Top 40 Greatest Star Wars Moments, Part II

We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars! The “little” sci-fi film that came out in 1977 has spawned an intergalactic media franchise that is just as popular today as it was 40 years ago. Being that it’s the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re continuing the countdown of the 40 greatest moments in Star Wars films and TV.

Palpatine forms Empire

20. Emperor Palpatine Forms The Galactic Empire (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): We, and many of the film’s characters, watched with horror as the disfigured Chancellor Palpatine used a failed attack upon him by Jedi as an excuse to dissolve the crumbling Galactic Republic before cheering throngs. What made this moment so unsettling to watch was that it can be compared to real-life events in our history.

19. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): Say what you want about the flawed Star Wars prequel, but it had one kickass lightsaber duel. Buttressed by green screens and John Williams’ rousing, operatic soundtrack the deadly duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul was wild, exciting and undoubtedly the best moment in the film.

ahsoka-quits

18. Ahsoka Leaves The Jedi Order (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “The Wrong Jedi”): In the final episodes of the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi apprentice, had been framed for murder. After much ordeal, Ahsoka was cleared, but she was so disillusioned with the Jedi Order that she chose to leave it at the end of the last episode. This turn of events was frankly surprising and deftly sets up Anakin’s own disillusionment with the Jedi later on.

Arent you a little short for a stormtrooper

17. “Aren’t You A Little Short For A Stormtrooper?” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): When Luke Skywalker disguised as a stormtrooper bursts into Princess Leia’s prison cell on the Death Star, her first words to him were unexpected. Instead of being fearful or excited, she comes off as nonchalant and unimpressed with her liberator. Throughout the film Leia displayed spunky bravado and put up a steel front even as a prisoner. This savvy attitude perfectly summed up Princess Leia, who dispelled the cliché of being the damsel in distress. We knew that no matter what she could take care of herself.

16. The Battle of Hoth (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back): The very first Star Wars sequel set a darker, more ominous tone which was foreshadowed in the first acts’ climatic battle. Rebel forces were forced to evacuate their base on the frozen world Hoth and brave fighter pilots and troops, including Luke Skywalker, desperately tried to hold off imperial metal, behemoth walkers. It was soon clear that the Rebels were outmatched by the superior forces and the one-sided battle was disheartening, yet exciting, to watch.

yoda-in-last-star-wars-clone-wars

15. Yoda’s Vision Quest (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Vision”, “Destiny” “Sacrifice”): In the series finale, Jedi Master Yoda goes on a spiritual retreat because he is troubled by the Clone Wars and the rise of the dark side of the Force. His insightful visions during a visit to a Sith planet let him (and the viewers) know there was more to the Force than he knew. He realized that waging war was not the answer to bringing balance to the Force and that the Force was much more multi-layered than just good and evil. This, and Yoda’s vision of a true Chosen One, was a poignant way to end the series.

han shot first

14. Han Shoots First (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): In the original and true version of the first Star Wars film Han is cornered at the cantina bar by the bounty hunter Greedo, who has come to collect Han’s debt owed to Jabba the Hut. From the testy conversation, Han knew Greedo was going to shoot him so he beat the bounty hunter to the punch and underhandedly shot him dead. Pure badassery and it sets up perfectly Han’s eventual redemption later in the film.

13. Darth Vader Saves Luke Skywalker (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi): Following the climatic lightsaber duel in Return of the Jedi a victorious Luke refused to kill his father Darth Vader and to submit to the dark side of the Force. In response, Emperor Palpatine attacks Luke with vicious lightning attacks. Luke was helpless under the savage assault while Vader stood by passively. At this point, Vader made a life-changing choice and turned against the Emperor. This cost Vader his life, but his final act saved Luke and put him on a path of redemption as he rejected the dark side of the Force. This moment made Vader much more layered and somewhat of a tragic figure instead of a one-dimensional villain.

12. Darth Vader Goes Medieval (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): This moment came in the closing scenes of Rogue One and neatly segued the way into Star Wars Episode IV. After the Rebel flagship received the plans for the Death Star, it was prevented from escaping and boarded by Darth Vader. As the frantic Rebel troops tried escaping onto another ship with the plans, Darth Vader silently cut through the hapless soldiers with his red lightsaber being the only source of light. The way he so viciously and quickly killed the troops was both frightening and awe inspiring. The scene demonstrated how deadly Darth Vader was as he displayed his mastery of the Force.

11. Order 66 (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): Perhaps the darkest moment ever seen in a Star Wars film was when Emperor Palpatine ordered the Republic’s clone troopers to turn against the Jedi. One by one, we witness heroic Jedi taken by surprise and slaughtered by their own forces. Underlining the gravity of these acts were John Williams’ haunting score, Yoda’s pained reaction at feeling all those sudden deaths and Anakin Skywalker coldly murdering young children, who were training to be Jedi (thankfully this happened offscreen).

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Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Its Similarities To The Empire Strikes Back

GOTGV2 as Empire Strikes Back

Many people who have seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (GOTGV2) have noted that the film, whether they enjoyed it or not, has a different tone than the original film. Some have even gone so far as to claim this sequel is to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film as The Empire Strikes Back was to the first Star Wars film. The reason for this opinion has to do with the more adult and darker mood oozing throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 despite all the jokes and action. Is this a valid way to look at the movie? Consider the following and it goes without saying that major spoilers will be revealed…

Separate Ways

In the second Guardians film, the title characters split up and go off on their own separate adventures in smaller groups and meet other people. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord takes off with Gamora and Drax to join his newly found father Ego and later meets Mantis. When they leave with Peter’s father, Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot are left with Gamora’s sister Nebula (who is at this point a prisoner instead of a full-fledged Guardian). The remaining trio then meet up with Yondu and his Ravagers. This encounter leads to Yondu’s powerful story arc, while Peter learns about his heritage.

A similar plot device was used in The Empire Strikes Back where after abandoning the Rebel base on Hoth, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 go to Dagobah and meet the Jedi Master Yoda. As this happens, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca and C-3P0 spend most of the film evading Darth Vader and his imperial forces. Eventually they meet up with Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian. Both groups are changed forever by their separate adventures just like in GOTGV2.

Deeper Characters

Even though some people have issues with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, these critics agree with fans that the second film does a better job of exploring the characters. Writer and director James Gunn took time to delve deeper into what makes the core group and the supporting characters tick. By the time the film finishes we understand the Guardians and their associates much more than in the original film. They are no longer stock character types. Instead, they are more rounded and we know how and why they act and feel like they do. This leaves us with more relatable and believable characters who enhanced our enjoyment of the film.

The same thing occurs in The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone loves the second Star Wars film for its focus on the characters and making us care more about them. From joining Luke in his painful spiritual journey to understand the Force and the ways of the Jedi, to observing the growing love Han and Leia have for each other. In both films, while the dazzling special effects and sounds are out of this world, what we take away from the viewing experience is our love of the characters.

Fathers and Sons

The main character and story arc in GOTGV2 is Peter Quill’s relationship with Ego. Before meeting him, Peter and the audience did not have any idea of who his father was. When the two men meet it’s a joyful reunion as Ego fills in Peter about where he came from. Naturally, Star-Lord is excited to learn that he is a demigod. But sadly, the occasion turns sour when Peter and his friends discover Ego’s true nature and plans. The man is actually a monster who murdered not just his own children, but Peter’s mother. To make matters worse, Ego has plans to massacre countless people throughout the galaxy in order to spread his seeds.

Ego and Guardians

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Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Empire poster

“No, I am your father.” – Darth Vader

The Empire Strikes Back was the most important Star Wars sequel ever made simply because it was the first sequel. If it stumbled and failed to at least match the hugely successful Star Wars, then who knows how the Star Wars franchise would’ve fared. Maybe creator George Lucas may have been able to complete the trilogy and the films would not have been so revered as they are to this day.

Fortunately for everyone, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back turned out to be much, much better than expected. As it stands, it’s still the gold standard for Star Wars films that hasn’t been matched more than 30 years later.

The Empire Strikes Back’s opening crawl tells of a Galactic Civil War taking place long ago in a distant galaxy. The Rebel Alliance has scored an impressive victory when the farm boy-turned-rebel Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) destroyed the Galactic Empire’s massive Death Star battle station. The celebration was short lived for the Rebels, who were forced to flee their headquarters to the frozen planet Hoth. Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), commanding the imperial fleet, leads an exhaustive search for Luke and the Rebels with the intent of crushing the rebellion.

taun taunAn imperial Star Destroyer battle cruiser launches several probe droids throughout space to find the Rebel’s new headquarters. One of them lands on Hoth and begins its mission. A few miles away, Luke Skywalker is out on patrol riding a tauntaun, a bipedal beast of burden. After checking in with his friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke and his tauntaun are attacked by a wampa, a yeti-like predator. The tauntaun is killed while Luke is knocked out. Waking up in the creature’s den, he manages to escape, but is lost in a raging blizzard. Before long he succumbs to the pelting snow and collapses. Before passing out he sees a vision of his old, deceased mentor Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and is tasked by the specter to go to the planet Dagobah and continue his Jedi training.

Han Solo returns to the Rebel base and announces to Rebel leader Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) that he intends to leave the base to pay off his debt to the gangster Jabba the Hutt. He and Leia get into a heated argument, which underscores the smoldering romantic tension between the two. Then they learn that Luke hasn’t returned yet from his patrol. Fearing the worst, Han heads out with a tauntaun into the white maelstrom to look for his friend. He eventually finds Luke unconscious, but they’re forced to spend the night out in the tundra.

walkers 1

The next day, a Rebel patrol rescues them. Back at the base the celebration over their return is cut short with the news that a probe droid transmitted their location to the Empire. The Rebels are forced to evacuate as Darth Vader arrives with his fleet and dispatches a contingent of imperial walkers, ambulatory tank units shaped like quadrupeds, to attack the Rebel base. To delay the imperials, Luke and a group of fighter pilots fly several snowspeeder fighter craft and engage the walkers, but the fight is one sided. The walkers are too armored for the snowspeeders. Still, the fight gives the Rebels enough time to evacuate. However, Leia is blocked off from her route to an assigned ship. This forces her and the protocol droid C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) to leave with Han and his Wookiee first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) in his ship the Millennium Falcon.

kissOnce in space, Han finds out that the Millennium Falcon’s engines are damaged and the ship can’t jump into hyperspace. Pursued by imperial ships, Han hides out in an asteroid field to make some repairs. During this time, the feelings between him and Leia grow stronger and the two begin a romantic relationship.

While Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3P0 escaped Hoth, Luke and his astromech droid R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) managed to flee Hoth as well in his X-Wing fighter craft. Instead of rendezvousing with the Rebels, Luke instead goes to the planet Dagobah, a planet covered in dense vegetations and swampy environments. The X-Wing crashes into a swamp, but Luke and the droid are able to make a camp. Before long, they are visited by a diminutive, goblin-like being (Frank Oz) that claims to know Yoda and takes Luke to meet him.

luke on dagobah

Luke and R2-D2 accompany the small green person to his muddy hut and Luke becomes irritated by the person’s eccentric behavior and syntax. The being rummages about his dwelling and speaks gibberish to the point that Luke scolds him about wasting time. Seeing the young man’s impatience, his demeanor becomes serious and says to an unseen person that Luke cannot be trained. In response, Obi-Wan’s disembodied voice implores that Luke has potential. Luke realizes that this person that he dismissed moments ago is indeed Yoda. Startled by his error in judgment, Luke joins in the conversation and practically begs to be trained as a Jedi. Finally, Yoda gives in agrees to train him.

Time passes in the bog as Luke learns luke and yodathe ways of the Force, the mystical energy field wielded by the Jedi. He grows in mind and body as he undergoes physical and mental training. He also begins to have explicit visions. One of them is a precognitive one. Luke sees that his friends Han and Leia are in trouble. This convinces Luke that he has to leave to save his friends. This concerns Yoda and Obi-Wan, who now appears as ghostly presence. They believe that Luke hasn’t completed his Jedi training and is vulnerable to Vader and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid), who want to lure him into embracing the dark side of the Force. Luke is adamant about leaving Dagobah, but promises to return to complete his training. As he leaves with R2-D2 in his salvaged X-Wing, Obi-Wan laments that Luke is their only hope. Yoda replies “No, there is another.”

cockpit view

Back on the asteroid field, Han and his group are forced to leave their hideout because it turned out that he piloted the Millennium Falcon inside of a giant whale-like space creature. Outside the field, they resume their cat-and-mouse game with the imperial ships. During the maneuvers, the Falcon is able to evade the Star Destroyers by piggybacking onto the side of one of their hulls. The Rebels are finally able to shake their pursuers when the Star Destroyer jettisons its garbage and they drift away with the debris. The plan works as the imperial fleet jumps into hyperspace, but they’re unaware that nearby in a small ship, a bounty hunter called Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) is tracking them.

meet lando

Going through his navigational charts, Han realizes that they’re near the planet Bespin. He knows an old friend there, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), who runs a floating mining facility there and can offer them a safe haven. When they arrive in the luxurious floating city, they’re greeted warmly by Lando, but they don’t realize that they have walked into a trap that will lure Luke Skywalker into the hands of Darth Vader.

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The Star Wars Films Ranked

 

star wars collage

2015 is shaping up to be the year of Star Wars with the continuation of the celebrated sci-fi saga in December with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Episode VII in the story. Here is a ranking of the previous six live-action films that came before and made movie history in order of personal preference.

darth and luke

1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Commonly considered as the best Star Wars film and in this instance, I agree with that sentiment. The reasons why are varied. It is a film that really explores the mystical side of the Star Wars universe with Jedi Master Yoda instructing Luke Skywalker all about the Force and the consequences of turning to the dark side. It is also a film that does not follow the traditional structure of an adventure film unlike the previous entry. Supporting this is the climatic battle between the Empire and Rebels, which occurs in the first half of the movie. Our heroes are put in constant jeopardy and there is no real resolution on the fate of Han Solo, setting up a cliffhanger ending that is almost jarring in its abruptness.

This was a risky move by George Lucas, since he could have just remade the original film and be done with it, but instead The Empire Strikes Back is an actual second part of an ongoing story and is very well done. It also introduces iconic characters like the aforementioned Yoda, and fan favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett. Plus, there is a wonderfully done lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vader that results (SPOILER!) in the shocking revelation by Vader that he is Luke’s father. Combine that with the epic battle of Hoth with snow speeders and AT- AT walkers and this film is a classic in every way.

luke ben

2. A New Hope (1977): The movie that changed everything. What more can be said about the original Star Wars? It tells the classic tale of good and evil. It is a fairy tale that is set in outer space and introduced to the world Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, R2D2 and C-3PO, plus incredible worlds like Tatooine and Yavin with exotic aliens and robots.

Even if someone has never seen it, they know who all of these characters are and how they look like. That is when you know it has crossed from pop culture to something else. I think the simplicity of the tale of the Rebels fighting against an oppressive Galactic Empire with classic archetype character (hero, rogue, princess, wizard, villain, and comical sidekicks) is its biggest strength and the core of its widespread appeal. Iconic fixtures of the saga like the now-famous X-Wings, TIE fighters, lightsabers and the Jedi all started with this film.

revenge of sith

3. Revenge of the Sith (2005): The best of the prequels, this film is George Lucas’ swan song and one of his best. It begins with a bang hurling viewers into the middle of a great space battle over the gleaming capital planet Coruscant. From there, the story does not let up with the prequel’s heroic Jedi, Anakin Skywalker beginning his descent to the dark side, which culminated in an epic lightsaber duel (one of the best of the whole saga) against his mentor and friend Obi-Wan Kenobi. This was something fans had been waiting to see for years ever since it was revealed that Vader and Kenobi were friends.

Unfortunately, this movie is sometimes attacked since it is a prequel, and there are hardcore original trilogy fans who want nothing to do with them. But despite that, this movie is excellent and belongs with the first two as great Star Wars films. Highlights include showing the widespread destruction of the Clone Wars, Anakin’s cruel actions at the Jedi council, him murdering his wife Padme, and the bringing of the whole saga full circle in the end with infant Luke being brought to Tatooine. These are all of the movie’s major strengths.

attack of the clones

4. Attack of the Clones (2002): The second of the prequels, this film improves on what was begun in The Phantom Menace. Anakin is shown as a troubled, if somewhat whiny apprentice to Obi-Wan. The film presents the murky beginnings of the infamous stormtroopers with Sith Lord Count Dooku’s shady dealings, and Anakin’s slow turn to evil under Chancellor Palpatine’s sinister influence. Something I like about this movie is its look: the clouds on the capital planet Coruscant in the film’s beginning, the underworld club scene, and the waterworld of Kamino are all striking to look at. The epic ground battle on Geonosis during the film’s climax is also a big highlight along with Yoda’s subsequent lightsaber duel with Dooku.

A problem the film has is the clunky romance between Anakin and Padme Amidala.  It is not done well and is somewhat of a drag thanks to wooden dialogue. Despite that, the movie is still a good effort by George Lucas.

end of return of jedi

5. Return of the Jedi (1983): As the last film in the original trilogy, it may not be as good as the first two movies, but is still a good Star Wars adventure. The fantastic Battle of Endor is still the best space battle ever seen more than 30 years later. Luke’s final clash with his father Darth Vader is also one of the best moments in the saga.

An issue with the movie is the fact that the plot is somewhat of a repeat of A New Hope with its start on Tatooine and having another Death Star to destroy. Another is that the cuddly Ewok characters somehow and unbelievably make Imperial stormtroopers seem like the Keystone Cops.  However, Return of the Jedi Is still lots of fun and the final celebration with our heroes is always great to see.

maul vs jedi

6. The Phantom Menace (1999): Let’s be blunt, the first prequel, chronologically the first part of the saga, is the most polarizing Star Wars film by far.

This movie had huge expectations coming in after a very long wait since Return of the Jedi and many fans were not happy with it. They complained about Lucas’ rusty directing, over-reliance on CG, and the film’s pace. I myself like this flick and while it does have some problems, namely the somewhat childish humor with Jar Jar Binks and the slow middle portion on Coruscant, there are many things about it that I really enjoy. Just seeing old Ben Kenobi as a young Jedi cutting up battle droids was a big thrill. The multiple battles on Naboo in the end and the appearance of Darth Maul (one of Star Wars’ best villains) are all highlights and bring back good memories.

We’ll find out this December if The Force Awakens will also generate memorable viewing moments and where it ranks with the other films.

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