Given that it was a national holiday here in the UK last Monday, I booked Friday May 4th off work to enjoy a long weekend. Siggy couldn’t take the day off and so left to my own devices I decided to spend Star Wars Day watching the films. I figured that if I got up early enough I could get the prequels and the original trilogy watched without too much hassle with time allowed for toilet breaks and some lunch.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person on the planet who had decided that this was the best way to spend the day. I play Star Wars Battlefront II almost daily, so spending time on the game didn’t really seem that special really, although I was intrigued to see if they were going to do anything special to celebrate.
I have a bad feeling about this…
So I got my ‘complete saga’ blu ray boxed set down from the shelf and stuck The Phantom Menace into my player, got some breakfast and wished Siggy a good day at work. The weather outside was sunny and so I was able to sit in my dressing gown in the front room without feeling cold. As it turned out, over the course of that day and the next three, the UK experienced a heatwave which took daily temperatures up to near Mediterranean levels. But there’s me in my front room with the curtains drawn chomping on my crunchy nut cornflakes doing what I do best – sitting on the couch watching me telly-box.
The most obvious and already well-documented thing about The Phantom Menace is how irritating Jar Jar Binks is, and on this viewing it really stood out. With a bit of editing – taking out around six supposedly funny but ultimately cringeworthy comedy moments – the bit where his tongue goes numb, the bits where he steals the food, the bit… the list might be longer than six actually – this could have been easily resolved. Shame that the revisionist in Lucas didn’t bow to fan pressure and do some snips for the blu ray release.
I enjoy the fan theory that Jar Jar is an agent of the dark side and in later films would have been revealed as such in much the same way that Yoda was presented as a silly little green man and then revealed as a Jedi master in Episode V. But ultimately there’s no getting around the fact that the flawed character is a dominant feature in the movie and that the actual phantom menace in the form of the dark lord of the Sith and his apprentice Darth Maul get very little screen time.
I’m a huge Darth Maul fan and was happy that the character returned in the animated TV shows. I think the best moment of Episode I is not the pod race but the fight sequence between the Jedis and Maul. The music is fantastic and the opposing attitudes of the Jedi and Sith are exemplified in the scene.
The fight and the pod race aside, there’s little to really get excited about in the first prequel. The acting and screenwriting are rather dreadful in places and most of the character designs seem borderline racist and nonsensical – for instance I’m still not sure why there seem to be two races of gungans on Naboo. That said, I don’t recall being as upset about the film as Simon Pegg’s character in Spaced or upset about it like I was when I saw Episode VII for the first time with Biggles.
Good to see you again Jar Jar (not!)
By twenty-past nine I’m on to Attack of the Clones. Episode II skips ahead a few years so Anakin has grown up and falls in love with the strangely un-aged Padme no longer Queen Amidala but the senator for Naboo. Jar Jar isn’t in the film much. ‘Good to see you again Jar Jar,’ says Obi Wan during one of the floppy eared bufoon’s brief appearances – proving the Jedi were not only good fighters, but also great diplomats.
The relationship between Ani and Padme is super creepy from the off and Hayden Christensen’s acting is as wooden as a barn door. This is something that never used to bother me, but is beginning to on these repeat viewings. I think it’s excusable in the third prequel because you could say that he is portraying the fact that he is becoming consumed by the dark side. The ridiculous ’No!!!!’ At the end of Episode III is the icing on the cake in terms of hammy acting even though that’s not him doing the voice. Any way I’m getting ahead of myself.
I like the Kamino scenes in Attack of the Clones and the introduction of Boba Fett (I would say once my favourite Star Wars character, but now number two behind Maul) as a young clone boy and son of ill-fated Jango Fett the source of all the clone troopers. The fact that the whole film calls back to a line about the clone wars in the original 1977 film spoken by old Ben Kenobi is great.
Kamino is my least favourite level to play but one of my faves to look at in Battlefront II. I’ve realised that I detest playing as a droid – so Theed and Kashyyyk also piss me off when I’m playing the bad guys. I like the super clean lines and light of the cloning facility, the calm of the hosts juxtaposed with the stormy weather outside and in the film the fight between Jango and Obi Wan. The head bang Easter egg is also a great indication of how the filmmakers try to satisfy fans. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then please look it up on Youtube – it’s a reference to something that really should’ve been an outtake from the original film but has survived through all Lucas’s revisions.
I was about halfway through the film when my nerd-fest hit a speed bump in the form of a phone call from Biggles. He’s also got the day off and despite my whining about how I was all set for a movie marathon he convinces me to leave the house. So it’s a quick dive into the bathroom for a shit, shower and shave and then I’m off to Leicester. The weather is great, the shopping is frustrating – I’m at that difficult age and shape when it comes to clothes – and we go to a burger restaurant for lunch, which probably isn’t helping my figure. Anyway some time later, having also had a couple of cheeky pints at a pub on the way home (also not helping), I am safely ensconced back in chez Haynes and can finish watching the film. Which I do.
Then before Siggy gets home, I decide against starting Episode III and instead boot up the old PlayStation and see what the craic is on Battlefront II. It was a bit disappointing really – sure there were double points to be had for the whole weekend which helped me attain the legendary level 70 for my heavy – but an extension of the Ewok Hunt wasn’t really my idea of fun. I wish they’d taken the opportunity to release some new characters or new multiplayer maps. Anyway I had a quick blast on that and then the Star Wars fun came to an end for a while.
Next day was a normal Saturday with Siggy with the exception that we had a fun night out with Biggles and his fiancé involving cocktails, Thai food, beer and staring at his new phone. Having satisfied his need to take lots of photos to post on Facebook we retired to our respective abodes. The weather was glorious again. Like the weather on Tatooine but without the threat of any sand people turning up.
Time to experience the full powwwerrrr of the dark side…
Sunday morning while Siggy was out elsewhere, it was time to resume the marathon and experience the full powwwerrrr of the dark side. Revenge of the Sith is one of my favourite of the Star Wars films. Full of flaws but great fun with a huge pay-off at the end showing how Darth Vader is ‘born’.
I love the emotional dialogue in the end scenes between Obi Wan and Anakin and the fact that the visuals when Anakin is almost killed don’t pull any punches. I also enjoyed Ian McDiamid’s performance as Palpatine – great that he got to play the younger version of the character in the prequels when he was older and the older version of the character in Episode IV when he was younger. Plus getting ‘specialed’ into Episode V.
I picked up on what Palpatine says to Anakin about Darth Plagueis ‘The Wise’ being able to manipulate midichlorians to create life and stop loved ones from dying. Previously I hadn’t taken much notice of the ‘create life’ bit, but having so recently seen Episode II began to wonder if Anakin’s immaculate conception had a more sinister origin.
Could it be that Darth Sidious, who is implied to be Plagueis’s naughty apprentice, manipulated the midichlorians in Shmi to create Anakin? Well, realising that I couldn’t be the first fan to spot this, I did a bit of searching on the web. Sure enough it’s a theory that’s been debunked online. Yes the Sith’s tinkered with midichlorians but in actual fact were unable to do much with them. So Palpatine is bullshitting. In fact there’s one school of though that suggests their evil tinkering provoked an opposite reaction from the Force and that’s what created Anakin – to ultimately balance dark versus light. This idea of balance is revisited in Episode VIII.
I still can’t understand why Yoda said he must go into exile after failing to defeat the Sith Lord apart from the writer’s need to set up his appearance in Episode V. Also I feel the whole birth and separation of the twins and death of their mother was rushed. And, and, and… but really it was the best of a bad bunch of prequels and at least all three of them had some great new worlds and races to add to the galactic milieu.
There’s a problem on the horizon…
And so, what next? Well it just had to be Rogue One because I hadn’t seen the film in sequence before. Sure there’s a big leap in time in terms of the saga timeline but it fits perfectly well between Episodes III and IV.
There’s little add to what I already said about the film in my previous blog post apart from saying that when I then watched Episode IV there was no jarring at all. Yes Vader seems completely exhausted, by his kick-assery in the closing scenes of the newer film, when we see him lamely fight Obi Wan, but the argument goes that he is being super cautious of Obi Wan because they know each other so well (while Obi Wan has learnt at least one new trick while they’ve been parted, it seems Vader hasn’t). Anyone who has seen how Obi Wan dispatches Maul second time around will know that the older wiser Obi Wan only needs the one opening to strike his enemy’s down.
Biggles made his third appearance at this point to accompany me to the cinema to go and see the new Avengers film which I blogged about here and enjoyed very much. Do I watch too many films? I think not.
On Monday morning Siggy had to go in to work despite it being a bank holiday in the UK. It was a crying shame. The weather was still amazing but to the point where sitting out any longer than about an hour was dangerous. Best to stay in doors and watch some more Star Wars I decided.
Ah, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the one that started it all… It’s so familiar to me, like slipping into a warm bubble bath and just soaking up the sci-fi. So many great lines and scenes. Did I spot anything new on this viewing? Not really. The inserted bits on the blu ray version don’t seem to add very much and indeed I was in two minds whether to dig out the ‘original’ version I have on DVD (a double pack when the previous ‘special edition’ came out). The scene with Jabba and Solo is pretty badly executed when he steps over his tail, but apart from that I’m mostly indifferent to the tweaks. Really couldn’t give a shit who shot first – Solo or Greedo.
It was interesting to see the young Luke again and know that he was hidden from his father in plain sight back home on Tatooine with his aunt and uncle. In the prequels Anakin says he hates sand and given all the bad memories of his mother’s death it’s no surprise that he never goes back. Also I had forgotten what great interplay there was between all the young members of the cast starting out on this wacky film without any of the weight of success that might have entered into their later performances.
Impressive… most impressive…
The Empire Strikes Back, every fan’s favourite sequel, has it all – better tunes, a better paced and bigger story and the little green dude – classic. There’s also Lando. While most of the character motivations in the original films are quite cut and dried here’s a guy who seems to be outside of the conflict and then is forced to choose sides after his deal with the Empire to protect his gas mining interest gets worse and worse.
Sure similarly Solo only seems to stick around for the love of the princess and Vader it turns out is majorly conflicted, but for me Lando is the most interesting character in Episode V. I think it’s a shame that there’s no real back-story for him beyond Solo saying that they go way back. Nice then that the new Star Wars Story film Solo will cover their original relationship and just what it was that Solo did to annoy Lando in the past.
They will all suffer for this outrage…
I managed to finish off the original trilogy in the evening of the next day after work. Return of the Jedi has been a bit spoilt on the blu ray version by Lucas’s tinkering. The new effects don’t sit very well alongside, or composited on top of, the original film and it detracts from the suspension of disbelief that’s needed to accept the fact that a bunch of man-eating teddy bears can take down a garrison on Imperial Stormtroopers.
I totally get the metaphor (revisited for the film Avatar) but I would’ve preferred it if Lucas had been able to do what he originally intended (and revisited in Episode III) with a bunch of Wookiees instead of Ewoks. Harrison Ford’s acting is dreadful in Act 1, but the script is pretty good and not prone to the formulaic qualities of some of the more recently made films.
Sure, the idea of a Death Star MkII seems a bit lame, but not as lame as what is essentially MkIII in Episode VII. While the film is a bit weak after the excellent Episode V it is great to see the resolution of the Anakin/Vader storyline which was built up to new proportions by the sequels. When he says to Luke that he should leave him to die it is all the more poignant given how Anakin was duped into becoming a Sith in the prequels and I forgive Lucas for superimposing the image of Hayden Christensen as a Force ghost alongside Ben Kenobi and Yoda at the end.
I hope you’ll understand why I didn’t watch The Force Awakens (which I have recently admitted has grown on me after repeat viewing) and the wonderful The Last Jedi this time around. Maybe next year. Until then MTFBWYA.