Ranking Star Wars: One Dude's Opinion Of Every Star Wars Film So Far
Updated: Jun 6
Good gracious what a puzzling saga.
One of the greatest franchises ever created, and its biggest fans hate almost every aspect of it. The more you like Star Wars, the less you like Star Wars, or maybe the less you like George Lucas' infinite Special Editions released like patches to a shit console game. Nevertheless, it is still the second highest grossing film franchise ever, and now it's owned by Disney, be prepared for it to continue until the end of time.
At this rate, "a long time ago" will end up catching up to present day.
As I've got nothing better to do with my time, join me as I wipe transition my way through an 11 movie roller coaster (because fuck the Clone Wars feature) but bear in mind as ever vocal Star Wars fans, this is just One Dude's Opinion.
11. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones
(Rotten Tomatoes: 65%)
The fans hated The Phantom Menace.
The critics hated The Phantom Menace.
Everyone was ready for Attack of the Clones to right those wrongs and spark the prequels into life. However, when people left the cinema, they left with one indisputable fact: The Phantom Menace wasn't an accident.
Granted, we got less Jar Jar, we got a fairly decent CGI rendering of Yoda that made him look less like a creepy, lumpy, puppet-ballsack and the battle in the pit on Geonosis is a pretty good spectacle. In the positivity section of this review, I reckon that's all we're getting.
I think the biggest problem this movie has is the script. Pretty much everyone sounds either incredibly insincere, or just eye-rollingly sappy, be it minor characters, or acting powerhouses like Samuel L. Jackson and Natalie Portman. You could put all of Hayden Christensen's lines in a jar, pick one out at random and have a fairly good case for it being the most irritating, insincere, whiny and pathetic line in the whole saga: "I hate sand," "Your presence is soothing," "I'm haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me," "Grown more beautiful, I mean," "I'd much rather dream about Padmé; just being around her again is intoxicating," just fuck off you mopey sack of minge! Although, it must be said, Padmé's "I've been dying a little bit each day since you came back into my life," is a strong contender for the most vile assortment of words ever arranged into a sentence.
Bless Ewan McGregor, he tries so hard to keep everything together, but it's like trying to fix the World Trade Centre with superglue.
1. Padmé's admission of love for Anakin comes out of literally nowhere, and her trying to punch her way through a 4 feet thick concrete lava container is bafflingly stupid.
2. Mace Windu telling Palpatine that the Jedi aren't soldiers and then turning up at Geonosis with about 50 Jedi like it's fucking D-Day.
3. The fight between Dooku and Anakin could be entered into an Olympic ribbon event!
4. On a list of most effective ways to assassinate a senator, hiring a bounty hunter to give some millipedes to another person to put in a droid is probably in the bottom 3.
And while we're on the subject of Zam Wesell, how fucking close did she need to get to Obi-Wan before shooting him?! A gun is a distance weapon Zam, you don't have to be on him to shoot him.
Finally, just to top the whole shitfest off, correct me if I am wrong, but the clones don't actually attack anyone? They help the Jedi, so shouldn't the film be titled Aid of the Clones?
That doesn't sound right...
10. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
(Rotten Tomatoes: 53%)
16 years of waiting.
16 years of fan fiction, theories, non-canonical books and George Lucas teasers, with all of the hype and excitement peaking on May 16th 1999.
Hope and eagerness went into the cinema.
Rage and hatred came out.
In terms of George Lucas's plan for Anakin Skywalker, maybe that was his plan all along.
Where to start? Do we start with the fact that we want to punch Anakin squarely in the face pretty much immediately? Do we start with the fact that Natalie Portman is actually quite a talented actress, but in this they might as well have cast a washing machine? Do we start with the just plain boring conversations about trade routes and Senate votes drying up viewer's enthusiasm and interest like sawdust? Do we start at the frankly alarming racial undertones that run straight the way through this 133 minute shitfest? The Trade Federation and their awful Chinese accents? Purportedly Jewish Watto obsessed with money? Or, do we start with, *shudders*, Trinidadian Jar Jar? Lucas had proved before, that he valued marketing above telling a good story - the Ewoks having more movies than Count Dooku illustrates this perfectly - but this? No fan, or even politely interested movie-goer, deserved to be subjected to whatever that stunt was meant to be. Pointless, slapstick, irrelevant and, even worse, CGI; Lucas' budding romance with a computer rekindled to disastrous effect. The plot sucked, the characters sucked, the script sucked and the actors were wasted.
I'm going to be perfectly honest, this felt like torture not putting it in last place, but sit through Duel of the Fates and tell me that the rest of the film isn't almost worth it just for that spine-chilling John Williams masterpiece. Liam Neeson brings a certain style and elegance to this bullshit carnival, and Darth Maul...just look at him! The tattooed face, the spiked head, the double freaking edged lightsaber? Wow, maybe I can get on board with the prequels if they were to revolve around Qui-Gon and his inputs in... oh no he's dead. Well at least we've got bombad Darth Maul kicking ass, I can't wait to see more of him... oh no he's dead too. Never mind George, we'll get The Clone Wars to sort out your messes shall we?
George Lucas had not directed a Star Wars movie since A New Hope, and if Ron Howard wasn't such a goddamn wimp and passed on directing The Phantom Menace, he wouldn't have royally fucked the saga up the arse.
Fuck you Ron.
9. Solo: A Star Wars Story
(Rotten Tomatoes: 70%)
Oh sure, Ron Howard comes and directs this one!
This was never going to go well; the minute this movie was greenlit, as the king himself would say, I had a bad feeling about it. Nobody was ever going to be able to recreate Harrison Ford. It doesn't matter how good the actor, or how good your weird face swap, de-age technology could be, this was never going to work.
The worst bit? It's not a bad film.
If this wasn't a Han Solo origin story, this would be a perfectly acceptable, sometimes funny, fairly innocuous movie. But Alden Ehrenreich had an impossible task; he tried his best, but he failed. Almost every other character is more interesting (Emilia Clarke's grotesquely insipid Qi'ra being the exception), better acted, more rounded; the viewer is even more invested in the Feministbot 3000 and her weird droid-cest relationship with Lando than the titular character.
It's less of a Han Solo origin film and more of an everything Han owns/does origin story. His gun, his ship, the weird hole in his ship, his PB, the weird dice things (who knew they were so important to someone who doesn't reference them once in the original trilogy,) even his name was given a stupid reason to exist; it's his name, shut up!
The basis of the story is around him wanting to be a pilot, and I know that because he literally told every single person he came across. I've literally just finished watching it and I couldn't tell you who Paul Bettany played. The weird ginger girl has been mugging Beckett off for years and never once thought to tell him that she's actually a good person? Han talking Shyriiwook sounds as bad as Anakin talking droid in the Revenge of the Sith (mercifully) deleted scene, and Woody Harrelson got over the death of his missus unbelievably quickly. Like, I've had shits that take longer than his grieving period.
I would have preferred it, and it would have been truer to the character, if this film took more risks and tried to shoot for the moon, but Howard played it safe. Sure, it's relatively fun, fast-paced, the effects are pretty good and it's thankfully devoid of George Lucas' intolerable words, but the end result is just a redundant filler movie making its way on callbacks. Also, because it bombed, we're probably not going to see Darth Maul in a sequel. Great.
This isn't an awful film. This is not a great film. It's not even a bad film. It's worse than that; it's a forgettable film.
8. Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise Of Skywalker
(Rotten Tomatoes: 52%)
So, so disappointing.
This movie is the reason a trilogy needs a supervising director, or one screenwriter. It shouldn't need a library of books, comics and other tie-in stories to make the events of the trilogy coherent; too many ideas, too many opposing personalities and visions, none of them paying off.
JJ Abrams raises some interesting points in The Force Awakens. Rian Johnson shits on 80% of them and does his own thing. JJ then spends the first 20 minutes of The Rise of Skywalker reshitting on Johnson, then spending the rest of the movie trying to make absolutely everyone happy with unbelievably thin fan-service, and making a right balls of it. I was willing this movie to be incredible and be worth the wait, instead I left the cinema angrier than a vegan who has just accidentally bitten their own tongue.
When I watched the trailer and heard Palpatine's voice, I hoped and prayed it wasn't going to be exactly what it ended up being; get a familiar character, bring him back to life/clone him/not really explain it, have him come up with a ludicrously outlandish plan even for Star Wars (instead of one Death Star, TEN THOUSAND DEATH STARS!) and calm fans down. Then pointless Lando; rinse and repeat (I hope to shit he isn't related to the only black female in the saga) then he spends 12 minutes amassing the largest rebel army ever seen.
Rey, I know it was 2019, but you can't just suddenly identify as a Skywalker. That's not how it works petal. There was no need for Dominic Monaghan and the whole "knife being the horizon" bollocks was just nonsensical. The audience never finding out what Finn was going to say to Rey was presumably meant as a cliffhanger, but really it came across as lazy and forgetful. Force healing is a thing now? That would have come in really handy for a hell of a lot of Jedi in the past. But only when the plot suits, which is actually for the better or we would have been caught in a Rey-Kylo healing loop forever.
The Knights of Ren end up being pathetic. Snoke ends up being useless and Finn is still useless. The movie tried really hard to give Poe a glimmer of a backstory with the girl in the Daft Punk helmet, forgetting that they gave him Han Solo's backstory. C3PO has his memory wiped but doesn't. Chewbacca died but didn't because apparently there was an identical ship somewhere that we never see. Maz Kanata makes her obligatory cameo because they signed Lupita Nyong'o for three films without any idea what to do with her. Ghost Luke can catch real things now? The whole last battle is just a nonsesical mind-fuck from start to finish and above all, it's a stupid name for a film.
Racking my brains for some positives...
As much as I hated the Palpatine element, Ian McDiarmid still brings so much fantastic energy to the table. We mercifully got less of pointless Rose. I loved the Jedi talking to Rey on Exegol, especially Kanan Jarrus and Ahsoka getting their first (sort-of) big screen appearences - lovely touch. The Rey-Kylo arc really does hold the whole thing together; their relationship flowing from potential dark side to light side has been enthralling. In fact, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver really were the stand out performers of this entire trilogy. Also, huge credit goes to John Williams still pumping out the bangers nine films in; Rey's scavenging music and Kylo Ren's theme particular highlights.
The prequels had a cohesive story but it was executed really poorly. The sequels had the exact opposite problem, and purely on modern SFX and movie making techniques, they pip the prequels. I was so excited for this trilogy, and all it became was a hollow, sentimental throwback from a company that know full well if they slap a Star Wars logo on something, nerds will pay to see it.
But at least The Force Awakens was good.
7. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
(Rotten Tomatoes: 80%)
REVENGE OF THE SITH
Lucasfilm is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Star Wars fan base.
There are nerds on both sides.
Evil is everywhere.
In a stunning move, George Lucas has actually made a half-decent prequel...
Why is it better? The script is marginally better (and I mean marginally, the whole you're beautiful because I'm in love with you drivel is still a toxic blight on the thing; "Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo, so long ago when there was nothing but our love", "From my point of view the Jedi are evil!") there's more action, less of the sitting and talking that made the previous two so dull, and, of course, General Grievous and his badass 4 arms. However, if you're expecting to know anything about the droid general don't get your hopes up; in which case, divert all attention to Dave Filoni's baby (although you'll have to take a few continuity errors in your stride - Anakin and Grievous never having met until this moment apparently.)
Presumably acting on the completely legitimate critics of the lack of personality shown in Attack of the Clones, George Lucas attempts to rectify this almost immediately, the first 25 minutes playing like a fairly awkward buddy comedy. I mean we still can't tell whether Hayden Christensen is happy, sad, hungry or horny in this movie, but it's a bit less noticeable amongst everything else going on.
Don't get me wrong, it isn't a masterpiece by any stretch. Anakin doesn't really have anything to go on with the "The Jedi are evil," plot other than the ramblings of a creepy old dude who pulls an alarming amount of accidental sex faces. Then when old scrotum-face is outed, we are treated to possibly the most anti-climactic fight in movie history.
What's that? Darth Sidious is going to take on 4 Jedi at once? I bet that will be amazing to watch!
In the end it's like watching your Nan dance. In fact, all of the Jedi deaths are so incredibly pathetic, it really is a wonder they were able to protect anyone. At least the Sidious/Yoda battle was sort of okay (Yoda's badass mugging off of the door guards as he walks in is a particular highlight), and in all honesty, Vader versus Obi-Wan is possibly the greatest lightsaber duel in the entire saga. Lucas finally understands poignancy - if you only concentrate on Ewan McGregor - the whole sequence is beautifully shot, and it was clearly where the bulk of the lightsaber battle choreography budget went.
Then the big moment, the moment 3 average films have built towards. Finally no more whiny Hayden Christensen, we've got proper Darth Vader with James Earl Jones and everything! What's that? Make him say "NO!" like a little bitch? You got it! George Lucas - shitting on your bonfire since the first Special Editions fed your nightmares in 1997.
Alternatively titled Revenge of the Meme, this film also birthed some incredible gifs, from Mace Windu's hideously ugly duelling face, to "Do it," to "You underestimate my power," to "I AM the Senate," to "UNLIMITED POWER!" to the phenomenal "Hello there," - the internet really is a nerd's paradise sometimes.
To find some interesting characters to flesh out the rather shitty/talky/whiny snoozefest, proceed directly to The Clone Wars TV show, where you get to see what the prequels could have looked like.
6. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi
(Rotten Tomatoes: 82%)
Already edging towards too much of a good thing, Lucas had written himself into a hole with The Empire Strikes Back. He was in very great danger of making Star Wars a more adult audience than he wanted, so gone are the moody lighting, the gritty themes, and the sinister undertones. Han's character development in particular takes a jarring u-turn; all of the humour and depth of personality explored in Empire is replaced by an almost unrecognisably dour showing from an actor who looked visibly bored by the whole experience. Instead of a gripping story, ROTJ is more of an visual battery of aliens doing random shit. Jabba's palace looks like a mixture of a home for abandoned nightmares and a workshop of unconvincing animatronics for a shit roller coaster.
And don't get me started on the fucking Ewoks...
Even with its linear storyline and obvious filler material, it's still a strong entry. Every time something happens in my day to day life that I don't like, I feel honour-bound to shout "IT'S A TRAP!" as loudly as I possibly can. Vader's character is explored really well, the conflict within him is very well executed. Luke finally makes the leap from irritating whiny shit-bag to wise and level-headed Jedi Knight (out of pretty much nowhere, but okay) and it's very much welcomed; his struggle to resist the pull of the dark side gives him some much needed depth. It really is a film about Luke and Vader, their scenes together (alongside another stellar performance from Ian McDiarmid) the only points of real interest. Although, as a teacher, I completely empathise with Yoda having so much of Luke's shit that he just ups and dies.
Of the original trilogy, ROTJ was the worst hit by Lucas' editorial massacre, which is probably why (along with our cuddly friends) it ranks so low on the list.
Stop messing with your movies George, they were fine. The Sarlacc didn't need a beak. We definitely didn't need that God-awful Jedi Rocks bollocks. Vader's stupid "Noooo!" was panned in ROTS, so whose bright idea was it make it happen again? And while we are on the subject of hated things from the prequels making a reappearance, we didn't need more Hayden Christensen, and we definitely didn't need what looks like a Jar Jar celebration on Naboo?! But more importantly, WHERE IS THE FUCKING YUB NUB SONG?!
5. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
(Rotten Tomatoes: 91%)
A classic example as to why Star Wars fans are the worst fans in the world. The Force Awakens was derided by some for basically being a new A New Hope. So Rian Johnson dared to make a different Star Wars movie that didn't involve blowing up a giant space station and the general fandom lost the fucking plot.
The problem is, everyone and their mum has had an input into the Star Wars universe for 40 odd years, be it newly canon or otherwise, so there was no way any of the sequel films were going to live up to that much scrutiny. Could they have borrowed from the Expanded Universe? Yes, but what would be the point? Those stories have already been told. Rian Johnson attempted to make a different Star Wars film, and fair play to him.
I will grant you, this movie has plenty going against it. Some interesting character questions raised in The Force Awakens were pretty much shot to pieces in fairly unceremonious fashion: Phasma ended up being a nobody, Snoke ended up being a nobody, Rey's parents ended up being nobodies. Instead new characters like Rose and Holdo were introduced which went down like a sack of shit. Rose went from working "behind pipes all day" to literally the fourth most important Resistance member in about 2 hours. If Holdo had just shared her plan with Poe, Finn and Rose wouldn't have had to have their pointless holiday on Canto Bight with the things that look like the Hammerhead Lieutenant to Davy Jones. Holdo manages to completely redefine what (the albeit fictional) hyperspeed can do for convenient plot reasons, and while we're on that subject, all the important Resistance characters just happen to be on the one transport that doesn't get shot down, and Rey somehow ends up in the Millennium Falcon just in time to help out on Crait.
Also, massive thanks to that one random Resistance extra. I was desperate to know what the surface of Crait was made out of, so I can sleep soundly now. Rian Johnson may as well just come on screen at that point and said "it isn't Hoth I swear!"
Chewbacca just kind of exists throughout this movie, super space-Leia is one the worst things I've ever seen and Johnson seems to have channelled George Lucas' scriptwriting techniques with such gems like "Let's go Chromedome" and "Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love": these lines were almost as uncomfortably cringey as Kylo getting his tits out.
All of this (considerable and justified) negativity aside, I enjoyed it. I think that it's actually good that Rey's parents are nobody - why can't she just be strong with the Force on her own; not everyone in the galaxy has to be a Solo or a Skywalker (but never mind, they can be a Palpatine instead - cheers JJ).
I know everyone hates the Luke arc but I like it. I like the fact that he felt weakness. I like the fact that he wasn't some sort of superman and actually made mistakes. He's no longer the naive boy, or the persistently optimistic Jedi Knight, he's older and has experienced enough to know the universe isn't rosey. The guy tried to kill his own nephew, of course he was going to be messed up by it. It made him more rounded as a character, more human and more relatable. Arguably, it's Hamill's best performance; we actually get to see him battle through emotions, and his final act finishes his arc perfectly. Rey and Kylo's convenient and hastily explained telepathy aside, their relationship becomes really interesting, and you are flat out lying if you didn't get loads of nerdy goosebumps while they were fighting the Praetorian Guard. Although the hyperspace ram didn't make sense, it looked incredible, and the battle on Crait looked absolutely stunning.
There are some nice little details as well. There is mention of hyperspace tracking in Rogue One if you listen closely enough. The dice that inspired an entire pointless movie resurface attempting to make Solo almost relevant. The little kid at the end Force-pulling the broom is quite a nice little touch. I think if Rian Johnson ends up penning the entire of a trilogy rather than butting horns for one out of place movie, it could be really good. Then again, it could be shit. What do I know?
4. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
(Rotten Tomatoes: 92%)
I'm going to get a lot of backlash for putting this so low down the list but it's not my fault. This movie was released 16 years before I was even born, and because George Lucas can't leave anything the fuck alone and is under the delusion that the more random CGI aliens the better, I honestly can't remember the original cut of this movie. I can't remember explosions without rings. I can't remember Han shooting first. I can't remember when it was possible to see anything in Mos Eisley without shitty animals in the way. I can't remember the wolf man. I can't remember when there wasn't that ridiculous scene where Han treads on Jabba's tail (and Boba Fett is there for some reason. And Greedo. Who Han shot a couple of minutes ago...?) The Georgification, added to the fact that A New Hope is 43 years old at the time of writing, means that some of the effects haven't aged well. The insertion of Rogue One into the canon makes Vader's limited movements throughout the movie quite puzzling, and that "lightsaber duel" between him and Obi-Wan is frankly pathetic; two old men gently prodding each other isn't really gripping cinema anymore.
All that being said, even for a millennial, you can feel the gravitas behind this film. You pick up on little nuggets that have been fleshed out elsewhere and think "Jesus, he can't direct for shit but he had some vision." How else would you convince a bloke to get trapped in a gold gimp suit for nearly 50 years; Anthony Daniels, bringing a new meaning to the word 'typecast.'
Watching all of the other films and TV shows, you appreciate the enormity of what Lucas did with this movie, and because it's the 'first' one, it isn't bogged down with unnecessary detail and eye-watering exposition. You realise how much of this movie is quoted verbatim in every other entry to the saga. Yet it still feels fresh, it's driven by incredible acting talent, and although some may consider it "boring" in comparison to the more blockbuster instalments, it doesn’t overload the senses.
So I guess we'll play the old Star Wars card of, it's the original so fuck you and your legitimate complaints, and we'll forget the Luke kind of wants to bone his sister. We'll forget that Obi-Wan can't remember a droid he basically lived with for god knows how many years. We'll forget the Luke was as much of a whiny little bitch as Anakin was (what, was Hayden Christensen's acting... intentional?!) We'll forget the C3PO doesn't know who Princess Leia is, even though he's been in and around the Rebellion since it began.
We'll forget all that, because this is a fucking class movie. Still.
3. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
(Rotten Tomatoes: 93%)
After Lucas selling out made Disney even closer to monopolising the entire of the film industry, the first instalment of Disney's first foray into a galaxy far, far away is, in fact, an incredibly safe one. In fact, imagine a completely shot for shot remake of A New Hope with modern special effects. You could literally watch them side by side and they would slot perfectly into each other: information stored in a droid? Check. Force sensitive orphan found on a desert planet? Check. Using the Millennium Falcon to escape said desert planet? Check. An old person has kept a Lightsaber hidden and gives it to the young human? Check. A huge space station with the capability of destroying entire planets? Check. An elderly male main character being killed on said space station? Check. Conveniently straightforward way of destroying said space station? Check. The Resistance might as well be the Rebellion and the First Order might as well be the Empire. Speaking of the First Order, I know they are an offshoot of the Empire, but do the TIE fighters, Stormtroopers and Star Destroyers really have to be that similar?
There is a very strong case for suing JJ Abrams for plagiarism, but, to be honest, I enjoyed it too much. The first views of Jakku with the half-buried Empire ships were sensational, and the subsequent Falcon flight through the star destroyer made bits of me tingle. BB-8 is cute as fuck and I want one. I really like the shot of Poe kicking ass on Takodana. In fact all the effects are incredible (as you would expect them to be nowadays but they still have to deliver). The "New Trio" have a really good relationship, and the acting is phenomenal throughout. Kylo Ren's lightsaber was badass, in fact, one of the only saving graces of the sequel trilogy has been the character development of perpetually-about-to-cry Kylo Ren. Throughout all three films he is a thoroughly rounded villain/antihero/actual hero and he can STOP MOTHERFUCKING BLASTER BOLTS IN MID AIR!? DIS BITCH IS CRAZY!
Like all Star Wars films it has its mistakes. You can feel the sort of forced Disney humour seeping through and it doesn't belong in a Star Wars movie. Rey is pretty much the perfect Jedi straight away which is fairly puzzling. Rey and Finn just happen to come across the Millennium Falcon, and then they just happen to come across Han and Chewie straight away? We then spend two hours seeing how powerful Kylo Ren is yet both Finn and Rey kick his ass.
These obligatory downsides aside, the reason this is so high up the list, is because I remember the feeling of inquisitive hope I had walking out of the cinema after watching it. JJ asks some really interesting questions; why does Finn become disillusioned with the First Order, who are Rey's parents, who is Captain Phasma, who is Snoke, what the hell happened with Kylo, who are the Knights of Ren, why does anus eyes Maz Kanata have Luke's lightsaber from Bespin, why is Luke isolating himself, how did C3PO get his red arm and so on. It's just a crying shame that these themes that make The Force Awakens so interesting are either never answered, or are so dull or rushed that they might as well not have been answered. JJ went for the lay up, Rian Johnson hit the rim and then JJ not only fell over, but then crapped himself. Shame.
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
(Rotten Tomatoes: 84%)
The mood around Star Wars before the release of this movie wasn't positive. George Lucas had just sold out to Disney and fans were concerned (with generally good reason as it turns out); the consensus being that a movie built solely around fixing a plot hole from A New Hope was just a money grab. But then it was released, and suddenly no one gave a shit, because Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie since 1980.
Let's start with the incredible cast. Ben Mendelsohn plays the most Ben Mendelsohn-y villain ever, Mads Mikkelson doesn't know how to make a bad movie, and as polarising as Peter Cushing's CGI is, it is a phenomenal technological achievement as well as a wonderful addition to Tarkin's story arc. Also, any chance to hear James Earl Jones' voice coming out of that helmet is absolutely fine by me. The blend of make-up artistry and CGI is perfect, enough so that George Lucas is probably jealous as shit. Congratulations to Gareth Edwards for creating a droid other than C3PO and R2D2 that I actually give a shit about (live-action of course - love you Chopper); K2SO embodying all of Disney's newly injected humour. Also, for a movie where it was pretty much a given that literally everyone would die by the end of it, this is still handled with great enough care and attention to make them both necessary and poignant.
Granted, it's not a perfect film. Fuck knows what kind of trippy drug-induced night terror that mind reading sex monster was born from (Bodhi just recovers from losing his mind - aight...) there's no real reason for the "I don't like you guy" from A New Hope to be there, and as badass as Chirrut taking on a battalion of stormtroopers (almost) singlehandedly is, their apparent weakness to sticks really does begger belief. Also, Cassian is just a moody prick (I'm pretty annoyed that he of all people gets his own TV show) and as cool as Stormtrooper Black Edition and Stormtrooper Beach Edition are, there is a question of continuity and why they don't make an appearance in future films.
However, all of this pales into insignificance when we consider *that Vader scene*. By far the greatest scene in the film (and possibly the entire saga), the sheer power and merciless aggression behind his butchery really does leave the viewer open-mouthed in astonishment. Sure, it kind of makes that jabby, pokey lightsaber battle in A New Hope even more depressingly feeble, but I don't care; we've all heard stories through the movies of how powerful Vader was, and this 60 second sequence conveys his strength perfectly. A great end to a great movie.
Also, a massive shout out to Dave Filoni and the absolute magic he's worked on Rebels and The Clone Wars - the intricacies weaved in and out of the shows and this movie in particular are staggering. The foundations for the rebels' unease around Saw Guerrera are laid in Rebels. Project Stardust and Director Krennic get a shout out in Rebels. There are cheeky little Chopper and Ghost cameos in this film (and "Captain Syndulla" also gets a mention if you listen closely). Ahsoka chanting "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me" in The Clone Wars. If you haven't already, it really is worth watching all of the canon in order, just for these little nuggets of satisfaction.
Right, I'm going to say it, if Dave Filoni spearheads a Knights of the Old Republic trilogy I will violently and shamelessly shit myself with pleasure. Make it happen.
1. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
(Rotten Tomatoes: 94%)
Fairly straightforward this decision. Comfortably the best film of the Skywalker saga, this is not just a great Star Wars film, it also redefined how sequels were perceived, so much so that if any good sequels are made nowadays, they are described as the Empire of that series.
Where the original trilogy excels is developing a core set of characters slowly throughout three films; the sequel trilogy deciding to have thousands of characters no one really gave a shit about, and the prequel trilogy being hampered by the god awful script writing. Rather than rinsing and repeating A New Hope, Empire takes time rounding the characters and making them more humane; Han goes from not really giving a shit about anyone but himself to a moderately less-selfish asshole, Luke goes from sister-fucker to Jedi-to-be, Leia adds some truly hideous insults to modern vernacular, Lando becomes like the 4th black guy in the galaxy. Even more astonishingly, it's the only entry that understands that not every species can breathe on every planet without assistance. Thank you Mr Kershner, a shame nobody else realised this.
No we won't make the observation that this is coincidentally also the movie that George Lucas was originally involved in the least (of the first 6), and luckily the response to the film was so good that Empire has largely escaped the 'Great Specializations.' Although the Wampa is added, it's not gaudy CGI and actually works quite well. The introduction of Ian McDiarmid is also a welcome and fairly necessary one, although it does look like he's being held there against his will. I know a lot people lost their minds at the fact that their Lord and saviour Boba Fett had his voice changed, but come on, it makes sense. Having said that, Lucas wouldn't be Lucas if he didn't add disgusting pointless CGI shots, Cloud City taking the brunt of it here (and another lovely Vader noise as Luke knocks him off the platform *shakes head*).
Sure it suffers from the same minor gripes; why do things explode in space, why do the exploded ships fall in space, how can Darth Vader breathe and talk at the same time, the endless wipe transitions, and even spawns some gripes of its own; "Our first catch of the day" being one of the worst delivered lines in cinematic history, and we'll skate past the fact that Luke uses the code-names Echo 3 and Echo 7 on Hoth (presumably as a sensible way of protecting identities) and then immediately calls Han by name.
However this really is nitpicking. It's darker, there's more at stake, the action is more slick, the SFX are better, and it's generally tidier and more polished (apart from Vader's helmet nearly blowing off during the "big reveal"). The duel between Luke and Darth Vader is supercharged with tension and emotion, and ends on one of the greatest twists in cinema. It completely subverts the almost naive cheeriness of A New Hope and creates a gritty and tragic chapter in one of the most revered franchises in history.
It may not be perfect, but George Lucas has created a universe that will be explored for a long time, and whatever you think of the man, he deserves a lot of respect.