STAR WARS: The Ultimate Review (PART ONE)


Aidan Herklotz

DISCLAIMER: This article contains spoilers to the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, although you probably should have seen them by now. This article also contains opinions that some may consider controversial. You have been warned.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember, or even before that. In 2005, my parents took me to see The Revenge of the Sith in theaters. I was three years old, it was the first film I ever saw in a theater, and I don’t remember a second of it. Also, I’m sure I saw the other Star Wars movies on VHS before that, but you’ll have to ask my parents. What I’m saying is, I think my devotion to the franchise proves that I can review them properly. Considering that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is coming out soon — apparently the last in the franchise — I thought I’d go ahead and review all nine movies, in order of release date. This is the first part of a three-part review; in this article, I’ll only be reviewing the original trilogy. The next parts will focus on the prequel and sequel movies, not including the spin-offs. Also, I won’t be talking about the “Special Edition” re-releases, as I believe that would be doing a disservice to the original trilogy.

1) STAR WARS: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

While many say that the first blockbuster film was Jaws, I believe this movie deserves the title. The release of the original Star Wars left the film world in shock. Never before had such a fun, action-packed adventure been released on the big screen. If you go back and read the reviews from the movie’s original release, nobody really believes what they had seen — in a good way. That’s what you call an instant classic. Right from the start, you’re blasted into a science-fiction world never seen before. The opening crawl is simple yet elegant, and it’s now a staple of the franchise. The opening shot is also great; the small cruiser fleeing from the absolutely massive Imperial Star Destroyer perfectly represents the ominous and dangerous Empire oppressing the people of the galaxy. It says everything we need to know in one shot. In this simplicity lies the true magic of this film: the characters are simple, but lovable. Luke is the stereotypical farm boy looking for a better life; Han is a smuggler with the heart of gold; Leia is a spunky, rebellious princess (and the epitome of a strong female protagonist); not to mention Darth Vader, who is probably the most iconic villain in film. These archetypes are all stereotypes because this movie did them so well. The characters play off each other so well that it feels like they’re real people, not just actors. This film also has great special effects. Yes, they seem a bit outdated today, but watching them back then had to have been spectacular. And the fact they made miniatures and actually destroyed them is hilarious. The original Star Wars is a true classic, and it has drastically changed film history forever.

FINAL REVIEW: 10/10 old men hitting each other with laser-swords. Influential. 

2) STAR WARS: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Alright, everybody already knows this movie’s fantastic. It frequently makes its way onto “top films of all time” lists, and it’s hailed as a perfect film. Now, I don’t believe anything can truly be perfect, but this film is probably pretty close. Thinking back, I really don’t have any problems with The Empire Strikes Back, and that never happens with me and movies. So, let’s talk about the good stuff. The acting in this one is phenomenal, and the characters really break out of the stereotypical shells that they were in for A New Hope. Han, Luke, and Leia are now more complicated characters with more interesting motivations, which makes it really fun to watch the scenes where they interact with each other. Whenever I watch the scene with Yoda and Luke in Yoda’s hut, I remember that Frank Oz, who voices and puppets Yoda, is under the floorboards speaking to Mark Hamill, who plays Luke; both of them can barely hear the other, yet this performance is so good regardless. Now that’s good acting. I have a sort of philosophy on sequels: a good sequel needs to expand the universe introduced in the first film[s], and Empire does this in spades. So many staples of the franchise were introduced in this movie: the Emperor, Yoda, Dagobah, force ghosts, Lando — I could keep going, but this article would be way too long. And I didn’t even mention the Darth Vader twist (you already know what I’m talking about), which, combined with its cultural impact, puts the entire first movie into a new light. Now that’s expanding the franchise. In conclusion, The Empire Strikes Back is an iconic movie and a perfect sequel.

FINAL REVIEW: 10/10 cut off hands. Masterpiece.

3) STAR WARS: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

For some reason, a lot of people are under the impression that Jedi is the best Star Wars movie. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but these people are wrong. In fact, it’s the worst movie in the original trilogy. I’ve got quite a few problems with this movie, but let’s start with the acting and characters. I don’t think Han and Leia are nearly as good as they were in A New Hope or Empire. I attribute this is mostly to the director, Richard Marquand. I think he was a bit more hands-off on the whole acting approach, unlike Irvin Kershner for Empire. For some actors, this approach is good, and it actually improves their performance, like Mark Hamil, whose performance as Luke is pretty good in Jedi. However, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher don’t benefit from this, and it definitely holds them back. Han doesn’t seem as genuine or real, like in the first two films. I think this can be solved easily: Han should have died in Jedi. By this point, Harrison Ford had gotten sick of Star Wars, and he wanted to move on to bigger and better things. He actually proposed the idea of Han making a sacrifice for the rebellion to George Lucas, but it was turned down. Lucas is a businessman before a filmmaker, and Han’s death wouldn’t sell toys or tickets, unlike my second problem — the Ewoks. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Ewoks. They’re cute, cuddly, and cold-blooded killers. But you cannot deny the fact that Ewoks were made solely to sell toys. This isn’t the only time Star Wars would do this, but we’ll get to that later. Endor was originally supposed to be the homeworld of the Wookies, i.e. Chewbacca’s species. In the context of the movie, this makes more sense. Yes, the Ewoks taking down a trained militia with sticks and stones is hilarious (and a successful metaphor for Vietnam), but it would make more sense with the extremely strong, seven-foot-tall Wookies. I also would’ve loved to see Chewbacca tearing the arms off of a stormtrooper.

My third problem is the plot holes. Luke’s plan to rescue Han from Jabba’s palace is absolutely insane, and it just ends in one huge brawl on Jabba’s sail barge. If Luke was just going to kill Jabba and all of his people, why didn’t he just go in while they were sleeping and lightsaber them? It would’ve made everything much quicker, and he wouldn’t have to sell C-3P0, R2, and Leia into slavery or get Chewie captured. Now don’t tell me “Luke was just improvising, he didn’t actually plan to get everyone captured,” because that’s wrong. Firstly, Luke constantly says he has a plan. Secondly, he put his lightsaber inside R2 from the very start, so he had to have planned for R2 to become a waiter on the sail barge. Also, when he’s about to walk the plank, he nods to everyone, which would imply that they were in on it too. I cannot believe that actually smart people like Leia and Lando would go along with this terrible plan. This makes most of the first act completely useless and hard to watch. I would detail more of my problems with Return of the Jedi, but I’m getting too worked up as it is.

Okay, rant over. Now I’ll talk about the stuff I actually like. The Emperor is one of my favorite characters in this entire movie (also, he’s so iconic, they’re even bringing him back for Episode IX). He’s just so evil, but it’s believable because he’s played as a power-hungry, insane old man. Ian McDiarmad obviously had a ton of fun playing this role, and he did a great job. McDiarmad was also 38 when playing the Emperor originally, so those prosthetics on his face are insane. The special effects in Jedi are all really good, especially the puppetry; Jabba was actually controlled by six people, including someone operating his tail and smoking a cigar so as to make the smoke coming out of his mouth seem real. Jabba’s also a great character; he’s totally believable as a sleazy crime lord. The final lightsaber fight is also one of the best in the series, and its emotional impact makes it almost better than the final fight in Empire. In conclusion, I have a soft spot for Return of the Jedi, but I can’t just ignore its various flaws.

FINAL REVIEW: 7/10 I kissed my sister. Inferior.