Also known as: Border, Ripper (alternative German titles) Release Date: May 16th, 1984 (Cannes) Directed by: Abel Ferrara Written by: Nicholas St. John Music by: Dick Halligan, Joe Delia Cast: Tom Berenger, Billy Dee Williams, Jack Scalia, Melanie Griffith, Michael V. Gazzo, Rossano Brazzi, Rae Dawn Chong, Janet Julian, John Foster, Maria Conchita Alonso, Joe Santos, Ola Ray, Tracy Griffith, Jan Murray
Rebecca Productions, Zupnik-Curtis Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 95 Minutes
“[as Rossi drives off] There’s nothing I hate more than guineas in Cadillacs.” – Al Wheeler
I never saw this film but man, it was pretty damn cool. But when it stars Tom Berenger and Billy Dee Williams as two badasses at odds but hunting the same scumbag, why wouldn’t it be pretty damn cool?
It also stars Melanie Griffith during the best era of her career, just before things took off for her. The reason I like this era for her is that she did a lot of really cool flicks between this, Brian De Palma’s Body Double and the dystopian cyberpunk delight, Cherry 2000.
Griffith plays a stripper being hunted by a slasher type serial killer but she’s also joined by other good up-and-coming actresses also playing her stripper pals. Alongside her we get to see Rae Dawn Chong and Maria Conchita Alonso, two women that would go on to have a pretty good run throughout the ’80s and into the early ’90s.
At it’s core, this is a slasher flick. However, it’s not really a horror movie, as much as it is a crime thriller. It’s directed by Abel Ferrara, who previously directed the cult classic Driller Killer but would later go on to do The King of New York and Bad Lieutenant. This movie actually feels like a natural bridge between his gore littered slasher flick and his more serious crime dramas. Honestly, it mixes the best of both worlds and in my opinion, is probably Ferrara’s best movie even though most people have slept on it – myself included, until now.
If I’m being completely honest, I’ve actually never been a big fan of Ferrara’s work but this film is pretty solid. Granted, I need to revisit The King of New York, as it’s been a few decades since I’ve seen it.
Fear City is just energetic, provocative and ballsy. That’s what I love about it. It’s similar to the tone of a lot of the action movies that Cannon Films was putting out in the ’80s. It has that unapologetic grittiness to it with just a thick layer of cool.
I wish Abel Ferrara had made more movies like this.
Release Date: December 16th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow Based on: characters by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Harrison Ford (uncredited), Billie Lourd, Greg Grunberg, Dominic Monaghan, Warwick Davis, Denis Lawson, Jeff Garlin, Kevin Smith, James Earl Jones (vocal cameo), Andy Serkis (vocal cameo), Ewan McGregor (vocal cameo), Alec Guinness (vocal cameo), Hayden Christensen (vocal cameo), Ashley Eckstein (vocal cameo), Freddie Prinze Jr. (vocal cameo), Olivia d’Abo (vocal cameo), Frank Oz (vocal cameo), Liam Neeson (vocal cameo), Jennifer Hale (vocal cameo), Samuel L. Jackson (vocal cameo), Angelique Perrin (vocal cameo)
Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, Bad Robot, 142 Minutes
*There be spoilers here!
“We had each other. That’s how we won.” – Lando Calrissian
Congratulations, Disney and Lucasfilm. You finally broke me to the point that I didn’t have the urge to see a Star Wars movie in the theater. Nope, I waited on this one because the previous few movies left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of normies clapping like seals every time there was a weak attempt at a cameo or minor victory. Also, people have been ruining the theater experience for awhile, so this film had that working against it already.
Now I figured I’d go see it once the buzz calmed down and the theaters cleared out a few weeks later but even then, it just wasn’t worth the trip or the money for me to make the effort.
Well, I finally watched it now that it’s available to rent and because this COVID-19 bullshit has us all trapped in our houses with nothing to do.
Anyway, as much as I anticipated not liking this, it was the best film of the three from the Disney produced Sequel Trilogy. Some of the more angry fans out there may think that’s crazy of me to say but I respect the effort of J.J. Abrams trying to fix the abortion that Rian Johnson created with The Last Jedi, especially with the weak skill set that Abrams has.
Honestly, they should have called this Star Wars: Episode IX – MacGuffins and Mystery Boxes but I guess that would require Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, Disney and Lucasfilm to actually understand humility and that they aren’t the great storytellers that they think they are.
Now this movie had a lot of weird shit that made certain sequences hard to get through. If I’m being honest, there aren’t really any sequences that didn’t have issues. I’ll list out some of my gripes from memory at the end of the main part of this review, as I did for some of my other Disney Star Wars reviews.
If I’m going to talk about what I liked about this film, I guess it’s that it tried really hard to give good fan service. Not so much, soulless, cheap attempts at winning me back but more like an admission that the series fucked up with the previous Rian Johnson stinker and that Abrams felt sorry and embarrassed that his larger vision for this trilogy was skull fucked in the eye by Johnson.
Rian Johnson cared more about his own ego and career than being the trusted custodian of something much larger than himself, which was created by others who were a lot more talented than he will ever be. If that’s harsh, I don’t care. Johnson didn’t care about the responsibility he signed up for, so he can deal with the repercussions of that from the fans who felt betrayed by his piss pigeon performance.
I’m glad that J.J. Abrams kicked Johnson in the nuts though. And his disdain for Johnson’s wreckage was made abundantly clear in the short scene where Luke returns, stops Rey from throwing her lightsaber away and states, “I was wrong.” Then he goes on to tell her what we all needed him to tell her in the previous film. For Luke Skywalker and Mark Hamill’s sake, I’m glad that the character didn’t go out like a weak piece of shit and was somewhat salvaged.
While on the subject of Rey, though, I still don’t understand how she is just simply the best at everything. She has an insanely weak character arc, hasn’t had anywhere near the level of adversity that Luke and Anakin had and you barely see her train at all and then she can barely deal with a fucking tiny laser drone. It’s like these modern filmmakers don’t think beyond what looks cool on the screen in a shot.
Anyway, this movie is a mess, narratively speaking. It’s really two movies wedged into one, as Abrams had to try and course correct while also coming up with a satisfying ending. That being said, he does okay in trying to achieve this but maybe this should have been longer or released as two parts. But I guess he is stuck with the numbering system and being tight within the framework of a trilogy.
Unfortunately, while we do get to see the main three characters spend some time together, it is hard to buy into their bond, as they spent the first two movies apart. I want to believe in it and I actually like the actors but this is something that needed to be done in every film. This is why people love the trinity of Luke, Leia and Han so much. But for whatever reason, Abrams, Kennedy and Iger don’t understand what worked about previous Star Wars films.
As much as my brain was picking things apart, I still found this to be the most palatable of the Disney Saga films. It’s hard to peg why but I think that Abrams genuinely wanted this to make up for the damage that’s been done and he did put his heart into it. But that also doesn’t mean that he was the right guy for the job way back when they announced him for The Force Awakens. He wasn’t and I had reservations about it back then.
In the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch any of these films again. If I do, it won’t be for a very long time. Maybe they’ll work better as a larger body of work but I doubt it with Rian Johnson’s big lame turd sitting smack in the middle of it. Honestly, it’s like a cat jumped on the table, took a shit in the middle of a mediocre pizza and you just decided to eat around it.
Assorted notes and gripes:
Watching the film, I was bombarded with a lot of WTF moments, these are the ones I remember. Maybe I should’ve taken notes.
-The opening crawl, immediately revealing Palpatine’s “resurrection” was cringe and the worst written opening crawl in the franchise.
-Who the fuck is manning all of Palpatine’s Star Destroyers?
-Why would the Star Destroyers break through thick ice to reveal themselves? There are hundreds of them and this seems like it would cause a lot of damage? And they’re already on a very hidden planet to begin with.
-Since Palpatine’s appearance isn’t explained but cloning is implied, am I just to assume that there’s only one Palpatine and not like 364?
-Lightspeed skipping? Really? And they land safely within a different planet’s atmosphere with every skip? Really? I’m no astrophysicist but I’d assume a planet’s atmosphere is a small percentage of a planet’s total structure and that planets themselves take up an insanely small amount of actual space in the universe, as a whole.
-“Hey Rose… you coming on the mission?” “Nah… I’m good, bro!”
-The group goes to outer space Burning Man… really?
-Don’t get me started on the jetpack trooper scene. That’s a clusterfuck of cringe and stupidity.
-I’m alright with the healing power but shouldn’t it drain Rey, even just a little bit. I mean, it fucking kills Kylo like two hours later.
-The Rey v. Kylo’s TIE Fighter scene was absolutely, unequivocally stupid. Just crush that shit with the Force, hoe!
-I guess Abrams views Droids as abused house pets.
-Gurl 1: “Not that you care but I think you’re okay.” Gurl 2: “I care.” Girl power! No lesbian kiss.
-So did C-3PO have red LED lights installed this whole time? Where were they when he was attempting to murder Jedi in Attack of the Clones?
-Rey doesn’t feel Chewie “die” on a ship that’s right in front of her. But then Rey feels that Chewie is alive when he’s much further away.
-Where’s Phasma? Is she really dead now? I thought she was Star Wars‘ version of Kenny from South Park.
-Are the Knights of Ren just laser sword thugs who don’t actually answer to Kylo Ren? Sith in training? Palpatine super soldiers? What the fuck are they?
-How does a billion year-old dagger line up with the wreckage of a Death Star that was built well after the dagger. And how was Rey lined up at the right angle and altitude to make it work? This was just a ripoff of the medallion from The Goonies and it was just stupid.
-I’ve lost count of the number of MacGuffins. I think there were five… maybe six? Is this a G.I. Joe miniseries from 1983? Nah… those were much better written.
-Weak as fuck lightsaber duels. Maybe the weakest in the entire franchise.
-Did Leia die because she called out to Kylo or was that just a perfect timing plot convenience?
-Harrison Ford? Why?
-Luke in 30 seconds was the Luke I wanted in the previous movie.
-Rey in a tiny X-Wing had to navigate through tight, dangerous, moving space corridors to reach the Palpatine planet but the Rebels’ big ass warships simply followed her path? It’s space, can’t they fly around that shit? What about the massive fucking armada of “regular people” that just shows up conveniently to win the war?
-Also, a militia of citizens overthrows a corrupt government by force. When did Hollywood become so blatantly pro-Second Amendment? I kid, Hollywood is just stupid.
-When they’re riding horses on the deck of a Star Destroyer, why doesn’t the ship just turn fucking sideways? It would’ve ended the war. One simple maneuver.
-The teleporting physical objects Force power is another lame plot convenience.
-What’s this random fucking Force Dyad thing? Abrams still thinks he’s making up stories with his toys in the bathtub.
-If Palpatine created Anakin and Anakin created Luke and Leia and Leia created Kylo Ren, all the while Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter, isn’t their attraction kinda incest-y?
-I’d watch a Lando & Chewie in the Falcon movie.
-Why bury the lightsabers? A safe would be more secure.
-Why even take the Skywalker name and why did it take her so long to say it? Maybe because a part of her knew it was wrong to just take their name, their personal shit and Luke’s childhood home. Bitch, you ain’t in the will, that shit all goes to the state!
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: the other Disney era Star Wars movies.
Also known as: Empire of Dreams (shortened title) Release Date: September 12th, 2004 Directed by: Kevin Burns, Edith Becker Written by: Ed Singer Music by: John Williams Cast: George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis, Frank Oz, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams, Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Alan Ladd Jr., Irvin Kershner, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite
“I think George likes people, I think George is a warm-hearted person, but… he’s a little impatient with the process of acting, of finding something. He thinks that something’s there. “It’s right there, I wrote it down. Do that”. You know, sometimes you can’t just “do that” and make it work.” – Harrison Ford
I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years since this documentary came out. It was the selling point of getting me to buy the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD though, as I had already owned the movies several times over, in all their incarnations, but wanted to have this documentary to keep and rewatch over the years.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen it but it’s available on Prime Video, as well as Disney+ now.
Seeing this again sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt since Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005. It was that feeling of wonder, excitement and childlike awe. Disney is incapable of generating that sensation in me since they took over the Star Wars franchise and honestly, it’s mostly dead to me.
Empire of Dreams brought me back to where I was though from my childhood and into my twenties when I had a deep love for everything Star Wars. But most importantly, this showed me how much better the original movies were compared to Disney’s schlock and the shoddy prequels.
If Disney tried to make an Empire of Dreams followup about their new trilogy, would anyone care? Well, anyone with actual taste that was alive when the original Star Wars phenomenon was still alive and strong? I mean, how interesting would that documentary even be? And do you really even care about seeing any of the modern Star Wars actors and filmmakers talking about these new movies?
Empire of Dreams does a stupendous job of delving deep into the creation of one of the greatest film franchises of all-time. But seeing it with 2019 eyes, it more importantly shows you just how magical the Star Wars brand once was before Disney retrofitted it for an audience of wine moms and broke social justice warriors who can’t afford to buy the merch in the first place.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the original Star Wars trilogy and other Star Wars documentaries.
Also known as: Attacks, Hawks (working titles) Release Date: April 10th, 1981 Directed by: Bruce Malmuth Written by: David Shaber, Paul Sylbert Music by: Keith Emerson Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer, Joe Spinell, Lindsay Wagner, Nigel Davenport, Persis Khambatta
Martin Poll Productions, The Production Company, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, DaSilva! Come off this cop on the beat mentality! Your wife left you for it! Wasn’t that enough!” – Peter Hartman
I wish I would have found this movie when I was younger in the ’80s but it eluded me until I saw it on television in the late ’90s. I liked it for its roughness and for the fact that Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams and Rutger Hauer where in a movie together. However, discovering it in my late teen years allowed me to not fall victim to the nostalgia bug.
Still, I really like this movie for what it is. It’s a no frills, straight up, badass cop hunting a badass psycho movie. It benefits from the urban grittiness, its testosterone heavy stars and Stallone’s friggin’ beard!
In the film, Stallone and Williams are cops. They deal with the scum of the Earth and have to do some serious dirt in an effort to keep the streets clean. They are then recruited into an anti-terror task force by their superior, played by Stallone’s buddy Joe Spinell, and a British terror expert, played by Nigel Davenport. Their purpose is to track down international terrorist “Wulfgar”, played by Rutger Hauer.
The film isn’t exceptional and the plot isn’t unique or surprising in any way. It plays like a standard angry cop hunting mad man picture but I do get pulled into the film’s visual aesthetic. There’s nothing unusual or unique about the visual style, it is actually pretty pedestrian, but the urban nighttime scenes just have this sort of majestic allure about them. The nightclub scene is especially enthralling. Granted, I feel like all of this was unintentional and it was the locations that just came alive on their own without any extra flourish. It felt magical in the same way The Warriors does regardless of that film’s unique fashion sense.
Nighthawks is a raw and intense film. Plus, seeing Stallone face-off with Hauer with Williams thrown into the mix is exciting stuff for anyone who grew up loving these guys throughout the ’80s. And again… Stallone’s friggin’ beard, man!
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: Stallone’s Cobra and Schwarzenegger’s Red Heat. If you want to see more of Hauer in a similar type of role, check out Blade Runner and The Hitcher.
Also known as: Blast! (recut version) Release Date: April, 1972 (Chicago) Directed by: Oscar Williams Written by: Oscar Williams Music by: Grant Green, Wade Marcus Cast: Billy Dee Williams, D’Urville Martin, Celia Kaye, Billy Durkin, Raymond St. Jacques
New World Pictures, 83 Minutes
“Billy Dee Williams…Badder than ever!” – tagline
The Final Comedown isn’t very good but it does approach the issue of race relations in post-Civil Rights America in an uncommon way. This isn’t just about urban blacks taking it to the man, this has a deeper philosophical subtext to it and while Billy Dee Williams expresses his character’s concerns, every chance he encounters an ear, the narrative sort of pulls the rug out from under any sort of real solution.
The white man is evil, especially with a badge or a lawmaking pen. The young white liberals in the film try to right the wrongs of their parents and ancestors but even their call for justice and equality is met with an extremely violent end.
I actually liked this film more than the average bear, based off of other reviews I’ve read. Others considered this to be too preachy and to just beat its message over your head, relentlessly. While I don’t disagree with their claims of heavy handedness, within the context of the film, it works.
I thought that Billy Dee Williams was great in this, even if he spent the last half of the film, shot up and bloody, sitting in an alley. The real superstar here was D’Urville Martin. I’ve seen Martin in just about every blaxploitation film he’s ever been a part of and this is the best he’s ever been. Usually, he is a comedic sidekick or a stylish villain type. In this film he gets dramatic and is more real than I’ve ever seen him. From a serious acting standpoint, this is the high point of his short career, as he sadly died way too young.
If you are a fan of blaxploitation pictures, this one is jam packed with action. The second half of the film is essentially a street war between youthful blacks, liberal white kids and the racist police force. It is heavy handed and unapologetic but I don’t have a problem with that. I just wish Billy Dee Williams had more to do in the second half than sitting in an alley, waiting to bleed out.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: Other Billy Dee Williams pictures from the era: The Take and Hit!
Release Date: June 19th, 1989 (Westwood premiere) Directed by: Tim Burton Written by: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren Based on:Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger Music by: Danny Elfman, Prince Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Tracey Walter
Guber-Peters Company, Warner Bros., 126 Minutes
“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” – The Joker
Sure, there are several movies that had a major impact on me, as a young kid. However, none of them, except maybe Star Wars, quite hit me like 1989’s Batman. This was the cinematic event of my childhood that probably shaped my life for quite some time and is responsible for me still being a massive Batman fan today.
After seeing this, I got into comic books a lot more, started drawing my own and even had a comic publishing company in middle school with some friends. And to this day, Batman is still my favorite hero and he also has the coolest villains, hands down.
I was so excited to see this, being that I was ten years-old. I bought the novelization when it went on sale and read it in a day. Then I read it a few more times before the film actually came out. Was I worried about spoilers? Nope. Seeing it come to life in the flesh was all I really cared about, even if I knew the story, inside and out.
All these years later, this is still my favorite Batman film and Michael Keaton is still my favorite Batman. Adam West is a very close second though, as I discovered him and the ’60s show alongside this film.
As a ten year-old, I had never seen anything as perfect as this. When it came out on VHS, my cousins and I watched it three or four times in a row, until we passed out from exhaustion. The next day, we probably watched it another half dozen times. This was the cherry on top of the summer of 1989, which is still one of the best summer movie seasons of all-time.
Watching it in 2018, I still absolutely love this film. Sure, I see some of the minor flaws it has, like a sometimes nonsensical plot and weird developments that don’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. But this is a comic book come to life and for the time, it was some top quality stuff and it has aged really well.
The film sort of has a film-noir and a German Expressionist style. Gotham City looks timeless because of the film’s style and that style helps to keep this grounded in its own reality. While some things are over the top, it feels much more plausible than most of the comic book films today. Batman and the Joker could both exist in some way because no one here has super powers. This is really a crime thriller where the hero of the story just has a lot of money for cool gadgets and a sweet jet.
Over the years, some people have complained that Jack Nicholson’s version of the Joker is corny or just a retread of the ’60s Cesar Romero incarnation. I think Nicholson was fantastic and it is one of my favorite roles he has ever played, right alongside Jack Torrance (The Shining) and Jake Gittes (Chinatown and The Two Jakes). Maybe Nicholson didn’t look like the perfect comic book version of the character but he made up for it in his madness and his ability to come off as convincing, scary and cool.
Michael Keaton is my Batman simply because he was my first and well, he is the perfect balance of Batman and Bruce Wayne. His Wayne wasn’t the best but it was acceptable while his Batman was exceptional. In later years, we got Val Kilmer, who I thought was too dry, and George Clooney, who did a great Wayne but a not so good Batman. Christian Bale was grunty and just sort of there and Ben Affleck hasn’t really wowed me, although he hasn’t disappointed either.
1989’s Batman is still a perfect storm, as far as I’m concerned. Within the context of what it is, a living comic book, there isn’t a whole lot that one could nitpick about. Then again, some writers and critics over the years have tried to call the film out for not being as good as it is remembered. But some people on the Internet survive by posting clickbait articles and whining. Some people just think they need to show how cool they are by trashing something they will never be as cool as.
While I would also go on to love the direct sequel to this, Batman Returns, this chapter in the Tim Burton Batman duology is the best. While I am a fan of directors being able to convey their vision and Burton had more control with the sequel, I like how this one turned out compared to its followup. It’s more of a studio movie, sure, but it has just enough of that Burton touch to make it fairly unique. Plus, the score by Danny Elfman mixed with the sweet tunes of Prince created one of the most iconic soundtracks of all-time.
Batman has a few problems but they pale in comparison to a lot of the blockbusters today. The film didn’t try to be too big, which is what every contemporary blockbuster does. It also has a dark edge to it, coming out of a decade where Reaganomics and new wave music had most people acting cheery and cheesy. This was a precursor to the edgier ’90s where darker indie films and grunge music became the pop culture of the time.
Release Date: September 18th, 1973 Directed by: Sidney J. Furie Written by: Alan Trustman, David M. Wolf Music by: Lalo Schifrin Cast: Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, Norman Burton
Paramount Pictures, 134 Minutes
“You know the government pays me $18,000 to be a computer programmer. I’d trade every single cent… just for one night with you.” – Esther
I recently got the Amazon Video subscription add-on Brown Sugar. It’s a streaming service that showcases black cinema and television shows but also has a huge library of blaxploitation pictures, which immediately justified the $3.99 monthly fee. Perusing their library, I came across this. It’s a film I have never heard of before but since it stars both Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor, I had to click “play”.
Sadly, it didn’t live up to the expectations I had in my mind.
The story is about an FBI agent (Williams) that comes to find his daughter dead after she overdosed. His superiors take him off of the case, as he’s too close to it. So Billy Dee goes rogue, forms his own badass squad and goes after the drug pushers responsible.
The main problem with the film is that it is too long. The length draws the movie out way too much and honestly, this story could and should have been told over ninety minutes and not over nearly two and a half hours. It made the film slow and drab and it actually felt like it was three hours. It had some good moments and a few high points but it was jam packed with so much filler that it was like Taco Bell beef instead of a nice juicy Angus steak. It could have been that Angus steak.
Also, the ending just felt really anticlimactic after sitting through this long, drawn out epic.
Now the acting was good. I liked Williams in this a lot and Richard Pryor was great in his parts. There just wasn’t much else to sink your teeth into.
It was directed by Sidney J. Furie though and that right there could be the crux of the problem. Not to bash the guy but he also directed the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, some of the Iron Eagle movies and some other major duds. Granted, this is better than all of those films and he did helm The Appaloosa and Lady Sings the Blues, both of which were well regarded to some degree.
Hit! just isn’t as good of a film as it should have been. In an era of badass blaxploitation movies, it lacks excitement and gravitas. It really isn’t a true blaxploitation film though and maybe that’s why it misses its mark.
I decided to watch through all the previous Star Wars films before going to see The Force Awakens next week. I reviewed the prequel trilogy already and now it is time for my two cents on the original trilogy.
These were the first three films. Two of them came out when I was too young to know anything about film but I do remember my experience seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater when I was four. It is actually the first movie I remember seeing on the big screen and I absolutely loved it. Of course, I had already seen A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back and thus, developed a lifelong obsession with everything Star Wars.
But now I am older, I’m a bit jaded and I experienced everything wrong with the evolution of this beloved franchise. So how would I feel about each of these films, after having not seen them as one unified body of work for several years?
Well, let me address each one individually.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977):
Release Date: May 25th, 1977 Directed by: George Lucas Written by: George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 121 Minutes
“I have a very bad feeling about this.” – Luke Skywalker
The first Star Wars film ever released was A New Hope, which was simply known as Star Wars at the time. It was also the only film in the original trilogy to be directed by George Lucas. That is probably why the quality of this trilogy was much better.
This is the smallest feeling film of the Star Wars franchise. It really only takes place on two worlds and one of those worlds is shown only briefly. The rest of the film takes place in space. However, they don’t even leave the first planet for like an hour, which is pretty crazy for a Star Wars film.
This movie also moves the slowest. Not that it is dull or boring but there is more time given to storytelling and character building than any other Star Wars film after this. The interactions between Luke Skywalker and the old Obi-Wan Kenobi are the most intimate in the entire franchise.
The addition of Han Solo and Chewbacca, and later Princess Leia, to the team feels organic and natural and everyone works well with each other. The cast and their camaraderie between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy is night and day. The strength of their bond only gets better with each installment in this trilogy.
Now this is my least favorite of the original three films. There is just one mediocre lightsaber battle with strange effects, that even after the special editions were released, doesn’t match up with the effects of all the other lightsaber battles.
This film is more about understanding the Force and the mythos of Star Wars, where all the other films just go full action.
But despite a few flaws, that aren’t really worth mentioning, it still plays wonderfully today.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
Star Wars: Episode V – Empire Strikes Back (1980):
Release Date: May 17th, 1980 (Washington D.C.) Directed by: Irvin Kershner Written by: George Lucas, Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, James Earl Jones, Clive Revill (original version), Ian McDiarmid (Special Edition)
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 124 Minutes
“I have a bad feeling about this.” – Princess Leia
This movie seems to be the favorite amongst most Star Wars fans. It isn’t my favorite but it is damned good.
I will say that this is the best chapter, as a film, out of all six movies. It is almost a masterpiece. The acting is superb, the tone is magnificent and the big twist in the plot is Earth-shattering if you are not prepared for it. My young mind back in the day nearly exploded.
In this film, you understand the motivations of the characters better. The universe gets much larger, the story gets much darker and our heroes are pitted against odds that seem insurmountable. The stakes are much higher and there is a great sense of loss, doom and gloom before it is all over.
You are introduced to the awesome ice planet Hoth, the characters of Yoda, Lando, the Emperor and Boba Fett (if you don’t count his brief cameo in the special edition version of A New Hope). You also get a glimpse at all the other cool bounty hunters, Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, Snow Troopers and the AT-ATs.
This film acts as a perfect second act, setting up the big climax and solidifying your love of the story and the characters within.
Empire Strikes Back is to space operas what The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was to westerns.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983):
Release Date: May 25th, 1983 Directed by: Richard Marquand Written by: George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid, Alec Guinness, Warwick Davis, James Earl Jones, Phil Fondacaro
Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 131 Minutes
“Artoo, I have a bad feeling about this.” – C-3PO
While I don’t consider this as good and as perfect of a film as Empire Strikes Back, it is still my favorite in the series. The reason being, is it is the most fun and is the largest of the three films. Sure, people hate the Ewoks but I don’t. Wookiees would’ve certainly been cooler than Ewoks in the big final battle but they are like a bunch of James Deans when compared to the Gungans of the prequel trilogy.
This film has my favorite sequence out of any Star Wars chapter and that is the mental chess game played between the Emperor, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It also has the greatest space battle in the history of cinema. Not to mention that the unfinished skeletal Death Star looks a lot cooler than the complete one from A New Hope.
The first part of this film, dealing with the heroes banding together to rescue the once selfish Han Solo, goes to show how far they have all come and what true friendship means. It was a great lesson to learn as a kid and this is probably the best example of it from my childhood. Plus, Jabba the Hutt and his minions were one of the coolest things in the entire trilogy.
Return of the Jedi is one of the funnest pictures in film history. It is the happy ending you want but still comes at a great price.
It is the near-perfect ending of a near-perfect trilogy.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: This specific Star Wars trilogy of films.