The original Star Wars trilogy contains some of the most influential movies of all time, and not just in terms of how much they changed moviemaking in general. Millions of people who have grown up in the past thirty years can point to Star Wars as having a huge effect on their lives. The series has resulted in many passionate fans and has spawned a billion dollar business that continues to chug along to this day. I’m only gonna focus on the first three movies here, though, even though there’s so much else to do with Star Wars that could be discussed. Looking at the first three movies on their own merits, the original three Star Wars films are the definition of a classic film trilogy. In fact, when the word “trilogy” is spoken, the first thought to cross many peoples’ minds would be Star Wars. Episodes IV, V, and VI really set the precedent for what a movie trilogy should be, and most others have followed its format very closely. A New Hope is really a self-contained movie that works perfectly on its own. The Empire Strikes Back improves on its predecessor, goes more in depth into the universe, and gets a bit darker, while Return of the Jedi finishes the series off with a bang (also known as a big, climactic war, a staple in most third movies) and ties up all the characters and plot threads in a satisfying fashion. Truly, over time these three movies have blended together in peoples’ minds, and are seen as one complete story with three segments, which, as I’ve said before, is what I believe a great trilogy should do.
While I just gushed over the original trilogy in that last paragraph, I wouldn’t consider myself a Star Wars fan. I find the drama that surrounds the series far more interesting than the movies themselves. Still, I would be lying if I said the original three movies weren’t great films in their own right, and as a complete story the Star Wars trilogy is truly one of the best trilogies ever made. But, just like I said with Lord of the Rings, it’s just not my personal favorite. For this blog entry, I’m gonna focus on my own experience with Star Wars, and really take an honest look at these three movies that people often take for granted.
Like many people, I first saw the Star Wars trilogy as a kid, though I don’t remember exactly when. I know it was before the first prequel came out (and I’ll be getting to that trilogy soon) so at the very oldest I would have been five or six. I think my enjoyment of the movies was pretty standard for any boy my age. I know really liked them, and I thought that Lightsabers were super cool, but other than that they didn’t have some huge, profound effect on me like I know they have had on so many others. I had friends who were really into the movies and the expanded universe stuff, and the prequels kept Star Wars in my, and everyone else’s, minds for several years straight, but the original trilogy kind of fell be the wayside.
I pretty much forgot about the original three Star Wars movies up until last summer, when I watched all three again for the first time in probably around ten years. It was great to be reminded about how good the original movies were after all the drama surrounding the series was the only Star Wars related thing I was aware of for years. The movies themselves were actually quite different than I remembered them. Or, to be more specific, they were much simpler. As a kid, I saw the Star Wars movies as these huge movies with all kinds of crazy, sci-fi things happening all the time, and at that age I was barely able to keep up with the story. As an adult, I found the movies much less complex, although I wouldn’t consider that a criticism. For example, I never realized how few planets the Star Wars movies take place on. After years of prequels and video games and TV shows, it was weird to watch these Star Wars movies that take place on only two or three different planets total. The number of characters in the movies also felt much smaller, and the plot much more straight forward.
I still found them to be very entertaining movies, however, that stand the test of time pretty well (aside from the few digital effects Lucas has added over the years). The fact that the story of the three movies is so simple and the characters are so clear cut between good and evil gives the Star Wars trilogy universal appeal. That said, it’s this simplicity that keeps me from loving the movies as much as certain other trilogies. Make no mistake, I still think the movies are fantastic and truly changer the face of cinema, but there are trilogies I find better because I connect more to their deeper themes and more ambitious stories.
As far as my opinion on each of the three movies on their own, A New Hope is just a great story of a group of men going to save a princess and taking down an empire, but in space. It’s perfect for what it is, and it single handedly brought cinema into a new era. You can take it on its own as a stand-alone movie, but why would you when the sequel is even better. Empire Strikes Back is truly an amazing movie. Over the years I had admittedly gotten tired of Star Wars fans constantly talking this movie up like it was the best thing ever, but after watching it again last summer, yeah, it is really great. Return of the Jedi would be on the same level for me if not for those darn Ewoks. Yeah, yeah, it’s about the most clichéd complaint against a movie ever, but really, those teddy bears take up a pretty significant amount of screen time, while the rest of the movie is successful wrapping up the series in an epic fashion. I don’t even mind that they helped defeat the Stormtroopers; I just found the scene(s) where Luke, Han, and Leia are hanging out with them in the forest to be really dull and annoying. Still, like I said, the rest of the movie is great, and it finishes off the trilogy well.
At the end of the day, if someone were to say their favorite movie trilogy is Star Wars, I wouldn’t argue with them. It’s not my favorite, but it’s up there, and the effect that it has had on American culture is humungous. It set the standard for what a great movie trilogy should be, and really, if it weren’t for these movies, I likely wouldn’t be here writing for this blog centered on movie trilogies. For that, I thank Star Wars. I believe the series probably should have just called it quits after these first three movies, but of course it didn’t. Star Wars lives on in just about every facet of the media it possibly can. It can be easy to let the three classic films get lost in the shuffle, so if you haven’t watched them in years like I hadn’t, and now see Star Wars as just some goofy crap for kids, I’d recommend you go back and give the original trilogy another watch. They really are three great films that combine to tell one amazing story.