I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
And I’m not alone.
With three awful Disney Star Wars flicks already in the can and previews for Solo looking…well…pretty much on trend with the shallow, stupid, flagrantly SJW direction of the franchise, it’s hard to be optimistic at this point.
There’s a difference.
After all, as I write this post the latest breaking news on Disney’s Solo flick centers on how one of its scriptwriters has confirmed that Lando Calrissian is pansexual. (We’ll cover this more later.)
Not. Even. Kidding.
That’s where the Mickey Mouse Club is taking this thing.
So yeah, this once adored IP is circling the drain fast, and in a dramatically feminist SJW manner.
As the pre-release review embargo has recently lifted on the upcoming Solo and waves of yawn-inducing reports of mediocrity have begun to clog up the interwebs, I thought it might be cool (and, yes, productive) to review the state of Star Wars here in mid-May of 2018.
As we continue to chart a course through the ongoing Star Wars saga, this seems like a good time to go on the record with how I rate the Star Wars films up to this point. Before getting into that, though, it seems important to revisit the reasons why this stuff is important subject matter for Christians to wrestle with and master.
Almost two and a half years ago, on the heels of the first Disney installment in the franchise (JJ Abrams’ The Farce Awakens), we shared an article (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Rolls Over In Bed…and what Christians oughta do about it.), which included the following observations:
“How cool would it be if one day soon Christians were writing, producing, and marketing the best sci-fi and fantasy of this or any other day?
Just think about that for a while…”
“Like it or not, love ’em or hate ’em, sci-fi and fantasy are important. They matter. They move minds, lives, and cultures.
Thus, Christians oughta make ’em high priority targets to be “taken captive” a la 2 Corinthians 10:5, purging them of sin and purifying them in accordance with the life-giving, everything-reconciling Gospel-fueled Great Commission of King Jesus. The best sci-fi, fantasy, drama, and art of all imaginable (and presently unimaginable) variety lies on the other side of that incredible mission – a mission that is both supernaturally fantastic and completely real, secured by the One who is the Author, Definer, and Sustainer of all things…including art, science, and drama.”
Sci-fi needs to be valued.
It needs to be understood as a Great Commission thing.
Sci-fi and film need to be understood by Christians as realms to be conquered, cultivated, and perfected by God’s people for His glory.
These things matter.
With that premise established, let’s get on to the business at hand where this particular post is concerned, namely: Ranking the Star Wars films that have already been released.
While I use a fairly detailed system to break these films down (11-99 total points awarded on a 1-9 basis in 11 categories), I’m not gonna get into the detailed grading for each film here. I’m just gonna give a general rundown of how I score each one, with some brief comments regarding high and low points of each film as I see ’em at this particular moment in time.
This will give those who are interested a better sense of where I’m at on each film, why I’m there, and how I’m generally inclined to approach things. Obviously, this is all just my opinion. Take that for what it’s worth (and what it isn’t).
So let’s just have some fun here, okay?
That said, let’s roll…in qualitative order, beginning with the best:
#1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – A+ (98/99)
I’m not going to say much here other than this film is about as close to perfect as a film can be. I hope to have the time to post detailed reviews of each Star Wars film in the future, but for now let me just say that The Empire Strikes Back is an A+, five star masterpiece.
#2. Episode IV: A New Hope – A (96/99)
Like Empire, I’m not going to share much detail here (but hopefully in the future). In the meantime, suffice it to say that this film significantly impacted our culture and the lives of millions – perhaps billions – of people.
With both A New Hope and Empire we are treated not merely to excellent visual effects, top tier production quality, and musical scores worthy of the highest praise. Even more important than those amazing qualities, we are blessed through these two films with a remarkable story built around remarkable characters embracing timeless virtues in a manner that is both compelling and unique. For all of its weaknesses (and there are many), the world and story crafted by George Lucas are magical things in the best sense of the term.
#3. (Tie) Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – B+ (92/99)
PROS: Awesome cast returns. Excellent story arc and character development continues. Fantastic effects and music.
Jabba the Hutt was incredibly well done.
The final assault on Death Star II was stunning and incredible to watch.
The three way encounter between Luke, Vader, and Palpatine was loaded with good moments.
A fitting and high quality, if somewhat disappointing, end to an amazing trilogy.
CONS: Between the bookends of Boba Fett (appearing to) die with a belch in the Sarlacc pit and Vader’s clumsy unmasking, Jedi had a “let’s get this over with and slap a bow on top” vibe about it.
And there were Ewoks.
#3. (Tie) Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – B+ (92/99)
PROS: Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid are awesome. Christopher Lee’s brief appearance is excellent and meaningful as well.
The darkness and drama builds beautifully in this closing act of the prequel trilogy; arguably closing in a stronger fashion than the original.
Hayden Christensen’s Anakin is much better than in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, though his dialogue with Natalie Portman’s Padme continues the torturous trend established in Clones.
Story arcs and character development is right on time here, in stark contrast with anything Disney’s doing these days in films like The Farce Awakens and The Least Jedi.
Visuals are awesome, as is the musical score. Lightsaber duels, though overdone at times, manage to attain a high level most of the time, though not quite hitting the high bar set in The Phantom Menace.
CONS: Padme and Anakin are unwatchable when they’re together. The dialogue drafted (presumably by Lucas) for these two should be considered a crime against filmgoing humanity.
#5. Episode I: The Phantom Menace – B- (85/99)
PROS: Ewan McGregor owns the Obi-Wan role, Liam Neeson is excellent as Qui-Gon Jinn, and Ian McDiarmid is flat out fantastic as Senator Palpatine.
Darth Maul is a magnificently menacing figure, with his double-bladed saber and disinterest in saying as much as a word to the Jedi he aims to slaughter.
The aesthetics in this film are gorgeous and the duels between Darth Maul and the Jedi are arguably the best in Star Wars history (which is obviously saying a lot). The duels in The Phantom Menace make those of A New Hope look like sad encounters between two very old men poking each other with canes. The brilliantly choreographed displays of martial artistic excellence finally brought the concept of a Jedi/Sith light saber duel up to where it belongs.
The music (Duel of the Fates) accompanying the climactic three-way duel between Maul, Jinn, and Kenobi also pegs the meter and reaches the high bar set by John Williams’ scores for previous installments in the franchise.
Production value and effects are top tier (for the time).
CONS: The words that flow from little Anakin (Jake Lloyd) are often painful to experience, providing a dark foreshadowing of the next-level dialogue horror to come in Episode II.
Jar Jar Binks and the most of the presentation of his Gungan people is crude, stupid, and extremely distracting.
The CGI did wear on me at times, but not as much as it did for many other reviewers I’ve read. The excellent aesthetics, top level action (particularly those amazing duels), and remarkable performances by McGregor, Neeson, and McDiarmid carried things in a very positive direction despite some (at times) very thick CGI.
#6. Episode II: Attack of the Clones – C (77/99)
PROS: Ewan McGregor continues to rock it as Obi-Wan Kenobi. The guy owns this role, and that’s no small accomplishment. Christopher Lee as the unfortunately named Count Dooku is also golden, and I don’t mean that in the geriatric sense. McDiarmid continues an awesome run as Palpatine.
Jango Fett’s introduction and arc is well done, setting things up nicely for son Boba, and the vivid elaboration on the Jedi Council, culminating in a massive Jedi/Battle Droid clash toward the end if the film, was a blast.
Great production, great effects, and great music.
CONS: As has been well documented, the dialogue between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) is so mind-meltingly awful that it’s really hard to describe…and even harder to endure in the film. And there’s a lot of it going on there. The dialogue between those two characters in this film is the low point in the pre-Disney history of the franchise and, before The Least Jedi came along, seemed to be an impenetrable floor beneath which a Star Wars film could not possibly sink.
Jar Jar Binks continues his perplexingly significant march through A Galaxy Far, Far Away, this time inexplicably empowered to dethrone the Chancellor of the Republic and elevate Darth Sideous in his place, thus creating, basically, The Empire.
Way to go, George. That made a whole lot of sense.
#7. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – D- (61/99)
PROS: High quality production and effects. While that sort of thing is basically a given for Star Wars films, we don’t want to take it for granted. And since I don’t really have anything else good to say about this film, it seems doubly noteworthy here.
CONS: Paper thin, cardboard cutout characters arranged around Disney’s preferred one-trick pony: A pouty rebellious girl leader. Throw in digital versions of Tarkin, Leia, and Vader that look excruciatingly digital (fake), and you have a forgettable formula fan service exercise that was quite bad out of the gate and will age very poorly from there.
#8. Episode VII: The Farce Awakens – F (49/99)
PROS: Great production value, effects, and solid music. Flashes of brilliance (the blaster bolt frozen and held in mid-air by Kylo Ren) and intriguing teases pointing beyond the otherwise shockingly lazy, uncreative scene-for-scene, concept-for-concept rip off of A New Hope.
CONS: The aforementioned “shockingly lazy, uncreative scene-for-scene, concept-for-concept rip off of A New Hope.” And it gets worse from there. Much worse.
To get more details on my perspective where The Farce Awakens is concerned, please heck out our earlier post: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Rolls Over In Bed…and what Christians oughta do about it.
#9. Episode VIII: The Least Jedi – F- (31/99)
PROS: Good music and special effects. A couple of really nice visual moments, though even those were dependent upon idiotic, storyline-shredding inconsistencies (more on this below).
CONS: Amazingly detached from its preceding episode. Most, if not all, of the intriguing potential plot seeds and teases were discarded or trampled underfoot. Even worse, the film goes on the warpath to destroy and radically reshape the core elements, concepts, and characters that made Star Wars the beautiful, inspiring thing that it was before the Mickey Mouse Club got its grubby little mits on it.
The Mary Sue of all Mary Sues, Rey, continues her effortless glide to godhood, easily beating a pathetic, burnt out loser/”Jedi Master” Luke Skywalker in a brief duel roughly a week after she first hears about the Force.
Laughably lame SJW insertions like Rose Tico and Vice Admiral Holdo take their positions as our guides toward feminist enlightenment. Nevermind that they do one unbelievably stupid thing after another, living up (or is that down?) to the standards set by the most caricatured version of a feminist SJW wackjob.
Then there’s Leia’s stint as Marry Poppins, using the Force to bring herself back from the dead and fly back to safety from the icy vacuum of space.
This is all accompanied by the band of trace-paper thin characters introduced in The Farce Awakens and hoped by Disney to replace the likes of Luke, Han, and Leia, who Disney seems determined to radically undermine and before destroying in the replacement process. (See: Disney’s treatment of Han in The Farce Awakens and Luke in The Least Jedi.)
There’s much more that could (and probably should) be chronicled in this CONS section of The Least Jedi rundown, but I’m gonna pause here and save the rest for another time.
Suffice it to say that, building on the apocalyptic anti-success of The Farce Awakens, The Least Jedi has left the Star Wars franchise in smoldering ruins.
These are my general impressions as of today. Of course, as time passes and I (hopefully) grow and learn, all of this is subject to review and adjustment.
I share it all with you now primarily for fun, but also to help nudge us all in a productive direction where the evaluation and cultivation of sci-fi and film are concerned.
For me, as a practical matter, the downward spiral of Star Wars has been meaningful in several ways, one of which has been to inspire me to write sci-fi myself.
After spending about a decade compiling notes and snippets of ideas, the apocalyptic awfulness of The Farce Awakens and The Least Jedi as inspired me to, for better or worse, put my money (and time) where my mouth is.
If one of the great lessons through Star Wars is that there is a great price to be paid when a realm like sci-fi or film is left to pagans to develop, then I want to at least try to model a solution to that problem.
After the horror of The Farce Awakens settled in, I recommitted to ramping up my work on a sci-fi concept I’d been kicking around for a very long time. Then, when The Least Jedi was released theatrically, I passed for the first time ever on an opening day Star Wars event and instead committed, for the first time, a day to working on my own science fiction adventure.
As of this week, I finally began to finish drafts of early chapters. My wife and I are working through ’em now and enjoying the ride, wherever it goes. If nothing else, we should get a cool story to read to our kids (who love Star Wars, by the way…and by “Star Wars”, I mean Episodes I, II, IV, V, and VI, with III to join in once they’re old enough for it), as well as an approach to art that models active, creative engagement.
This is part of why I’ve posted relatively little over the past week or so.
So that’s part of what’s going on here and why I wanted to share all of this with you now.
However clumsy or imprecise my words may be, and however far off my observations and evaluations might seem, I hope that in some way this all might inspire more of God’s people to think, write, film, and conquer the realms He’s placed before us…all by His grace, all for His glory, and all to our eternal benefit.
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