by Thomas Martin
With “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” coming up in a couple months, I’ve decided to go through my opinions on each entry of the Star Wars saga so far, in order of release (that business with “The Clone Wars”, “Rogue One”, and “Solo” doesn’t count).
“Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977), simply titled “Star Wars” at the time of release, kicked off the saga and helped pioneer popcorn cinema. It’s still a joy to watch, with its casts rollicking chemistry, its wondrous world building, and its swashbuckling set pieces. One of my favorite movies period.
“Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) is the most mature and least silly Star Wars movie, though not the most endearing Star Wars movie. Its famous climactic plot twist also set the rest of the saga on a path of contradicting and re-explaining itself. Still, it expands upon the world building in interesting ways.
“Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” (1983) has too many plot detours, with stuff that really grates on me. There could be a better ending to the trilogy, to the whole saga at that, but it does tie up the main conflict in a poignant way, with some thrilling set pieces to boot.
“Episode I – The Phantom Menace” (1999) is pretty wonky, but it brings me both ironic and genuine enjoyment, from its miscalculated comic relief and misdirected child acting to its rousing action scenes and impressive production design.
“Episode II – Attack of the Clones” (2002) is such a slog that I couldn’t finish it the last time I tried to watch it. The CGI somehow looks more dated than that of its predecessor, and too much of the story revolves around a “romance” with stalkerish vibes and no chemistry.
“Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” (2005) is the most nostalgic Star Wars movie for me, despite being the downright grimmest. Although it carries over notable flaws from its predecessors, from hokey characterizations to dated CGI, the story it’s trying to tell is poignant, even if the way it’s told doesn’t always do it justice. It has some of the coolest visuals out of any Star Wars movie, and it has my favorite musical score of the franchise.
“Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (2015) is trying so hard not to feel like a Prequel that it retreads the Originals to a degree of essentially resetting them. Yet, I can look past that and enjoy some of the most coherent balancing of drama, humor, and action in the franchise.
“Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” (2017) breaks from the traditional time gap between entries and picks up right where its predecessor left off, dealing with multiple plot lines, half of which are effective and the other half of which are a slog; even the stuff that works for me further undermines franchise continuity and takes unearned plot developments, though it’s rousing and moving stuff on its own terms.
Here’s to hoping “The Rise of Skywalker” can give a satisfying conclusion to this inconsistent but charming, cool, poignant, and thrilling saga that’s helped shape not only my imagination but also popcorn cinema itself. I’ll probably have to see it several times before I can fully form an opinion on it, too, as I’ve grown more fond of “The Force Awakens” and more conflicted on “The Last Jedi” since my first viewings of each. Skywalker will certainly decide my opinions on both in the long run.