So Star Wars VII is coming out and you promised yourself you’d watch the other six movies. But you didn’t, did you? You suck. But wait, we are SportsGrid are here to help you. Here’s what you need to know about them:
I: The Phantom Menace
Summary: A whiney boy gets Jedi training after blowing up the Empire’s super weapon by exploiting a hard-to-believe technical weakness. Everyone celebrates.
Redeeming Features: It looked a lot like NASCAR (or more likely, the seeds of a video game), but despite being a pointless plot device, the pod racing was cool. And the lightsabre battles were badass.
Analysis: So much promise, so little delivery. When the one-sheet came out with the boy Anakin casting a Darth Vader-shaped shadow, we all had to change our pants. Unfortunately, that was the high point. While the child actor was awful, he was just a kid. What was really unforgivable was the talent George Lucas turned into Keanu Reeves (Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Keira Knightly). Also, the most interesting character, Darth Maul, got killed like a chump. But the worst part? The movie was all about a frigging trade dispute. And what was the worst worst part? All these problems, and I am yet to mention Jar Jar Binks. However, I would have given this whole movie a pass if McGregor would have said to Neeson after one of his countless speeches about The Force, “Why would I want all that when I have Heroin?”
II: Attack of the Clones
Summary: While a clone army is created, whiney teenager makes rapey faces at Natalie Portman, loses his mother and arm, and turns dark.
Redeeming Features: The planet Kamino was interesting and Yoda finally showed he was a badass.
Analysis: Watching this movie is like watching anything involving Kim Kardashian: there’s lots of sucking involved. There is so much wrong with this movie, but mainly it’s the over-CGI’ed feel. Like “Strawberry Fields,” nothing is real. And Lucas proves his strength is not romance, as the interaction of Anakin and Padme is both creepy and creepy. At no point are you rooting for these two to get together. And Count Dooku? While I love Christopher Lee, his character had none of the coolness of Darth Maul, who as I noted, was killed like a chump. Oh, and one more thing: R2-D2 CAN FLY? WTF?
III: Revenge of the Sith
Summary: Grown-up whiney boy totally goes off the rails, and after getting literally burned by Obi-wan and losing his wife, becomes mostly machine.
Redeeming Features: In the opening scene we are dropped into what turns out to be a kickass space fight. No matter how you feel about the story, it sets us up well for the events of STAR WARS.
Analysis: In a series of underwhelming prequels, this is the only one that showed any promise. Samuel L. Jackson had a fitting death (“My lightsaber is the one that says ‘Bad Muther Fucker’ on it.”). The carrying out of Order 66 was good for the franchise (not everyone should be a Jedi), and killing the younglings made it the right level of dark (THAT’S the Darth Vader I was expecting!). While I’m looking forward to movie VII, they’re missing an opportunity not making movie IIIA that shows how Luke and Leia grew up and she ended up a rebel leader with stolen plans and droids.
IV: A New Hope
Summary: A whiney boy gets Jedi training and blows up the Empire’s super weapon by exploiting a hard-to-believe technical weakness. Everyone celebrates. Hey, wait a minute…
Redeeming Features: It was all new: lightsabres, the Death Star, Darth Vader, R2-D2, space chess. The orchestral score. The bigass ship at the beginning. You always remember your first time…
Analysis: First of all, it’s not “A New Hope.” That’s just revisionist history like saying the Civil War was about states’ rights. This movie is STAR WARS. Second, for a movie with a 40-minute first act and tons of exposition, the pace is very strong (something Lucas forget about in the prequels). But conversely, and let’s not underplay this, a farm boy like Luke did not deserve his role in the fight against the Empire. But we did get Han Solo and Chewbacca out of this. And Alec Guiness definitely classed up the joint, even if he had no idea what the hell was going on.
V: The Empire Strikes Back
Summary: Whiney teen prematurely leaves formal Jedi training only to find out his dad is a total tool.
Redeeming Features: This is the movie where we realized Han Solo was the real hero in all this, even if he had crap friends. And the Empire wins in this movie, which makes it cool.
Analysis: This film gets a lotta love, but I’m still partial to (the real) first movie. This one is too much of a transition, with no real beginning or end. And to make matters worse, Leia gives her brother a pretty serious West Virginia kiss. But having said all that, it’s solid. The Hoth battle is well-shot. Han gets frozen in carbonite after big-timing Leia (gotta like how the only black guy in space is an untrustworthy traitor). Yoda shows how you can be short, crazy and green, and still be the coolest guy in the room (cave). And the Luke/Darth Vader twist (now not so much a twist, but then…) is HUGE. This is how all sequels should be.
VI: Return of the Jedi
Summary: Luke and Darth Vader work out their daddy issues while teddy bears save the galaxy from the Empire.
Redeeming Features: The ewoks playing drums on the empty helmets (cooler if the helmets had not been empty), and Leia filling her gold bikini (see the relevant episode of Friends if you don’t understand).
Analysis: What a letdown. We all knew the Empire was going to lose, but to a bunch of kids toys? You can make a movie that accessible to kids without pandering (or creating another piece of merchandise). And if any movie squandered using Princess Leia as more than window dressing, it was this one. But the Luke and Darth interaction is good with a satisfying ending, and everyone wanted to ride a speeder bike through Muir Woods.
Which leads us to movie VII…
Photo via Poster for sale on Amazon
David Young has been a columnist for ESPN and Sports Illustrated and is now working on the script for Star Wars IIIA.