Star Wars: The Complete Saga

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Star Wars

Released: 1977-2005
Creator: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Ewan MacGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen


The greatest science fiction story ever told

Now that I’ve reviewed all of the Star Wars films individually it’s time to look at the series as a whole..  Almost everybody has seen the films but I have tried to keep the reviews as spoiler free as possible.  For this piece I’m going to assume that we all know the films pretty well.  There will be spoilers so if you’ve not seen the films continue at your own risk.  Or even better – turn off the computer and go and watch them, then come back and let me know why it took you so long to get around to it!

The original trilogy – Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – is a masterpiece of cinema and has a huge and devoted fanbase who are passionate about the films.  I regard myself as a fan – the series was a big part of my childhood but I’m not obsessive.  I don’t know the names of all the creatures or which star systems planets are in.  As a result I wasn’t too disappointed with the prequel trilogy, but I appreciate that other fans were.

Undoubtedly the prequel trilogy lacked the personality and sense of fun of the original series.  None of the lead actors have the same charisma – that’s not to say the actors are bad in their roles – Natalie Portman is a decent heroine (for the first two films at least) and Ewan MacGregor does a fine job of channeling Alec Guinness’ personality as the younger Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Hayden Christensen disappoints as Anakin, he simply doesn’t deliver enough emotion, but the scene in Revenge of the Sith where he is transformed into Darth Vadar is really terrific.  When the helmet goes on and the music of the Imperial March soars it creates a genuine sense of anticipation.

There are some scenes in the prequel trilogy that are quite exciting for fans of the original.  I particularly liked the appearance of the Clone Army, the forerunners to the Storm troopers and the shadow cast by Anakin which foretells his future as Darth Vadar.  A little cameo from Chewbacca, who is instrumental in helping Yoda escape from Palpatine’s forces, is fun and emphasises the character’s heroism.  As for Yoda’s fight scenes – wow, just WOW!

The passage of time and the ability to create better special effects doesn’t improve the action.  More charismatic actors and (let’s be honest) a better director would have made a big difference.

Watching the original trilogy with knowledge of the first three chronological segments makes for a completely different viewing experience.  Not worse, not better but different.  Nothing can diminish how brilliant the films are.  The prequel trilogy has come in for a lot of criticism which is really quite unfair.  They aren’t bad films by any standards, they’re just not as good as the originals.  Few films are though.

By watching chronologically we know that Luke and Leia are twins, we know that Darth Vadar is their father so the big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back isn’t breath-taking – when we saw it first all those years ago, most of us had no idea that it was coming.  At the same time Luke’s internal conflict takes on more significance and poignancy as we’ve seen his father battle and be defeated by his inner demons.  The removal of Vadar’s helmet at the end of Return of the Jedi is also more touching as we were there when it was put on.

There are a number of inconsistencies thrown up between the two series.  Why don’t Obi-Wan and R2-D2 recognise each other?  Why did it take so long to build and arm the original Death Star but not the second one?  Why did Leia claim to remember her mother?  These are little questions that niggle me as I watch.

I’ve made only passing reference to the music but John Williams’ score is masterful.  It came top of the American Film Institute’s 100 Years of Film Scores poll and rightly so.  Nothing is more exciting than hearing that theme tune, accompanied by words scrolling slowly up the screen.  The music also adds emotion to the action – the scene where the Jedi are slain in Revenge of the Sith is greatly strengthened by the soundtrack.

Some might say that it might have been better if the backstory had not been committed to film, if it had been left to the fans’ imagination.  That’s not the case and we should move on and celebrate the brilliance of the entire saga.  But let’s also hope George Lucas leaves it there and doesn’t choose to meddle too much with the story in the future.

It may be science fiction, but I feel that Luke, Leia and most of all Han were ‘friends’ of many of us when we grew up.  Like all good friends we’ll stay in touch from time to time, and grow old together.

Thanks George.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
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