Today is May 4th, which is known to some people as being Star Wars Day. (May the 4th be with you. Get it?) I love the original Star Wars movies, even if Return of the Jedi deserves its less than stellar reputation. The first three prequels I could do without, even though Revenge of the Sith was actually fairly good. Of the three sequels, The Force Awakens was good. The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker were both overstuffed and forgettable. Solo was adequate. I liked Rogue One. It was the only one of the new films to really seem to get what Star Wars was all about.
If I had to rank them all, I think it would go something like this:
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Rogue One
- New Hope
- The Force Awakens
- Revenge of the Sith
- Return of the Jedi
- The Rise of Skywalker
- The Last Jedi
- Attack of the Clones
- The Phantom Menace
I’m not going to rank the two Ewok movies or The Holiday Special. You have to draw the line somewhere.
Looking over the franchise as a whole, I think Star Wars shows the danger of overexplaining. In a New Hope, it didn’t matter whether or not we actually knew what the Kessel Run was or the exact details of The Clone Wars. They just sounded cool and they sparked our imaginations. We also didn’t know how the Empire came to exist or how Darth Vader could be both Luke and Leia’s father. We didn’t know how the Force worked, exactly. Nor did we know the exact details of how the Jedi were wiped out. We really didn’t need to know. We just accepted what the films told us and then let our imaginations fill in the missing pieces.
Then the prequels came along and suddenly, we discovered that everyone in the Star Wars universe was obsessed with trade routes and suddenly, The Clone Wars lost all of their mythic grandeur as we learned, in pain-staking details, every reason why the wars began and how they ended. They just became another collection of CGI space battles. And then Solo showed us the Kessel Run and we discovered that it really wasn’t anything that special. Probably the only prequel (and sequel) that didn’t diminish the other films was Rogue One. In fact, Rogue One brought some of that epic grandeur back to the films. With its scenes of Death Star destroying entire cities and planets, it actually made A New Hope more effective. After watching Rogue One, it’s not as easy to mock the Empire’s super weapon.
Today’s big news is that Taika Waititi will be directing the latest Star Wars film. Waititi was the first director to actually understand what to do with Thor (who, up until Thor: Ragnarok, had been Marvel’s least interesting hero) and, of course, he also directed JoJo Rabbit. My hope is that Waititi will be given the freedom to bring some new life to Star Wars. I think he’s capable of bring some wonder back to a universe that could definitely use it.
May the force be with him.