” I am a Jedi, like my father before me” – Luke Skywalker
Anticipation was immensely high for the grand finale of the Star Wars saga and for good reason. The first two films in the trilogy were both critically acclaimed and financial successes. The last film The Empire Strikes Back, considered by most people as the best Star Wars film ever, ended on a tantalizing cliffhanger and with many unanswered questions. Given this background, it would be difficult for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi to match the previous films. Regrettably, that proved to be case, but nevertheless it was a generally rousing conclusion to the Star Wars saga.
The film takes place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. A Galactic Civil War is reaching its conclusion with the evil Galactic Empire readying a decisive blow against the Rebel Alliance. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Empire’s battle station, the moon-sized Death Star, was destroyed by the fledging Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Now, the Empire is constructing a second Death Star that is orbiting the forest moon of Endor. Sith Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) arrives at the nearly complete battle station to oversee the finishing touches. He informs the nervous imperial officers that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) himself will arrive soon to ensure that the station is finished on schedule.
As the construction continues, Luke goes to his home planet Tatooine to rescue his friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Han owed Jabba, a humongous slug-like alien, outstanding debts and in the previous film was captured by Darth Vader and the bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and entombed in carbonite.
Luke sends his two droids C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) as gifts to Jabba at his lair and to relay a message about bargaining for Han’s release. Jabba refuses this offer and at that moment, a helmeted bounty hunter called Boushh enters the lair with Han’s friend Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), a Wookiee, in chains. Later that night, when Jabba and his minions are asleep, Boushh, who is actually Princes Leia (Carrie Fisher), frees Han. Before the lovers can celebrate, they’re captured by Jabba’s guards. Unknown to Jabba and the other criminals is that one of them is actually Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).
The next day Luke arrives in person and is also captured. Now he, Han and Chewbacca are sentenced to death while Leia is kept as a chain-bound slave. The trio are taken out to the desert wastes of the planet as Jabba and his entourage watch their sentence carried out from a nearby floating barge. At Luke’s signal, R2-D2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber at the Jedi and Luke uses it to free his friends and decimate Jabba’s forces. In the end, Han accidently kills Boba Fett, while Leia strangles Jabba and Luke destroys the barge.
They leave the planet in Han’s ship the Millennium Falcon to rendezvous with the Rebel fleet. Luke instead travels to the planet Dagobah to meet with Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) and complete his Jedi training. Visibly withered, Yoda admits that he is dying of old age and that Luke doesn’t need any further training, but needs to destroy Vader before he can become an actual Jedi. He also confirms that Vader is indeed Luke’s father and before he dies and fades away, reveals that there is another Skywalker.
Grief stricken, Luke is soon met by the ghost of his old mentor Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The old Jedi explains Luke’s family history, revealing the story of how Anakin Skywalker fell to the dark side of the Force, the mystical life/energy field that is used by the Jedi and their enemy the Sith. He also reveals that Leia is actually Luke’s twin sister and that he and Leia were hidden at birth to keep them away from Vader, who must be destroyed by Luke.
Later, he reaches the spaceborne Rebel fleet and joins his friends as they meet with the Rebel leaders. An assault is planned to destroy the Death Star before it’s completed. But, before the Rebel fleet can engage the Death Star and its guarding ships, a strike force has to land on the forest moon and destroy an imperial base that is emitting a force field protecting the Death Star. Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca volunteer to head the strike force while Lando, now a general, will pilot the Millennium Falcon and a contingent of ships to destroy the Death Star.
The four reach the moon in a stolen imperial shuttle along with the droids and several Rebel soldiers. They soon discover imperial stormtroopers and engage in battle. During the fracas, a few soldiers escape using speeder bikes and Luke and Leia chase them down with a seized speeder bike. The twins successfully stop the soldiers but get separated. Leia later encounters a small, bear cub-like creature wearing tribal gear. He is Wicket (Warwick Davis), an Ewok, and takes her back to his village as his guest. Meanwhile, Luke, Han, Chewbacca and the droids try looking for Leia in the thick forest, but are captured by Ewoks. C-3P0, however, is mistaken to be a deity and treated as a revered guest.
At the Ewok village, the golden droid convinces the Ewoks to free his friends thanks to an assist by Luke, who uses the Force to levitate C-3P0. Soon, the group enlists the Ewoks to help against the imperial soldiers stationed at the moon. Luke, however, is troubled after sensing Vader’s presence and is afraid he is jeopardizing his friends. During some festivities in the village at night, he confides to Leia about their true relationship and Vader, who he thinks he can redeem. Luke bids her a sad farewell as he leaves the village and later surrenders to Vader. Despite Luke’s efforts, Vader refuses to denounce the dark side of the Force.
Luke is taken up to the Death Star and meets Emperor Palpatine, who is eager to corrupt the young Jedi as he did with his father years ago. With Vader at his side, the Emperor plays mind games with Luke and admits that he knows about the Rebels’ attack. In reality, the Emperor allowed this to lure them into a trap.
Down on the moon, an attack on the fortified imperial base by the Rebels is quickly defeated. However, the brave Ewoks mobilize their own army and join the fight against the Empire, but are clearly outmatched. Meanwhile, the Rebel armada arrives in the Endor system and Lando quickly realizes that they’ve jumped into a trap. Then, the Rebel fleet is swarmed by overwhelming imperial ships. As Luke witnesses the firefight outside in despair, the Emperor divulges that the station is operational by having it open fire on the Rebel ships. This goads Luke into lashing out at Palpatine with his lightsaber but Vader parries the would-be killing stroke. As the climatic battle rages outside and on the moon a final confrontation between father and son, good and evil commences.
“You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!” –Obi-Wan Kenobi
Sometimes the cliché is true; third time is the charm. After the poor reception of the first two Star Wars prequels, filmmaker George Lucas finally hit his directorial stride that he lost long ago with the final prequel Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The result of his efforts? The most underrated and darkest Star Wars film to date.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith takes place during the last days of the Clone Wars. The opening scrawl literally opens with the word “War!” then explains that the galaxy-wide conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Separatist Alliance has been devastating to the Republic. The Separatists, led by the Sith Lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and his second-in-command the cyborg General Grievous (Matthew Wood), have kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), the leader of the Republic. As the Separatists leaders try to flee Coruscant, the capital planet of the Republic with their hostage, a massive and ultimately decisive battle breaks out between two opposing space armadas over Coruscant.
Amidst the cluttered, epic space battle, two Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), take their small fighter ships and infiltrate Grievous’ battlecruiser where Palpatine is being held. The Jedi fight their way to the captive chancellor. They soon confront Dooku and engage in a lightsaber duel where Obi-Wan is knocked unconscious, but they younger Jedi is able to defeat the Sith Lord. At Palpatine’s urging, Anakin beheads a surprised Dooku after some hesitation.
As Anakin tries to escape with Palpatine and Obi-Wan in tow, by this time, the battlecruiser has taken on severe damage from the space battle and is losing orbit. General Grievous manages to escape in a shuttle, leaving Anakin to pilot the battlecruiser and crash land it on the citified planet.
Later, amidst the celebration among Palpatine and other politicians over Dooku’s death and the war concluding, Anakin steals away to rendezvous with his wife Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), whom he secretly married in defiance to Jedi rules that forbids romantic relationships. She reveals that she is pregnant, and although he is excited at first, that night he has dreams where she dies during childbirth, which unsettles him.
General Grievous arrives on the planet Utuapo, his base of operations, and confers via hologram with the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. The cloaked figure orders him to bring other Separatists leaders to the volcanic planet Mustafar and announces that soon he’ll have a younger, more powerful replacement for Dooku.
At the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Anakin confides with Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) about his premonitions. Yoda warns him about being obsessed with his visions and adds “The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.” The wizened Jedi tells Anakin that death is a part of life and those that die become one with the Force and that the living shouldn’t mourn them and to let go of his fears. Anakin is clearly unsatisfied with Yoda’s advice.
Later, Anakin meets with Palpatine, who appoints him to be his representative to the Jedi Council. This is against Jedi procedure since they make such appointments. The young Jedi is happy, thinking that he’ll become a Jedi Master, but is angered later by the Council. The other Jedi state that while they accept the appointment and he can sit in the Council, he won’t be made a Jedi Master. After the Council meeting concludes, Obi-Wan reveals to Anakin that the Council allowed the appointment because they want the young Jedi to report to them about Palpatine’s dealings. They no longer trust the chancellor who is amassing more executive powers and has stayed in office past his term. Anakin is disturbed by this but Obi-Wan reminds him that the Jedi are loyal to the Senate not its leaders and to not to let his friendship with Palpatine cloud his judgment.
At night, Anakin joins Palpatine at an opera and learns of Grievous’ location. The chancellor adds that he distrusts the Jedi and thinks that they want to overthrow him . Anakin admits his faith with the Jedi has been shaken lately. Then they engage in a philosophical discussion about the similarities between the Jedi and the Sith. Palpatine asserts to an intrigued Anakin that both sides crave power, but that the dark side of the Force is more powerful and gives one control over life and death.
Anakin later attends a Council meeting and reports that Grievous is on Utuapo and that Palpatine wants him to capture the cyborg leader. The Council members overrule him and assign Obi-Wan to go instead. Anakin is visibly displeased over their decision, but says nothing. Afterwards, he accompanies Obi-Wan to a space port where the two men reaffirm their friendship and separate on good terms.
Obi-Wan arrives on Utapau and confronts Grievous. The four-armed cyborg tries intimidating the Jedi with his prowess by wielding four lightsabers simultaneously. Obi-Wan coolly counters Grievous with his adept lightsaber skills. Then a newly arrived clone army attacks the droid army guarding Grievous and the Separatist base. Grievous tries escaping, but is pursued by the Jedi, who catches up to him and the fight ensues. It ends with Obi-Wan shooting the cyborg dead with an “uncivilized” blaster.
Anakin reports to Palpatine the news about Obi-Wan’s confrontation. In the conversation, Anakin admits his disillusionment with the Jedi and the chancellor starts manipulating him. He reveals that he is a practicioner of the dark side of the Force and that Anakin could learn so much more if he embraced the dark side. Horrified about the revelation, he leaves and informs Jedi Master Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) about the chancellor’s true nature. Windu tells him to wait in the Council chambers while he and other Jedi leave to confront the Sith Lord.
Windu and three other Jedi Knights arrive at Palpatine’s office and try to arrest him. But the chancellor is surprisingly fast and kills three of the Jedi with his lightsaber except for Windu. Anakin rushes over to the office in time to see the two men in battle. Windu disarms Palpatine, but the Sith Lord unleashes Force lightning from his fingers at Windu. The Jedi is able to deflect the lightning bolts, which splash back and disfigures Palpatine. Windu realizes that the chancellor is too dangerous and must be killed. Anakin argues that Palpatine should be allowed to live and stand trial. Undeterred, Windu prepares a killing stroke but is stopped by Anakin who dismembers his hand. This gives Palpatine the opportunity to kill Windu with his Force lightning.
Anakin is dismayed at what he’s done. He realizes that he has no place with the Jedi now. Palpatine asks him to become his apprentice and the young man accepts as long he helps him save Padmé. The chancellor agrees and renames him Darth Vader. Palpatine tells him that all the Jedi are enemies of the Republic and must be killed. He orders him to kill the Jedi at the Temple and the remaining Separatist leaders on Mustafar.
As Anakin, now Darth Vader, leads a clone army into the Jedi Temple, Palpatine broadcasts a special command, Order 66, to every clone trooper spread out throughout the galaxy. The clones mercilessly and abruptly turn on their Jedi commanders and decimate the ancient order. The only ones who escape execution are Obi-Wan on Utapau and Yoda, who is on the Wookie planet Kashyyk leading a battle against droid troops. Yoda is able to flee the planet thanks to the help of loyal Wookies, including Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
The Jedi Temple is in flames as Vader and the clones kill all the Jedi there, including young children, the sole witness to the atrocity is Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) who went to the Temple to see what was happening. Organa later sends Obi-Wan a holographic message warning about him the slaughter and to meet with survivors at certain coordinates. Meanwhile, Vader goes home and lies to Padmé that the Jedi tried to overthrow the Republic. Then he leaves her for his mission to go to Mustafar and end the war.
Obi-Wan and Yoda meet at Organa’s ship and plot to return to the Temple and intercept a broadcast for all surviving Jedi to return to Coruscant. Once they arrive, Obi-Wan is able to change the message into that of a warning. From security footage, they learn that Anakin has betrayed them. At the same time, Organa and Padmé attend a session in the senate where Palpatine denounces the Jedi and that in order to maintain order he has to reorganize the Republic into a Galactic Empire. After viewing the footage, the two Jedi decide to confront Palpatine and Vader. Yoda, the stronger of the two, will face Palpatine, while Obi-Wan will confront his former apprentice. From there, the two Jedi separate to confront their foes in battles that will literally decide the fate of the galaxy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The sixth and last season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, entitled “The Lost Missions”, just premiered on Netflix. As the final season of the excellent series it’s a shortened one with 13 episodes as opposed to the usual 22. The purchase by Disney brought about the cancellation of the series and the creative team led by Dave Filoni has moved onto the upcoming series called Star Wars Rebels.
This sixth season has four story arcs which begin with a very interesting storyline about a clone trooper named Tup that suddenly attacks and kills his commanding Jedi general. His fellow clone trooper named Fives (Dee Bradley Baker) investigates what caused this violent behavior and uncovers a conspiracy going back to the creation of the clone army in their birthplace planet Kamino and the Sith Lord Darth Sidious (Tim Curry). This story, as well as others in this season, lead directly to events in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of the Sith, which makes this season a very good send off for the show.
The next story arc involves Senator Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber) and an old flame named Clovis who gets involved with political intrigue involving the Banking Clan as well as Sith Lords Sidious and Count Dooku (Corey Burton). While this may not sound very exciting, these episodes actually show how Palpatine further consolidated his control over the Republic and also have both Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) and Padme questioning the nature of their secret marriage.
The third story arc features everyone’s favorite Gungan Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and Jedi Knight Mace Windu (Terence ‘T.C.’ Carson) trying to solve a mystery involving a planet where its spiritual leaders are disappearing and dealing with a prophecy about darkness taking over the galaxy. These two episodes were good although not quite as significant to the overall story of the Clone Wars as compared to the other arcs.
The last batch of episodes deals with the Jedi trying to find out about the murdered Jedi Sifo-Dyas and Yoda (Tom Kane) being contacted from beyond the grave by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), who shows him how he can continue to exist after death. Qui-Gon has him travel to a world that is the origin of the Force itself and face his worst fears. This references a scene in Revenge of the Sith where Yoda tells Obi-Wan Kenobi that he has discovered the secret of existing in the Force after death. It is a great way for Star Wars: The Clone Wars to end, with Yoda knowing that while the Clone Wars may end badly, there will be a way for the Jedi to continue on.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars was in the middle of production when it was cancelled, but the last season is one of the strongest in the series. The quality of these episodes shows that even at the end the writers still came up with very interesting ideas and perhaps the shortened run prevented any weaker episodes from coming up. Overall, Star Wars: The Clone Wars will go down as first rate Star Wars action and drama that did justice to its cinematic counterparts. Hopefully the upcoming Star Wars Rebels series will continue this trend.