Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace Review

Star Wars Phantom Menace poster.jpg

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, SamuelL. Jackson, Frank Oz, and Ian McDiarmid

Written and Directed by: George Lucas

The Phantom Menace. The most reviled film in quite a long time. A victim of unconquerable hype and some very poor choices, I wondered if after all this time, what would Episode I look like with a fresh set of eyes. I feel it is only right for me to preface this by saying I was never a basher of Episode I, nor was I staunch defender.  I was somewhere in the middle leaning towards defense if only because there was so much backlash.

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Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi – Film Review

Overview

With The Return of the Jedi the story (if not the cinematic life) of Star Wars comes to a profound and epic conclusion. For all the criticisms which could be (and by me will be) leveled at this film, there’s no arguing its powerful impact, action, and rousing finale. Indeed, this film is a worthy conclusion to a cinematic franchise that has, at different times, been hailed as both the greatest ever seen and the biggest disappointment ever produced. The truth of the matter, however, is that the experience of Return of the Jedi is made all the richer for all five movies that (chronologically) precede it. And despite its stumbles in terms of pacing, acting, and pandering to marketing, Return of the Jedi delivers a cinematic experience worthy of Star Wars.

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Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back – Film Review

Overview

When you create a cultural phenomenon, the pressures to not only follow up the effort, but to duplicate the success, are quite intense. And when it came to what was, seemingly, a once-in-a-lifetime event like Star Wars, the expectations were very high indeed. What creator George Lucas gave us was to fine-tune the storytelling and movie-making craft and character study into a product of near perfection. Through these characters, we saw the real depth and nature of that galaxy far, far away. And the film’s central revelation chilled many viewers right down to the bone.

But what The Empire Strikes Back did, more than anything else, was to take the epic story and tell it from a more personal, character-driven perspective. The result is a tight, focused narrative that was darker, deeper and every bit as thrilling as the original film. It’s no wonder that now, roughly thirty years later, many look to The Empire Strikes Back as the pinnacle of Star Wars.

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Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – Film Review

Overview

When Star Wars was released in 1977, it literally reinvented moviemaking and how audiences chose to view movies. True, the stage had been earlier set by Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, but nothing could have prepared the world for the phenomenon that would become Star Wars. Over thirty years later, movies are still being made, television shows have been spawned – and that doesn’t include countless books, video games, toys and all manner of commercial tie-ins. As the movie Spaceballs would one day spoof, it became all about “merchandising, merchandising, merchandising.”

But there first had to be a film popular and complex enough to spawn its own universe of marketing campaigns. And what tends to get lost in the blitz of Star Wars commercialism is a movie that, for all intents and purposes, is nearly perfect. There are memorable characters, plenty of action, philosophy, spirituality, and an epic hero quest right out of Joseph Campbell’s archetype for such stories. Only a relative lack of depth to the characters (this is the introduction, afterall), some cringeworthy moments from Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, and a relatively plodding pace to open the film keep it from perfection.

But damn if it doesn’t get close.

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Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – Film Review

I think it’s safe to say that “Revenge of the Sith” is my favorite Star Wars film. There’s just something about the emotional journey of the film that I find particularly compelling. That, and the lightsaber duels. But the truth of the matters is that, while Revenge of the Sith is easily the best movie of the prequels, it is still a rather flawed film. And, in fact, those flaws are capable of taking the audience completely out of the emotional pull of the story. It’s unfortunate because, in many ways, Revenge of the Sith is both the most personal and most epic film of the saga. And with a little extra care – and perhaps a more objectively critical second opinion during the whole process – the result could have been a nearly perfect film. As it is, Revenge of the Sith is an impressive experience. One that I thoroughly enjoy. But I will always wonder about “what might have been.”

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