40 years of Star Wars


Forty years ago today, Star Wars was released in fewer than three dozen movie theaters nationally, but one of them was Uptown Theatre in the District (Boundary Stones, WETA). Within a month, The Post published The Movie That Ate Cleveland Park.

It might have eaten my pop culture life.

Yours too (Smithsonian).

In 2005, when Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was released, I saw it FIVE times in movie theaters, four of those at Uptown. It had flaws, but was my third favorite of the trilogy behind The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: A New Hope. Yes, better than Return of the Jedi, there, I said it. Part of it, aside from enjoying the movie was the expectation that it would be the last Star Wars movie I ever saw on the big screen.

It wasn’t.

[Star Wars at 40 – starwars.com]

The Force Awakens

George Lucas selling Lucasfilm to Disney meant a whole new trilogy and now spinoff movies. Episode VII, The Force Awakens delivered a story that seemed familiar, but was exhilarating and in the right tone and spirit of the franchise. It was pretty blatant fan service (as well as actor service for one star), but of it was beautiful fan service indeed. Daisy Ridely, John Boyega and Oscar Issac are great, the new trio of heroes clicked immediately. By the end of the first reel, you’d invite them to hang out if you were having a party with the original cast, they felt like they belonged. From the prequels, who’d you invite? Ewan MacGregor and that’s about it and maybe Natalie Portman because she’s Natalie Portman, not because of her performances (not really her fault!).

One of the main reasons that TFA worked was Han Solo got to be Han Solo, something largely missing from ROTJ and probably why Harrison Ford had a bad feeling about the character for a while. The dialogue is witty and moves the story along better than any other Star Wars movie other than perhaps TESB. J.J. Abrams nailed it, so we don’t have to call him Jar Jar Abrams after all.

The soundtrack was a little different, more subtle than the prequels. Not having the London Symphony Orchestra may have influenced John Williams to scale it back. I wasn’t big on it at first, but it grew on me. The final scene though, that gives me chills between the music and the cinematography. It’s a long way from whining about power converters to that cliffside.

And say what you will for the Millennium Falcon‘s hyper drive, but the improbability drive on that thing never breaks.

Rogue One

I saw it late, so I had stumbled on a few spoilers, but I had a pretty good idea even before then about the characters fates.

It was fine. Whereas I bought into implausible coincidences, timing, etc. of the Skywalker saga, I just couldn’t get into it in Rogue One. The concept of Rogue One, explaining away the Death Star’s weakness was a great premise to build the story around, but there were too many characters doing too many things to really care too much about any of them. The Imperials were more interesting and CGI Grand Moff Tarkin worked really well. Chirrut and Baze were probably the most interesting humans, though they were somewhat minor characters. I just didn’t develop much affection for Jyn or Cassian.

The ending though, was brillant. The references to the whole saga that were dropped in throughout the movie had more purpose than just a wink. The razor thin timing works and the action flows beautifully with urgency and desperation. Darth Vader at his most relentless, before he found out he had a son, is pitch perfect. More of this Disney, more of this. It made the movie, period.

The Last Jedi

Time for the Jedi to end? The idea of Luke Skywalker going to the Dark Side seems unlikely, though that’s quite a tease. I hope he doesn’t, not just for sentimental reasons, but because it’s anti-climatic because you know he’s not going to stay there, so why bother going? Now, if he’s broken and full of doubt, that’s another thing. To me, that’s the more likely scenario because Disney didn’t spend $4.3 BILLION to throw away all of the heritage as a gimmick, even for one movie. My expectation is Luke’s loss of faith will be redeemed by Rey at some point in the next two movies. Bold, I know.

One plot point I really hope doesn’t happen is Kylo Ren’s seemingly inevitable redemption culminating in a romantic relationship with Rey. That’d be really disappointing. He doesn’t deserve her. Not after what he did because it would destroy the wonderful, strong character of Rey.

Carrie Fisher

The elephant in the room is the death of Carrie Fisher which apparently necessitates a new Episode IX. That was going to be her movie as TFA was Harrison Ford’s and TLJ is apparently Mark Hamill’s. Such a loss.

Rankings

V, IV, VII, III, VI, I, II, R1

Hey, I like Jedi, doing Jedi things.

It’s 204 days until The Last Jedi opens

I hate to rush through summer, but once baseball season ends (hopefully in late October or early November for Washingtonians) I’ll probably be bouncing off the walls in anticipation. It’ll only get worse when another teaser and then the trailer come out. Maybe before then. I need to get back to Uptown to see it too, since I didn’t for TFA. Until then…

May the force be with you

Previously: 30 years of Star Wars

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