprentice (Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker) joining ... Oh, who am I kidding? Everyone knows this film. Onto the end: George Lucas re-made cinema and movies with this imaginative fun thrill ride, and I love it. In two hours he created a universe that exists in this geek's head as real as his hometown of Philly and his grandmother's house of cakes. But, boy, Lucas can't write a lick, and the acting is too uneven to ignore. "I have a bad feeling about this" can be (and maybe is) a drinking game. The grade is too high, for real. But I don't care. This is a great, mind-blowing film, just the desert town scenes alone, I drool, I dream, I love ... A+

"The Empire Strikes Back" is where George Lucas got smart and out-sourced. The sequel is not only the highlight of the series, but quite possibly one of the greatest fantasy films ever made. Hands down. It goes dark and deep, and yes, funny, as a wounded Luke (Mark Hamill) furthers his training under the wise and mysterious Yoda, and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leigh (Carrie Fisher) meet the Dark Side in the clouds. The climax is a dizzying emotional and action powder keg as Luke learns who is daddy is, and Ford delivers the absolute perfect non-romantic romantic line of all time in the face of possible death. Seriously, the carbon freezing scene and "I know" literally is my favorite film scene ever, topped only by a breaking-bad Michael Corleone. And God bless John Williams. His score here is perfect, especially during the ugly scenes. Who's your daddy?, for sure. It's all so perfectly thrilling, I never want it to end. A+

"The Return of the Jedi" easily is the weak link in the trilogy's chain, yet one of the most thrilling moments of my young movie-going life. The film is book-ended by a fantastic Empire-centered opening then a fight in the desert between our heroes and a slimy wormy gangster named Jabba (start) and a rock solid, violent clash between Luke and Darth Vadar, plus a kick-ass space battle (end). In the middle are the Ewoks. Don't like the Ewoks? I ... know. It's easy to see what Lucas was going for: A Tolkein-like morality tale where the least of warriors (Tolkein had Hobbits, Lucas has midgets and children in cheap bear outfits) bring down the mightiest of fiendish rulers. It's a lame ass kid movie move to douse the dark heart at the center of the film, and the Ewoks do look like silly MiniMes of Wookies, but what was the alternative, an obvious Wookie battle? (OK, I want that.) Yet, I love most of this, the forest chase, that final fight, and by God I still have nightmares about the ugly desert mouth pit, and I was 9 when I saw this. The vaporish gas coming off Vadar's unmasked face, brilliant. Kills the flaws.  B+

P.S. When will Lucas make a new film? Y'know, an original film?

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