Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What I learned from watching Stars Wars Episodes I-VI

*Spoilers for all six films reside in this article.

For a child growing up in the 1980s everyone whose everyone knew someone who was obsessed with George Lucas’s Star Wars trilogy. For me, it was my older brother, sister and cousins. Having seen Episodes IV-VI many times growing up, I never completely understood the obsession. As a child, you don’t critique the acting, cinematography or storyline really. Children want to be entertained. When Darth Vader came on screen, which I’m sorry as a 31 year old he is still frightening, he had a presence like no other film villain. He had his own music and you never really see his face except for one of the final scenes in the trilogy. The mask of the unknown makes him all the more scary and mysterious. He has no remorse, no conscious as to what he does is wrong or hurtful. But, then again this was before Episodes I-III came out where no one really knew how Darth Vader became Darth Vader or why. I decided to watch all six films in honor of Episode VII The Force Awakens coming out next month. I felt that I couldn’t fully review the film without watching all the films that came before it.

First let me start off by saying that George Lucas is a pure genius. He created such an incredible, mind blowing universe that when I watch the films I still can’t wrap my head around the amazing imagination that one man had. He started his story in the middle, by creating Episode IV before Episode I, who does that? A genius. He knew how Darth Vader becomes evil but decided to let everyone see him on the dark side first, that way people can sit there and make up their mind about him and then boom. He comes out with Episodes I-III and showcases young Anakin Skywalker a good child, a strong Jedi, one who encompasses the force and can bring balance, “the chosen one” if you will. Clearly, he had to be somewhat good if he had children with a beautiful, strong woman. Good, wholesome children too. 

I saw Episode I Phantom Menace back in 1999, when it came out in theaters. I remember hating it, and being so disappointed that I never saw the other two prequels. When I decided to watch all the films, I completely dreaded the thought of having to sit through three horrible films, mainly because most true Star Wars fans hate, no I’m sorry loathe the first three films. Some people say it’s because of the actors they chose, some people say it’s the cinematography, and some people are just haters. I had no expectations. I hated the first one back 14 years ago, why would I enjoy it now? Well, times have changed. I actually thoroughly enjoyed all three films. I thought showing Anakin as a child and keeping him as a child throughout the first film was perfect. The relationship he had with his mom was beautiful, and I loved how much he crushed on Padme’ as a little boy. Maybe it’s the girl in me, but I love a good love story, and it was so cute how he had such a horrible childhood being enslaved with his mom and not being able to help her, that the only thing getting him through it was Padme’. 

In Episode II Attack of the Clones, he still pined for Padme’, 10 years have passed and this kid was still obsessed! The Queen or well now at this point she is the Senator, is in danger and now that he has been Obi-Wan Kanobi’s apprentice for the past 10 years, he is now able to go off on his own mission of keeping Padme’ safe. Of course during their time hiding out they become close, and she finally starts to fall for him. He dreams that his mother is dying and they go searching for her. When he finally finds his mother, she dies in his arms and the anger and passion that the Dark Side feeds off of, engulfs into his body. He states that he slaughters everyone in the village his mother was in. Shortly after they bury his mother, they find out Obi Wan is in trouble. He doesn’t want to rescue him, but after Padme’s insistence they attempt to save him. Surely, they get captured and now Obi-Wan, Padme’ and Anakin are stuck in this Roman Collosuem type scenario where they are chained to a pole in a giant amphitheater and all kinds of creatures come out to try and destroy them. I liked this film because we finally get to see Anakin showcase his Jedi powers and his training that he’s been involved in for the past decade. I also like how Lucas takes his time, there’s no rush for Padme’ and Anakin to get together, it seems as though it happens more at a natural rate. It actually feels like they have spent so much time together that it seems fit when she finally declares her love for him. 

Entering Episode III Revenge of the Sith, I was excited. I knew this was the film that actually physically shows Anakin become Darth Vader. The film starts off at the very beginning with Padme’ telling Anakin she is pregnant, never stating there were twins. Anakin keeps having a recurring nightmare that Padme’ dies in childbirth. Afraid of his future and losing the most important person in his life, he becomes conflicted. The evil Chancellor manipulates Anakin to join him on the dark side, because that will be the only way to keep the people he loves from dying. The anger and hate he consumes will make his powers ten times more powerful and therefore save Padme’. Anakin is completely conflicted throughout the entire film, until he starts to believe that the Jedi Counsel is against him, especially because they didn’t declare him a master jedi. He then becomes so consumed with evil, he does unspeakable things, and then loses Padme’ in the end anyway. He fights Obi-Wan who can’t bring himself to kill Anakin since he was like a brother to him for the last 10 years. During their battle, Obi-Wan jumps and lands on higher ground claiming he has won, then Anakin attempts to make the jump despite Obi-Wan’s insistence not to, and  therefore lands into molten hot lava and his limbs are quickly burning off. Anakin is no longer recognizable. Luke and Leia Skywalker are born and whisked away so that their presence will not be felt by their father. Then, something incredible occurs. Anakin is laying on a table, burned almost to death and he is being worked on by having limbs created for him with metal. One of the final scenes, and honestly one of the greatest moments in cinematic history, in my opinion, the infamous helmet covers his burned barely there face, steam smoking out and the epic breathing is heard over the classic Darth Vader song, the Imperial March. Luke and Leia weren’t the only ones born that day. Darth Vader the most villainous human known to cinema was born. I was completely floored. Lucas couldn’t have made it any better. It was epic and sets up every movie fan for what’s to come. 

Up next naturally was Episode IV A New Hope. Although many people didn’t particularly care for Hayden Christensen I thought he was decent, and having seen Episode IV right after Episode III, I think he even looks like Luke Skywalker and has similar mannerisms. The Jedi counsel was destroyed in Episode III because Darth Vader and the Chancellor killed everyone except Yoda and Obi-Wan. Princess Leia, is just like her mother, Padme’ she is strong, fierce and passionate about her people. She will stop at nothing to save her people and their homes. Now, what I found interesting in this film is that there is no Imperial March for Vader, because it wasn’t created yet, and Princess Leia and Vader share screen time, and yet he doesn’t feel her prescence at all. I also thought it was interesting that Luke Skywalker has absolutely no training whatsoever. Granted there isn’t much happening in the film where he would need to learn how to fight, but I thought there would be more screen time with Obi-Wan and Luke. Having seen the newer films, you can definitely tell that Episode IV was made in the 1970s, and that’s not a bad thing. Nothing is CGI-ed, there are no green screens of fake backgrounds, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer were known to do some of their own stunts. Compared to Episode III where nothing looks real, even the background is questioned as to if it is real or not, Episode IV was a breath of fresh air. It was an old film, but new life was breathed into it, making it enjoyable to watch, but I do have to admit, at that point I was a little bored. The film was slow paced, the action didn’t take affect until towards the end of the film and it irked me that when Obi-Wan died, he just disappeared. What was that about? Where was Yoda? He didn’t exist in this film, not even a single mention. Doing some research online, and when I say research I mean clicking on Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope on imdb.com, and I was reading that George Lucas was so certain that this film was going to bomb that instead of attending the premiere he went to Hawaii with Steven Spielberg and that’s where they thought up the idea of Raiders of the Lost Arc. It was also the only Star Wars film to be nominated for a best picture Academy Award and the first ever science fiction film to be nominated for best picture. It did the complete opposite of bomb at the box office.

Next up was Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, and focuses on Luke discovering his past, and Darth Vader searching for Luke and attempt to bring him to the dark side. Upon meeting Vader, he finds out that he is his father and urges that he will never falter the dark side. He gets trained by Yoda, but leaves training early to help save Han and his friends from Vader’s takeover of Landow. He promises Yoda he will be back to complete his training to be a Jedi Knight. This film had more action than Episode IV and delved much more into Luke’s family tree. It was fun to watch this one since everyone in the world already knows that Darth Vader is his father, but to watch all the films and finally get to that pivotal moment, that back in 1980 must have shocked audiences everywhere, was pretty great. This film also introduced Yoda, although he is extremely old and frail, and the infamous Imperial March, which I believe makes Vader seem so much more intimidating with the theme music in the background. 

Lastly, Episode VI Return of the Jedi which was my favorite out of all six films, had the most action, and had the greatest outcome. Luke confronts his father, the audience gets to see the Emperor who hasn’t made an appearance in the older films other than a hologram, and Luke explains to Leia that they are related. What I love so much about all these films is that each one is unique in their own way. They are all filled with tons of different unique characters which is by far my favorite thing about Star Wars. Characters are almost everything to me when it comes to films, especially films like these. The different languages that Lucas creates and different species of all the creatures are fascinating.  The great thing about Lucas’s stories is that all characters in a sense are created equal. Men, women, blacks, whites, aliens, ewoks, droids, you name it, they are all the same. A woman, like Padme’ can be Queen and Senator, she can fight crime, and like Leia is never once a damsel in distress. She is strong, and can hold her own. Like mother like daughter, they are for girls growing up watching these films, great role models. Leia is working on star ships and directing orders, just like Padme’ did. They grab a blaster and take care of themselves. Also, I thought that as evil and as horrifying Darth Vader is, in the end Luke shows him how deep down there is some good somewhere in him. He never learned everything that happened to his father and how he went to the Dark Side. There was great character development in Episodes IV-VI. Talking to people, almost everyone has a favorite. Each character has great traits that make it hard to pick a favorite.

There is comedy and sarcasm and heart soaked into the last three films. I think that’s what makes these films as successful as they are. Han Solo is so cool and funny, and Leia plays off it which makes their romance intriguing. Sure, Padme and Anakin have a love story but it’s nothing compared to Leia and Han. There is absolutely no comedy in the first three films. Everything is serious and dark. There is no light fun quality thrusted upon these films. I think that’s another reason why the last three films were so great, although at times they were a bit campy, they had a quality that families can sit and watch these films and enjoy them together. I cannot completely imagine the same for the first three. 

After watching all six films, I realized how true that quote “be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” It may sound corny, but Darth Vader was such a tragic character. He never knew his father, his mother and him were slaves until he was freed but still had to leave her. He never sees her until right before she dies, which was awful. Then he firmly believes everyone is against him and therefore won’t grant him the Master Jedi title. Only to basically lose all his limbs in horrific battle, lose his wife and in a sense his children, and for what?  If only watching the films IV-VI you would never really understand Anakin’s struggles.  Luke, a great warrior, followed the Jedi way, gave his father the chance to do good, and in the end he came through. If that’s not a complete and total shocker in film cinema then I don’t know what is.

In conclusion, I’m super excited to now see Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens and see what will come of the characters and what stories will continue to play out with them. Lucas wanted to create films that families can enjoy together. Now Disney taking over the Star Wars franchise, is helping families of generations enjoy this film and hopefully many more, in the years to come.

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