Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the third installment of this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month, where I will be reviewing four of the many movies Spielberg has created over the span of his career. Spielberg has created films with action like “Raiders of the Ark” and “Minority Report,” but today, we are doing a reverse Elvis Presley. A little less action, a little more conversation. That is because we are tackling one of Spielberg’s most recent outings, “The Post.” Nominated for two Oscars, this film was met with acclaim. Let us hope that the Movie Reviewing Moron will have something to say to add to this film’s endless stream of positivity. Here we go.
“The Post” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, The BFG) and stars Meryl Streep (The Giver, The Iron Lady), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Cast Away), Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on Sunset Strip, Game Change), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Nebraska), Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, Wiener-Dog), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, The Handmaid’s Tale), Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Young Justice), and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters, The Americans). This film is about the first woman newspaper publisher and her editor as they uncover a history changing revelation that had been hidden for four presidencies.
I started Scene Before in 2016. Therefore, I have reviewed a lot of movies since then. Despite seeing previews, I have never gotten around to reviewing, or even watching, “The Post.” The film had a lot of potential from one of the most acclaimed actors and one of the most acclaimed actresses coming together to lead the picture. In addition, Steven Spielberg is behind the camera. Despite the potential, I skipped this film. I was excited to finally give it a watch at home since I had a used copy of the 4K Blu-ray on standby. Physical media forever.
Safe to say, the film is quite good. Streep and Hanks, unsurprisingly, make for a marvelous on-screen pair as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee respectively. Cast members who are not quite at the level of top billing like Jesse Plemons and Will Denton also have moments to shine as well. Steven Spielberg delivers another win for his career on top of his many others. The screenplay, which was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is undoubtedly compelling. I should not be surprised that the screenplay is as solid as it is, as Singer has previous experience in writing excellent journalism-centered storytelling. In addition to “The Post,” Singer also wrote “Spotlight,” for which he won two Academy Awards, specifically Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture. Having seen that film, I am not terribly shocked. I am also not terribly shocked that not long after those wins, Singer would once again utilize his creativity to effectively craft “The Post.”
Despite being a serious movie, it flies by. Honestly, despite being a couple hours, it felt like an hour and a half at times. It is that good. Pacing-wise, this is one of the better movies I have seen recently. Kind of like “The Post,” “Spotlight” came out as another one of these awards season darlings. I think both movies are equal in terms of entertainment value, a term I use lightly given both of these movies’ subject matters. Although as for which one I like better, I think it depends on where you look. “The Post” feels a bit more theatrical than “Spotlight.” Therefore, when it comes to technicality, that is one aspect where this movie dazzles. The costumes are rugged and transportive enough to make me feel like I am traveling back in time. A lot of the locations look extravagant and beautiful. To add to the antique touch, this movie was entirely shot on film, whereas “Spotlight” used the digital Arri Alexa XT.
Steven Spielberg is no stranger to starting off his movies with a compelling hook.
No pun intended.
In “Jaws,” you have the intro with the infamous music that continues to build whenever the shark is present. After that, you have that scene on the beach where the shark bites a girl in the water. Total intrigue. In “Jurassic Park,” the opening scene between the humans and the dinosaur shows off the menacing vibe these creatures can deliver. In “The Post,” we start off with soldiers fighting in Vietnam. I was not alive during the Vietnam War. In regards to history, I was still a baby when 9-11 happened. Although based on what I have learned in school, I know enough about the Vietnam War to recognize how significant and unfortunate it is from a U.S. perspective. I thought starting off here provided for an effective reminder of not only what the Vietnam War put a militaristic group through, but also what it did to the people of the country they were tasked with defending and honoring.
Now, this is not an action movie, it is not a war movie. War and politics are two defining traits within the story, but if you are looking for a war film in 2017, “Dunkirk” is probably your friend. That said, this one glimpse of action during the Vietnam War set the stage for what was to come. It took something so big to make something much smaller in scale appear more attractive.
This film dazzles from a technical perspective. Again, the costumes and locations look stunning. Speaking of stunning, the intricacies that go into how this movie was made are mind-boggling. The camerawork in this film occasionally felt so immersive that it highlighted some of the best direction of the year. The movie has a few long takes that felt perfectly planned and put me right in the room. There was a scene where I felt as if I was walking around the office of The Washington Post. It is like if Google Maps Street View theatrically transformed itself. Janusz Kaminski, a longtime collaborator with Steven Spielberg, worked on the cinematography for this film. While it was not nominated for an Academy Award, I think it is some of the finest of 2017 alongside Roger Deakins’s work in “Blade Runner 2049” and Hoyte van Hoytema’s craft in “Dunkirk.”
I often try to avoid politics on Scene Before. However, this is one of those cases where it must come into play. I say so because one of the notable aspects of “The Post” was its time of release. This film came out around the tail end of 2017, when Donald Trump was President of the United States. “The Post” almost comes as a tell as to whether history could repeat itself, because this movie reveals a lack of trust or full connection between the news and the government. At the same time, Donald Trump would consistently sideline or mock various news outlets and pick his favorites. This is an action he would continue to do even by the time he left office. If I saw this movie years ago, I would probably leave the theater thinking it is a relevant title and connect it to the importance of the 1st Amendment. This film has an ending that profiles such a thing beautifully.
Speaking of U.S. Presidents, Richard Nixon makes an appearance in this movie. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where we see a suited Nixon. We never see his face, it is almost like looking at The Banker from “Deal or No Deal” at times. Since this movie is based on true events, one touch that I thought was nice was the use of Nixon’s actual voice . The addition of Nixon’s real voice illustrated a specific scene’s point and perhaps delivered an emotional attachment that I would not have felt otherwise. Curzon Dobell is barely in the movie as Richard Nixon, but for the short time he is in it, he makes the performance a standout.
The story feels kind of Hollywoodized and some of the supporting characters do not stand out as much as others, but the film overall is worth a watch. The only other critique I can come up with is that this is one of John Williams’s lesser scores. The man is a genius, and his music during the movie works. But when it comes to his library, this is a score I am not going to remember as much as others.
In the end, “The Post” is a stellar look at how the United States changed journalism, and in turn, how journalism changed the United States. There is no surprise that a film like this could work. Coincidental or not, the timing of this story could not have been better. You have Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg working together. On paper, this sounds like an absolute win. In execution, it is an absolute win. In other news, water is wet. While “Spotlight” may be a slightly better journalism-centered story, “The Post” is another example of how well journalism can be used as the centerpiece of a cinematic experience when given the right tools and context. If Josh Singer wants to do another movie about journalism I am there on day one. I think he is one of the best screenwriters working today. His work on the film with then newbie Liz Hannah, who would go on to co-write the funny political comedy, “Long Shot,” is superb. I am going to give “The Post” an 8/10.
Speaking of history, one thing I love about Steven Spielberg is his ability to successfully manage a couple feature-length directorial efforts in such short time. In 1993 he released both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” within months of each other. Before making “The Post,” Spielberg directed one of my favorite films from him, “Ready Player One,” and he ended up shooting “The Post” while “Ready Player One” was in post-production. “Ready Player One” ended up coming out after “The Post,” but it goes to show that Spielberg is committed to his craft. When one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes he opens the other door back up after a while. There is a reason why I am doing a Steven Spielberg Month, and this is one of them. He is one of the best minds in the film industry today.
“The Post” is now available to rent or buy on VOD and is also available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray.
Thanks for reading this review! My next and final installment to Steven Spielberg Month is coming next Friday, October 28th, and it will be a review for Spielberg’s latest movie to have a wide release, “West Side Story!” I have seen the film twice and will watch it once more for review purposes. I am excited to finally talk about this movie given how I did see it in December 2021, but due to time constraints, I never got around to reviewing it. If you want to see my other reviews through Steven Spielberg Month, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Post?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “Spotlight?” Tell me your thoughts on that movie! Do you like “The Post” or “Spotlight” more? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“See How They Run” is directed by Tom George (Defending the Guilty, This Country) and stars Sam Rockwell (Moon, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Little Women), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, King Kong), Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre, The Affair), Reece Shearsmith (Spaced, The World’s End), Harris Dickinson (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, The King’s Man), and David Oyelowo (Selma, Gringo). This film is set in 1950s London, where Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” which has become a popular play in the West End, is set to become a film. Unfortunately, when one crucial member of the film’s eventual production has been murdered, plans halt and it is now up to Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker to find out more about what happened.
While I have not watched a good amount of them, I do love a good murder mystery. In fact, my favorite television episode of all time, specifically And Then There Were Fewer from “Family Guy,” is a murder mystery.
“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin
Simply put, iconic.
In fact, one of my favorite movies of the past few years happens to be “Knives Out,” directed by Rian Johnson. All the actors play their part well, especially Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas, and it was one of the funniest movies of its year. In fact, while both movies have notable differences, I got “Knives Out” vibes from watching “See How They Run,” partially because both have some association with Agatha Christie works. For “Knives Out,” Rian Johnson once went on to reference several of Agatha Christie’s tales as inspiration for his film. As far as “See How They Run” goes, the movie literally uses an Agatha Christie work as a significant part of its story. “The Mousetrap,” which started off as a play, and as this movie reveals, is going to be turned into a film adaptation. As far as play to movie adaptations go, this definitely sounds better than “Cats.”
“See How They Run” is neither the biggest, nor most recognizable movie out right now. Heck, even “Avatar,” a thirteen year old film, beat it at the box office over the past few weekends. But to be fair, “See How They Run” did not release in 3D. Although unlike some of the alternatives out right now such as “Don’t Worry Darling,” “See How They Run” is definitely worth watching.
When I say this movie is not the most recognizable, I mean it. I live in the United States, and there are few big stars in this movie I can pinpoint like Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, David Oyelowo, and Adrien Brody. And that’s if you can actually call some of these people “stars.” That said, much like the recently mentioned “Knives Out,” every actor in this movie fits their part and feels like they belong in their environment. I have no problem with the casting whatsoever. The same goes with the characters. Everyone brought their A-game and while it may not have as star-studded of an ensemble as say the recent Kenneth Branagh-directed “Death on the Nile,” I would argue that the performances in “See How They Run” are just as, if not more compelling when combined together.
My favorite performances in the film come from the two most prominent characters, Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker, played by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan respectively. Rockwell transforms into this experienced, determined detective who has some noticeable quirks. I cannot imagine anyone else playing his character. The same assessment would have to be given to Saoirse Ronan, who is not only great in the movie, but based on her resume in recent years, this is a different performance than I am used to seeing from her.
Obviously, Sam Rockwell has been acting for years, therefore he has had the opportunity here and there to diversify his performances. From the little that I have seen from Saoirse Ronan, specifically through her work with Greta Gerwig on “Lady Bird” and “Little Women,” she has a knack for playing outspoken characters, and the character of Constable Stalker feels comparatively quiet. She is never shy, not necessarily nervous, but compared to her work as say Jo March in “Little Women,” Ronan plays a character who, based on what the story provides, is not the elephant in the room. Granted, Constable Stalker is not the main character of the film, therefore that also comes into play. Although she had some of my favorite moments in the movie. She had this recurring gag where she would often jump to conclusions that got an occasional laugh out of me.
My other hint of enormous praise of the film is the look of everything in it. Everything from the locations to the cinematography by Jamie Ramsay to the costumes by previous Jackoffs winner Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Last Night in Soho, Chernobyl). I felt like I was in the 1950s the entire time. I wanted to leave my world and enter this one. Kind of like last year’s “Last Night in Soho,” this movie sets up a spookily enchanting environment that is as beautiful as it is rugged. Being set in London is a wonderful coincidence if there ever was one.
This film packs a lot in its fairly short runtime. Unfortunately, I feel like I am not going to remember many of the supporting characters within the next month. I will likely remember Inspector Stoppard and Constable Stalker for their fabulous chemistry, but there are a good number of people that we meet by the film’s climax that I think I will disregard in comparison when talking about the movie to other people.
“See How They Run” may not be as smart or fun as say “Knives Out,” but it is worth a watch. The best way I can describe “See How They Run” to someone who hasn’t watched it is by referring to it as a Wes Anderson-style film if had some of the tones of “Knives Out.” I think both of those aspects could provide for a promising time. But this is no “Knives Out,” and if you want me to go by Wes Anderson terms, this is no “Rushmore.” Although if you are looking for something fun, something that could be an escape from reality, this is a quick, easy option. And I can honestly see myself watching it a second time if it ever comes around.
In the end, “See How They Run” is not my favorite movie of year, it is not the best murder mystery, but it is a quirky, delightful time. I do mean it when I say quirky. The movie even takes time to make fun of particular storytelling methods. A specific instance of this in particular had me dying. One character noted how cliché or predictable some murder mysteries are to some people, which I thought added for a nice touch for a story like this. I like the two main characters, they were played wonderfully by Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan. The overall aesthetic of the film is pleasing. My flaws with “See How They Run” do not detract from the delight this film is. I think you should see it if given the chance. I am going to give “See How They Run” a 7/10.
“See How They Run” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you like this, you might want to stay tuned for another review I have coming up. Specifically, for the new movie “Amsterdam.” I had a chance to see it, perhaps unfortunately. Therefore, I will be talking about it soon! Also, stay tuned for tomorrow, because I will be unveiling my thoughts on Steven Spielberg’s classic film, “E.T. the Extra-terrestrial.” I am reviewing the film as part of an ongoing Steven Spielberg Month and in honor of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, “The Fabelmans,” which is set to release November 11th. Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you watch “See How They Run?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite murder mystery? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome one and all to the final installment to “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review,” the exclusive Scene Before series where Jack Drees reviews all four “Revenge of the Nerds” movies, including the two that were made for television. So far, I have called “Revenge of the Nerds” “a somewhat positive anthem for a community I consider myself to be a part of.” I have followed that up with my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” which I considered to be “a genuinely forgettable, underwhelming, and disappointing time.” As for “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation,” I thought it was a “a barely watchable feature.” So far, even though I reference this franchise for the positive things it has done for me, it has had more misses than hits so far when it comes to making quality movies. Once in the theater, once on television. Apparently, “The Next Generation” is not the only foray into television for this franchise as the film we are going to be talking about, “Nerds in Love,” was also made for the small screen. Let’s dive into my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love!”
“Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” is directed by Steve Zacharias, who has also written this film in addition to the three previous “Revenge of the Nerds” installments. This film stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Curtis Armstrong (Better Off Dead, Risky Business), Julia Montgomery (One Life to Live, The Kindred), Corrine Bohrer (Free Spirit, Man of the People), Jessica Tuck (One Life to Live, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), and Robert Picardo (The Wonder Years, China Beach). This is the fourth installment in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise and this time the film is centered around the character of Dudley “Booger” Dawson (Curtis Armstrong). Booger is about to marry a girl by the name of Jeanie. Only thing is, when Booger is introduced to Jeanie’s family for the first time, he does not let off the finest first impression. As Booger and Jeanie intend to marry in a matter of days, the latter’s father does everything he can to end the marriage before it begins.
As much as I have wanted to talk about the “Revenge of the Nerds” films for a long time, one thing that must have slipped out of the back of my mind is how bad the sequels are. Now I’ve seen worse films compared to both “Revenge of the Nerds II” and “Revenge of the Nerds III,” but occasionally, watching them felt like work. Narratively, these sequels are flat and barely scratch any surfaces. The second film had some okay storytelling in parts, but the third one felt like we were revisiting the original film but the vibe that the original film presents is watered down. The first “Revenge of the Nerds” movie is the only one that is rated R and I wish we got more movies in the franchise like that despite some controversies that have risen from said movie today. But in 1994, I guess an executive at Fox was out of new ideas and wanted to revisit this franchise again on television, like last time.
I will say one thing about the two television films. When I saw “Revenge of the Nerds III” for the first time, I thought it was actually okay for what it was. Maybe I was in a certain mood at the time while watching it, I don’t know. But I cannot say the same for the fourth film. When I first watched “Revenge of the Nerds IV” in 2017, the tone was set from the beginning. It is probably as awkward as inviting Booger to your Thanksgiving dinner.
Now as you may have read in my review for “Revenge of the Nerds III,” I thought the film was worse the second time I watched it. With that being said, some of you may refer to insanity as repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Here’s the thing about “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” The results are different compared to “Revenge of the Nerds III.” They’re worse.
Like “Revenge of the Nerds III,” I cannot hold this movie to as high of a standard compared to the first two films as it was made for television. But also like “Revenge of the Nerds III,” this fourth entry lacks any of the charm and luster that the first film maintained throughout its runtime. What made the first film fun was that it was raw, raunchy, sexy, while also being an enjoyable anthem for the nerd community by the end. When you make these sequels for a format that relies on a smaller screen and more restrictions, that hurts a film like this. Because one of the first film’s fundamental elements, one so fundamental that I’ll remind you that fundamental has the word “fun” in it for a reason, the naughty nature within it all is downgraded within the guidelines of television. There are still raunchy moments to be had, but compared to some of the stuff that goes down in the first film, it feels kind of tame.
Given the lack of Anthony Edwards over the years in these films, most of the “Revenge of the Nerds” movies have been about Lewis so far. And while this film once again stars Robert Carradine as said character in a prominent role, it’s not necessarily about him. The real star of the show this time is Booger, which is an… Interesting choice.
Look, I *love* Curtis Armstrong. Objectively, I think it can be stated that I like him more as a performer than a lot of people in my generation. But even with him being the star of the show, who plays the role of Booger to the best of his ability, his character just feels weird as a star. Maybe it is because I’m a creature of habit and am used to seeing him a bit further in the background, but despite how this story revolves around Booger, it presents the reasons why watching a story with a character like this kind of feels… just plain awkward. The more I think about it, Booger could be good as maybe the star of a television series. Perhaps an animated one if we really wanted to go there, but as the star of “Revenge of the Nerds IV,” he feels kind of tacky and off-putting. And my thoughts on this movie were perhaps solidified from the start, because the first lines out of Booger’s mouth are just… Eugh. So, he’s over at his fiancée’s parents’ home and the first words out of Booger’s mouth, right in front his fiancée and her family, is…
“Buns. Give me buns! Buns, may I have them please?! Give me buns! Moo! Moo!”
I love Curtis Armstrong. I REALLY DO. I’ve met him in person a few times for a reason. But I think this may be hands down one of the most cringeworthy lines he has been given as an actor. Granted, the more I think about it, it kind of fits with his character. A perverted, nose-picking goofball who looks like he has not showered since the Ice Age. At the same time though, regardless of my journey of watching this franchise from start to finish, my reaction to Booger in this moment feels like that of the parents of the bride. In the other movies, Booger has always been kind of a creep, but a lovable creep. I kind of use a similar analogy for a lot for characters with low IQs. Look at Homer Simpson, look at Patrick Star, look at Brick from “Anchorman!” Yes, they’re idiots, but they’re lovable idiots that you can also find charming or hilarious. Booger, at least in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is just… Well, a creep. Sure, the movie eventually tries to get you to feel bad for him and root for him, but the film’s plot and characters leave a bit to be desired, especially compared to the original. Again, it’s just weird because Booger is not a nerd in the sense that say Lewis is. Lewis, even though I have pointed out his dark side here and there, is a glasses-wearing, pocket protector-donning, high IQ, well-dressed enthusiast of anything computers. He’s not exactly like everyone, but he has likable or relatable qualities that people can find fascinating.
There’s movies that are like roller coasters. So exciting that you never want the unpredictable ride to stop. But this film just introduces one thing after the other and it feels really heavy! I could use a lot of words to describe “Revenge of the Nerds IV,” complicated is surprisingly one of them. The film itself is not confusing, but it’s one of those scenarios where I just don’t care about what happens in the film as we get closer to the end. You ever watch a movie and already think it’s bad enough, then something weird or crazy happens in the end and you just don’t give a single crap? That’s what I felt while watching “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” Feels odd saying that, but it’s true.
One of my dislikes of “Revenge of the Nerds III” was that the supporting cast was not as attractive as those in the original film. The new cast members that join the table in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” are not as fun to watch as Lamar or Takashi, but they honestly evoke a more joyful presence than a lot of people who made their first appearance in “Revenge of the Nerds III.” I think Corrine Bohrer does an okay job as Booger’s fiancee, Jeanie. Her character or performance was never boring, but unfortunately she was just a small segment of an underwhelming script.
I mentioned this in my previous review, but I will say it again, one thing I’ve noticed about these movies, specifically in the sequels is that the main objective of the antagonist is to get in the protagonist’s way simply because of their nerd status. While this is also a thing in the original film, there felt like there was a reason for the jocks and nerds to be rivals aside from them having different personalities and views of the world. The jocks create a catalyst for the nerds to fight back and it all starts by them invading the freshman dorm because the Alpha Beta house burned down. When the nerds already have the upper hand and the antagonist takes them on JUST because they’re nerds, I think it’s just lazy writing. In fact, you could almost argue that this movie was created in the end just to be a gimmick, because at the time it came out, Fox showcased the film in 3D and with aroma-vision. Sure, maybe it’s an okay ratings ploy, but it’s a gimmick nevertheless. I will say though, the motivation of the antagonist in “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is slightly better in terms of development compared to the antagonistic side in “Revenge of the Nerds III” as we see Booger himself let out a poor impression to Jeanie’s parents, but it’s still pretty lazy compared to the first movie.
This film is directed by Steve Zacharias, who has not had much directing experience prior to “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” Zacharias is not a bad writer as he did get credit for writing the original “Revenge of the Nerds,” but as a director… I mean, the movie is competently filmed. But that’s the best thing I can say about it in regards to how it looks. If anything, Zacharias is basically Simon Kinberg before Simon Kinberg. He’s been involved in creating a number of the Fox “X-Men” films, but he waited until one of the more recent outings, “Dark Phoenix,” to take the director’s chair. Just because you’ve been involved on the creative side of a property for a long time does not mean you may end up having the knack to handle all production duties. Some people are writers, some people are directors. Some can be both. Zacharias is more of a writer. Granted I will also state that the screenplay for “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is a waste of time and space, but nevertheless.
In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds IV” is yet another bad sequel in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise. So far, in terms of positivity, the franchise is one for four. It’s really sad to say because that first film has meant something to me over the years. The sequels honestly failed to recapture the spirit and fun that the first movie successfully delivered. I love the original film perhaps a lot more compared to much of my generation, but I cannot recommend “Revenge of the Nerds IV.” I’m not saying Curtis Armstrong isn’t capable of being in a lead role, but his character started out as a supporting cast member, and knowing what I know about him, he’s better off that way. The characters overall honestly underwhelmed me. The subplot with Lewis and Betty was okay, but by the end of the film, it sort of added to the convoluted nature of everything at hand. If I had to pick a “least favorite” “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, this may have to be the one. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” a 4/10.
“Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” is available on DVD and VHS. The film is also available to rent or buy on various VOD services and as of writing this, you can also watch it on Cinemax.
Thanks for reading this review! Also, thanks to all who tuned into the “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review” series! I had a fun time going back and watching all four of these films, gathering my thoughts, and sharing my verdicts with you all! I have wanted to do a series on these films for years, and now I can say I am glad to finally get one going! This is one of the few review projects being done in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary, on top of other series including “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews,” “7 Days of Star Wars,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!”
I just want to remind everyone that I have a couple more series to go for the fifth anniversary reviews and I want to make it known that this fall, I will be revealing my thoughts on “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II” in a series by the name of “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife!” This is part Halloween special, part buildup to the next “Ghostbusters” movie, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” I will have my review up for “Ghostbusters” on October 31st and my review up for “Ghostbusters II” on November 7th! Stay tuned, get excited! We’ll come, we’ll see, we’ll kick some ghost ass! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your ranking of the “Revenge of the Nerds” films? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome back to Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review, the exclusive Scene Before review series of all the movies in the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise! So far we have talked about the first movie, which was good, and the second movie, which was the opposite of good. Today we are going to talk about the third installment to the franchise, which compared to the first two entries, does not get as much attention. After all, this third film is the first of the bunch to be released straight to television. Does this small screen comedy pack in enough charm to match the original? Let’s find out!
“Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” is directed by Roland Mesa and stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Curtis Armstrong (Better Off Dead, Risky Business), Ted McGinley (Married with Children, The Love Boat), Julia Montgomery (One Life to Live, The Kindred), Gregg Binkley, Richard Israel, and Morton Downey Jr. (The Morton Downey Jr. Show, Predator 2) in the third installment to the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise. Years after the Tri-Lambs brought nerd justice to Adams College, a new generation of nerds and jocks rival each other to reign supreme. This time around, one nerd in particular is Harold Skolnick, the nephew of Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine), who has been deemed the “George Washington of nerds.” Meanwhile, the Alpha Betas have a new plan to achieve superiority. Also, former Alpha Beta Stan Gable (Ted McGinley) has been placed as Dean of Students.
I said it before, I’ll say it again. “Revenge of the Nerds,” regardless of its quality, is a film franchise that I always wanted to talk about because of how much it has meant to me from a cultural perspective. This meant that I got to talk about the first installment, which has become one of my most rewatched comedies in recent years. In addition, this also meant I had to talk about “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” which deservedly stands at a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes as of writing this. The interesting thing about that film is despite the negative press it got, it actually did well at the box office, making thrice its budget. Was another sequel bound to come? Well, not right away.
Turns out this third movie went straight to television. Now, if I were an executive behind 20th Century Fox, I could see why this would be put on television. It’s been a few years since the last film, despite box office success the last film was not too great, and as we saw in the final product, some of the original cast did not return. But there seems to be a common consensus on a film that goes straight to television compared to one that releases theatrically. A film that has a television release has less value right out of the gate compared to one that has a cinema release. After all, television does not usually have as big of a screen, therefore the filmmakers do not have to go as big.
…And that’s what “Revenge of the Nerds III” feels like as a result. Watered down, uninteresting, and almost as if there was no plot.
The basic concept is similar to the first movie, where kids go to college, they hope to have a fine year ahead of them, and maybe win some girls along the way. Of course, there’s the jock and nerd rivalry. But I feel like the first film did a much better job at establishing that rivalry. The Alpha Betas invade the freshman dorm and take it for themselves. This affects our main characters and how the rest of the film plays out. In this third film, even though it does have its share of causes and effects, it starts off with the jocks discriminating nerds just *because* of their status. I like the first film better because in that film, when the jocks take over the freshman dorm, they at least had a reason to. Their house burned down and they needed a place to stay. As much as I do not stand by the jocks in the first film, you could at least feel bad for them in one moment of the runtime. The rivalry in this film is basically “Here’s jocks, here’s nerds, happy?”
No! I want dimension! This is a completely one-dimensional rivalry that really only exists because it technically plays off of what other movies built.
I’ll be honest, as much as I did not absolutely hate the new jocks and nerds in this film, they did not have the same personality or memorability as the jocks and nerds in the first film. I do like the jock dad, played by Morton Downey Jr., he’s got this weird swagger to him that feels like I’m watching a showoff bowler or golfer or something. The sunglasses really capture his persona well.
The main duo in the film are fairly likable, but they’re almost copypastes of Lewis and Gilbert from the first film. There does not feel like there’s much that is new about these two other than their names and slight personality differences. And honestly, the supporting nerds, while they are different from the ones in the first films, I think the stereotypes in this film if you want to put it that way, are not as well executed. This is most notable, personally, from John Pinette as Trevor Gulf, who in case you REALLY cannot tell, is British. I don’t mind the nerd being British, but I feel like this movie does way too much to embellish that this nerd is British. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being an ass, these supporting nerds for the most part do not have the staying power in my mind that nerds like Lamar and Wormser did. I do like the South Korean nerd, Steve Toyota. He’s got this suave outlook to him that actor Henry Cho did an excellent job at encapsulating.
Now some of the original nerds make a return in this movie too including Booger (Curtis Armstrong) and Lewis (Robert Carradine). In this film, Booger has apparently become a lawyer. Which… Okay. That’s an interesting outcome for such a character. Out of all the characters that could have become a lawyer, Booger did not seem like the one who would do that. Then again, out of everyone of the first film’s Tri-Lambs, I do see Booger as the least tech savvy of the bunch, so I could see this more than him being a computer programmer or someone of that sort, but still. I do think Armstrong gives the best performance in this film, because his character is written in such a way that harkens back to how his character behaved in the first two films. He was fun, but also a bit of a creep at the same time, and Armstrong continues to embrace these qualities of the character.
Speaking of returning nerds, Robert Carradine is back as Lewis, or as he’s known this time, Lew. He dons a ponytail, he’s got a different swagger to him, he’s married to Betty Childs, and there’s something’s missing about him. He’s ashamed of who he once was. For some reason, Lewis is ashamed of being a Tri-Lamb and a nerd. He even mentions that he wanted to once be an Alpha Beta. I like Lewis from the first movie despite that one controversial scene with him. He was at least a likable character. The same can be said for the second movie even though he cheated on his girlfriend. Watching Lewis in this film kind of reminded me of how some people reacted to seeing Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s almost like Lewis does not care about his origins. These are origins that made him who he is. He proved that losers are the true winners, and somehow he wants to forget about it. I know that the desire to cool can trump the desire to drool. However, this plot point, based on what we’ve seen from Lewis in the past couple films, feels tacked on and forced. It doesn’t feel like it matches him. Out of everyone in the Tri-Lambs, I would have expected something like this from Booger! Heck, I even think Wormser would want this more than Lewis!
Also, Stan Gable is back. This time around he is the Dean of Students at Adams College. I kind of like the dynamic between him and Lewis in this film. As much as I was not a fan of how they handled Lewis in this film in terms of him becoming a cool dude, I do like how Lewis looks at his years at Adams College with Stan and laughs. He just thinks of their nerd and jock rivalry as random college shenanigans at this point. Although at the same time, Gable is trying to win back Betty, who Lewis stole from him in those college years.
If there’s anything else I do like, it’s that Adams College has become a haven for nerdkind since the Tri-Lambs did what they did all those years ago. They had a gym, but since then it has become a computer science center for example. Lewis is the chair of the computer science department, while Betty is now an art professor on campus. A lot has changed in just a number of years. In that sort of way, I do like how the campus has evolved. It’s a good way to show that nerds have taken over in a way. Other than that, I think the only other positive I can come up with is that the courtroom segment has one or two fun moments in it. Not much else to suggest from here.
In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” is a hard film to judge, because on its surface, it truly is a barely watchable feature, but it was made for television, therefore it is not held to as high of a standard. So as far as a made for television “Revenge of the Nerds” film goes, this could be worse. There are some things I liked about it. But I think if they released this theatrically, this would not have done as well unless it was heavily marketed. A lot of the jokes are forgettable, it’s not as raunchy as the first film, the dialogue is not that great, and lot of the characters feel flat, nerds and jocks alike. I love the first “Revenge of the Nerds,” I just wish this third film had the same charm. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” a 4/10.
“Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” is available on VHS and DVD. You can also rent or buy it on various VOD services.
Thanks for reading this review! Next week we are going to tackle the fourth and most recent installment to the franchise, “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love.” As of writing this review, I remember this film honestly being the worst of the bunch. Will it stay that way? Find out on Monday, August 30th in the final installment of “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” Also be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Don’t Breathe 2,” the recent horror sequel starring Stephan Lang. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation?” What did you think about it? Or, if you went to college, tell me about your time there! Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
“Free Guy” is directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel) and stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal), Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, The White Princess), Lil Rel Howrey (Uncle Drew, The Carmichael Show), Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project, The Muppets), Joe Keery (Stranger Things, Chicago Fire), and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit). This film is primarily set in Free City, a massive sandbox video game where players can control characters through a massive city and go on missions. Guy, an NPC (non-playable character), discovers the secrets of the game and breaks the rules of his own character. While he is typically a bank teller who often finds himself in the middle of a robbery, he gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again and decides to level up his life while also trying to win the girl of his dreams.
I love Ryan Reynolds. The word “movie star” does not have as big of an impact as it may have years ago with faces including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Will Smith dominating the big screen with their blockbuster titles. There are a few big “movie stars” that have risen to astronomical heights over the years including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and others who have maintained their fame for years including Tom Cruise. When it comes to the conversation of which actor is currently the biggest star in the world, Ryan Reynolds has to be in the conversation every single time. He is one of Canada’s finest exports and adds a flair to every movie he’s in. This even includes ones I don’t like such as “The Croods” or “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”
The concept of “Free Guy” by itself, where a video game NPC increasingly gains a sense of consciousness and humanity, is already one that could be considered a recipe for greatness. But if you put Ryan Reynolds into the picture, you’ve taken a great movie and bumped up its power by five times. This is a film that had a bumpy road in terms of its marketing. In fact I think the best trailer we got of the film was in 2019 when it made fun of Disney for putting out its animated titles in live-action form. I thought it was genius because it sounded like humor that would associate with Ryan Reynolds, especially considering how he has dominated the meta humor concept with a film like “Deadpool” and its sequel. The trailers after weren’t bad, but they did not live up to the original for me. Although there was a great piece of marketing that had Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool sitting next to Korg (Taika Waititi) doing what could only be a parody of a YouTube trailer reaction video. I was excited for this film despite the mixed road to get to the official release. And I say that even without acknowledging the ongoing pandemic, not that it should be forgotten.
What did I think of “Free Guy?”
Simply put, I had a lot of fun with “Free Guy.” When it comes to movies set in a video game universe, I think “Ready Player One,” which “Free Guy” reminded me of at times and is coincidentally also written by Zak Penn, is a slightly better film. But “Free Guy” takes a cool concept and gives it a smooth execution in the end. And I should not be surprised that this film is as good as it is. Because director Shawn Levy, whose recent projects include Paramount’s “Arrival” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” is a master at creating a film for everyone. One of my favorite films from my childhood is “Night at the Museum.” It is a film that does not exactly feel like it is being targeted at kids, but when it comes to both titles, many children could watch the film, understand much of what is going on, and appreciate everything in front of them. At the same time, adults could watch this film and have a great time with it. The first two films in that particular franchise have been a cornerstone of movie nights in my family. To see Levy do a movie like this does not surprise me, and if anything else, it pleases me.
For starters, it is an original idea, which in terms of blockbusters, feel very few and far between. In fact, this is technically the first Disney original live action film in years (technically because 20th Century Fox made it). I just love seeing creative, never before seen ideas come to life and “Free Guy” is a fine example of that.
Also, if the last couple decades have proven anything, people love video games, including me. Much of my childhood has been spent pushing the buttons on my Nintendo devices, so the idea of this film has a special place in my heart. I find it fascinating that this movie chooses to focus on someone who could be anyone and have them evolve. We look nowadays at video game NPCs as tools to let the player do their thing. But to have what is technically a tool sprout into something more is flat out fascinating. Yeah, it kind of feels like that cliche idea that “anyone’s special,” which as Dash from “The Incredibles,” would suggest, “which is another way of saying no one is.” It’s a cliche idea, but it is brought to life through something incredibly creative in addition to Ryan Reynolds’s terrific encapsulation of Guy.
One thing I’ve always noticed while I play a video game is that when you go by NPCs, they’ll often spew the same things out of their mouth over and over. A big part of that is because they’re portrayed by a certain actor, and actors will record a limited number of lines for a certain character, therefore they can only do so much. Therefore, NPCs are usually one-dimensional, do not have much personality, and are often in the background. In the case of Guy, I think Ryan Reynolds did a good job at making the character not feel flat or putting him in a sphere that makes his personality limited. In fact, Reynolds brings a sense of hyperactivity to his character despite him having a life that most would consider boring. Guy is a banker who drinks the same cup of coffee every day and says good morning to his goldfish by his bedside. This is an everyday routine for him, but he seems to accept it because he’s programmed that way.
Now I like Taika Waititi, but I think “Free Guy” has only increased the chances of me wanting to get together with the dude for lunch. You know how a lot of films directed towards young audiences will have an over the top villain? Taika Waititi’s character of Antwan almost seems to find himself within the confines of that description. Not that this movie is specifically for children, but nevertheless. In a lot of cases, this could be a turnoff because then the film could become a live-action cartoon, but not in “Free Guy!” If anything, Waititi’s performance is an utter enhancement in this film. The mixture of his lines and hyped up antics arguably makes him the best character of the movie. It kind of reminds me of another film Shawn Levy directed, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” because that film’s villain was Kahmunrah, and he was perhaps written and presented in such a way that could arguably make him cartoony, but it was presented in such a way where Levy and actor Hank Azaria seemed to embrace the silly that the script listed. As far as “Free Guy” is concerned, Taika Waititi plays a guy who might as well be jacked up on Red Bull all the time and does not seem to care much about others. As far as I’m concerned, I love the execution of this character, and I almost wonder if part of why it worked so well was because of the casting. I cannot imagine anyone other than Waititi playing Antwan at this point.
Without spoilers, the climax of “Free Guy” is a thing of beauty. The film just goes straight into becoming “Garry’s Mod” of all things. There’s some stuff in this climax that I had almost zero warning about going into it, and I think if you want to have the same reaction, do everything you can to avoid any online discussion about the end of the film. It is in a word, “epic.”
If I had any problems with “Free Guy” it would be that the film does get into some impractical nonsense by the end that comes off more or less as a plot convenience more than anything else. It is not a humungous turnoff as the rest of the film is nicely structured but there’s one moment towards the end that feels jumbled in terms of execution, and it’s a pretty important one. Maybe in the script, it sounds more coherent, but in the final product, it sounds kind of… pun intended, pixelated. It’s kind of sad considering the impact the moment was trying to deliver, but for some reason, they could not stick the landing.
This one moment does not take much away from the literal joy I achieved from watching “Free Guy.” “Free Guy” is a crazy, fun adventure. I love the setting, I love the idea, I love how it seems to have fun with our modern video game culture and how much of a cash cow it has become in addition to being heavy entertainment. I left this movie wanting more. I want to see more of Guy, Molotov Girl, Buddy, all the characters in this film were utter delights. I legit think that this is a movie that anyone could watch and enjoy. I sometimes go to see movies with my mom, and most of the movies I see with her are ones that usually are not action heavy or horror heavy. Despite the action heaviness of “Free Guy,” I legit think that this is a movie that my mother could put on and have a ball with despite some things being there that she may not usually tend to see on screen. If you like action, you’ll definitely like this movie, but the crew behind “Free Guy,” whether they intended to or not, did a really good job at creating something that a lot of people could find themselves attached to, even if it wasn’t specifically made for them. In that sort of way, I highly recommend “Free Guy” to anyone reading this and their friends.
In the end, “Free Guy” may solidify Ryan Reynolds as one of the finest Canadians to ever live and the film itself is easily one of my favorites of the year. Disney did not release this film on streaming. Granted, I do not know if they could have contractually, 20th Century Fox movies still go straight to HBO months after release. But from everything I’ve read, Disney practically had all the faith in the world given towards this movie. Based on what has been created, “Free Guy” has massive franchise potential. Heck, I could see this thing becoming a Disney ride at some point. The film is immersive, fun, bonkers, and just a straight up good time. “Free Guy” by the way is set in two different places. The real world and the game of “Free City.” to my surprise, the stuff that happens in the real world has the same level of intrigue as everything that happens in the world of “Free City.” To have the escape be as interesting as the world from which people are trying to escape is definitely pleasing. I’m going to give “Free Guy” an 8/10.
Also, if you need another reason to see this movie, you’ll get to see Alex Trebek one last time. Seeing him on screen brought a smile to my face and I am sure it will for many other viewers as well.
“Free Guy” is now playing exclusively in theaters and IMAX. Get your tickets now!
Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that on Monday, August 23rd, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation.” The film is not as often talked about as the original, partially because it was made for television. But I am here to talk about it as we dive deeper into my ongoing review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review” as we celebrate Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. And speaking of reviews, be sure to stay tuned for my review of “Don’t Breathe 2.” I just saw the film last night and I intend to talk about it soon. If you want to read all this and more on Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Free Guy?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could put yourself in the universe of any video game, which one would it be? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the second part of the ongoing Scene Before review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” In honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary, we are looking back at a few notable movies that I have not had a chance to talk about, and the “Revenge of the Nerds” franchise has been one of those properties that I would try to find an excuse to talk about because in a way it’s been a part of my life. With that being said, it is time to talk about the franchise’s second installment and most recent theatrical release, “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise!” Will this movie deliver paradise? Let’s find out!
“Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” is directed by Joe Roth (Streets of Gold) and stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One) and Anthony Edwards (Top Gun, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) in the sequel to the 1984 sex comedy “Revenge of the Nerds” and follows the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity, who as seen in the first movie, gave a voice to outsiders against cool kids and jocks. In this film, they fly down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a national fraternity convention. All seems well until they are kicked out of their hotel, reunite with the Alpha Betas, and have to prove that they have a place in the convention.
The first “Revenge of the Nerds” is special to me, because as a nerd myself, as someone who has often found himself as an outsider in a number of situations, I related to the characters and I feel as if it is one of those films that made people like me cool. Sure, there’s that one scene with Robert Carradine and Julia Montgomery having sex that is a little controversial, but at the same time, there are a lot of positives when it comes to the film, and it inspired one of my favorite shows, “King of the Nerds,” a reality competition that lasted for three seasons on TBS. Simply put, if that first film did not exist, my life would be a lot different today in terms of my social circles and who I hang out with, so regardless of the first film’s quality, I owe a lot to that film for giving me the life I have today.
I really enjoyed this first film, which seemed to have a formula that was pleasing for what it was. So naturally a sequel had to be good, right?
Let’s start with the good. The film does genuinely have its moments. There are a couple funny lines here and there, especially from Booger. After all, as I mentioned in my previous review, Booger was one of the highlights of the first film because despite residing with the Tri-Lambs, he definitely had an aura of coolness to him. In this film, he’s perverted, crazy, and hyper. Not every line from him lands, but Curtis Armstrong gives one of the better performances in the film and he goes all the way with his character. Although at the same time, I was not a massive fan of the film’s subplot where apparently Booger spends some time with an older, more wrinkly version of himself named Snotty.
As for other positives, the song that plays as the nerds head to their hotel, 38 Special’s “Back to Paradise,” is a fitting song for the film in addition to being a genuinely catchy tune. I still have glimmers of the song in my head after watching this film. In fact, prior to my most recent viewing which I did specifically to have enough to talk about in this review, I would occasionally have this song pop into my head despite not watching the film since 2017. The film’s cast of characters is genuinely likable all around. Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end.
This film is a genuinely forgettable, underwhelming, and disappointing time that comes off more as a chance to capitalize on the “Revenge of the Nerds” name as opposed actually providing a quality product. The first “Revenge of the Nerds” film is a raunchy, naughty, R-rated sex comedy with adult aspects such as nudity, intercourse (even though it is implied), and a fair share of foul language. PG-13 was barely a concept in 1984. In fact it was first introduced the same month “Revenge of the Nerds” came out. But I feel like within the multi-year stretch that it took to get “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” there must have been a serious intention from someone to focus on getting as many extra dollars as possible by having a rating that would make teens more likely to come in. With a PG-13 rating, whether it may have been intentional or not, this means there is significantly less of the “fun” material that made the 1984 sex comedy what it is. The film is not Shakespeare, but it knows what it is. It’s over the top, it’s crazy, and inappropriate for children.
As of writing this, “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” has a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. And rightfully so. This film provides nowhere near the level of satisfaction that the first one can provide. I feel like some of the film’s plot points were forced just to move things along. There’s a whole thing where the manager of a hotel did not want the nerds staying there simply because they were nerds. I know that was a reason why the jocks had a rivalry in the first film, but the way they go about this just felt tacked on and unrealistic. In fact, speaking of unrealistic, there is a scene in this film where the nerds run into Ogre, a jock who also made an appearance in the first movie. Now I get that they are on opposite sides, but the way the nerds react in this exact moment felt like something out of a Disney channel original Halloween movie. I guess the scene could be worse, but it felt weird nevertheless.
I will also add that Anthony Edwards’s character of Gilbert, who was one of the two main guys in the first film, barely made an appearance in this sequel. Now, he is in it. But he cannot go to Fort Lauderdale because he’s got broken bones. It’s a weird change of pace seeing one of the characters who was arguably a large part of the original film’s heart and soul alongside Robert Carradine’s Lewis have a role as small as the one he has. In fact part of why we barely see Gilbert at all is because Anthony Edwards was not a fan of the script, and then they ended up writing a shorter role for him. It ended up resembling something he could film very quickly.
And he’s not alone, because Julia Montgomery, who played Betty Childs in the first film is also not in this one. The only time we see her is through a picture taken of her during the first few minutes when Lewis is packing for his trip. Much like Edwards, Montgomery was not a fan of the script either, therefore her character was written out entirely. The script had Childs, who by the end of the original film, was in love with Lewis, cheating on him with another guy. I actually would have been curious to see where this plot goes. Whether such a motivation actually falls in line with her character is a mystery, but given how Lewis is spending much of this movie trying to impress a woman in Florida, it would have been fascinating to see Lewis and Betty, two lovers, cheat on each other, how they would go about their separate situations, and if these situations were ever revealed to one another. Noting this, as much as I like Robert Carradine as an actor, and even though I can relate to Lewis in ways, these past two movies have select moments that kind of make him look like an asshole. In the first film, to get with Betty, he rapes her, technically speaking. As for this sequel, he decides to cheat on her, even though it is never embellished too much, while on his trip.
The way that “Revenge of the Nerds” seems to have progressed in just a couple of movies kind of feels like the “Fast & Furious” or “Kingsman” franchise. Why? Because earlier in these franchises, as I watched them, I enjoyed those movies for being a bit crazy, even when it causes me to suspend my disbelief. But as we get into this sequel, which by the end, dials its bonkers nature up to an 11, my suspension of disbelief could only go so high and this affected how much I could enjoy this film by the end of it. If you guys remember my review for “F9: The Fast Saga,” one of the big reasons why I gave that film such a low score is because of how over the top it gets, and I do not mean that in a good way. “Revenge of the Nerds II” kind of falls in the same boat. While the first film has its moments where things happen there that are less likely to happen in reality, this sequel goes bigger and ultimately becomes a tad dumber. And it’s really weird to say that because again, this is a PG-13 movie, which technically speaking, neuters the “Revenge of the Nerds” name.
The other negative I will bring to the table is this. I feel like this movie expects the viewer to watch the first movie and get attached to the characters from said movie, and therefore use that attachment to have them enjoy the second movie. Having watched “Revenge of the Nerds II,” I feel like we do not get to see the nerds be themselves. Sure, the point of these movies is kind of to suggest that nerds can do things that do not always involve staying in front of a computer. Sometimes they can party, sometimes they can be brave. But going back to what I said about certain plot points in this film feeling forced, one of my critiques of the film is that the nerds’ opposition with the manager at their hotel feels like it barely has a reason to exist. The opposition between these two feels surface level if anything, and I’ll also add, despite this movie being a “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, I feel like the “nerd” portion of a lot of these characters have disappeared for the most part. The movie places them in a nerdy box just because it can. I bought into the rivalry between the jocks and nerds in the first film, even when the jocks did things to flat out ruin the nerds’ time in college just based on their status partially because the jocks felt natural as characters and also because of John Goodman’s insanely iconic performance as Coach Harris as he gave some orders to the jocks.
If I had to give a positive note, I would say that this movie feels consistent with the first one in a way, because I said the first film felt like a parody on how society treats minorities. And when you consider ideas like the rivalry between the nerds and the hotel manager, there is a slight sense of consistency between movies. I just wish I were able to buy into whatever this movie’s selling me a little bit more.
In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” is an inferior sequel to the 1984 cult classic. If anything the film fails to understand what made the first movie so special. “Revenge of the Nerds II” sometimes feels rushed, like we’re just skimming through random plot points just to get somewhere else, and nothing more than an obvious cash grab. Yes, the film does feel a bit similar to the original, especially with the nerds trying to party, find girls, get laid, that sort of thing, but it does not have that same exact raunchiness that the original tried to deliver. And if anything, part of me cannot blame the actors. They were given a crappy script that some cast members refused in a way or another. Anthony Edwards was barely in the movie. Julia Montgomery was not in the movie at all. In fact, according to Curtis Armstrong, the man who plays Booger, 20th Century Fox did everything they could, almost in a way that imitates the rivalry between the jocks and nerds in the film, to hide the first “Revenge of the Nerds” when it came out. But it was a huge success. So what about this sequel, you might ask? How did it come about? Well, here’s a quote from Curtis Armstrong’s memoir, “Revenge of the Nerd.”
“Despite everything, by the time we finished filming that spring we’d felt like we’d accomplished something. But 20th Century Fox, now under a new regime far less accommodating to movies like Revenge of the Nerds, begged to disagree and did everything it could to bury the picture. Ultimately, it became a case of life imitating art, as the jocks at the studio tried to destroy the little underdog nerd movie and failed completely. It made money. Quite a lot of money. They instituted a studio-wide embargo against any sequels at 20th Century Fox, which was lifted under a different administration three years later. The first sequel to be green-lighted at that point was Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” –Curtis Armstrong, “Revenge of the Nerd,” pg. 183
As much as I am happy that the first movie was a huge success, the final result of “Revenge of the Nerds II” goes to show that not all sequels can work through name recognition alone. Then again, what do I know? The film ended up making over $30 million on a $10 million budget. I’m glad people are getting paid. People have to eat. I just wish we got a better movie. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” a 4/10.
“Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” is available wherever you buy movies digitally including Apple TV, Vudu, and Google Play. The film is also currently available to watch on Cinemax as of writing this. Physically, the film is available on DVD and VHS.
Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation.” The franchise’s first straight to television feature. I have watched the film a few years back, but I am curious to see how it holds up as of today. This upcoming review, along with my current review, is being done in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary, in a little series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” I will also be reviewing “Free Guy” sometime this week, so stay tuned for that as well! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, be sure to follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise?” What did you think about it? Or, have you ever been to Fort Lauderdale, Florida? Do you live there? Tell me about your time in the area! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time to talk about a movie that I have always wanted to touch upon, partially because I feel like when it comes to the people in my extended social circles, I feel like I am the only one who really has such an extended exposure to this film compared to everyone else. Well, maybe except people born before me. It is time to talk about the tale where the odd attempt to get even, the losers try to become winners. It is time to talk about the 1980s cult classic, “Revenge of the Nerds” in a brand new Scene Before review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!”
“Revenge of the Nerds” is directed by Jeff Kanew (Ordinary People, Natural Enemies) and stars Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, The Big Red One), Anthony Edwards (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, It Takes Two), Ted McGinley (The Love Boat, Happy Days), and Bernie Casey (Never Say Never Again, Boxcar Bertha) in a film where Lewis (Carradine) and Gilbert (Edwards) head off to Adams College together in the hopes of pursuing an excellent education in addition to possibly meeting girls. Things do not go off to a great start as they, alongside other nerdy freshman are forced to live in the gym. When the jocks of the Alpha Beta fraternity keep getting on their tail in various ways, the nerds decide it is time to teach them a lesson.
I have wanted to talk about this film for a long time. Literally just saying that feels like a tremendous understatement. When it comes to comedy franchises, I am not going to call “Revenge of the Nerds” the masterpiece that every other franchise should try to be, but it is nevertheless one that I think shaped me more than others. As some of you know, I was a huge fan of the reality show “King of the Nerds” on TBS, which was partially inspired by this film. In fact, part of the reason why I went back to watch this film in the first place was because of my admiration for the reality show. I am not going to talk about the television show that much in this post, but I do want to talk about something that this film has in common with the television show. It takes the nerd demographic, in addition to one or two underrepresented groups, and makes an attempt at empowering them by the end. “King of the Nerds” did that gracefully when I watched it years ago. As for “Revenge of the Nerds,” I would say the same, but the more I watch it, the more I notice that someone could see it today and not find it as empowering.
Now, I am not going to call “Revenge of the Nerds” a film that should be taken seriously. It’s a maturely rated sex comedy for a reason. If anything, it’s really a combination of “Porky’s” and “Animal House,” at least in part, when you break down the concept. They were never making this movie for kids, and honestly, if I had kids, I’d wait until they reach somewhere in the double digit ages to show them this film. But even as an adult, there is a scene that I look at and think would not pass by the censors today in Hollywood. I’ll get to that later. But for now, let’s focus on characters.
We start off the film as we’re introduced to Lewis (right) and Gilbert (left). Two friends who become college roommates until they are suddenly kicked out of their dorm. Right off the bat I got a sense that these two were a likable pair. As we see them enter Adams College, they try to encourage each other to be the best they can and make it through a fun year of education and girls. I also really think they nailed the outfits for these two between the glasses, the pocket protectors, they fit the stereotype in the film’s title while also coming off as fun for the viewer.
One of the things I like about this film is the supporting cast of nerds, because they went out of their way to make everyone have their individualities and insert some slight diversity. They have their differences, but one thing they seem to have in common, perhaps like every guy on the face of the earth, they love sex. Well, almost everyone. Wormser’s not even in his teens. Going back to what I said about Lewis and Gilbert, I seriously think they nailed the look of all these characters.
Poindexter has some semi-decent looking outfits, he’s got big glasses, crazy hair. I love it. He’s also got this gag in the film where he’s constantly practicing the violin, which by the end of the film, it becomes a part of his arc in a satisfying way.
Moving onto Wormser, he is not even a teenager and yet here he is in college. Like a few of the other nerds, he’s got over the top glasses, and I love this kid from the moment he appears. Not only is he kind of cute, but looking back, he also reminds me of myself whenever I entered certain activities at a particular age. I had a particular resistance sometimes as I was not the same age as some other people.
Lamar (center) is hyperactive, he’s got crazy outfits, and he spends some of the movie in front of the television watching exercise videos that I would assume are directed at women. In fact, he is homosexual, which in a way, kind of makes me respect him a bit for going through this film’s plot with many of the other guys given what they try to do.
I mean, I said before when this movie was going for diversity, I think they nailed it on the nerds part. Between having someone who was young, someone who is black and gay, in addition to a guy who is of Japanese descent with Takashi, who is wonderfully played by Brian Toshi (right), they nailed having a diverse group of characters. But I also cannot forget Curtis Armstrong’s iconic portrayal of Booger.
I’m not just saying this because I am a fan of the actor, but Armstrong nails the role of Dudley “Booger” Dawson. I think if anything, he was perfectly cast. It’s really weird to say that because well, this is a guy whose defining trait is poor hygiene and nose picking, but I mean this as a compliment because Armstrong, even though in real life, he is honestly nowhere near as revolting, aces the portrayal of an outcast who has some coolness within him to the point where maybe he’s also kind of a jerk. I would say as far as all the supporting nerds go, I think his character is probably the most sex-obsessed of the bunch. In fact, there’s a point where the nerds are hosting a party and Booger has the most resistance to the guests being invited as they are not the “party type” in his eyes. As fun as Booger can be, he also kind of has particular tastes and poor manners.
I also love this shirt that he’s wearing in the picture above. It suits the character well and goddamnit is it cool. Of all the nerds in the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity. I have a strong feeling that if you were a regular guy, Booger is the one you’d want to hang out with the most, at least on the surface that’s how things seem. As for how that hangout will go, we’ll find out.
When I referenced the diversity factor amongst the group of nerds, one thing that I immediately thought about afterwards was the lack of diversity within the opposing jocks of the film. The jocks in “Revenge of the Nerds” are represented by the Alpha Beta fraternity, which has members who are on the school’s football team, and the Pi Delta Pi Sorority. One of the members of said sorority, Betty Childs (Julia Montgomery) is dating Stan Gable (Ted McGinley), quarterback of the Adams Atoms and president of the Greek Council. Here’s the thing about the Alpha Betas and Pi Delta Pis. Every member of both groups that I saw in this film happened to be caucasian. I do not recall seeing a single person who was black, Asian, or anyone else of a particular descent. While the Lambda Lambda Lamdba fraternity still has a few white people in it, the casting department did a good job at making this group have a sense of diversity by having a few people appear different from others. You have your white people, you have someone who’s black and gay, you have a young kid, you have someone who is Japanese. If anything, this movie is almost a parody on white privilege and how minorities and others are trying to make themselves relevant in a society that is dominated by the whites. It is in the same way how Adams College, at least from the perspective of this film, has a student body dominated by jocks. I do think this film, on its surface, is something that stands out as a whimsical sex comedy. But much like I said about 2018’s “Blockers” when I reviewed that film, it has layers and fantastic characters with likable individualities that I did not expect going in.
Oh yeah, did I mention the music? This movie has pretty kick-ass music. Much of the score is that 1980s blocky tune that sounds like something you would hear out of an 8 bit video game. It fits the movie well. But there are a couple original songs that define the film and make it a musical treat. The opening song, simply titled “Revenge of the Nerds” is a banger that truly feels like it belongs in its decade. It’s also a pretty good anthem for the nerd community once they get out of high school, because as this movie suggests in the beginning, Lewis and Gilbert did not have the best time in high school but they are looking at college as a point to redeem themselves.
As a nerd myself, I respect this film. Not only because it is funny, charming, and by the end, a somewhat positive anthem for a community I consider myself to be a part of. But it was kind of one of those early pieces of media that made nerds cool. People talk about “The Big Bang Theory,” which is a great show by the way, and how it makes nerds cool. “Revenge of the Nerds” walked so “The Big Bang Theory” could run.
But just because I appreciate this movie to no end, does not mean it is not problematic.
One of the problems of the film that did not really stand out to me during early viewings, but it is one that I thought about during my most recent viewing, is that the first of the Greek Games happen to be arguably flawed. Now I know this movie is set in the 1980s, but I would love to know what state this film was set in. I know it’s the midwest. But where specifically? What are the drinking laws? That’s my question. Minor complaint, but it kind of stands for now. I can live with this.
However, the one big conflict of this movie for me is the scene during the charity fundraiser where we see Lewis go after Betty Childs at an attempt to have sex with her.
Just for context, the Alpha Betas set up a “kiss for charity booth.” After some time, Betty expresses to Stan that she’s getting horny from all the kissing and wants to do it. Stan does not follow Betty, allowing Lewis to get into Stan’s costume and find Betty waiting for him. The two do it on the moon, where Lewis remains masked. After intercourse, Lewis takes his mask off, shocking Betty. Now, after everything that happened in this movie, you’d probably expect Betty to slap Lewis and shove him aside. Nope! She accepts him because he is so great at sex! That’s a lesson for every generation! If you steal someone’s girl, the girl does not know the guy in front of her is not her own, and that guy is spectacular at f*cking, then hey! It’s okay! We can move on! In some cases, this would honestly be considered rape. While this certainly does fit the “revenge” theme of the film that has been implemented throughout the runtime, this may be too far. Now I do think Lewis and Betty have chemistry. But it does not change the fact that their love connection started with what could technically be defined as rape. There’s revenge, and then there’s being a maniac. Again, this is “Revenge of the Nerds,” which as mentioned before, I would put together in that same realm as “Porky’s” and “Animal House,” so I would not take the film as seriously as others. But this is still something to think about.
I love this movie. I really do. But every time I watch it now, part of me wonders if Lewis takes things too far. By the end of film, he and Betty are in love. Which, that’s great. I’m glad the two are in love, and they do have solid chemistry. Unfortunately though, it started with something that to this day would be unacceptable. One of the constants in this film is the excessive horniness of the guys. After all, they’re in college, there’s a bunch of girls, and I do not mind that side of them being explored. Lots of guys are this way, but the way they go about it with Lewis by the end of the film rubs me off the wrong way the more I think about it, even though the dialogue at the end of that moon scene is… Well, actually kind of well written. I’m not gonna lie.
Betty Childs: Are all nerds as good as you?
Betty Childs: How come?
Lewis: ‘Cause all jocks ever think about is sports, all we ever think about is sex.
Gotta admit, Robert Carradine gave a really convincing delivery on that line. I just wish it were in a less conflicting scene.
Despite this, I think “Revenge of the Nerds” stands as one of my favorite comedies. I’m not going to call it the pinnacle of all things funny. But a lot of the jokes hold up today, the film is well cast, and I almost forgot to mention John Goodman as Coach Harris, who is a BLOODY RIOT. He is ridiculously over the top, trying to empower his team, while also being on the opposing side of the nerds. The movie does a really good job at making this jock side look kind of hyperactively evil and Coach Harris is part of that. Have you ever seen a movie or show where the villain is in their quarters kind of frustrated with themselves or taking their anger out on other people due to a recent failure? There’s a great scene towards the end of the film where Harris is yelling at the jocks because of the nerds getting the upper-hand on them.
Oh yeah, and Ogre’s face is everything. “NEEEEEEERDS!”
In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds” is a great movie that probably would not be made today. Well I wouldn’t say that. Partially because Seth MacFarlane is supposedly working on a redo of the film at the moment, but also because I feel like the movie could be popular today with nerdy being cool. It will probably have a lot more pop culture influence in the script, maybe some gaming elements intact. But if they are going to try to make it as sex heavy as the original, I’d tell them to be careful because with the #MeToo movement having blossomed a few years back, if they made that original movie today, it would probably strike controversy. It would probably get some people thinking that nerds are not good people. Probably sex maniacs. But when the film ends with Lewis and Gilbert giving the speech about them being proud of their nerdy selves and the film’s rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” started playing, it delivered a message of positivity. It gave people who did not often have a voice to speak up. This is not only for the nerds, but for people who are black, people who are gay, anyone who has ever been left out. This speaks to me and I love this message of inclusion. In the end, “Revenge of the Nerds” is a fun movie with a rocky road in terms of what it is trying to suggest to the viewer. But I would say give it a watch, see what you think, and given how it is a comedy, I should warn you, it is hilarious. I’m going to give “Revenge of the Nerds” a 7/10.
I said before that this is one of my favorite comedies. But is also an enigma. While the film itself comes as something that should not be taken too seriously. Part of me wonders what would happen if not younger viewers, let’s face it, seven year old kids should not be watching “Revenge of the Nerds,” but people of my generation and maybe a little younger put this on for the first time. While this movie is massively entertaining with some great layers and lovable characters, there’s that one big conflict in my head that sort of brings it down. I’ll still watch it again. In fact, in 2017 I got to meet most of the cast at Rhode Island Comic Con and they were all wonderful people. I literally have three autographs from Curtis Armstrong, the guy who plays Booger. This movie may be doing something right if I went to meet all those people. As Gilbert in the movie suggests, I’m a nerd, and I’m pretty proud of it.
“Revenge of the Nerds” is available on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. The film is not available anywhere to buy or rent digitally at the moment, but you can catch reruns of it on cable channels like IFC and AMC, and you can also watch it on AMC+.
Thanks for reading this review! Next Monday, August 16th, I will be reviewing “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” the much less liked sequel and the last film in the franchise to receive a theatrical release. Stay tuned for my thoughts! Also, be sure to check out my review for “The Suicide Squad” coming this week! I cannot wait to talk about this movie. And I bet some of you cannot wait to hear my thoughts on it. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, be sure to check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Revenge of the Nerds?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you saw that you love, but has that one thing about it that brings the score down for you? It could be something big, small, medium. As far as “Revenge of the Nerds” goes, the one thing that brought it down for me was pretty big. Just gonna say it. Leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is day 6 of 7 in 7 Days of Star Wars, and today we will be finishing the original trilogy reviews! We’ve already talked about 1977’s “Star Wars,” 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” so by process of elimination, it only makes sense that today we talk about 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” When it comes to “Star Wars,” my childhood was quite a weird one. Because regarding the original trilogy, I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” first, and I ended up watching “Return of the Jedi” before “A New Hope.” But then again, I was of single-digit ages and I did not care what order I watched these movies in as long as things moved on a screen. But as an adult, much like the other two films in the original trilogy, I should note that as I picked up certain things and opened my imagination a little more, my appreciation for “Return of the Jedi” only grew. We will dive into this during the review.
It is time for the penultimate entry to the epic Scene Before saga, a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!
“Return of the Jedi” is directed by Richard Marquand and stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. This film is the final installment in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Taking place one year after the end of “The Empire Strikes Back,” our heroes journey to Jabba’s Palace to retrieve Han Solo, who has previously been frozen in carbonite. After a daring adventure, the rebels are tasked with destroying a second Death Star, this time set above the moon of Endor, where tiny, furry creatures known as Ewoks reside.
Okay… When it comes to the original trilogy, I was excited to talk about “A New Hope.” I was arguably even more excited to talk about “The Empire Strikes Back.” But after watching “Return of the Jedi,” I think I became absolutely freaking stoked to talk about what I saw. Much like quite a few other movies in this 7 Days of Star Wars series, I have watched this film countless times on physical media and television. So this should already tell you what I think of this movie.
I will be straight up with you. Regardless of what I think about “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” both of which are technically beautiful and marvelously written masterpieces, I’d say that “Return of the Jedi” had the biggest impact on me of the three original films. Some of my best memories of watching “Star Wars” as a kid harken back to some of my earliest viewings of “Return of the Jedi.” It is a film that I would stop every once in a while to watch when it is on TV too. To this day, I can say that like some of my favorite films, which I will not list for the sake of time, this is a film that gets better the more I watch it. But I will say, and this won’t affect my score, it is probably by far the worst of the “special editions” between Jedi Rocks, the odd-looking CGI creatures in Jabba’s Palace, and Darth Vader’s “no” scream towards the end of the film.
Let’s dive into the tone of the movie, but before we do, I want to point out to those who are not in the know, to me, “A New Hope” is a lighthearted space adventure. “The Empire Strikes Back” maintains a lot of elements that made “A New Hope” great but also dives into a route of depression to give itself a new flair. “Return of the Jedi,” is honestly somewhere in between. It has the lightheartedness and excitement of “A New Hope,” not to mention a Death Star, but also some darkness that you’d find in “The Empire Strikes Back.” We see our heroes’ journeys and where they have led to at this point. Many of the characters we have come to know in the previous films maintain their admirability and charisma here in this installment. In fact, remember how in the other two films in the trilogy, I mentioned Luke Skywalker was a whiner? Not anymore! He’s a Jedi Knight now, not to mention one of the most badass individuals in the galaxy. He’s got a green lightsaber, which probably helped sell more toys for a period of time. From the first scene he’s in, I have gotten the sense that I DO NOT want to f*ck with Skywalker. He just steps into Jabba’s Palace, walks up to a couple guards and chokes them. It is a truly bold sight for the eyes. “Return of the Jedi” easily has the most likable version of Luke because he is still a great pilot like he was in the previous two films, but now he has gone from occasional whiner to… sorry, I literally have no other definition that could be better… guardian of the galaxy.
Speaking of Jabba’s Palace and other similarities to “A New Hope,” we get to see early scenes in the film exclusively with R2-D2 and C-3PO, and the first sight we get of the iconic duo in the film is of them walking to Jabba’s Palace and seeing if they can get in. Much like “A New Hope,” this is a very well done, not to mention wonderfully placed scene because it lets the movie kick off in an intimate manner and it overall just builds up, getting bigger by the second. “Return of the Jedi” understands that we got to start small before we go big. Plus the droids themselves have amazing chemistry. They’re almost like two roommates who barely have anything in common but the things they do have in common, which is very little, perhaps makes them inseparable.
I also really like the Rancor fight. It felt like a strategy video game where Luke had to learn the tricks of the boss as he went along. It’s not like he was just able to find its weaknesses straight up and go for the kill. He had no choice but to open his eyes and his mind. It was rather exciting to watch. Only thing is, and I know this is somewhat intentional, the lighting in some clips of it is rather dark, I feel like turning up the light just a tad would have had me as a viewer look back and not feel lost in that underground space. Then again, that may have been the intention.
But speaking of brightness, let’s talk about the Sarlacc Pit scene. It is to this day, one of the most exciting and fun “Star Wars” scenes to date. First off, the music in it, unsurprisingly smashed by John Williams, is incredible from the slow build up to the glorious blow that brings us into the iconic “Star Wars” theme tune that you hear either in the crawl or the credits. It just screams “Star Wars” whenever I think about it. There’s a lot going on here between Luke trying to retrieve his lightsaber from R2, who is busy serving drinks, Leia being chained by Jabba’s side, and… Boba Fett? Wait, where’d he go? Oh, that’s right. Yeah, he comes and goes instantaneously. Well, kind of, depending on whether you’re watching “The Mandalorian,” which I do need to catch up on. But this is a fast-paced scene from gunslinging to saber-wielding to chain-honking. Lando is there too, and there is some action between him and Han. Everything building up to the final blow at the end led to a sense of satisfaction.
Let’s move onto Dagobah. Going back to what I said about this film getting better the more I watch it. I do not just mean it gets better despite its age. Although like the other two films in the original trilogy, I can declare “Return of the Jedi” is timeless. There is a quote that I picked up from Yoda during the film.
Now I am just gonna warn everyone, even though I did not get into heavy spoilers for “The Empire Strikes Back,” this quote does contain an important point from the film, and I’m sure it is one a lot of you know even if you missed out on the movie. So sorry in advance as this does dive into spoiler territory.
Luke: Master Yoda… is Darth Vader my father?
Yoda: [avoiding the subject] Rest I need. Yes. Rest.
Luke: Yoda, I must know. If you know, tell me.
Yoda: Your father he is.
Yoda: Told you, did he?
Yoda: Unexpected this is. And unfortunate.
Luke: Unfortunate that I know the truth?
Yoda: No! Unfortunate that you rushed to face him… that incomplete was your training. That… not ready for the burden were you.
Not only does this confirm the exciting twist from the previous film, but it goes a step further. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” you may remember that Luke was discouraged by Yoda from going into Cloud City to confront Vader. Luke went regardless of the advice, but he did promise that he would return, as he did in this very film. While I will agree that it is unfortunate to know that Luke’s father is a power-hungry half man half machine overlord who is capable of chopping off hands, Yoda just states that Luke rushed into action without thinking things through, even though Luke foresaw grave danger for his friends. Not only were his skills incomplete, but he had no idea what would lie ahead in regards to emotional attachment. I often look back at “The Empire Strikes Back” and I think of the scene where Yoda tells Luke to avoid going to Cloud City as a warning that Luke’s skills as a Jedi still need work, which they did. But little did I realize after all these years, Yoda, along with ghost Obi-Wan, was likely trying to protect Luke from losing control of his emotions. After all, they knew who Darth Vader was. They knew he was Luke’s father. Yoda took Luke under his wing and not only treated him like a student, but almost as if he was his own son. And like many parents, Yoda perhaps became slightly overprotective of Luke’s inner and outer thoughts.
I will also add, that last line from Yoda, where he notes Luke’s training was incomplete, this feels like the “Star Wars” way of saying, “I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.” Luke, despite his seemingly on track instincts, had no idea what he was in for. That is the power of being an inexperienced Jedi who barely has any attachment to the force. Yes, Luke did screw up. But part of me also wants to think that even with the amount of doubt that could have been brought to the table, Yoda, or perhaps even ghost Obi-Wan had an inkling of faith in him.
Not long after we see plans for a second Death Star, our heroes go to the moon of Endor, where we get a FUN speeder chase between Luke and Leia who are trying to keep themselves from getting shot by Stormtroopers. There’s no music. No other sounds except for the speeders themselves. It feels like the extreme version of riding a bike in the woods. But of course, when I talk about Endor, I have to talk about the Ewoks.
I have seen people talk about the Ewoks and how they tend to be annoying. I even remember watching “Ride Along 2” of all movies and the characters were talking about “Star Wars” and one character said they enjoyed “Return of the Jedi” to which another pointed out how annoying Ewoks are. Here’s the thing. Unlike Jar Jar, the Ewoks actually come off as useful. Yes, they emit weird sounds every once in a while, but it’s a delightful kind of weird. They have their own army, they’ve become civilized in the woods, and the movie does a really good job at highlighting their sense of community. When it comes to the final battle at the end of the film, seeing them get creative with how they go about killing troopers is nearly goofy, but also kind of exciting. Plus, we do get to see them, along with the wookie Chewbacca in an AT-ST, which was pretty badass. But to me, this movie’s second half comes in three tiers. These tiers, starting with the lowest and going to highest, are “awesome,” “extraordinary,” and “perfect.”
The “awesome” tier goes to the Battle of Endor, where we get to see our heroes on the ground fighting troops with the Ewoks and destroying a base that has an effect on how the “extraordinary” tier task goes, which is destroying the Death Star.
If the space battle at the end of “A New Hope” was exciting, then the one in “Return of the Jedi” is SUPER exciting. I will admit, it does suffer from not having Luke in it because I admittedly have become much more attached to Luke compared to Lando, who is a great character, but not as involved in the franchise as Luke has become. Then again, Luke’s off doing something else which we’ll get to momentarily. This battle has a ton of ships on the light and dark sides. We get to see the Death Star blowing ships up. People are dying left and right. And what makes this even more interesting is that the outcome of this battle could not be realized unless the Battle of Endor likely ends up going in the heroes’ favor. But BY FAR the best part of the movie, is any scene between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor.
I want to avoid giving a ton of spoilers for this review. In fact I had a whole thing planned to talk about one particular problem I had with the film. It’s NOT A BIG ONE, it does not even affect the score that much, but it makes want to see another version of the film if you will. Let’s just say, if I have the time, I may end up doing a separate post on it. The thing I will say about it is that it is about death. But that is about it. Luke and Vader meet in Endor, they flock to the Death Star, where the Emperor introduces himself to Luke and looking back, this provided for some of my favorite close-up shots in the franchise.
I mean, look at the Emperor’s face!
And the Emperor, at least in this film, has such a way with words. It’s almost like he spent an extended period of time studying poetry.
The Emperor : You want this, don’t you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.
Luke : No.
The Emperor : It is unavoidable. It is your destiny. You, like your father, are now *mine*.
I cannot think of a time in this franchise, maybe with the exception of Palpatine perhaps doing the same wordplay thing to Anakin and maybe Count Dooku getting into that same character’s head, where words have been used so effectively as a weapon. Plus that voice… It’s so grizzly and old. IT IS PERFECT. This is quite literally, the “perfect” tier. And this is in addition to the badass lightsaber stuff that goes down at the end, which I really don’t want to talk about because even though “Return of the Jedi” has been around for 38 years, it’s kind of like “The Empire Strikes Back.” The less newcomers know, the better. I’ll just say this, I often talk about in the prequels how one of the better things about those movies is the choreography in the lightsaber fights. That is true. That is clear. But in “Return of the Jedi,” there feels like there is a reason to occasionally have a lack of choreography. It shows more of the emotion between characters. The final lightsaber duel of the movie feels rough. It feels tough. But the strokes that come out from one specific individual just feel like they are coming through because of pent up emotion. This is, well… perfect.
I want to talk about the thing that happens afterwards, I really do. But it involves heavy spoilers. If you have never seen “Return of the Jedi,” PLEASE watch it. If you want to avoid spoilers… Skip this next paragraph. Go to the part that IS NOT italicized like so.
My favorite part of the film comes around the time Luke slices off Vader’s hand. BAM! Hammurabi Code! Almost like payback for the last movie! This may have been part of why the original title for this film was “Revenge of the Jedi,” until it was changed at the last minute. But the Emperor tries to convince Luke to join the Dark Side, to which he just denies the request after looking at Vader on the ground. At this point, the Emperor’s a little pissed and disappointed, he casts out his hands and unleashes force lightning, which has been used in the prequels by multiple characters, but “Return of the Jedi,” in terms of release, was the movie introduction to the force lightning concept. He continues his wordsmith tendencies, and he just goes all out on Luke. The hero is screaming for his life, he’s going to Vader asking for help. But no dice.
“Now young Skywalker, you will die.”
We have a brief beat, but the Emperor ain’t done yet because he momentarily unveils more lightning and Luke is just screaming and spasming. He has never been in so much rapid physical pain in his entire life. But the other great part about this is that the camera is getting shots of Vader and we can tell based on the directions he turns his head, he’s almost conflicted. But he decides to do the right thing and lifts the Emperor from the ground and throws him down the shaft. The Emperor perhaps lets out the most epic death scream in film history, and he is just TOAST. Why did “The Rise of Skywalker” bring him back from this? Who knows? But it is not over. Because Luke and Vader reunite, just experiencing whatever sense of relief they need to. Unfortunately for Vader, the journey does not end well for him.
People often argue that the later additions to the sequel trilogy, specifically “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker,” feel like nothing more than pieces of course correction. They take what was previously shown in the last movie and try to divert from it to a degree hopefully going in a competent direction, perhaps one that the primary filmmaker or producer prefers, that will not end up being a slap in the face (hopefully). While there are definitely many ideas that felt like they could have been sprinkled in later into production, “Return of the Jedi” is the end of a trilogy that feels perfectly planned and realized from start to finish. The original “Star Wars” trilogy is up there to me with “Lord of the Rings” and “Toy Story” as one of the greatest trilogies of all time. And at the same time, there may have been some course correcting here. This movie feels a lot lighter than “The Empire Strikes Back,” especially with the Ewoks in the mix. So part of me wondered if Lucas wanted to win some fans back by making the series “fun” again. He even brought back the Death Star concept, which despite being in “A New Hope,” did not feel entirely repetitive. And ultimately, the darkness of “The Empire Strikes Back” still exists here in some places, but the mix between the light and dark tones oddly enough never felt out of place or disorienting. They’re two tones that combine together to form something special, whereas “The Phantom Menace” had a plethora of tones to combine together to form something… well, it’s special alright. What an ending. Well, kind of. Before the prequels and the sequels, but my gosh this movie is a work of art!
In the end, I often have trouble deciding which of the original “Star Wars” movies is my favorite. Is it “A New Hope?” “The Empire Strikes Back?” Or is it “Return of the Jedi?” They’re all great for different reasons. But of all of the movies, I’d say “Return of the Jedi” had the best climax and conclusion, which really says something because this is something that the “Star Wars” franchise, even on its worst day, at least goes out of its way to make “fun.” Here, they just go balls out with it. Three different interweaving storylines that do not feel convoluted and I actually care about. Each one is about as thrilling as the last. From the heroes and Ewoks taking down troops on Endor to the Rebels and Empire duking it out in space to Vader and Luke dealing with their father and son issues in the Death Star. This film has the best interpretation of Luke. It comes with great chemistry amongst our heroes. And on top of that, the best lightsaber action of the original trilogy. LIGHTSABERS. ARE. AWESOME. You cannot convince me otherwise. With all this, and considering this film’s insane replay value over the years, I’m going to give “Return of the Jedi” a 10/10!
Would ya look at that? All three films in the original trilogy have earned a 10! These films truly are timeless. I will say once again, there is one particular “problem” with the film I wanted to discuss, but I won’t for the sake of spoilers. It won’t affect my score, but I may bring it up another time. Once again, it has to do with death. I do not know my fate regarding this topic, but if I am ever in the mood, I will discuss it.
Thanks for reading this review! Just a few days ago we have finished the prequel trilogy, and now we finished the original trilogy, which means it is time to move on to the SEQUEL trilogy! For the record, I have already reviewed “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker,” so we will not be talking about those films. By process of elimination, tomorrow I will have my review up for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens!” Disney’s first foray into the world of “Star Wars” movies and one of the most successful films of all time at the box office. What do I think of it? You’ll find out tomorrow in the FINAL installment of 7 Days of Star Wars! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Return of the Jedi?” What did you think about it? Also, two questions. First, what is your favorite movie in the “Star Wars” original trilogy? AND, what do you think is the greatest trilogy of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today is day 5 of 7 in the epic Scene Before 7 Days of Star Wars saga! We have finished the prequels earlier this week, we just tackled the original “Star Wars” yesterday, but now it is time to move onto what some consider to be not just one of the best “Star Wars” movies to date, but one of the greatest sequels of all time. Of the original “Star Wars” films, this is actually the first one that I tuned into. I still remember renting the widescreen copy of the 2004 edition from Blockbuster Video. Man, I miss that place. I rented the film one or two more times, until I finally got the full screen 2006 edition that came with both the 2004 special edition of the film and a bonus disc that had a somewhat poorly mastered DVD transfer of the original film. While it was widescreen, allowing the viewer to see more picture, it was also grainy and would not adjust for an actual widescreen television. Although for this review, much like Episodes IV and VI, I decided to use the most up to date versions of the film through recent 4K Blu-ray transfers that have released in stores in 2020. Safe to say, this film looks gorgeous to this day, and of all the “Special Editions,” I’d say that this one is the least offensive, although that statement will likely not have much of an effect on my review.
We would be honored if you would join us, because it is time for a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF “STAR WARS!”
“The Empire Strikes Back” is directed by Irwin Kershner and stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. This film is the sequel to 1977’s “Star Wars” and follows our heroes who have a base on the planet Hoth. But not for long, because the Empire takes its swift strokes on the rebels. Soon thereafter, Luke Skywalker journeys to Dagobah to learn the ways of the Jedi under the wing of Master Yoda. Meanwhile, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO flee from the dark forces on the Millennium Falcon, but with an unfortunate hyperdrive problem.
Since 1977, “Star Wars” has become a part of many people’s lives. Similar to 1975’s “Jaws,” the film went on to become one of the biggest phenomenons of the decade. The turnout was enormous, the box office was immense, the force was with everyone. Characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo have been ingrained in many people’s minds for extended periods. While the film itself is a throwback to stories that may have come before and shares many of the traits of the ordinary “hero’s journey” rubric, it comes with a flavor that could have arguably been created by Willy Wonka. “Star Wars” has, as you may have noticed, become one of the most acclaimed and iconic films of all time. With a film that good, it is almost hard to imagine how they could have made a sequel that could have surpassed it.
…Well they did.
To know that such a feat could be pulled off is utter insanity. I mean, it’s been done in similar instances with other franchises. The first “Godfather” was critically acclaimed, but today there are many people who would argue the second one is as good, if not better than the original. The same can be said for “Toy Story.” The same can also be said for “Blade Runner.” Maybe even “The Terminator!” In the case of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the reasoning is simple. It maintains the fun of the original film despite being darker in tone, it builds on the characters we’ve come to know and love with impactful depth, and it subverts expectations, which feels weird considering how “The Last Jedi” tried doing that to rather poor results. Although speaking of “The Last Jedi,” I remember when that film came out and people started bringing up comparisons to “The Empire Strikes Back,” but not for a positive reason. When “The Last Jedi” came out, I would occasionally be online, maybe on YouTube or something and someone would say that “The Last Jedi” is a film that will get better with age. When it came out, it was incredibly divisive. The fans of the film were quite passionate, and so were the haters. But nevertheless, “The Last Jedi,” despite being well-reviewed, had a strong number of people who felt it ruined the “Star Wars” franchise to a degree. Back in 1980, “The Empire Strikes Back” received the same treatment. There were people who liked the film. But there were also others who expressed displeasure or disappointment with it mainly because of how dark and not so fun it happened to be.
Today, it is one of the most universally revered films in not just the sci-fi genre, but in all of movie history. It has one of the most talked about twists of all time. Despite being darker, I’d almost argue it not only knows how to crack a joke here and there, it is actually somehow funnier than the first one. And this feels weird to say, because when I’m looking back at lines I could bring up on the spot to make someone laugh, I do not usually think of “The Empire Strikes Back,” but that’s because the film does not try to go for humor. What it does is it takes lines that usually would not mean anything. The lines are not even that funny, but in the context of the film, they can get a laugh out of me for some reason. A line as simple as Han Solo’s “Never tell me the odds” is chuckle-worthy to say the least. Leia shouting “I am not a committee” feels like it could come out of only Carrie Fisher’s mouth with pristine delivery.
Speaking of characters, let’s talk about Luke Skywalker. I mentioned in my review for “A New Hope,” one forgivable concern for Luke is that he is kind of a whiner. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” the case is no different. But like in the previous film, Luke’s tendency to be a downer is also what makes him an interesting character. Because again, he is relatable. As humans, we all have a tendency to say we want do something, but we never end up actually doing “that something” and it is an idea that is always in the back of our minds. During Luke’s training with Yoda, we see glimmers of this as he lifts rocks and his X-Wing fighter that is stuck in the dirty water. There’s periods of refusal, self-denial, lack of confidence. It is a perfect encapsulation of a student/mentor relationship where the student feels like they are worthless and they cannot advance in their studies. In the last movie, we got see the pilot side of Luke, and that has been excellently built up throughout the film all the way to the end. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” we get to see more of the Jedi side of the character. And yes, we get to see parts of that in “A New Hope” too, but that is Luke simply learning how to use the force, he barely touches a lightsaber. Although it does help him in his piloting mission where he is tasked along with his rebel fleet to destroy the Death Star. But now that Obi-Wan is dead and likely just sitting back in the Jedi afterlife needing nobody’s company, he commands that Luke will go to Dagobah and learn the ways of the Jedi from Yoda. Oh yeah, and Yoda is awesome in this film.
Let me just say, I really like the prequel version of Yoda. But here is the thing about prequel Yoda, he is quite different than the original Yoda. Because in the prequels, Yoda is seen as one of the most powerful Jedi with one of the higher midichlorian counts and an enormous sense of wisdom. Also, screw midichlorian counts. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” we got to see that wisdom intact, but it does not take away from the fact that Yoda is one of the funniest characters in the original trilogy. Remember how in the prequel trilogy George Lucas tried to make Jar Jar Binks the big comic relief that stole every scene, which then turned out to be one of the most cringeworthy things in the entire franchise? Yeah, Yoda is ten times funnier because he is just a nut. He’s that interpretation of an old man who I hear is on his last legs but then I hear they are in “good spirits.” I always think of that as someone who is able to utilize a sense of humor while also showing signs of weakness. And this is yet another example of lines that really are not that funny, but in the context of “The Empire Strikes Back,” they can get me to laugh for some reason. And I think part of it is not just the lines themselves and how they are brilliantly delivered by Frank Oz, but maybe even Yoda’s laughter. It just proves that laughter is contagious and without any argument, the all-time best medicine.
But when I’m not busy laughing at Yoda’s antics, I am busy admiring Darth Vader’s fiendish will to rule the galaxy. In the previous film, we did get to know Vader as a character a little bit, especially considering how he was the main threat at the end. In this film however, we get to dive into his character and see another side of him aside from being just a big baddie. And he still is. He still force chokes his own allies, he still wields a red lightsaber. But in “The Empire Strikes Back,” there is more added to his story that makes him who he is, and it also affects other characters in the movie. For those of you who have not seen the movie, I will do my best to not say anything about a specific scene towards the end, even though it has been parodied and talked about millions of times, but if you don’t even have an inkling of how the end of “The Empire Strikes Back” goes down, just wait. It was brilliant back in the 1980s (maybe depending on what language you spoke) and it has aged like a fine wine since.
But also on the topic of the dark side, going onto a recurring category in these reviews, the score in this film, composed by John Williams, is bonkers good. In some cases, it might even be better than the original “Star Wars.” In addition to some themes that make a reappearance to a degree, “The Empire Strikes Back” adds exciting new music that can be heard as the Falcon flies through asteroids, as the heroes run around Cloud City, and as Luke tries to defend himself against a Wampa. But by far the most iconic original theme from “The Empire Strikes Back,” for good reason, and this is what I mean when it comes to talking about the dark side, is the Imperial March.
This music is literal perfection. You know how in times of war they have these propaganda songs to get people to join the military? You know, songs like “Over There” by Nora Bayes? The patriotic song that has been used since the 1910s during World War I? If the Empire wanted a way to convince me to join their fleet as a soldier or officer, this would perhaps be more effective than them saying “We have pizza, AND you get ten million bucks on the spot.” It is so… weirdly catchy. Again, I think part of it is because “Star Wars” is so ingrained in our culture whether we like it or not, but for some reason, this song goes to show the power of John Williams. The man knows how to do a killer track and as much as I see myself more in line with the values of the Jedi, this goes to reveal how fascinating the dark side is. If I ran a dictatorship where I had obnoxious power, which I do not see myself doing, I would use this as its theme music.
I think the best part of “The Empire Strikes Back” however is the fact that, and this maybe makes me a hypocrite, because we kind of see this in “The Last Jedi” too and that film was a disappointment, it’s that failure is a common result in this film. The title is as it suggests, the Empire strikes back with as much force as it can, putting the pressure on our heroes, and in the couple hours that everything goes down in the film, I manage to care about everyone on screen. I want to talk about some of these blunders, but the reality is that if I do, I’d be going into spoiler territory, and even though this is a 41-year-old film that has been celebrated by many people, I would doing a disservice if I did not let people who have not seen the film avoid going in blind. There is so much I want to talk about, everything from *bleep*, to *bleep*, all the way to the end where we *bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep*. But I can’t. I’d be doing the newcomers a lack of a favor. I’d be ruining the experience for them. Yes, I talked about failure, but I don’t want to get into how much failure or the specific contents behind all of it. I want you, the people who have not seen “The Empire Strikes Back,” to finish reading this review, buy the movie in whatever way you can or watch it on TBS On Demand or Disney+ or something and experience what truly makes this film so extraordinary. The less you know, the better.
On another note, I just want to say that Lando Calrissian is a great addition to the franchise and he almost steals the show in every scene he is in. Whoever cast Billy Dee Williams as the character, well done. You deserve a pat on the back. Kind of like Han Solo, he has that rogueish, ladies-man vibe, but he also delivers it in his own way. I truly think he is one of the standouts of the movie.
One last thing before we go any further. Again, I want to be as secretive as possible, but the way this movie ends when we get to the final scene, it has one of the most unique feels not just in regard to how a “Star Wars” movie ends, but how any movie ends. Because the scene before the end is almost an adrenaline rush to the final second and at this point, just about every potential arc has developed. Without giving much context, we see our characters and the sense that I have at this point is satisfaction. Then after one particular incident is resolved, the music just swells up as we see the characters gaze out at a window and look at the galaxy that lies within. To me, this just says one word. Relief. We’ve had failure along the way, but the journey has paid off to where not just us as an audience, but our characters, get a moment to breathe. Yes, they have to live with their recent failure, but they finally get a break where they get to relax, unwind, and process what they just went through. In war, there is no rest. But this ending represents that relief which would come with taking a break every once in a while. So as a viewer, I feel satisfied, but I am also left longing for our characters to move on and see what they do next. The ending is bittersweet to say the least. It’s sad that the previous events happened, but it is heartwarming to know they have come to an end.
Remember when I reviewed the 1977 “Star Wars” and I talk about how “fun” it is, in addition to how often I feel like flocking to that universe in my imagination? Well, that has not changed. To me, this just goes to show the true genius of “The Empire Strikes Back.” It almost reminds me of, going to a more modern example, “Avengers: Infinity War,” because that is a film that like its predecessors, is fun from start to finish, but is full of emotionally charged moments that affect certain characters in less than positive ways. If the film still has glimmers of fun and imagination in it despite being depressing every other moment, that is not a good movie. It is an incredible movie.
In the end, “The Empire Strikes Back” strikes forth as one of the greatest sequels of all time. To me, this is a film that gets better with age, and how they answer certain questions in the next film probably solidifies that. The original “Star Wars” became a timeless classic through its likable predictability and familiar feel and story, but by offering a blend of that familiarity that audiences could easily fall in love with. “The Empire Strikes Back” on the other hand goes in for the kill and tries to warp your mind into something new even if has traces of familiarity as well. The film is subversive, exciting, and eye-popping. The effects still hold up to this day. The asteroid scene looks beautiful even in 2021. The duel towards the end with Luke and Vader offers some of the best shots in the franchise and an epic feel despite coming off as occasionally intimate. Again, it’s probably another reason why people look at “Star Wars” as if it were a western instead of a traditional science fiction or fantasy story all the time. “The Empire Strikes Back” is one of the greatest, most magnificently crafted pieces of art ever known to man and it is a film that is likely only going to continue to get better as years pass by. It is a film truly deserving of a 10/10.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the final film in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and that is going to be for “Return of the Jedi.” Get ready for Ewoks, the Emperor, and Jabba the Hutt! That review will be up tomorrow, Friday, May 28th! And after that, I will be doing the final review in the 7 Days of Star Wars event, which will be for “The Force Awakens,” the first film in the sequel trilogy. If you want to see these upcoming reviews, follow Scene Before either with email or WordPress account, and if you’re on Facebook, like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Empire Strikes Back?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite sequel ever? It doesn’t even have to be a movie. It can be a book. It can be a video game. Heck, it can even be Diet Coke! A worthy successor and slightly healthier edition of an iconic drink! Not sponsored, I promise. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today is a big day in the “7 Days of Star Wars” run because we are finally going to tackle one of the most universally revered films in the franchise. The one that started it all! “Star Wars!” If you have read my reviews for the three prequels over the past few days, you’d know they came packed in with lots of controversy. From midichlorians to style over substance to forced romance storylines to robotic dialogue, there were plenty of new things brought to the table in the trilogy. Per my opinion, some of those things worked out, but there’s also plenty that didn’t. But it doesn’t mean the original trilogy is free from controversy either. For example, what do we call this movie now? “Star Wars?” “Star Wars Episode IV?” “Star Wars: A New Hope?” “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope?”
The answer to the previous question may be harder for some, but let’s calm down for a second and relax because it is time to discuss the kickstarter to one of the most popular franchises of all time in a miniseries I’m calling… “7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!”
“Star Wars” is directed by George Lucas and stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Alec Guinness. This film centers around a young man named Luke Skywalker who lives on the desert-heavy land of Tatooine. After being encouraged to stay with his aunt and uncle to farm for another year, Luke aspires to leave his life behind and learn the ways of the force and the Jedi under the mentorship of Ben Kenobi. Together, they journey alongside captain Han Solo, his Wookie pal Chewbacca, along with droids R2-D2 and C-3PO to rescue Princess Leia from Darth Vader and save the galaxy from a recently finished battle station, the Death Star.
Let’s face it. If you have ever watched movies, and I mean that as in, any movie ever. There is a SOLID chance that one of those options you’ve watched has been “Star Wars,” and it does not even have to be the original. But people continue to talk about “Star Wars” as if it is today’s equivalent to Shakespeare. I can almost see future scholarly classes dedicated to the history of storytelling or even K-12 language arts going over the impact “Star Wars” has had on people. Similar to how “Romeo & Juliet” has become required reading for students these days, I could see a future where “Star Wars” becomes required watching for scholars. And having watched the movie several times throughout my life, I can see why. Even with the special editions that have been hitting the market since 1997, which I probably won’t dive too much into during this review, this movie still holds up to this day. The storyline is the by the numbers, cliche hero’s journey, which we have seen before and after this movie came out, but for some reason, this particular hero’s journey has a flavor that makes it feel more palatable than others.
For all I know, it could be a nostalgic thing. “Star Wars” has been a part of my life for years, so there is a chance that when I think “hero’s journey” and what it means to be a larger than life individual, this is the movie my mind goes to. I do not know, it is like associating Burger King with fast food (sorry, not a huge McDonald’s fan), my mind cannot help but go to this movie as the definition of what it means to be a hero. This does not mean “Star Wars” is my favorite movie, although it is up there, but between my childhood attachment to the film and the brilliant execution of everything that goes down, it is not surprising to see why this film continues to be as popular as it is and why we are getting endless sequels and spinoffs. One passion project started it all.
The movie begins in the most hypnotizing way imaginable as we see a rebel ship getting chased by a Stardestroyer. We get our introduction to Leia who gets stunned by Stormtroopers in a rare successful attempt at shooting somebody. We also have Darth Vader who makes his way past dead Rebels and chokes Captain Antilles to death. But the first characters we see are also the ones that are essential to the franchise in the same way that pancakes are to Denny’s, R2-D2 and C-3PO. I really like how the film starts out from their perspective. Not only because they are the borderline comic relief characters of the film (at least until Han says something snarky), not only because they are seen through the film from start to finish, but because it makes the beginning of the movie feel small, as it should. Yes, we start out in space, there’s a big chase, and people die left and right, but as soon as we see R2 and 3PO hop on the escape pod and land into the desert, it gives a sense of intimacy to a degree. The scene where R2 is zapped by a Jawa is one of the smaller-scale scenes of “Star Wars” and I think it has provided for a breath of fresh air in a franchise full of blaster and lightsaber fights.
I will say though, the film has some slight imperfections. And by imperfections, I mean forgivable ones, because I admire Luke Skywalker as a character, but he is also kind of a wuss at times, at least in this film. Granted, he is young, he is at a rebellious point in his life, so it is understandable. This does not change the fact that Skywalker is a charismatic, brave, and extremely relatable hero. As I grow up, I begin to emulate more of his traits from wanting to control my destiny to wanting a balance between a social life and alone time and as this pandemic has revealed… Wanting to do something with my life. Luke Skywalker has a perfect balance of nerves and a sense of determination, which are two qualities that make for a likable hero on screen. Again, I mention the imperfections, despite them somewhat counting as flaws, I’d rather have an emotional, imperfect hero as opposed to someone who goes through life sitting pretty the whole way. It is our flaws that make us who we are at times and Luke Skywalker is a shining example of that. In fact, I am trying to break into the film industry, but like Luke Skywalker with the force, part of me occasionally has a hesitancy to get off my butt and actually do it. It is a human trait that I think extends to a lot of people no matter what they desire. It’s like when you’re a teenager and want to ask your crush out. Yes, it’s scary, but you may wonder where the question leads you.
I also really like Luke’s first introduction to Obi-Wan, because we get to see Luke learn about Ben’s history with the Jedi, Luke’s father, and things that TOTALLY happned. Regardless of how things turned out after this conversation, it showed that “Star Wars” did not mess around when it comes to lore and world-building. It gave a fascinating slice of backstory interweaved into this “civilized age.”
But I gotta admit, when it comes to deciding which of the main characters of the movie happens to be my favorite, my mind usually darts toward Han Solo, a suave, charming captain who wants not much more than money and a princess. Just from the first minute, I already got the distinction that Han Solo may be the biggest badass in the galaxy that does not wield a lightsaber, well, except for one, we’ll get to that momentarily. Between his affirmations of being a space captain, someone who made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, and shooting Greedo (FIRST) like a boss, I already knew that I could count on Solo if I hired him as a bodyguard. Plus, he probably has the best lines in the movie.
Han Solo: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.
Princess Leia Organa: Looks like you’ve managed to cut off our only escape route.
Han Solo: [sarcastically] Maybe you’d like it back in your cell, your highness.
Han Solo: [referring to Leia] Wonderful girl. Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her.
Now Han Solo may arguably be my favorite character of the protagonist side of things, but on the dark side, a big standout for me in this movie is Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing). In movie fandom, Darth Vader is often recognized is the biggest of all baddies. But despite that, the larger presence in this film in terms of villainy is Grand Moff Tarkin, who is put in charge of the Death Star’s operations. The reason why I love Tarkin is because of his lack of emotion. He almost feels like if Squidward Tentacles from “SpongeBob SquarePants” were a supervillain. A near regular Joe who works his ass off just to go about his days. Granted, unlike Squidward, who is stuck doing a part time job he hates, I could imagine Tarkin has a passion for what he does in regards to destroying the galaxy. But it’s not just his stern and somewhat classy personality that makes him likable to me, but it is also how he puts people in their place. I feel like of all the “Star Wars” characters to ever exist, Tarkin may be the most formidable and intimidating who does not use weapons to control others. Let’s put it this way. Count Dooku from the prequels is not a bad villain. He’s not fantastic either, but he’s serviceable. Either way, I have a strong feeling that if he did not have a lightsaber by his side, he would not be that intimidating. Tarkin does not even need one and yet he may be the most fearsome character in the movie. Just saying “You may fire when ready,” is not only iconic, but strikes fear into the heart. There are a lot of good villains based on their physical abilities, but Grand Moff Tarkin is a *great* villain by not needing to tap into his physicality the entire time.
If you read my reviews for the prequels, one of my usual pros that I would provide happen to be the lightsaber battles. Each one of the three episodes have at least one cool lightsaber fight. In “The Phantom Menace” we have the climactic duel between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan going up against Darth Maul. In “Attack of the Clones,” the climactic duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin vs. Count Dooku is honestly less impressive, but still quite entertaining. Now “Revenge of the Sith,” one reason why I gave it a positive grade is because it has some of the best lightsaber action in the entire franchise in terms of concepts between Obi-Wan vs. General Grievous to choreography with Obi-Wan and Anakin’s rematch with Count Dooku to story with Obi-Wan facing off against Anakin at the end of the movie. Lightsabers are awesome and the prequels have proven that. The lightsaber battles are legitimately the best parts of those movies. Now with the original “Star Wars,” we do not focus on that as much. And one of the things that I have noticed with the original trilogy over the years is that it treats the lightsaber as if it were special. There’s only one specific duel per movie and there are only a few other scenes where a lightsaber even shows up. But even I gotta admit… The choreography during the one duel in the movie is not perfect.
There is a duel in the film between Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader past the halfway point. We have had buildup about their connection through the force to a degree, so the script does an effective enough job at signifying a sense of conflict between these two. But here’s the thing, I could almost imagine this fight being a futuristic presidential debate if Joe Biden and Donald Trump run against each other once more. I’m not giving any political views, but the point is, they fight as if they are on their last legs when they really aren’t. Yes, we see Obi-Wan is all greyed out, but he seems to have some juice left in him. I think the choreography could have been slightly improved if you ask me. But going back to the prequels, one thing I found to be a flaw in those movies is the mix of characterization and story. Yes, you have your point A to point B structure, but 1977’s “Star Wars” does a much better job at fleshing out its characters and giving them a reason to have the conflicts that appear in front of them. I actually care about what is happening. I am rooting for Obi-Wan, based not only on his likability, but his motivations, to come out on top here. This sounds like a small thing to accomplish, but considering how the prequels have played out later on, it just goes to show how well this story holds up.
The end of the fight has a real lasting impact when, spoiler alert, Obi-Wan dies. That’s the thing that this movie gets right that the prequels just couldn’t do as successfully. I felt the intimidation of the Empire through the blast of their Death Star, specific characters on the fleet, the TIE Fighters, and part of it was because I cared about people in the film, what they were doing, what they stood for, and potentially even their personality. This is why I often get excited when I think about the climax of the film. The climax of “Star Wars” is one that I often forget how exciting it is until I sit down and watch it again. As we are given the game plan and Luke shoots off into space in his X-Wing with R2 by his side, composer John Williams orchestrates the music like a boss and creates the perfect playlist for saving the galaxy. On top of that, the mission itself is just fun. Good clean fun.
We see a lot go down in just a matter of ten to twenty minutes. We see a tad of conflict between Skywalker and Solo before takeoff, we see all the ships in formation, we get the perspectives of the observers, the Rebels, the Empire, and it does not take long after all the ships get into attack position to just feel a sense of excitement and adrenaline. I also love the decision towards the end to have the ships navigate through a seemingly endless, straight, grey trench. It’s not only simple but it kind of has a drag race feel to it. The ships are rushing to the finish line as they try to find the one hole that will get them the win. When you have such an expansive franchise like “Star Wars” it is sometimes difficult to harken back to where it all started partially because it has become so immense, so universal, but when I pop on “A New Hope” and watch the end, I remember the grin on my face, the tingle in my brain, and even though I have watched the film almost hundreds of times by now, I still root for Luke hoping he actually makes the shot at the end. “Star Wars” feels like a dream. It is a universe that I often want to flock to in my imagination. In my mind, I often want to visit Mos Eisley or ride the Millennium Falcon and have captain Solo by my side. This movie has opened my imagination as a kid and it continues to surpass many of the movies I watch today as an adult.
George Lucas once said that “the films were designed for 12-year-olds.” I do not see that statement as derogatory or as an insult to anyone’s intelligence. Now I can look back at certain pieces of media that I watched as a kid that could have arguably made me dumber, like “Power Rangers.” As fun as it was to watch that franchise when I was younger, I often look back and wonder if I spent my time wisely. “Star Wars” on the other-hand is a well-crafted and intelligently designed piece of art that holds up to this day because it is one of more imaginative modern stories we have. The story is timeless, even if bits and pieces are repetitive. The effects are amazing and in some cases are better than the prequels. The characters are admirable to the tenth degree. And the quotes from the film stand out whether it is May the 4th or literally any other day. But the film is not perfect. It is not for everyone. Some Wookies may want to sit this one out.
BECAUSE CHEWIE DIDN’T GET A MEDAL AT THE END!
In the end, “Star Wars” is everything that people say it is and more. One of the best films ever made. When it comes to the typical hero’s journey story, “Star Wars” has everything you could ask for. A not so perfect, but also interesting main hero, a wise man, a rambunctious wit who tries to do what they see fit, and an out of this world adventure that is easy on the eyes, ears, and most importantly, the imagination. Is “Star Wars” a western? Some would say it is, and I can see why. Although while technically not in the western genre, this occasionally has the slight pace of a western duel, as you may notice in the fight between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader, all these desert environments, and occasionally gunslinging here and there. But to me, “Star Wars” is a great combination of fractions of a western if they merged into a pure fantasy. There is a reason why this movie is as celebrated as it is. As a child, I wanted to be a Jedi. As an adult, I want to go on an adventure. This movie has spoken to me for years and its staying power proves why “Star Wars” is deserving of a 10/10.
Also, one last thing I’ll mention is the score of the film. John Williams is up there with some of my favorite film composers of all time including Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and Alan Silvestri. His work on “Star Wars” showcases why that is the truth. If my previous reviews did not emphasize that enough already…
Here is a great track from this movie to support my statement. Enjoy.
Thanks for reading this review! We are more than halfway through the “7 DAYS OF STAR WARS” event and despite the recent 10/10, we are going to talk about a movie that some fans would argue is not just better than “Star Wars,” but the best film in the entire franchise, specifically “The Empire Strikes Back.” I cannot wait to discuss the film, but until then if you want to see more content like this, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, or just like the Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could go back and watch any movie for the first time ever that you’ve already watched, what movie would that be? I sometimes get jealous of thinking about the people who have not seen “Star Wars” because that just means that they will likely get to experience it for the first time at some point. I am at an age where I should not worry about having children, but if I do, I would eagerly await the day we sit on the couch, I put on “Star Wars,” hopefully they have never seen it, and I sit down and watch it with them. Until next time, may the force be with you and Scene Before is your click to the flicks!