Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): The Biggest Blast in the Galaxy

Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! It is the final day in the epic Scene Before event, 7 Days of Star Wars! We finished the prequel trilogy! We finished the original trilogy! And now, it is time for the sequel trilogy! Now as you may or may not know, I already reviewed “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker” on this blog before. Therefore, I will not be diving into those movies here because doing so would be somewhat repetitive. And if you are unfamiliar with the “Star Wars” franchise by any means, this implies that today I would be talking about “The Force Awakens.” This film has been one of the most impactful I have ever seen in my life. It is the only movie I have watched four times in the theater. It is the first film that I bought on Blu-ray in Steelbook form. And like many people, it revitalized my interest in “Star Wars.” Not to say I wasn’t interested before, but it practically gave me “Star Wars” fever in the same way that the original movie did to people back in 1977. The question is… Does it hold up five and a half years later? It is time to find out in the final episode of a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) and stars Harrison Ford (The Fugitive, Air Force One), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Adam Driver (Lincoln, Girls), Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness, Casualty), John Boyega (Attack the Block, 24: Live Another Day), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Sucker Punch), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1), Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max von Sydow (Minority Report, Flash Gordon). This film is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” and follows a group of people trying to seek the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi. At the same time, an ex-stormtrooper, a desert scavenger, and a BB droid must unite with Han Solo and Chewbacca to search for said Jedi all the while dealing with the currently enormous threat to the galaxy, the First Order, which is in control of the Death Star planet hybrid, Starkiller Base.

Imagine this… You are a mega fan of “Star Wars.” You saw all the movies. It’s been ten years since the prequels came out, when it seemed as if this franchise was done for good. But since Disney bought Lucasfilm, they’ve had plans to expand it since. This is where “The Force Awakens” comes in. Maybe one thing comes to mind, and that one thing is hype. After all, the trailers seem to promise a sense of direction that relates more to what we’ve experienced in the original films as opposed to the prequels, which have seemed to divide fans over the years. I think the hype that has been built up going into “The Force Awakens” is almost unlike any movie I’ve seen in my life aside from “Avengers: Endgame.” For the record, I think only one “Star Wars” movie surpassed “The Force Awakens” in terms of all time hype, specifically “The Phantom Menace,” but I was not born yet. But in the time that I’ve been alive, I remember the feeling I had going into “The Force Awakens.” I bought tickets in advance for what would end up being my SECOND screening of the film, which was for Tuesday December 29th, when I went to see the movie with my father. My first screening was purchased around the weekend it came out, amazingly there were still tickets available. I went with a few people I know, including one of my close friends who was mainly a Trekkie, but she watched the original films in preparation for this event and she enjoyed them. The hype was F*CKING REAL. Was “The Force Awakens” worth all that hype? Or was it something that would let me down in the end?

You bet it was worth the hype. And having rewatched it in preparation for this review, if anything, it has gotten better since my first viewing. I will admit, part of it may be because I watched it for the first time in a while, whereas in a year like 2016 I would watch it almost every other night over the spring, so it almost maintains a feeling of freshness, but this is a film that evokes the feeling of excitement. If the prequels have style and the originals have substance, then “The Force Awakens” probably has both! When this film came out, it was by far one of the most presentable “Star Wars” films yet. Granted, a lot of it has to do with maybe a greater sense of detail that has been built up over the years and better effects. But I look back at the original “Star Wars” and also notice that in this film, they do a lot more movement with the camera and attempt to make this newer installment slightly more immersive. The flight sequences in “The Force Awakens” are probably the most dazzling in the franchise. We see the camera attached to the side of an X-Wing, maybe we’re inside an X-Wing, maybe we’re flying in the air and the camera goes through an explosion as we head into it. There is a lot to love in this film in terms of flight. And it’s not just the craft we fly like TIE Fighters and X-Wings, but the characters we meet along the way.

Poe Dameron : What’s your name?

Finn : FN-2187.

Poe Dameron : F… What?

Finn : That’s the only name they ever gave me.

Poe Dameron : Well, I ain’t usin’ it. FN, huh? Finn, I’m going to call you Finn. Is that alright?

Finn : Finn. Yeah. Finn. I like that. I like that.

Poe Dameron : I’m Poe. Poe Dameron!

Finn : Good to meet you, Poe!

Poe Dameron : Good to meet you too Finn!

The scene where Finn an Poe first meet is up there with one of my favorites in the franchise. Because after a series of three movies where we see semi-unrelatable Jedi who almost have no emotion whatsoever, we get these two individuals who let out any single sense of emotion they have within them. There’s this moment where Finn takes out a couple cannons on a Stardestroyer and the next thing we see is them cheering out of satisfaction. Finn just lets himself loose and Poe soon joins in. They’re having the time of their lives. While it is noticeable that Anakin and Obi-Wan have become good friends over the years, they honestly don’t feel like “buds” or actual people with things in common other than the Jedi way. These two in just a matter of moments let out more emotion than we’ve seen in a couple of entire prequel movies.

In fact, that is something I really want to talk about. This movie, much to my delight, goes into a direction that truly humanizes “Star Wars.” And it is not to say that the series has not done that already. “A New Hope” is about being a larger than life individual and the steps that a hero takes to get to that larger than life status. But here, they go as far as to humanize Stormtroopers, who we find out are actual people who can remove their helmets. To be fair, this should not be TOO surprising, as Darth Vader had a helmet that could be removed, but it is something that at least in the movies, has never been seen in “Star Wars” before. There is a scene Finn removes his helmet and we see his pain, his exasperation. He just finished his first battle and he is clearly not thrilled with what he has witnessed. I feel like writers J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt were in a room together and constantly asked each other what ways they could evoke more actual human emotion into the franchise, because they not only manage to do that with something as robotic as Stormtroopers, but with the brand new villain, who I would argue is my favorite of the Disney “Star Wars” characters, Kylo Ren.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

When it comes to “Star Wars,” Darth Vader is seen as the biggest of all baddies. That is written in stone. None of the prequel villains like Darth Maul ever surpassed Vader’s legacy in terms of how they were represented in the movies. There are days that I look at Kylo Ren however, and see something in him that makes him come off as more likable than Vader. And I’ll tell you why… He’s not exactly fearsome. He talks a good game. He wields a sparkly red lightsaber that almost looks like it’s on life support, but somehow it looks pretty badass. He stops blaster bolts with the force, which provides for one of my favorite shots of the film where we see Poe getting dragged to Kylo by a couple troopers. But he is so busy fanboying over Vader’s legacy, trying to be him or surpass him. After all, as people, we all look up to someone and hope their qualities that we may take from them will lead to a successful path in life. And Kylo kind of reminds me of myself a little because he sometimes will lose his temper and take his anger out on electronic devices. He kind of feels like an angry gamer playing “Cuphead” and he can’t make it past the one boss that will lead you to the next island. It’s HILARIOUS. I don’t know how this statement will be received… But aside from Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren may be the character in the “Star Wars” franchise that I relate to the most. Feels weird to say, but it is true. In fact, that is part of the humanization of this film that really stands out, the humor. “Star Wars” is one of those franchises that comes off as funny to me without the characters exactly being funny. That has stood true in films like “The Empire Strikes Back.” But this film takes the humor to another level.

Poe Dameron : Wha- why? Why are you helping me?

Finn : Because it’s the right thing to do.

Poe Dameron : You need a pilot.

Finn : [chagrined]  I need a pilot.

There is so much that goes on in this film in terms of attempts at comedy that honestly don’t feel forced. They feel like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie where every humorous quote blends naturally into the conversation or scene. Every shining character from Finn to Han to Chewbacca to Rey has at least funny moment in the film, even if it is minor or something that could be glossed over. And speaking of Rey, let’s talk about her.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

I went into “The Force Awakens” during my initial screening thinking I’d like Rey, but after multiple rewatches, I practically admired the character more and more. Kind of like Luke Skywalker was, she seemed somewhat hesitant to go on her journey, but also like Luke, it made the character somewhat relatable. She was emotional, sometimes giddy, observant of her surroundings, and she has great chemistry with Finn. I think the first three to five minutes with her are some of my favorite in recent “Star Wars” history because it comes without any dialogue, at least none out of her specifically, and in those moments, I have practically learned the base of what I need to know about her. She lives in a slightly ruined, but also civilized desert, she lives by herself and makes the most of what she has, but she’s looking for an escape at the same time. This is well established by her exiting her unusual home, sitting in the sand, and watching a spacecraft fly up. She clearly longs for a way out of her life and the movie did a great job at encapsulating that.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

But this film is not all about the new characters. Because these new characters get to journey alongside Han Solo and Chewbacca, and every time I watch this movie, I think Han Solo gives a good performance, but it is arguably his worst when it comes to this specific character. Maybe it’s because the character is not in their prime and seeing a grizzly Han admittedly takes a little getting used to, but it’s nice to know Harrison Ford is still going strong in these films. As for Chewbacca, he is played by two people. In some scenes, he is portrayed by Peter Mayhew, and in others he is played by Joonas Suotomo. It’s nice to see Han and Chewie back together because I think their relationship, and this was also highlighted in the “Solo” spinoff movie, has been one of the franchise’s biggest standouts. To see them both together feels natural and fun. There’s also a great gag where Han Solo tries out Chewbacca’s gun, and he seems to be quite impressed with it. Admittedly, as fun as it is in the movie, one SLIGHT nitpick I have with that, and it is a very small one, it does not take too much away from the film itself. It feels very weird to know that in the extended number of years that they’ve known each other, Han has supposedly never tried Chewbacca’s gun out. Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe it’s the typical instinct thing that Wookies have that kind of makes them go wild. I mean, if Chewbacca can tear off somebody’s limbs after losing a friendly match of a holographic game on the Millennium Falcon, or as LEGO Batman calls it, “Space Checkers,” you can only wonder what would happen if somebody touches his gun. Then again, he probably trusts Han after many years of standing by each other. Who knows? Just something I wanted to bring up.

We also have Leia, who as of this movie, has been deemed a “Disney Princess.” But in this movie, we see that she and Han, somewhat unsurprisingly, have stuck around over the years. And I will admit, when it comes to “The Force Awakens,” the first scene that we see of her and Han in the same frame is the one that arguably gets me the most nostalgic about the “Star Wars” franchise aside from Han admiring the Falcon cockpit and Han referring back to the old days where he remembers his skepticism about the Jedi and how his thoughts have changed since. And speaking of nostalgia, let’s dive a little further into it.

“Star Wars” has become part of many people’s lives. And for lots of them, their first exposure was the original movie, which is phenomenal even by today’s standards. “The Force Awakens,” according to many people, feels like a ripoff of “A New Hope.” To me, I do not like to use that word. Because to call it a ripoff would mean that I did not like the movie. To me, this film took the plot lines of “A New Hope,” tinkered with them, and successfully made an extremely effective picture. To me, “The Force Awakens” is more like a homage and tribute to what makes the franchise great than anything else. “Star Wars” has always been revered mainly because of the success of the original trilogy. People like it for other things too, but mainly the original trilogy. So I have a feeling that J.J. Abrams or Lawrence Kasdan or Kathleen Kennedy wanted to consider the people who did not like the prequels, and give them something that they’re probably more likely to enjoy. And to do that, there was a sense of nostalgia every other step of the way between X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Death Stars, characters we already knew from prior films, and so on. In a way, this is basically a VERY WELL DONE “Star Wars” greatest hits album. It takes everything people like about “Star Wars” and puts them all into a beautiful package. And I’m surprised that people feel like this movie is too familiar. Yes, some of the story beats are similar to the original trilogy. There’s a big planet killer, a guy with a red lightsaber and helmet that wants to destroy the galaxy, there’s someone else with a blue lightsaber trying to save the galaxy, there’s a space battle towards the end, there’s a scene where the Millennium Falcon gets caught in a tractor beam. There’s a lot that this film takes from entries prior. But I’d say that it is, as people say, similar to the original “Star Wars,” and I’ll add, it comes with a hint of darkness from “The Empire Strikes Back” sprinkled in between. There’s even blood in this movie! I like that little detail they added in!

If anything, and I say this as a huge fan of “Revenge of the Sith,” this feels like a “Star Wars” reunion party that has been built up for years. One that in a way, semi-apologizes for the prequels. Disney is the host, the mass audiences are all invited in, we go to the theater, head to the auditorium, and once that opening crawl commences and we get to the nitty gritty of the film, the movie is basically screaming “WELCOME BACK!” to all of our faces. This film is most certainly nostalgic to the tenth degree, but manages to interweave that nostalgia with a brand new story and set of characters that I have grown to admire over a couple of hours.

One last thing before we get to the final verdict. I really need to know this. If John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or anyone else who worked on the film can confirm, I have a question about… This scene. Because I think I may have interpreted it much differently than a lot of other people who saw the movie.

In this moment, is BB-8 giving a thumbs up or is he flipping Finn off? I know the video title goes with the former, but still! When I saw this film at the theater, I always thought BB-8 was flipping Finn off. After all, when you present a light of fire at somebody, it almost signals a threat. Besides, BB-8 originally tried to electrocute Finn on Jakku. And yes, he’s kind of warmed up to him, but it’s almost like BB-8 smells a rat and is telling Finn, “I’m onto you.” At least that is what my interpretation is of what is going on. So if anyone involved with Lucasfilm or “The Force Awakens” could confirm this to me, please do.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

In the end, “The Force Awakens” puts the fun back in “Star Wars” after years of emotionless movies with somewhat dull characters. We now have humanized individuals, including the big bad villain who unlike Vader, is much more man than he is machine. If anything, this almost reminds me of an animated film because you know how in animated films like “The Lion King” or “A Bug’s Life” they’ll take creatures that are not human and personify them by giving them human voices? This reminds me of that because they took characters like Stormtroopers and others who are robotic and gave them all personalities. Every single character in this film feels like they have some understanding of the human condition and have at least a single ounce of relatability. The film looks amazing and one of my nerdy pieces of nostalgia I’ll bring to the table, this movie was shot in 35mm, although there is one sequence, specifically the escape from Jakku, that was shot on IMAX film, which was marvelous to watch on the IMAX screen the two times I saw it in that format. Plus there is also footage shot with an Arri Alexa XT. The film is funny, it’s happy, sad, everything in between. It has everything I could want in a “Star Wars” movie. Is it familiar? Sure, but again, familiarity in this case is not a weakness. For this movie in particular, it is used as a technique to get us to appreciate the joys of the past in “Star Wars” while also looking to the future. When I first reflected on the film, my one hope was that when Episode VIII comes out, it is not a copy-paste of “The Empire Strikes Back,” because this copy-paste technique worked in the favor of “The Force Awakens,” as it was trying to remind people what “Star Wars” *is*, but the next film also had to differentiate itself from what came before in the franchise.

Well… It was different alright. But it doesn’t mean it was great.

I walked out of “The Force Awakens” as a 16 year old geek in 2016 with a feeling that could only be described as orgasmic, and each time I watch the film, I enjoy it as much as the first. I’m going to give “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” a 10/10.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did everything it should have done and more. It made me feel like a kid again in the best possible way. This movie is so good, that I almost forgot to put in my obligatory statement where I appreciate John Williams’s score. And by the way, John Williams killed the score in this film, if you must know. I love his theme for the Resistance, Rey’s theme is soft and smooth, and Kylo Ren’s jingle has been catchy since early viewings of the film.

Much like the original trilogy, “The Force Awakens” has an insane replay value. I saw it four times in the theater, many more times on home video. In fact, I’d watch it almost every other night in April, May, and June of 2016, and I’d occasionally watch it on television. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a fantastic setup for what was to come. Unfortunately, what came after was not so fantastic, and I say that despite giving “The Last Jedi” a positive review. I was in a much different mindset when I saw the movie compared to long after it. That’s the power of thinking things over and watching a movie a second time.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes the 7 Days of “Star Wars” event! I want to thank everyone for reading this review, along with those who read my reviews for Episodes I through VI. If you want to read any of my other “Star Wars” movie reviews, I have links for them down below. I have always wanted to talk about these movies to an extensive length, and I finally got the chance to do it, so I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews as much as I enjoyed making them, even if it did take a lot of time for me to sit down and complete, but it was worth it. I do have plenty of reviews for new movies coming soon including “Wrath of Man,” “Army of the Dead,” and “A Quiet Place Part II.” I do apologize if I end up getting these out somewhat late, but I have mainly been focused on the 7 Days of Star Wars event in regard to my recent goings on here at Scene Before. Therefore, everything else has been put on the backburner. Although I am also excited to announce that I will soon be doing another Blu-ray collection update. In all likelihood, this will be done in June, but depending on my schedule and how things go in life, I may end up doing it in July.

I also will share with you that my next review series, which is being done in preparation for the Disney ride to film adaptation “Jungle Cruise.” This series is going to be focused on “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I have admittedly not watched these movies in YEARS. I have also never seen even a minute of the fourth and fifth installments, and I don’t think I have any memory of watching the third one either. I could be wrong though. Find out my thoughts on all five sea adventures this July in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account or like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens?” What did you think about it? And I’ll end with three more questions… One, what is your favorite “Star Wars” film? Two, what film have you seen the most times in the theater? And three, what is your favorite franchise continuation or reboot? And I don’t just mean sequel, I mean a sequel that has been long-awaited like “Jurassic World” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Blade Runner 2049.” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

May the force be with you. Emphasis on the May.

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/27/the-empire-strikes-back-1980-i-love-you/

RETURN OF THE JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/28/return-of-the-jedi-1983-i-see-the-good/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Return of the Jedi (1983): I See the Good

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.

[pause]

Yoda: Told you, did he?

Luke: Yes.

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.

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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.

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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!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/27/the-empire-strikes-back-1980-i-love-you/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

The Empire Strikes Back (1980): I Love You

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!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars (1977): An Ageless Adventure

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!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005): My Favorite Star Wars Prequel Ever

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Before we begin, I just want to point out that today is May 25th, a very special day in “Star Wars” history. For those who are not in the loop, May 25th, 1977, is the premiere date of “Star Wars.” It was back in a time of cheaper movie tickets, film stock, and despecialized content. The rest is history. Happy 44th anniversary to the “Star Wars” franchise! We might as well celebrate the anniversary by honoring the “Star Wars” name and discussing a film in the franchise that has impacted me more and more as years pass. Yesterday I reviewed the first “Star Wars” movie I have watched in my life, now we review the second! Why did I watch “Episode III” before all the others? Well, I was at Blockbuster and they had a ton on the shelf, and I put it in a portable DVD set during a car ride on a family trip. Given my young age, I was unable to process what a good or bad movie is, so I just watched all the images wiz by and let it happen. But I did rent it over a couple more instances, eventually went to the Northshore Mall Sears to buy it on DVD, and I watched it quite a few more times over the years. And now it is time to talk about it today in my mini review series I’m calling… “7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!”

“Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is directed by George Lucas and stars Hayden Christensen (Goosebumps, Shattered Glass), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Natalie Portman (Leon the Professional, Mars Attacks!), Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable), Christopher Lee (Julius Caesar, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), and Frank Oz (The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal). This film is the second sequel of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy and takes place three years into the Clone Wars. As Obi-Wan faces off against the sinister General Grievous, Anakin, now a Jedi Knight with a pregnant wife, is lured into a sinister dark plan to rule the galaxy.

In my previous “Star Wars” prequel reviews, a couple common things I have discussed include the “style over substance” mentality and how the characters in the films overall feel like a near afterthought. If I had to guess, George Lucas spent a long time thinking about how he could do a “Star Wars” prequel series from start to finish, but I feel like as the 1990s came along and visual effects were on the rise with movies like “Jurassic Park,” it felt as if the main reason why “The Phantom Menace” was made was because new technology existed. Now, I am one who occasionally watches movies for technological reasons. I think the trend of movies being shot with IMAX cameras has been one of the best things to happen to blockbusters in recent years. I also recently saw “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” at AMC’s Dolby Cinema. TWICE! IT’S AMAZING!

With “Revenge of the Sith,” this film did not feel like an exception, as it is a continuation of “Star Wars” utilizing lots of digital effects. But unlike “The Phantom Menace,” which already looks kind of dated during scenes like the big climactic battle on Naboo, “Revenge of the Sith” has a vast selection of visuals that still look believable to this day. There is not really a single effect I can think of that looks odd or out of place. Granted, some effects look more believable than others, after all this is a fantasy film, but nevertheless. I will also add that this film, in addition to being the best Skywalker saga prequel in terms of effects, is BY FAR the best prequel in terms of characterization. Anakin and Obi-Wan have solid chemistry from the very first flight sequence to the dramatic climax of the film. Christensen and McGregor have improved their performances from the last film, although I will admit that Christensen is still slightly robotic, and I really dig Anakin’s hair. It works for him.

Speaking of Anakin, I do want to talk his balance between the light and dark sides. To me, this is the highlight of the film, because it shows a man having a ton of thoughts invade his head at a time. One of the things I hated the most about the transition from the original trilogy to the prequel trilogy is the greater emphasis on space politics. Apparently we went from a fantasy adventure where a bunch of people try to restore the galaxy by journeying through the stars to dealing with debates over trade routes. Here, it is a tad more interesting partially because the movie deals with such a dramatic shift and it introduces some concepts that made the original trilogy have an intimidating presence in it. It was fascinating to see the rise of the galactic empire and what it took to get there. With Anakin in the mix, you have this man who said as a boy he would come back to his home planet and free the slaves, to straight up wanting power every other second. We see traces of this in “Attack of the Clones” where Anakin often complains about Obi-Wan putting him in his place and his desire to stop people from dying, which by the way is expanded in this film with a subplot involving Anakin and Padme’s love life. And yes, we will get to Darth Plagueis. But not yet.

The romance between Anakin and Padme in “Attack of the Clones” felt unbelievably forced, as I mentioned in my review, but in “Revenge of the Sith” I bought into it a little bit more. Maybe it is because the two characters grew up, matured a bit more. To be perfectly honest, Anakin feels WAY less creepy in this film compared to how he did in “Attack of the Clones,” which is part of why I think “Revenge of the Sith” is the best of the prequels in terms of representing him and a bunch of other characters as well.

I’m just glad this movie BARELY has Jar Jar in it. Thank the space lords!

I will say though, the plot line that was introduced in “Attack of the Clones,” the one that forbids Anakin and Padme from being together, also makes an appearance in “Revenge of the Sith,” but it feels like it is just here to remind the audience of what happened in the last movie with little to no expansion from there whatsoever.

Speaking of “Attack of the Clones,” one of my grievances with the film, and “The Phantom Menace” for that matter, is that we learn a lot of seemingly important things from people standing around and doing nothing except for having obviously expositional conversations. They’re either walking or standing around in hallways. It doesn’t always feel that eventful or intriguing. It lacks any sort of oomph that could possibly be delivered. But I would have to assume this is one of the disadvantages that comes with blue screens and digital environments. All these additions of fake environments make conversations ultimately feel less authentic and more played out for the sake of giving the audience information. The more I look back, physical characters feel more like animated blobs, which is not exactly a good thing. This is not to say that the digital effects in “Revenge of the Sith” are all bad. In fact, it is by far the best-looking “Star Wars” film in the prequel trilogy. I love the new worlds including Mustafar and Kashyyyk.

On the topic of Kashyyyk, I really like any moment we get to see that world because first off, we get to see Chewbacca, and who doesn’t love Chewbacca? But we get to see this really big Wookie army fighting off Battle Droids, which by itself is pretty badass. It has the same scale and polish that the climactic battle at the end of “Attack of the Clones” had if you ask me. One highlight for me, and to my surprise, we actually got this in “Return of the Jedi” as well, but I never really paid much attention to it when it happened, is hearing a wookie yell like Tarzan. I don’t know what it is, but it is just satisfying to say the least.

In case you missed the subtitle, “Revenge of the Sith” is easily my favorite of the “Star Wars” prequels, and I am including “Rogue One” in this conversation, despite how great that film is by itself. Part of this is because of the way they go about the Jedi and Sith side of things. This film EASILY has the best lightsaber duels in the franchise, which really says something because the one between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon against Darth Maul was pretty sick to watch. I really enjoyed the duel where the Jedi try to arrest Palpatine, as goofy as it is to think about Palpatine being able to do a spinny thing and land carefully on the ground without breaking a leg. The music in that scene is great too, but I am very disappointed it is not on any of the official albums. The duel between Obi-Wan and Grievous is just plain great from seeing how Kenobi deals with a quad-lightsaber individual to Grievous being ridiculously over the top in the best possible way. And of all the “meme” scenes in this movie from “I have the high ground” to the youngling asking Anakin what is going to be done about all the Jedi being killed, this duel contains the one that I’ve been thinking about the most these days.

Perfection.

I want to have an exchange in real life like this. I just want to meet up with one of my friends and go “Hello there,” desperately hoping they respond with “General Kenobi!” There’s just something about this exchange and how soothing it is to the ears.

This “Hello there” line is literal perfection. Not only does Obi-Wan appear out of the blue making a grand entrance with a superhero landing, we get some dead air for a second, he could say anything, but sometimes the simplest exchange is always the best. “Hello there.” Now, McGregor saying that phrase alone is great, but the way he enunciates it is just spectacular. He sounds like he could be a tour guide on a safari or something. Maybe a receptionist. If I check into a hotel in London, I want someone with that voice to greet me. And of course, we get General Grievous being his over the top self. It’s just great. Almost cartoony, but in a likable way. What makes this even better, and I bet George Lucas wrote this specific line down on purpose, is that in the original “Star Wars,” the first line out of Kenobi ever is him saying “Hello there.” Only thing is instead of it coming out of Ewan McGregor’s mouth, it is being said by Alec Guinness. This is a little thing, but “Star Wars” has been ingrained in my mind for years that I have to point out the little things every now and then.

The first duel of the film where Anakin and Obi-Wan face off against Dooku is a crowd pleaser. Per usual, the music from John Williams is golden and the choreography is top notch. Plus, we get to see a hint of rising conflict amongst Anakin.

In another universe, there is a chance that this film has a nearly similar title to another one in the franchise that already exists. Specifically, “Return of the Jedi.” For those who are not in the know, “Return of the Jedi” was originally going to be called “Revenge of the Jedi,” but they changed the name at the last minute because Jedi do not typically seek revenge. After all, revenge is sometimes seen as a negative concept and one that may be deadly. As Mace Windu said in “Attack of the Clones,” Jedi are “keepers of the peace, not soldiers.” They are there to protect others, but killing is not the Jedi way. Now in “Revenge of the Sith,” we actually get to see a Jedi, Anakin specifically, let himself loose. One standout moment of the film for me is the moment where we see Anakin wield two lightsabers. Those two sabers being his own and Dooku’s, and he intricately places them near Dooku’s face. After being ordered by Palpatine to “kill him,” Anakin looks at Dooku with bewilderment, but he goes with it anyway. He instantly regrets his choice, but this is a great way to show that Anakin’s mind could easily be twisted. I think the buildup to these moments have been perfect because while Anakin swears on his life to protect others, he has also shown signs that he is 1: somewhat selfish, and 2: constantly lusting for power. He sometimes overreacts about how he is treated by Obi-Wan, he sliced Tusken Raiders out of rage after his mom died, and now this is just his latest release.

In fact, later on in the film, when we see Anakin’s appointment to the Jedi Council, I sort of felt his pain when being denied the rank of Master. Which by the way, that is amazing. I say so because this trilogy has been riddled with moments where I couldn’t give two craps about anything going on or the characters, so to see Anakin experience disappointment and have me gain a sense of sympathy for him is already an improvement over much of “The Phantom Menace.” This is all bad news for Anakin. But I’d argue there is great news for the viewers. Why? Because Anakin is forced to spy on Palpatine, which leads to the scene where we get to hear about Darth Plagueis the wise, arguably the only time I cared about midichlorians.

For those who have not seen this movie, this is not really a spoiler because it probably has less of an effect on the plot, although it does give an idea as to where things could be going. Anakin and Palpatine sit down next to each other, and at one point Palpatine asks Anakin if he’s heard of Darth Plagueis, to which Ani says no. Turns out, Darth Plagueis could use his power to influence midichlorians in order to create life. He could also simply put, save people from death. Now if you remember “Attack of the Clones,” when Anakin goes off on a rant in front of Padme, he mentions that he will learn how to stop people from dying. That was some great foreshadowing, because Anakin soon asks Palpatine, “Is it possible to learn this power?” Palpatine then responds, “Not from a Jedi.” This is perfect lore building. Not only does it expand on a foreshadowed comment, not only does it provide some cool backstory, but it even promises excitement in the future. Plus, Palpatine’s comment is kind of glorious to say the least because if anything, you would think the Jedi would be the ones to save people from death as that is kind of their purpose at times. But in a way, I could see why the dark side would use something like this. After all, part of the Jedi is selflessness, and there may be an argument to make that stopping people from dying could be personal, kind of like seeking revenge. This kind of makes the Anakin and Padme storyline very intriguing because from Anakin’s point of view, he hopes to save Padme’s life, but in reality, he may be going against his own morals. I will also add, this is one of the weird times where one of the better “Star Wars” moments throughout the franchise is just from two characters almost doing nothing except for sitting down and having a conversation. But if you like characters doing things, prepare for the climax.

The climax of “Revenge of the Sith” has my favorite action sequence in the entire franchise, not to mention one of my favorites in film history. The fight against Anakin and Obi-Wan is EASILY the most emotionally charging fight in the entire prequels. Everything has built up to this. Obi-Wan has a job to do where Anakin must be kept from causing any more havoc amongst the galaxy and even himself. I do not want to go into everything, but the choreography in this duel is legit. I feel like the Jedi at some point in their lives are trained to just show themselves off in front of everyone around them. Every lightsaber flick, move, and trick that is done in this duel is orgasmic to say the last. And speaking of epic, the music throughout the battle may be my favorite music in the entire franchise.

John Williams, as mentioned before, is a goddamn genius. I would not say so unless it were true. Towards the end of the battle, where Obi and Ani float on pieces of debris on the lava, there’s this gigantic chorus that lets themselves loose and they mean business. Everything about the music here, including the recently posted track, “Battle of the Heroes,” is perfect. It’s dark, brooding, massive, and much like “Duel of the Fates” in “The Phantom Menace,” “Battle of the Heroes” is perfect for many incidents of impending doom.

In the final moments of battle, there is a brief exchange between Ani and Obi that is honestly incredible as it shows how far their friendship has fallen.

Obi-Wan: I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.

Anakin Skywalker: I should have known the Jedi were plotting to take over!

Obi-Wan: Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil!

Anakin Skywalker: From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!

Obi-Wan: Well, then you are lost!

Anakin Skywalker: [raises his lightsaber] This is the end for you, my master.

They say that Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded, but it is just fascinating to see what happens when a Sith takes control of a Jedi’s mind. How they can brainwash them essentially. Granted the Jedi started this whole thing too by not letting Anakin be a Master, but nevertheless. You know what’s also great? Simultaneously, we have ANOTHER amazing duel between Yoda and Palpatine! The buildup and action all the way to the end is exciting and thrilling. It also reuses “Duel of the Fates,” which I personally approve.

“Revenge of the Sith” easily tries harder than any other prequel to tell a great story. In fact, part of me imagines that George Lucas almost reluctantly went through the first two episodes hoping to get to the third one as quick as possible! Heck! It is the beginning of the end of the Jedi! It is the freaking Clone Wars! It is the origin story of Darth Vader! There is so much to like on paper when it comes to this film, and thankfully, the execution of this film is not terrible. The order 66 scene becomes more chilling with each watch! The lightsaber duels are off the hook! The space politics are SOMEHOW not boring! If I had to name any other noticeable flaws, it would be that some of the dialogue is sometimes cliché or corny, but it is not as bad as “Attack of the Clones.” There’s not much else that stands out. “Revenge of the Sith” is a special “Star Wars” movie for me because it is my favorite prequel and has what I consider to be some of the personal bests for the franchise. It has the best score. It has the best lightsaber duel. It has arguably one of the top lore expansions with Darth Plagueis. This is a film that I enjoyed in my childhood, but have become increasingly in love with after repeat viewings.

In the end, “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is easily my favorite “Star Wars” prequel to date. I will be completely honest with you. I could easily take out Episodes I and II and be perfectly okay with keeping III. Story-wise, it is exciting. Visually, it is breathtaking. Musically, it is bonkers. Of all of Ewan McGregor’s performances as Obi-Wan, this is easily the best one. Although I want you to notice something. Occasionally I will call this film the best “Star Wars” prequel. But I should note, in my subtitle and earlier in this paragraph, note my choice of words. I use the word “favorite,” not best. Part of me would argue in terms of story and concept, “Rogue One” may be slightly better. Although I had to pick one to watch over and over due to replay value, the option would definitely be “Revenge of the Sith.” There is so much to love about it, and the fan in me wants to give it a 10/10, but given the numerous flaws I mentioned, I do not see myself doing that as a critic. So despite me loving this film SO MUCH, I will take a couple points off and give “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” an 8/10.

I think this is a somewhat fair grade. Of all the prequels, this is the only one where I did not feel even an inch of boredom, even in slower scenes that mainly just involve dialogue. The space politics, again, actually feel like they matter. Anakin’s balance between light and dark gets more hypnotizing by the minute. And unlike “The Phantom Menace” that occasionally looks like some of the effects come out of a cereal box nowadays, “Revenge of the Sith” still holds up in terms of presentation and CGI. Overall, I would EASILY recommend this movie, and despite not liking the other two Skywalker Saga prequels, this is something that I would recommend to people starting to get into “Star Wars.” The positives easily outweigh the negatives, which I have not been able to say for the prior two episodes. “Revenge of the Sith,” despite being a brooding movie about one man’s transition to darkness, is a bright spot in the “Star Wars” universe for me.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes my reviews for the “Star Wars” prequels and now it is time to unleash my thoughts on the original trilogy! Tomorrow I will post my review for “Star Wars,” or “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” depending on which generation you’re in. Stay tuned, get excited, get ready! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account and like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Star Wars” prequel? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002): A Revisit to My First Star Wars Movie

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today I want to talk about one film in the “Star Wars” franchise that has meant a lot to me. My first ever introduction to the name “Star Wars,” that is aside from hearing about it from other people when I was in kindergarten. This also excludes a time I was over my cousin’s house, and he would be playing “LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game” on his Xbox. I do not know what episode he dove into first, but nevertheless. I also do not to leave out my memories having to do with a Millennium Falcon memory game at my grandparents house. That was something I often played in my younger years, but little did I know it was actually “Star Wars.” It was not too terribly long after that LEGO video game experience that I would go to the Sears at the Northshore Mall, which sadly does not exist anymore, and buy a widescreen DVD copy of “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” I would watch the film every now and then, have almost no idea what was going on, but because there were grand things and lasersword fights going down, I was entertained. Granted, as time went on, I had a greater understanding of everything, but keep in mind, I was around the age of 6 and I was not the brightest bulb in the room. That DVD was one of the most replayed I’ve had through my childhood, and despite upgrading to the Blu-ray in 2014, I still own the DVD to this day.

Long story short, “Attack of the Clones” was my first “Star Wars” film. What do I think of the movie today? Find out in my second review in a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” is directed by George Lucas, who directed two “Star Wars” films prior to his 2002 outing. This film stars Hayden Christensen (Goosebumps, Higher Ground), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional, Mars Attacks!) Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Shaft), Christopher Lee (Julius Caesar, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), and Frank Oz (The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal). This film is the first sequel in the prequel trilogy. Try saying that three times fast. This sequel takes place ten years after “The Phantom Menace.” Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have grown to be well-connected partners, and speaking of partnership, Skywalker wants to be romantically involved with Senator Padme Amidala. Only problem, Jedi code suggests followers are forbidden to love. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts to discover more information regarding an assassination attempt on the recently mentioned senator. On his journey, he discovers a clone army.

Few franchises have defined not only my childhood, but pretty much my entire life like “Star Wars” has. It is a franchise that one can get attached to at any age for a variety of reasons. As I have said before, “Attack of the Clones” was my first “Star Wars” film and one of my initial forays into the franchise, so like the film or not, I admittedly owe much of my gratitude to “Attack of the Clones.” I grew up with the prequel trilogy, and as you may have seen in my review for “The Phantom Menace,” that does not necessarily mean that I am a fan or avid supporter of said trilogy. It just means that it sort of defined my life for a period of time. I am well aware that the prequels get a ton of hate from a multitude of fans, and I am not going to stop them from having an opinion, whether I agree with it or not. It is a situation like this that makes me wonder what life will be like in ten years. How will we remember Episodes VII through IX? Will they be looked at in the same way as the prequels? Maybe better? Worse? Who knows?

I just want to reiterate, as a kid, “Attack of the Clones” was one of my most rewatched “Star Wars” films. As an adult, it is an utter snoozefest. Boring. Dull. Uninteresting. You name it.

Fun fact, one of the reasons why I remember “Attack of the Clones” being one of my most rewatched “Star Wars” films as a child is because I went through a phase in fourth grade, or at least I think it was fourth grade, where I would fall asleep to it every night when I played it on the television. Out of all the “Star Wars” movies I could choose that could make me fall asleep, that was usually the one because there were a lot of slower parts, and at the time, it seemed to be one of the lighter installments in the franchise, specifically in the first hour. Why? Because maybe I should have realized this when I was younger, NOTHING HAPPENS!

My lord! I often complain about Jar Jar in “The Phantom Menace,” and thankfully he is toned down in “Attack of the Clones,” but at least there was enough insanity going on in that first prequel to suggest that stuff was actually going on. Every other scene in this film is people walking and talking with no conflict, exposition, or a boring ripoff of “Romeo & Juliet.” Look, if I were alive in the “Star Wars” universe, there is a chance I would want to take Padme out for dinner, even if it meant going against code, but it is nowhere near enough to make a good movie.

Much like “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” is yet another example of style over substance. Let me be fair, “Star Wars” is known for big pretty things. It has been since it first came out in 1977. But since George Lucas did “The Phantom Menace” in 1999, that’s pretty much been superior to characterization. It’s been put above good themes, good acting. Real human emotions. Now, do I think Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker is more likable than the one played by Jake Lloyd? Yes. But for the most part, when it comes to the performance, Skywalker feels like a robot. I know one of the complaints about Luke Skywalker’s character in the original trilogy according to some people is that he is kind of a downer, somewhat of a whiner if you will. But at the same time, Mark Hamill did a really good job at encapsulating any emotion that came his way. He was not just someone who could shoot a blaster or fly an X-wing like a boss. Hamill put a significant amount of effort into a genuinely fun and entertaining character.

I may talk about this film having tons of style and how much of an achievement this prequel trilogy has been for CGI, but this film proves once again, “Star Wars” on location will always have more depth than green screening. It allows for the film to feel more raw despite such a fantastical vibe. Although I must say one perk that did come from all the green screen filming is the fact that this film manages to have more otherworldly designs than in the original trilogy. As much as I prefer the rustic, dirty feel of the Tatooine sands in the original trilogy, I must say that Coruscant is pleasing to the eye. It has the look I would want out of a galactic city and getting to see more of it in this movie was one of the highlights.

Speaking of Coruscant, one of my favorite parts of the film, partially because it is one of the more action-packed sequences in what is actually a somewhat dull picture, is the chase between Obi-Wan and Anakin as they go after Zam, played by Leeana Walsman. The chase is not too long, not too short, it is just right. Plus there is so much that happens at once between Obi-Wan holding onto a drone ship for dear life, the two Jedi showing off in the air without a ship, Anakin being cocky in front of his master, and a solid mix of flying and running. Plus, there is a moment where Obi-Wan sits at a bar and let’s just say that it is one of the funnier moments of the prequel trilogy.

Elan Sleazebaggano: You wanna buy some death sticks?

Obi-Wan: [using a Jedi Mind Trick] You don’t want to sell me death sticks.

Elan Sleazebaggano: Uh, I don’t want to sell you death sticks.

Obi-Wan: You want to go home and rethink your life.

Elan Sleazebaggano: I want to go home and rethink my life.

Remember kids, hugs not drugs.

While this film’s “character moments” from what I gathered are relatively few and far between, one of the better parts of the movie is seeing Anakin lose his temper. Now this movie is from 2002, but I will try to be as secretive as possible because there are potentially people reading this who have not watched “Attack of the Clones.” Let’s just say that there are a few moments through dialogue and various actions where Anakin clearly needs a therapist. I won’t go into everything, but I feel like that these moments, regardless of how much they have helped or destroyed the movie quality-wise, because I will admit, watching this was slightly awkward at times, perhaps effectively showed Anakin’s darker traits. Take Yoda’s dialogue in “The Phantom Menace” where fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. There is one scene where this partially culminates through Anakin’s words when he is on Tatooine with Padme. He is clearly depressed, and perhaps rightly so, but it is beyond difficult for him to control his emotions.

And you want to know why these character moments from Anakin stand out? Because they’re shoehorned into a lifeless, wooden film that barely has any semblance of emotion attached to it from the start! Every other performance in this film feels questionable to say the least. These actors do have talent, but there are moments were the actors sort of feel like they are not saying lines and instead reading words off of a teleprompter. They say that actions speak louder than words, but in this film, there is sometimes little action, but too many words. The thing that works about the original, and I’ll also mention sequel trilogy is that every other conversation not only feels dramatic or real to a degree, but there seems to be a sense of conflict while each hint of dialogue is uttered. Something is happening, some impending doom or incident may be coming. But in the prequel trilogy, we have to settle for random casual talks in hallways or well put together rooms. It’s like walking into a nice Italian restaurant, ordering a presentable chicken parmesan, only to have it be delivered as a hologram. There’s something taken out of the experience of “Star Wars” through all of the blue screen work being done in the prequel trilogy and it is occasionally depressing to think about.

Although I must say, if “The Phantom Menace” did not showcase this already, the prequel trilogy does mean business when it comes to the lightsaber battles. The final fights of the film where the Jedi duke it out with Count Dooku are stylish and amazingly choreographed. Christopher Lee (RIP) shines as Dooku, trying to intimidate his foes by getting into their heads while his lightsaber tries to get into their skin. But the best part of Dooku, is not even Dooku himself, it’s Yoda.

“Attack of the Clones” came out theatrically when I was two years old, so I did not get to see it in the cinema, but boy oh boy, I would have KILLED to have been at one of the first shows when the duel from Yoda and Dooku happens, because DAMN that is some entertaining stuff! Seeing this fun-sized green creature who we previously knew as a wise figure turn into the tiniest badass in the galaxy is nothing short of glorious. It is a little awkward watching him jump around trying to keep up with Dooku, but he still manages to come off as perfection nevertheless.

One Jedi battle that was unfortunately, slightly more disappointing… Came prior to the final battle against Dooku, and that is the big Jedi fight in the arena where Anakin and Padme were supposed to die.

First off, I did not really feel that much emotion as these two were being dragged to their deaths, and their performances in these moments gave me no reason to feel anything whatsoever. But that’s not the main thing I wanted to discuss.

You know that conceptual saying about sequels regarding how “bigger is better?” Well, for this first sequel of the prequel trilogy, they did go pretty big. In the main saga, this movie contained the biggest Jedi battle yet. Yay! Was it cool to see so many people wielding lightsabers at a time? You betcha! But again, this just goes to show that this trilogy is more concerned about style than it is with substance. There are lots of Jedi! Lots of battle droids! Lots of creatures! But I do not care about nearly anybody in battle! I’m just watching it happen. It’s visually pleasing, but it does not mean I will remember it as one of the more iconic moments in “Star Wars” history. Yes, there are some cool moments like seeing C-3PO in a Battle Droid body and getting to see the connection between Boba and Jango Fett, but there is not much else to say except that the battle is big and it happens.

But seriously. C-3PO as a Battle Droid, the more I think about it, it is increasingly legit.

While that “death sticks” exchange was one of the best moments of the movie in terms of dialogue between characters, there are several contenders I would argue as qualifiers for the worst.

Padme: We used to come here for school retreat. We would swim to that island every day. I love the water. We used to lie out on the sand and let the sun dry us and try to guess the names of the birds singing.

Anakin: I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.

Padme: Ani? My goodness, you’ve grown.

Anakin: So have you, grown more beautiful… for a senator, I mean.

It’s almost like George Lucas got advice from the writers of “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation!” This is just bad!

But I think the worst part of the film as a concept… Remember midichlorians? Well, this may arguably be worse.

Jedi are not allowed to love.

So in a way, this film really is like “Romeo & Juliet,” except that “Romeo & Juliet” had a forbidden love that felt like it had a place in the narrative. This “Star Wars” prequel does bring a new concept to the universe, but it feels forced for the storyline and almost out of the blue! I would have liked to have known this in any of the prior episodes, because this is a storyline that feels as if it is dropped like a bomb. Not like the “I am your father” reveal where it was so amazingly shocking (maybe unless you knew what Vader meant), but more like the “midichlorians” reveal where it brings nothing but boring change.

You know how in my review for “The Phantom Menace,” I mentioned that despite an overwhelming amount of negatives, there actually are some positives sprinkled in between? One such positive I discussed during my review was John Williams’ score. Because for the most part, that is one thing that feels somewhat consistent between the original trilogy and the prequels that came before it. Although in the case of the prequels, Williams did not just go for a big nostalgia fest. He introduced a ton of new themes, and “Attack of the Clones” has a pretty amazing one, specifically the “love theme” known as “Across the Stars.”

One of my goals that I recently put on my imaginary bucket list is to see John Williams live in concert. The man is a goddamn genius and one of the reasons why I listen to more film scores when I’m alone compared to any other form of music. The music here solidifies my case because I consider “Attack of the Clones” to be one of the low caliber “Star Wars” installments. But I will not lie to you that I get chills listening to Across the Stars. But just like “The Phantom Menace,” I just want this movie to be actually as good as the music.

I will recommend “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” for one reason above all else. If you really need sleep, this is about as effective as melatonin. Say you’re in the middle of a “Star Wars” marathon, you just finished watching “The Phantom Menace,” you need a nap, but you gotta be wise and finish the marathon by a deadline. Go to your bedroom if you are not there already, turn on “Attack of the Clones,” get under the covers of your bed, and shut your eyes! Just make sure your sleep is only a couple hours, because then you can put in the next movie. I assure you the early Anakin and Padme scenes will put ya right out.

In the end, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” is yet another attack on the “Star Wars” franchise. The “Star Wars” name is once again being destroyed by its own creator and I will also mention, it felt like George Lucas occasionally sleepwalked his way through this movie, because just like “The Phantom Menace,” there are signs that Lucas stood by his “poetry philosophy…”

I know people talk about “The Force Awakens” ripping off “A New Hope,” but at least it did so in an entertaining way. And yes, when I get to the “Episode VII” review, that is a topic I will be discussing. I’d almost argue that there are elements of “The Empire Strikes Back” that are translated into “Attack of the Clones” but it does not save the movie from being as boring as it is. Is there romance? Yes. Are we introduced to a “Fett” bounty hunter? Sure. Do hands get chopped off? Yeah. But poetry does not always equal art. Well executed ideas, which “Attack of the Clones” lacks throughout, are perhaps a greater measure of the word. To put it short, this was my first “Star Wars” movie, and now it is almost my worst “Star Wars” movie. It is sad, but true. I’m going to give “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” a 4/10.

Thanks for reading this review! Tomorrow I will have my review up for “Episode III!” That’s right! Tomorrow I will be giving my thoughts on “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” I cannot wait to continue this special week that I am FINALLY getting around to, after all this time! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and like the Facebook page if you want to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you watch “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever read “Romeo & Juliet?” What are your thoughts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): Worst For Chronologically First

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today is May 23rd! Here’s hoping you are feeling the force today and every day! Today we are going to begin an all-new miniseries, 7 Days of Star Wars. We are going to talk about a “Star Wars” film for each day that we progress through this week. I have reviewed most of the core “Star Wars” movies such as a couple of the sequel trilogy installments and Disney spinoffs like “Rogue One.” However, this is a project I have waited to do for years. Partially because of time constraints, trying to find the right days to pull something like this off, and the typical human issue we all have, hesitancy towards actually sitting down and doing something. Some say they are gonna write a novel, but never actually get to the point of starting to write a novel. I am not saying that me doing “Star Wars” reviews is like me writing a novel, but I have been pondering over this idea since maybe 2016, perhaps 2017. I had a friend or two request me to talk about these films. Although I don’t usually take requests and I wondered how I wanted to go about doing something like this. That is why during my 5th anniversary of Scene Before, we are going big. 7 “Star Wars” movies. One new review per day. All for your entertainment. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the first entry of… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” is directed by George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138) and stars Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Michael Collins), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Jake Lloyd (Jingle All the Way, The Pretender), Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional, Mars Attacks!), Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), Pernilla August (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Serpent’s Way), and Frank Oz (The Dark Crystal, The Muppet Movie). This film tells the journey of two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi, as they escape a hostile blockade and find themselves with a young boy on Tatooine. This young boy, Anakin Skywalker, is prophesized to bring balance to the force. Although the Sith, arch rivals of the Jedi, are desperate for a return to glory.

Wow. Can’t believe it took me this long, but here we go. “Star Wars Episode I” is an interesting film from the surface because as a kid, it is the one that I watched the least. I say that as someone who grew up with the prequels and not the originals. And it is not because I did not like the movie. I had little to no concept of what a “good” or “bad” movie was as a kid. I borrowed my cousin’s DVD at one point, I MAY have rented it from Blockbuster, and I am pretty sure that is the most exposure I had of the film as a kid except for when it aired on Spike. I owned all the live-action “Star Wars” movies as a kid, except for “The Phantom Menace.” I even owned “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” on DVD as a kid and I still never owned “The Phantom Menace.” I did not own “The Phantom Menace” until buying a used Blu-ray copy of The Prequel Trilogy at the Northshore Mall Newbury Comics.

I will be completely real with you about the “Star Wars” prequels. There are some genuinely good things about these movies. They are marvelous to look at. Then again, which “Star Wars” movie is not? While they may not be the goto standard these days in regards to visuals, they have been a major influence to CGI and digital effects. And even though they kind of harm the lore that was previously established in the original trilogy, they also introduce some new ideas to the universe that we have not been exposed to yet. We’ll definitely be talking about Darth Plagueis the Wise when we get to Episode III, but unfortunately we are talking about Episode I which I would consider to not just be the worst prequel, but perhaps arguably the worst “Star Wars” movie ever.

I was not joking in the subtitle when I said that the worst comes chronologically first. Because OH MY GOD, there is so much that is wrong with this movie. I don’t even know where to start. The movie admittedly starts off fine because one of the things that separates this trilogy from the original is the fact that this takes place in a time where Jedi were more likely to be found. They were in their prime, they were badass, and the opening scene of the film were we see Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan slice heads off battle droids solidifies that. “The Phantom Menace” is like the Bloomin’ Onion from Outback Steakhouse. Sure, having it is great, but if you think too much, it may ruin the experience of taking it all in.

The sad thing about “The Phantom Menace” is that when it comes to the characters, I can almost barely remember a single thing about them. Qui-Gon Jinn wields a green lightsaber, he does some cool stuff, he’s played by Liam Neeson, and that is about it. There is not much depth to his character that would really make me remember him or care about him. Say what you want about the recent sequel trilogy, one thing they did really well in those movies is build some semblance of backstory for Rey and Finn. The backstories for them may have been somewhat bumpy, but they’re backstories nevertheless. Here, George Lucas pretty much goes as far to say, “Well, they’re Jedi Knights. Watch them.” That ain’t enough, Georgie! Give me some backstory! I don’t care about Qui-Gon! I don’t care about Darth Maul! They do cool things in the movie, but it does not make them great characters. It just makes them eye candy! Heck! Jar Jar Binks, the literal joke of the film, has more of a backstory than Qui-Gon! At least a backstory that I can cite for someone who happens to be curious. Jar Jar is clumsy and is hated by his peers. Done.

Oh yeah, about Jar Jar being the joke of the film. All respect to Ahmed Best, I have no intention of harming him as a professional, but wow his character SUCKS. And I must admit, it takes the “Star Wars” name, which arguably is for kids and young adults, and instead makes it for toddlers. Jar Jar Binks is what happens when you let a toddler write a “Star Wars” movie with their dad. The father has all the civilized characters. Jedi, droids, hutts, royalty, and then you have the toddler come in with a character they thought of, and because the father has to be a good sport and avoid disappointing his son, he lets the newly established character into the script. It ultimately ruins the film and divides the tone from the point this character begins to appear. It’s like if you put Peter Griffin in the “Lord of the Rings” universe. Can you imagine how the secret meeting would go?

Aragorn: [to Frodo] If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword…

Legolas: And you have my bow.

Gimli: And *my* axe.

Peter: You know what really grinds my gears? Eagles! They’re stupid! They stop flying before you actually get to your destination! And they made the Patriots lose a Super Bowl!

Frodo: For Pete’s sake…

Gimli: Shut up, you dwarf-brained imbecile.

Peter: Oh, sorry sorry. You have my Road House kicks.

Despite living in a world where I happen to be extremely tolerant of everyone regardless of who they are, Jar Jar Binks represents that barrier of tolerance I have for some people, and by that I mean, he crosses it significantly. Binks cements himself as the most annoying nuisance to ever exist in the “Star Wars” universe. There are some characters that have failures or downfalls in the “Star Wars” universe, or in many other stories by the way, who I continue to root for because I want to see them succeed after their recent blunder. Jar Jar Binks, the half-assed comic relief of this “film” is not one of them because he makes one mistake too many. They say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Well they also say you cannot teach Jar Jar Binks any tricks whatsoever. Old or new. Everything he does represents embarrassment or failure. I do not want to go into much detail, but this goes into the lack of dimension this character happens to have. I think Qui-Gon Jinn did a really good job at putting Jar Jar in his place as best he could.

Qui-Gon Jinn: The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here.

In fact, speaking of Qui-Gon, I want to go back to something I said earlier on. He’s a Jedi Knight, and we have gotten a sense of this throughout the entire film. Although we see throughout the film, Obi-Wan is considered to be Qui-Gon’s Padawan. Granted, he is rather skilled, but nevertheless. Here’s the problem, and it is a spoiler, so I do apologize in advance. At the end of the film, Obi-Wan is promoted from his role as a Padawan to a Jedi Knight.

Why is that a problem? Let’s look at the opening crawl of the movie.

“While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict….”

Wait! Obi-Wan was a Jedi Knight this whole time? I think we have an imposter! Space security! Put this liar in jail!

This movie cannot even follow its own rules. I have tremendous respect for George Lucas as a filmmaker. He created one of the most iconic stories in not just film history, but the history of storytelling in general. I imagine he had a backstory planned for a number of elements in the franchise for years. But I feel like when it comes to bringing such a backstory to life, he could not take what was on paper and turn it into magic. And speaking of magic… That is LITERALLY gone in this movie and instead replaced with science.

F*cking. Science.

Now, I love science. Dinosaurs are awesome. Computers are amazing. Space is spectacular. But not all science is created equal. Some people consider “Star Wars” to be science fiction. And I would not say those people are wrong, but I’d also argue given how magical elements inserted into the franchise like the force and the fact that this film supposedly happened “a long time ago,” it is technically science fantasy. “The Phantom Menace” turns fantasy into a night terror with a simple question.

Anakin: “What are midichlorians?”

No seriously. WHAT THE EVER-LIVING CRAP ARE MIDICHLORIANS?! Well, according to Qui-Gon Jinn…

“Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells.”

So you mean to tell me… That one can become a Jedi from being born with something? I actually hate this. Like, literally hate this. Hate is a strong word. But I think that is the best word I could possibly use here. In the 1977 “Star Wars,” seeing Luke Skywalker train to become a Jedi did not come off as if a gifted individual, and only a gifted individual, could use the force. At the time, he was just an ordinary boy with ordinary problems. He chose the path of the force not because he was special, but because he wanted to fulfill a destiny and live a life. Sure, Anakin had his problems too. He was a slave after all, but this movie goes to show how far the franchise has fallen. It has gone from choice and magic to prophecy and science. Yes, Anakin chooses to go on to become a Jedi, but again, I had less of a reason to root for him. While Luke had his grievances with being on Tatooine, he was still a somewhat likable character that came off as relatable. He was a dreamer. Anakin is just an annoying brat, and unfortunately, Jake Lloyd failed to sell me on the role. I don’t even know if I can blame Lloyd however, because for one thing, Lloyd was a child when filming “The Phantom Menace,” and at his age, he likely had less experience than Mark Hamill did when he started playing Luke. Hamill was in his twenties whereas Lloyd was not even a teenager when this film was made. But you know, it’s “Star Wars!” One of the most iconic names in film of all time! And you also have George Lucas! One of the most visionary creators of all time! At least “The Phantom Menace” had some good writing. Right?

Not really.

Queen Amidala : You’re a slave?

Anakin : I’m a person and my name is Anakin.

WOW! Thank you! For a second I was really confused and thought you were an armadillo! Thank you *so much* for clearing that up for me! Anakin, you’re the best!

Anakin, as a character, was just never set up well. Sure, there are increments of his backstory that bring some intrigue to the table, but the execution of the character feels sloppy at times, especially at the end of the film, part of which feels like was written by the same toddlerish mind who came up with Jar Jar Binks! There are some similarities between “The Phantom Menace” and the original “Star Wars.” Both involve Skywalkers. Both have R2-D2 and C-3PO. Both have climactic sequences involving spaceflight. Now about that last thing. In the original “Star Wars,” that last sequence felt planned and as if everything associated with it had a place and purpose. The climactic spaceflight sequence in “The Phantom Menace,” where Anakin goes into space in a ship on autopilot and flies to the control ship, feels like everything in it happens by accident or coincidence. Nothing feels like it matters, even though it leads to something big towards the end of the film. This is practically the Murphy’s Law of “Star Wars!” Nothing matters! Anything that can happen will happen! Let’s try spinning! That’s a good trick! Let’s try pod racing! That’s a GREAT trick! Maybe this would work as a Disney ride, but I can say that it does not work as a sequence in a film.

I will admit though, the pod race sequence was pretty fun. It might even be the best part of the movie. Well, except for one. We’ll get to it momentarily.

But about the pod-racing. This was one of the best set up sequences in the entire film. For starters, we are introduced to it when first seeing Anakin, and we get to know that in a way, it is important to him. His friends see his pod and doubt him. Qui-Gon makes a bet against Watto for the boy and proposes to put his hyperdrive part at risk. And we are warned of some of the dangers that lie ahead in a race like this. In a way, these dangers were met. When the race is on, it is on. We see pods flying, crashing, and there’s a good mix of brains and skill that goes into maintaining the pod, both on and off the track. I would love to see a “Star Wars” movie or series specifically dedicated to pod-racing. I know we have a video game, but I would love to see more of this on screen if possible. Then again, I love the concept of racing in general, so I may be a little biased. Basically, the best way I could describe the pod race in “The Phantom Menace” is if “Star Wars” had a baby with “Death Race.” It is fun, fast-paced, and occasionally off the rails.

Now about that best part… I mentioned in the beginning of the review that this movie did a really good job at solidifying the Jedi as people you do not want to mess with. At the end of the movie, when you have Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon going up against Darth Maul, the movie also does an equally impressive job at making the Sith a worthy opponent. Between his dual-blade lightsaber and his tendency to keep up the pace while dealing with more than one opponent, Maul is a boss in this film. Unfortunately though, the character, similar to Qui-Gon, has very little depth to him other than existing on the dark side and being sent in to capture Amidala while also finishing off the Jedi. This film does such a terrible job at establishing the threat despite having them look cool. Darth Maul has a double lightsaber, but not much else.

In “A New Hope,” we had Grand Moff Tarkin of all people. Grand Moff Tarkin was not much more than a guy who wore a uniform, but he had a sense of intimidation. He had a commanding presence, the entire room could bow down to him at any moment. Even Darth Vader would listen to his demands. Remember that scene where everyone is in the board room talking about the Death Star being the ultimate power in the universe? Someone mocks Vader for following the force, to which he chokes the naysayer and utters, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Tarkin then says, “Vader, release him!” He gives in. They say actions speak louder than words. But when I remember the double lightsaber-wielding badass as LESS of a threat than the guy who walks around saying things like “You may fire when ready,” that says something about these two films. Maybe it is not the best comparison, because Tarkin did take control of a planet-killing machine whereas Darth Maul does a bunch of Sith tricks. But again, it goes to show that when it comes to “The Phantom Menace,” the villains just do not strike any fear. They do not make me feel afraid or like I’m going to see them in my nightmares. When it comes to the kickstarters of their respective trilogies, “The Phantom Menace” is eye candy, but “Star Wars” is candy you can eat.

But I’d argue that BOTH films are ear candy, partially because of the musical mastermind known as John Williams. When I saw the last few “Star Wars” movies for the first time at the theater, I would have a playlist set up to blast in the car or on the bus with my headphones on. When doing so, I would make it a priority to put Episode I’s “Duel of the Fates,” arguably in my top 3 or 5 “Star Wars” tracks ever, which SAYS something about the music in this franchise, on the list.

To call this track bonkers and exciting would be an understatement. If “The Phantom Menace” did one thing right, it is getting John Williams to add his musical touch to another portion of the “Star Wars” universe. Williams is just a small fraction of what made those original films so memorable from his opening crawl music that may be the most iconic intro music ever made, to his theme for Princess Leia, to the Imperial March. Again, if these films did something right, it is getting one of the best film composers to ever exist to return and unleash more of his creative juices. And if this film reveals anything, he did not run out of steam after “Return of the Jedi.” If anything, he dialed up his creative meter to an 11. You’ll get this idea as we go along, but even though I have an easily obtainable idea of what my favorite “Star Wars” film is, not to mention what my least favorite “Star Wars” film is, I have a ton of trouble deciding which score, at least in the Skywalker Saga, is my favorite, because Williams smashes it with each go. That is part of why I love the final lightsaber duel so much with the two Jedi against Darth Maul in addition to all the crazy choreography that comes with it. This music is a perfect encapsulation of the future hanging in the balance for almost any scenario imaginable. It can take even an event as boring as watching paint dry and make it exciting. This is the power of John Williams. This is why he has built such an amazing library of “Star Wars” music. The maestro just doesn’t shy away from giving it his all.

I just wish this movie were as good as the music.

“The Phantom Menace” kind of reminds me of “Justice League.” The 2017 version, not the Snyder Cut. Because in that film, the tone was all over the place. One moment it is as light as a feather. The next moment it is moody. It really doesn’t have an identity. In “The Phantom Menace,” we go from a space adventure with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to a live-action cartoon with Jar Jar to a political debate with Senator Palpatine and all the others that make this movie significantly dull at times (OH MY LORD THE POLITICS ARE A SNOOZE). The odd thing is, even though you could argue that “Star Wars” from 1977 had a target audience of 12 year olds, it was so enjoyable that anyone could watch it, pick up the message from the movie, and embrace it. “The Phantom Menace” almost doesn’t even have a singular tone that it could be defined by, therefore it almost cannot dedicate itself to a single audience. I just look back at this film and ask… Who is this for? It’s got explosions and sword fights! So maybe it’s for younger kids and teenagers! But it’s got space politics! So is it for adults, actually? But then it has Jar Jar Binks and him repeatedly saying “Meesa” to the point where it splits my head open so I wondered if the film was for infants. “The Phantom Menace” goes in a lot of directions at once, but it’s like computer RAM. If you put in too much information, it can get overwhelming. Georgie! Close some tabs, will ya please?

In the end, “The Phantom Menace” is just a film that evokes the phrase “style over substance.” We start off with Jedi being badasses and end with said Jedi fighting a double blade lightsaber guy. Yes, this movie has a story. It has a point A. It has a point B. Unfortunately, it comes with lore expansions that infuriate me the more I think about them. Midichlorians suck. End of story. The best comparison I can give about this movie is that I can imagine it as if it were a chicken nugget. “Star Wars: A New Hope” is like a good old chicken nugget that I get every now and then, I put it in my mouth, and it tastes delicious. I keep coming back for more. “The Phantom Menace” on the other hand, also represents that chicken nugget. But instead of enjoying its god-like taste, I just found out the revolting secret recipe. The force tastes savory, but seeing how it is conceived is best left to the imagination. “The Phantom Menace” adds one or two good things to the “Star Wars” franchise. But the negatives unfortunately outweigh the positives significantly. This film tarnishes the lore in the “Star Wars” universe that has been established in the original trilogy, adds new lore that is uninteresting, and focuses less on characterization and more on looking cool. And that says something because I honestly think there are quite a few digital effects in this film that aged rather poorly to this day. Will say though, if it means anything, Liam Neeson did his best with the material given to him, and Ewan McGregor did an alright job as Obi-Wan. Although he personally gets better in the next two films. Also, one last thing, Coruscant is a cool planet. That’s about it. That was a lot to talk about. I didn’t even talk about everything! I left out Mace Windu for crying out loud! I’m going to give “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” a 3/10.

This was a hard film to grade. The fan in me wants to give it a 1 because of how much it sullies the original trilogy. The part of my brain that likes looking at things on a screen wants the grade to be a little higher. Perhaps at least a 5 or 6. However there are one or two good things about the film that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, again, these positives are kept to a minimum. But hey, at least Yoda had the right idea all along.

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

This was not my first time watching “The Phantom Menace,” but having seen it and remembering my horror stories, because I did watch it more than once in some recent years for varying reasons, I went in fearing the results. Then I got angry because of Jar Jar, which made me hate myself for putting in this movie and sitting through it. And of course, I suffered through the rest of it because I had to put out this review.

Thanks, Master Yoda! You really are wise!

One last thing. I think I did a pretty good job with my review for “The Phantom Menace,” but I’m gonna be real. There is someone out there in the land of YouTube that has arguably created a near perfect “Episode I” review. It is one of the most hilarious video reviews I have ever seen. If you want something fun to watch, take a gander RedLetterMedia’s review of “The Phantom Menace.” Part 1 of the video is posted below! Check it out!

Thanks for reading this review! That is one day of “Star Wars” down and we have six to go. TOMORROW, I will be sharing my review for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” The second “Star Wars” prequel and it is one that a few of my friends probably consider to actually be worse than “The Phantom Menace.” I won’t give my thoughts just yet. You’ll have to find out tomorrow on Scene Before! If you want to find out, make sure you are following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account. Also be sure to check out the Facebook page and may the force be with you! I want to know, did you see “The Phantom Menace?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Star Wars” world, planet, or moon? For me, I’d have to pick Coruscant. I’m an urban guy so that pick is a goto for me. Although I do like the idea of Starkiller Base if that counts as a planet. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Star Wars Episode IV 4K Blu-ray Contains 2019 Disney+ “Maclunkey” Cut (And Other Thoughts on Star Wars in 4K)

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! As we are cooped up in our homes, I’ve been making more of a habit of buying my Blu-rays online given how we cannot go out into stores and buy them in as easy as a manner as we once could. Yes, Walmart and Target still have them, but those places are becoming more petri dish-like by the second. Best Buy is offering curbside pickup, but that takes the fun out of going into a massive electronics store. However, when surfing on BestBuy.com recently, I picked up some of the new “Star Wars” 4K Blu-rays. Is it a movie I already own? Yes. In fact I own multiple copies of several installments. But who cares? “Star Wars” rocks!

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Just last night, I watched my recently purchased 4K copy of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” or as the old-timers call it, “Star Wars.” But if you are reading this and want to know my thoughts on it, I think the transfer overall is pretty satisfying. The color grading is off and on, but there are several scenes that look very stunning in 4K. The film also comes with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. The sound quality is immersive, but also did not seem to come off as too obnoxious.

Although, if you are wondering if Disney has decided to release the same cut that has been put out in recent years, specifically one introduced through a Blu-ray set from 2011, back when 20th Century Fox still owned “Star Wars,” that’s not what has happened.

Yes, a lot of that 2011 Blu-ray is still intact. Some of the changes they have made specifically for that film is in this new 2020 4K edition as well. Between R2-D2 being improbably hidden by so many rocks on Tatooine to Obi-Wan’s introduction sounding more fantastical than the idea of White Castle serving monster-sized hamburgers, those changes, along with others over the years, have survived. But wait, there’s more!

May the maclunkey be with you!

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about. When Disney+ came out less than a year ago, one of the draw-ins for a lot of people was the large “Star Wars” collection, which included the all new series, “The Mandalorian,” and the most up to date versions of a good amount of the older movies. In Episode IV, people began to notice that there was a new change added, and it is as meme-worthy as Elon Musk.

Remember how George Lucas went back and changed the scene in the cantina where Han shoots Greedo, leaving him dead with his head on the table? Well, he did that in 1997, then again in 2004, once more in 2011, and even one more time just last year! The infamous change signifying that Han does not shoot first anymore was just the beginning, because recently they added Greedo’s new line, “Maclunkey,” which has been suggested to be Huttese for “I’ll end you.”

Having seen the new change myself on the 4K Blu-ray, I’m in three different mindsets. First and foremost… WHY? Greedo’s mouth almost moves like a Jumanji-esque vacuum, and the delivery of the line almost feels kind of cheesy. Second, this change, as awful as it is, is simultaneously hilarious. Granted, it would be weirder to have Greedo say something in English given how every other line he has given so far was not in English, but saying maclunkey is kind of like uttering cattywampus, or lollygag, or boobies. It just rolls off the tongue, it’s funny-sounding! And third, this is just yet another reason why I want an unaltered edition of these movies in a modernized format. I don’t know if Disney will have permission from George Lucas or if they just don’t care as long as they get their money, but if I were to show “Star Wars” to my kid one day, I don’t think I’d want him or her to remember the original movie due to the “maclunkey” scene as opposed to the moment where Han shoots Greedo like a boss. As for when the blaster firing occurs, the two fire each other around the same time, kind of like in the 2011 Blu-ray edition.

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There are other changes too, most notably the color palette. From my point of view, when watching “A New Hope,” some of the scenes look kind of pale, but there are some scenes where color stands out and there are not as many occurrences where someone looks like they got sunburned. I will also point out that I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” last night as well. The colors in that movie also look a little darker, but in that movie, I think it works because “The Empire Strikes Back” is a slightly more depressing movie whereas “A New Hope” is a fun, throwback adventure. A lot of the other changes are not that noticeable to the average viewer. There are scenes where colors are corrected to a certain form. Specifically, during the scene where Luke is training on the Millennium Falcon, his lightsaber has been corrected to match an appropriate blue color. The laser bolts fired by the training remote in said scene also had their colors restored to red.

One of my favorite alterations however is one that I don’t know exactly how many people think about. For those of you don’t know, “Star Wars” has a “Digital Movie Collection” that came out in 2015, which features the Lucasfilm logo in the beginning, but the movies have gotten rid of the 20th Century Fox logo. The only film that didn’t do that was “A New Hope” because 20th Century Fox owns permanent distribution rights. As of now, the 20th Century Fox logo is attached to all the older “Star Wars” movies again, which may likely be due to the merger between Disney and Fox from 2019. They use the 1994 20th Century Fox fanfare minus the tagline, “A News Corporation Company.” However, they did update the Lucasfilm logo to match those from “The Force Awakens” and so on. Speaking of restorations, the opening phrase “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” was restored to the original typeface featured in the older cuts. This is a change from the typeface used in the 2004 DVDs to match the prequels.

If you purchased any of the 4K editions of the “Star Wars” movies, perhaps including ones I didn’t, please let me know your thoughts on them! I already own “The Last Jedi” on 4K, which I will admit the sound could probably be better. By the way, I have the Best Buy Steelbook Collector’s Edition as well. I also own the “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Collector’s steelbook, which is still in the wrap, which may signify that I probably never want to watch the film again. But, the collector’s gotta collect. I also own the 4K Best Buy Steelbook for “The Rise of Skywalker,” which has adequate sound quality and stunning picture quality. I saw the boxset of The Skywalker Saga, but I didn’t get that because it contains movies I already own on 4K, so as cool as it would be to own, I didn’t think it was all that necessary.

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Thanks for reading this post! TOMORROW, ten years return, because we need those ten years now more than ever! It is the return of the original countdown series “Top Movies of the 2010s!” I’m going to be debuting an all new category, THE DISAPPOINTING 25, where I talk about 25 movies that I went into with expectations only to be underwhelmed or let down. If you want to check out the trailer for the countdown, go to the end of this post and see it for yourself! Want to see more great content? Follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the blog’s Facebook page as opposed to getting into fights in the comments section from the latest political post from your local news outlet! If you are going to watch “Star Wars” on 4K anytime soon, may the 4K be with you! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes Part 3

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Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is now time for part 3 of the all new Scene Before series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes.” This series describes the recent happenings, or in some cases, a lack of happenings, in the film industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The spread continues! The United States is still the most affected country by this virus and one can only wonder when collective optimism will set in. What is happening? Masks weren’t safe then but they’re safe now? The New England Patriots sent protective equipment to New York? Speaking of New York, apparently it is just recently reported that the state has suffered its highest death toll yet. Although at the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo feels that the decrease in hospitalizations could bring hope. Speaking of hope, the death toll in Italy and Spain seem to be falling.

There’s also continuous talk about about a drug. President Trump is suggesting to use hydroxychloroquine in order to stop the virus. For the record, this is a drug that is used to cure malaria and mosquito bites. Trump has a financial interest in Sanofi, which is a French drugmaker that makes a brand-name edition of the drug. He also suggested that if the drug is combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic, it could be “a game-changer.” However, not everyone is onboard, including expert Anthony Fauci, who has stood alongside Trump from day to day during this crisis. Fauci suggests that there is only “anecdotal evidence” of the drug helping people.

Also, Easter is this Sunday, and given how there are strong recommendations for people to stay home nowadays, there is a high likelihood that family gatherings will be avoided. I often visit relatives out of town on Easter Sunday, but given the current situation, that does not seem to be happening. But, if you live in New Zealand and you have kids that are feeling down, feel free to cheer them up by letting them know that the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, considers the Easter Bunny an essential worker.

As stated in the video, it may be tough for the bunny to get everywhere, but if you want to spread some positivity to your children, here you go. Also, remind them that the Tooth Fairy is essential as well. Although if that Tooth Fairy shows up as The Rock, then reconsider what I just said.

Once again, this has been a rather uneventful weekend for the box office, and one of the biggest concerns as far as box office goes has to do with AMC Theatres, which I’ll get to eventually. But as a continual substitute to the theater, many movies are constantly being dropped onto VOD services early. Some recent highlights include “Bad Boys For Life,” the highest grossing January film of all time, and “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” which appropriately dropped on April Fools Day. But with physical life in abandonment for the time being, there may be some concerns about big festivals. San Diego Comic-Con, arguably the most important comic convention in relation to film, is still on. However, weeks ago, Cannes, the annual festival held in France, has been postponed from May to sometime in June or July. And it was just announced from festival director Thierry Fremaux that there are no plans to digitally transform the event, suggesting that “it’s a model that won’t work.” And this doesn’t even cover all of the festival news that is relevant for this post. Here’s more!

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST IS BACK ON (Sort of)

SXSW Conference & Festivals | March 13-22, 2020

One of the benefits of a large gathering like South by Southwest is the ability to mix the intention of interacting with other people, networking, while also putting the idea of entertainment into the mix. In fact, I was going to go to South by Southwest this year, but unfortunately, it got canceled the week I was supposed to depart. I also highly detest the recent actions of South by Southwest, because even though they are allowing people to move their purchased tickets to an alternate date in an upcoming year (which my mother did do for 2021), there is no option for a refund. While I am all for making money, SXSW is the kind of organization to me that purely resembles greed. In fact, they didn’t even cancel their event, the city of Austin did!  However, they do seem to be somewhat sympathetic to their vendors. According to various sources, Amazon Prime Video is going to be digitally showcasing various projects that were supposed to play at the festival last month. All the people behind the projects need to present a fee in order to let their work shine. Keep in mind that the revealing of work that was supposed to be presented in person in front of the masses on Prime is optional, so if you were expecting to see something in particular at the festival, maybe it won’t make it to Amazon’s service. Also keep in mind, if you are planning seeing on these pieces of work, you do not need to pay for Amazon Prime, but you do need an Amazon account. As long as you have that, you’re good to go.

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL DENIES GOING DIGITAL

Last year, the Venice Film Festival honored Todd Phillips’ “Joker” with the Golden Lion, which is the festival’s highest honor. This year, there is perhaps some wonder if it would be a joke to keep the festival running in September. Keep in mind that Italy has the second highest count of COVID-19 cases to date and who knows about a second wave and if that’s a possibility? However, according to Variety, a Venice spokesperson reported “The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event.” This is in response to a recent interview between festival director Alberto Barbera and Italian news agency ANSA who said he is not weighing digital options. That by the way, is in response to what is happening with the Toronto International Film Festival, where there is consideration for both physical and digital aspects. At this point, it may be too early to tell given how the festival is about five months into the future. We’ll have to see if Italy is stable by then, and if there is enough reason to keep the festival on in person.

DELAYED MOVIES AND NEW RELEASE DATES

Well, it appears that COVID-19 is doing its own stunts now. “Top Gun: Maverick” has officially been delayed, which honestly disappoints me because it was one of my most anticipated films of the summer. It looked like another one of those films, kind of like the recent “Mission: Impossible” movies, where Tom Cruise does everything he can to nearly kill himself. Instead, the film is now coming out in December, which really has me scared, because this puts my most anticipated film of the year, “Dune” in a tough position. While I have no real idea how much money “Dune” will make, this is giving me the creeps because while I cannot exactly anticipate how well of a marketing campaign “Dune” is going to have, if it weren’t for a nostalgic, somewhat recognizable property stepping in, I figured “Dune” would have a massive chance at succeeding. Plus, I recall early reports of one person suggesting that the footage that has already been seen of “Dune” is on the level that matches “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Can the praise get any better than that?! The 2020 adaptation of “Dune” could arguably be the greatest story ever told if the movie matches this previous word of mouth! Although at the same time, I’ll mention it again, as far as this summer goes, “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of my most anticipated films. Don’t think I’m trying to take it out behind the barn and shoot it. If anything, I want the movie to succeed, but I also want “Dune” to succeed. Maybe this could be a case where “Dune” heavily succeeds, thus leaving “Top Gun: Maverick” in the dust, which would also be disappointing. It feels like there’s no winning in this case. Speaking of Paramount films, they are also delaying “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” the third “SpongeBob SquarePants” idea that will ultimately be brought to the big screen. The movie will follow the titular sponge as he goes on a quest with Patrick Star to find his missing snail, Gary. Also in Paramount movie news, “A Quiet Place Part II” has a new release date, specifically September 4th, giving it a Labor Day weekend slot. For the record, the movie has already been delayed as of March 12th from its original release date, March 20th, but has not received a new date until now. I am beyond thankful that “A Quiet Place Part II” is not considering the streaming route, because having seen the original installment, it is one of those movies that you have to be in the theater to truly feel its impact. At least that’s what I got with the first one. When I saw “A Quiet Place” a couple years back, it was a highlight in my movie experience journey because it was one of the few movies that FORCED me to be quiet to fully enjoy the product. I could barely chew my popcorn, I almost couldn’t even take as big of sips of my drink as I usually would, it was a one of a kind time at the movies. I’m willing to bet that John Krasinski made “A Quiet Place Part II” with the same thoughts in mind that he had for the first one. SILENCE THE AUDITORIUM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I’m looking forward to September, let’s just hope that there are enough reasons to go to the movies by then.

While “A Quiet Place Part II” is sticking to a theatrical release, one movie that I was kind of looking forward to seeing in theaters is no longer going to be there, and will end up heading straight to that tenth streaming service you guys have, Disney+. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about “Artemis Fowl.” For those of you who don’t know, “Artemis Fowl” is based on a book about a 12-year-old criminal mastermind who must find his father while facing underground fairies. I was kind of looking forward to seeing “Artemis Fowl” even though I have not read the book personally. The movie sort of looked like a visual trip, and if successful, could have spawned the next big fantasy franchise. I wonder if this is a sign that Disney may end up throwing in the towel on the franchise before it even starts. After all, the film was made on a $125 million budget, so I guess they were expecting a return of hundreds of millions. The real question is, could the film have broken even? Who knows? I have not heard much word of mouth about “Artemis Fowl” from anybody else, but the trailers do intrigue me. It at least had my attention.

Speaking of Disney+, one of the suggestions people happened to make is to release “Black Widow” early on the service. Quite honestly, I think that is a ridiculous idea that could cost Disney a lot of money, and it seems that we are sharing a thinking cap because Disney has officially pushed back the MCU timeline, and placed “Black Widow” on the November 6 release slot. When I say the MCU timeline, I mean it almost 100%. Every movie that is supposed to eventually come out in the MCU has been delayed except “Black Panther 2.” Even “Captain Marvel 2,” originally set to release in June 2022, is moving up a couple weeks for a new July 8th release during the year. For those who don’t know, “Eternals” was originally supposed to come out November of this year, but having two MCU films come out at once is a little extreme, so now it is coming out February 12th, 2021. At this point, November is looking like a respectable month for popular nerd culture. Between “Black Widow,” a movie that Marvel fans are FINALLY getting to see. “No Time to Die,” the 25th Bond film that is supposed to be Daniel Craig’s final outing as the character. Plus, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which I am curious to hear more about. I think one of these is going to get bumped to a different release date to guarantee avoidance of being a box office bomb, because November is a pretty big month for movies, and even though there are blockbusters at the time, a lot of focus from those who are heavily invested is going to be leaning towards the Oscar bait films.

As far Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake goes, that is now coming out on July 24th. Should it get delayed again, I think that is another film that Disney is going to keep in theaters with all their might, because part of the marketing emphasizes the big battles of the film, and those could be stellar to see on the silver screen. The one thing that I think will be diminished though is its IMAX run. Because unless Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” gets delayed and “Mulan” still comes out, “Tenet” is going to have a long run in many IMAX theaters. It was shot on IMAX cameras after all! “Mulan” now takes the place of theme park ride-inspired “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, which has now been pushed back to July 30th, 2021. Another big pushback comes from the Lucasfilm side of things, specifically for “Indiana Jones 5,” which is kind of unfortunate because Harrison Ford ain’t getting any younger. At this point with a film like “Indiana Jones 5,” I will believe it when I see it.

Remember how Disney bought Fox? Guess what? Their slate is getting kicked in the ass too! Wes Anderson was supposed to come out with “The French Dispatch” on July 24th, but now it is being pushed back to October. This could be some good news for Wes Anderson as the director behind the film has a history of being acclaimed, and having a unique style to his films. This unique style can be reinserted into everyone’s heads and perhaps bring up a reason for this film to contend for awards. If this came out in the summer, maybe it would have as much of a chance, but keep in mind. Award season pretty much gets into full swing in the fall. Summer is mainly for blockbusters and popcorn movies. Those movies don’t usually rack up the Oscars.

Universal is also in the news, because they recently pushed back Illumination Entertainment’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” That film was supposed to come out July 3rd this year, but it has been pushed back to July 2nd of next year. In addition, “Sing 2,” which is a sequel to a well-liked film starring Matthew McConaughey as a mouse who runs a theater, is also getting pushed back. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” is currently sitting where “Sing 2” was originally going to be, but much like the situation I mentioned earlier with Marvel, it could be weird to have two of the same types of movies releasing at once. Therefore, “Sing 2” will be coming out December 22nd, 2021. Keep in mind, the film was supposed to come out this year in December, but was delayed to its previous July spot. Honestly, this delay is not that bad, because the original “Sing” came out in December 2016, and ended up being a hit for Illumination. Maybe this sequel will do the same. Speaking of keeping things in mind, Universal was making a movie based on the popular play “Wicked,” which was set to release in the current spot where “Sing 2” resides. Due to “Sing 2’s” recent pushback, it could be possible that “Wicked” will be out in 2022. By the way, not steering away from animated features, this week is interesting for film, because remember “Trolls: World Tour?” It’s in the middle of its marketing campaign and if you are a parent who wants to torture yourself in order to please your kids, it comes out digitally this Friday, April 10th. Advertisements have suggested that the movie will also be playing in theaters. But the real question is, what theater in the United States is still open at this point? When you are increasingly going to get shamed for not wearing a mask outside, what theater is open?

AMC MAY NOT SURVIVE

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Now I understand that there are more important things in life than film. There’s health, happiness, and safety. Unfortunately, the news makes me feel ill, unhappy, and like I’ll never ever be safe again. If you all know me, you’d be aware that my safe place in life is the movie theater, and one of my regular stops for my experiences happen to be AMC locations. It’s where I often go for my press screenings, as an excuse to use Stubs points, and on occasion, for Dolby and IMAX. Depending on where you live in the United States, there is a solid chance that you have at least one AMC location near you. In fact, I recently went to downtown Burbank, California and they have three locations within minutes of each other, and this is walking distance I’m talking about! Even though AMC technically is a large chain that owns a lot of theaters, they do a good job at giving a sense of prioritization on the moviegoing experience. In fact, in recent years, they’ve been expanding their fleet, renovating theaters, putting in new seats (which admittedly, sometimes underwhelmed me), implementing reserved seating options, and one of their most notable innovations to the American movie market was their Stubs A-List program, which is basically their response to MoviePass as it began to die down. They even have an On Demand service now! In fact, even though I am a physical media junkie, that is probably a place where I’ll consider renting a movie one night (as long as Sony Android TVs) can get it. AMC just recently used to be the biggest chain in North America, but has recently been dethroned since Europe’s Cineworld bought the Canadian chain Cineplex. Now that Cineworld owns both Cineplex and Regal Entertainment Group, they are now the largest theater chain in regards to the continent.

Having said that, AMC Theatres is a pretty big chain. But the bigger they are, the harder they fall. AMC Theatres has spent a lot of money on changes in recent years, recently laid off a ton of employees, and is currently in debt. To make matters worse, S&P Global has recently downgraded AMC Theatres to a CCC-. The association to insert here is “Default imminent, with little prospect for recovery.” Keep in mind, that if you live in the United States, that means if AMC Theatres closes down for good, you are likely to lose a country-wide total of over six hundred cinemas. Just a couple weeks ago, I was reminding people that the smaller, indie theaters might be in a bit of trouble right now. They’re making AMC look like RadioShack! In fact, one of the cool ideas I have been seeing recently is that theaters are doing pop-up sales, where they are selling popcorn to paying customers even though there are no movies going on. This has happened at a couple locations near my house, specifically the Somerville Theatre and Capitol Theatre, both of which are in Massachusetts and owned by Frame One Theatres. I don’t know if a chain like AMC would do that, because I think they are more concerned about protecting what they have by letting people go than continuing operations and getting mocked. But, again, if any theater wants to take up my suggestion on a popcorn or candy delivery service, be my guest! I’ll probably order from it twice a day just to provide some support. That, and I love my movie theater popcorn. It could be through the organization itself, maybe through Uber Eats, maybe Grubhub could be a good idea. After all, pretty much the only thing I can do in life right now is stay inside and put on a movie. I need decent popcorn to go with it! But sticking with the main idea, the loss of AMC, can bring a tremendously dark impact to the industry. Because that means no more Prime Theatres, no more specifically branded Dolby Cinema, and no more A-List. But also, keep in mind the large theater count the chain has and how much of a reduction this truly can provide. There will be significantly less places to go to watch a movie. If you’re lucky enough to have somewhere like a Regal or Cinemark nearby, then you’re probably in luck. I’ve got Showcase Cinemas. Even though I’ve been to their theaters a number of times, I really think they are overhyped and their setup is occasionally bonkers (although their Providence location might have my favorite IMAX theater). And I don’t know if another chain is going to swoop in and take all the AMC locations that could die as a result of this. AMC is not the only chain hurting here. For all I know, maybe one of the big toilet paper companies can come in and start something new. Come on in to “Angel Soft Theater!” Your ass is safe on both our toilets and our auditorium chairs!

One YouTuber I regularly watch goes by the name of John Campea (Collider Movie Talk, The John Campea Show) and he suggested that studios should step in and help AMC financially during this dire time. If the studios have enough money, this is a swell idea. After all, there is a strong bond between movie theaters and studios. One cannot essentially exist without the other. And given how studios are perhaps likely to lose money should they rely on digital sales for their films, they are probably well off giving some of what they have to a chain that has given them tons of strength over the years. I often make fun of how much money Disney has, but wouldn’t it be a great story if Disney gave some money to AMC? I’d dig it. Time will tell when it comes determining the fate of AMC Theatres, but that is largely going to depend on when this crisis diminishes or ends, if people are not too scared to go out into the masses again, and if movies are even going to release by the time this ends. Again, if “Tenet” is not in theaters this July, I think I can officially call it quits on this year for film. Because that news will break me. Pixar’s “Soul” hasn’t been delayed yet. Maybe that will come out in June. Again, it’s hard to tell at this point given how confusing this virus really is.

NEW RELEASES GOING ON DEMAND

I did do this last week, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll continue this trend, but given how On Demand is becoming more of a core element to the movie-viewing experience given the current situation, I figured I’d share some new releases that are out On Demand this week. First off is “Ip Man 4: The Finale.” I have not seen any of these movies, but one things that intrigues me is that it stars Donnie Yen, who has been brought to my attention in recent years. The actor is probably one of the more badass men I have seen in an action film as far as newer material goes. While I will declare that “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” is not exactly the “Citizen Kane” of action, Donnie Yen may have been the best part of the movie. Up next is “Like a Boss,” which came out in January. This does not look or feel like my type of movie, but I believe I almost went to a press screening for it. Not sure though. The film stars Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, alongside Salma Hayek and it is about friends who are trying to start a beauty company. The film clocks in with a total of an hour and twenty-three minutes. Did the editor want to finish their job as soon as possible or something? By the way, for those of you who prefer buying the physical copy, both films are scheduled to come out on DVD and Blu-ray on April 21st. If you have Disney+, there is heavy promotion going on right now to get people to watch Pixar’s “Onward,” and if you have the service, it is now watchable any time you want.

Thanks for reading the third part of the ongoing series “Movies and COVID-19: Behind the Scenes!” As long as this crisis is unfortunately still with us, this series is going to continue, and maybe even get me to delay my scheduled film reviews. Although, for all I know, my review of “My Spy” might not even come out until next year given how I would probably be shoved into an abyss by STX executives if I open my mouth about it right now. As for myself, I have not left my house in awhile, and I continue to remain healthy. If you want to use your time wisely, be sure to follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Since we’re all online right now, why not take a break from learning how to use Zoom for a quick second and check out the Scene Before Facebook page! You won’t regret it! I want to know, is there any COVID-19 movie news that happens to be significant that I missed? What have you been doing during this crazy time? Any movies you want to recommend? TV shows maybe? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019): The Final Word in the Story

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“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible: III, Star Trek), who also directed 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” This film stars Daisy Ridley (Peter Rabbit, Murder on the Orient Express), John Boyega (Pacific Rim: Uprising, The Circle), Adam Driver (Paterson, Girls), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Operation Finale), Anthony Daniels (I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, The Lord of the Rings), Naomi Ackie (The End of the F***ing World, Lady MacBeth), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, American Made), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Logan), Lupita Nyong’o (Us, 12 Years a Slave), Keri Russell (Waitress, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Kelly Marie Tran (Adam Ruins Everything, XOXO), Ian McDiarmid (The Lost City of Z, Sleepy Hollow), and Billy Dee Williams (Batman, Dynasty). This film is the conclusion to the sequel trilogy of the “Star Wars” franchise, bringing an end to the now trendily-named “Skywalker Saga” and follows the heroes we have come to know so far as the Resistance is dwindled. Where do they go next? Wherever they can to face off against the First Order one last time.

Oh, and of course… There’s a REAL LIFE plot to this movie too! After the events of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” audiences are divided! Between playing it too safe in one movie and trying to find unlocked paths in another movie, there is no way to impress every single “Star Wars” fan out there! So now it is the job of J.J. Abrams to bring balance to the “Star Wars” fandom and take on the near impossible task of sticking the landing in terms of directing “Episode IX.”

Now, for those of you who have been following Scene Before for some time, I do have to say, I make an effort to provide as little spoilers as possible for every movie review I do. There may be a case where I either have to or want to put in spoilers for one reason or another, but most of the time, I make an effort to be as secretive as possible in regards to the film’s key points that could potentially alter how one would see the movie if it had been revealed to them beforehand. With that being said, this is a “Star Wars” movie. “Star Wars” is a franchise that I would be eternally heartbroken had spoilers for it come my way. I imagine most of my viewers would feel the same way. So let me just say, this is a SPOILER-FREE review. Knowing that I just saw the movie on one of the earliest showtimes the public can access, I am going to raise my shield to avoid all effects from blasters, lightsabers, pistols, force lightning, and if possible (and I’m not saying I am weak-minded), Jedi mind tricks. So without further ado, let’s talk some “Star Wars.”

The “Star Wars” sequel trilogy has been a mixed bag for me so far. I for one LOVE “The Force Awakens.” I’m not gonna lie, it is one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies for sure. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a movie I was looking forward to, saw in the theater on opening weekend, and walked out of it feeling like I saw the second coming of Christ on screen. Every now and then I’ll walk out of a movie feeling something inside me that made me feel like I leveled up. That was one of them. In fact, it might even be my favorite movie of 2015. Is it a copy paste of the original “Star Wars” movie? Sure, you can definitely bring up that point. But the thing is, the movie did exactly what a film of its kind needed to do. Deliver crowd-pleasing moments, provide stunning visuals, unleash great characters, start something special, and take you away from reality. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was able to do that. I will admit, I liked “Episode III,” in fact I personally admire it much more than most people, but as someone who looks back at the prequels as a slight step in the wrong direction, what Disney and J.J. Abrams did with “The Force Awakens” was exactly what I believe the “Star Wars” community and fanbase needed. Something familiar, but immensely entertaining.

Then we got “The Last Jedi” which was… Mediocre. Now if you have ever read my initial review for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” you’d know I dug it. The reason being is because as much as I enjoyed “The Force Awakens,” I saw it partially as a throwback. But it’s a good throwback, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind movies or media jumping on the nostalgia train, but I wanted something new out of this “Star Wars” trilogy that could separate them from the other two. As good as “The Empire Strikes Back” is, I was afraid that this movie, like “The Force Awakens” did with “A New Hope,” would be a rehash of “The Empire Strikes Back.” However, based on what the movie provided from a story perspective, that did not seem to be the case. The movie made some bold, expectation-subverting choices. While I admire director Rian Johnson for trying to take “Star Wars” in a new direction, it didn’t pay off. Originally, I gave the movie a 9/10 for the steps it took in finding new storytelling paths, but as I thought about the movie more, I dug it less and less. Mark Hamill is GREAT as Luke though, I’ll give the movie that. I will admit, the film is beautifully directed, it’s wonderfully shot, and the visuals are sometimes incredible. But the screenplay is almost the worst in “Star Wars” history. “The Last Jedi” felt like a passion project that ended up splattering in someone’s face. I will admit, as much as I don’t like Johnson’s vision for “The Last Jedi,” I do think he is a damn fine director with the right project. He made “Knives Out,” which is one of the best movies of the year, and I just saw “Looper,” another film he wrote and directed, and it’s nothing short of dope. I would be SOMEWHAT open to him directing another “Star Wars” project, but not writing one.

Now we’re here! “The Rise of Skywalker” is upon us. I will admit, I did not have the most pleasurable thoughts going into it. But nevertheless, I scored tickets for the first show of the film at one of my all-time favorite movie theatres, so the fan inside me felt ready for this experience. I will admit, some of the trailers were really good, and part of me was curious to see how this saga will end (until Disney needs more money and they make Episode X). What are my thoughts on the ultimate story of the “Skywalker Saga?” The top of Mount “Star Wars!” The height of the force! WHAT? DID? I? THINK OF IT?

Well… uhhhh…. It was better than “Cats.”

To be completely serious with you, I really enjoyed this movie A LOT MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD going into it. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is up there to me with “Toy Story 4” and “Alita: Battle Angel” as one of 2019’s most pleasant surprises. I could honestly end the review by pointing out that against each and every single odd, J.J. Abrams delivered something watchable. But, ending the review here would be boring, and y’all will probably feel cheated, so let’s move on.

Sticking with J.J. Abrams, he was the right choice to direct this film. I love what he did with “The Force Awakens” as mentioned earlier. And I think those who have complained in the past about “The Force Awakens,” specifically about it playing it too safe might dig this movie a little more than that. Granted, this movie relies HEAVILY on nostalgia. There are many iconic themes from John Williams that are brought back, nods to past “Star Wars” films and TV programs, the return of Lando, and Palpatine is even somehow in this movie. But even with that, this movie introduces quite a few new things. I am not exactly going to go into each and every one of them, but they are there nonetheless. In fact, as someone who doesn’t like “The Last Jedi,” I think the thing about it that I at least appreciate is its willingness to take risks. They didn’t pay off, but they are still risks. This movie was able to take me to my happy place, sort of back to my childhood, while also introducing some fresh ideas. Not all of them worked, kind of like in “The Last Jedi,” but there are some that played into how fun this movie ultimately is.

One thing you are going to hear me repeat often throughout this review is that I won’t spoil something, so bear with me here. But I want to mention that without going into much detail, C-3PO had a bit to do with the movie’s story, and I think this may be my favorite 3PO story yet. In fact, 3PO honestly feels like a necessary character for this movie to go on. And even though he has been in just about every “Star Wars” film so far, this may be the first story where I felt 3PO’s presence was required in order for certain events to take place since the original trilogy, or maybe “The Phantom Menace.” I mean, most of his stories since just involved him being in the movie to have a random character be a comic relief (which he was before, but still) or just give some random perspective of what’s going on. Well that, and he needs his red arm replaced. It’s nice seeing him in the prequels and the last couple of sequel films, but seeing him as a core part of the story here is an utter delight, knowing the legacy this character has overall.

As for our main characters, I think Rey, Finn, and Poe, the main human trio we have come to know so far throughout this trilogy are hypnotizing to watch. Seeing them on screen again was a blast, in fact there is a scene early on between Finn and Poe that might be one of the most ridiculously fast-paced and bonkers “Star Wars” moments ever. Without saying much, it involves the Millennium Falcon. Personally, the scenes involving Rey when she was separated from her friends were a bit more fun than those between her friends. Honestly, there are a few scenes between the main trio, not every scene, but there is one that stands out in particular, where I just began to question the chemistry between them. I know that one of the key differences between this and the other two trilogies is that it is the shortest of the timelines. The original trilogy spans about four or five years and the prequels last even longer. This entire trilogy lasts about a year. It’s kind of mind-boggling if you think about it. Even though you have less time to develop these characters off-screen, it still somewhat unfortunate that the movie’s quality suffered as a result.

Speaking of character flaws, let’s talk about some of the newer additions to the movie. I’m not gonna go too deep into the new characters, but what I can say about them is that they sort of make me reflect upon “The Last Jedi.” What I mean is that whenever a new character in that movie is introduced, it takes some amount of time for me to just want them to disappear. The only new character in that film that really brought something to the table for me was the one played by Benicio Del Toro because he seemed to have some hint of swagger to him. I didn’t like Holdo, I didn’t like Rose (who is much better in this movie better by the way), the force kids didn’t really seem to add much of anything. Kind of like that, the new characters introduced to this film were also kind of forgettable. Granted, they’re better than those introduced in “Episode VIII,” but nevertheless. Nobody made me roll my eyes and no one took away my dignity. Even if the new characters were not that great, you could still tell me that they were in the movie for a reason and I’d probably be on your side.

Case and point, Keri Russell’s character of Zorii Bliss. As the main adventurers are in the middle of their quest, they run into this woman, thus leading to an explanation of her past history with one of the film’s other characters. Again, I’m trying to be vague with this review, because knowing some people, they consider minute details spoilers, so I am going to fulfill those people’s wishes. I like her costume design, and I’ll reiterate, she serves her purpose when the movie needs her, but if she was taken out of the movie, I would probably not care all that much. But, movie’s gotta movie.

Speaking of new characters, I also, to my disappointment, didn’t like D-O, the new green droid that was introduced. I am not saying I was highly anticipating D-O to be the scene stealer of the film or anything, but if there was one character that was probably created SPECIFICALLY for this movie just to get somebody out of the house to go buy a toy, this would be the one. D-O is along for the ride, but it’s another one of those characters that could literally be removed from the script and bring no negative effect to the table. Well, maybe except Disney who won’t be making as much money from people who may go out and buy D-O merchandise in the meantime. It would be fine if D-O had more dimension as a character, but there’s barely anything that I could say about D-O that makes him resemble a character full of personality, and full of charisma. You can make the argument that a character like BB-8 was mainly created to sell toys, but the thing is, BB-8 is charming, serves the plot very well, and doesn’t necessarily feel tacked on. BB-8 has basically been a centerpiece to the films he’s appeared in so far, not to mention this entire trilogy. D-O could have been something special, but the somewhat lackluster writing says otherwise.

I also gotta be honest, and I don’t know if I should be entirely surprised, but General Hux has become more of a joke for each movie that he’s in. Here, it’s almost insulting. He starts out well in this film for the most part, and I was entertained when he was on screen, but as the movie gets a bit closer to finishing its first hour, his character does something that honestly got on my nerves. I am not gonna go into detail about what he does, but I don’t know if J.J. Abrams or Chris Terrio or even Colin Trevorrow years back, when he was scheduled to helm this movie, made this decision, but it come off HORRIBLY when delivered on screen. It felt like something ways off from Hux’s personality and it was rainbows and unicorns kinds of impractical. Some people I know have been somewhat displeased with Hux in “The Last Jedi,” a notion I kind of agree with by the way. However, in that movie, I still got a sense of Hux being himself. He still felt like the same character introduced in “The Force Awakens.” It felt like a sligthly natural progression. While Hux is still kind of himself in this film as well, there’s just a moment where I felt dumbfounded as a viewer watching him on screen.

I’ll say this again, Lando’s back! This is something I was personally rather excited for, because I think Lando is one of the many highlights of the original trilogy. It’s hard to list any bad characters from said trilogy, but if there are any, Lando ain’t one of them. How is he in this movie? Well, without spoiling much, he brings some fun to the table, but he isn’t really in the movie all that much. Is that a bad thing? Given the movie’s story structure, I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing at all, but if you were expecting a Lando extravaganza, you’re not gonna get that. He plays a somewhat minor role in the film, but all of his scenes are watchable and easy to enjoy.

Now let’s get to this one of the most odd yet interesting additions to this film’s cast of characters, Palpatine. Before we go any further, let me just address that people behind this film have stated that it was always the plan to bring back The Emperor. I honestly don’t know if I buy that. I think that’s just a protective statement to avoid turning audiences off. I would have NEVER envisioned The Emperor coming back for this movie, or the sequel trilogy in the first place. Remember that first trailer for the movie? The one they showed at Star Wars Celebration in April? Once I heard Palpatine’s infamous laugh for the first time, I was shivering to my core. It was something so out of left field at the time, that it made my interest meter for the movie go up a couple notches. At the same time however, the more I thought about it, the more nervous I became. I say that because as much as I love the fact that we get to see Palpatine one more time, I was worried that his appearance here would undermine everything in previously established material. Most specifically, “Return of the Jedi,” which may be his most prominent film. Why? Becuase SPOILERS, it’s been 36 years since that movie came out, WHO CARES? He dies. And it’s not just the fact that he dies that I was worried about, I also felt apprehensive because of the way he died. The ending of “Return of the Jedi” is probably my favorite endings of the “Star Wars” franchise (aside from “Rogue One”), partially because the way The Emperor goes out is chill-inducing. Between the powerful score given by John Williams, Vader’s conflict, Luke’s near-death experience, and the massive stakes at hand, it makes The Emperor’s fate all the more meaningful and emotionally satisfying. Seeing the smoke rise from the pit is a feast for the eyes and ears, and I thought that was a fine bow tie for his character. But no, I guess for some reason he’s returned to the party. I was honestly worried for a number of reasons. Two of which I’ll give here. 1. Again, The Emperor died in a way that was satisfying and the way he went out feels like a way that would be difficult to recover from. 2. The marketing seemed to promise Palpatine, but I did not think it was clear as to how much of him we’d be getting. After all, his voice is heard a lot, but I only remember seeing him physically in probably just one TV spot. That and one of the early posters.

So how was Palpatine? Not bad, to be quite honest. There is no way, at least at this point that I could be convinced that Palpatine was supposed to be the endgame the whole time, but inserting him in this movie was surprisingly solid. I mean, you can make the argument that Palpatine’s character being a centerpiece of all three trilogies in some way bring something to the table, but I’m not sure I’d completely agree. Nevertheless, just about any character interaction with him was tense and had my full attention. Ian McDiarmid played him like Slash can play a guitar! I am not going to dive deep into his character because there is a good chance that any effective thing I can say about him would be somewhere in spoiler-territory. I’ll just say this… He doesn’t just feel like a bad guy who wants to do bad guy things. He legit feels like a threat, as he should, and a necessary part of the film’s overall story and conflict. Overall, I dug him being here.

Speaking of things I dug, one thing that stood out to me at the start of the movie happened to be Rey, and the reason for that is because she apparently is kind of the Jedi definition of a showoff. She has these abilities that I think almost no other person in history could ever achieve. I will admit, when I first saw this, I kind of liked it. This new trilogy has shown was in which the force has perhaps evolved so to have this all powerful being is not completely unbelievable. Again, I already said I dug it, such a comment about liking this might almost be irrelevant at this point. BUT… There are a couple moments where I legit thought I was watching a piece of fantastical and far-fetched fan-fiction come to life. There are some things done with the force in this movie that I do not remember seeing much in “Star Wars” prior to this movie. This movie has a point where it becomes seemingly convenient in terms of how the force works. Sometimes it might be cool, maybe even badass, sometimes it just doesn’t work. There’s a moment in particular between Rey and Kylo on a desert that I want to say I like, but the Movie Reviewing Moron part of me wants to question whatever it was I just saw.

Sticking with Rey and Kylo, they have a number of scenes together in the movie, and there are some neat moments between them. Specifically fights, conversations, and more. Although if I had to list a complaint in the movie that might be my biggest of all, it would have to be this one scene between the two of them at the very end. It’s something that starts off as charming and sweet, and then becomes something that continues to piss me off. I have a feeling that if you are under a certain mindset going into the film you might enjoy whatever it is I won’t talk about whatsoever, but it just didn’t work for me.

Continuing off of what I just said, the final half hour to forty five minutes of this movie is full of fan service. Almost in the same way such a fraction of “Avengers: Endgame” was for the MCU. I won’t go into details about the fan service specifically. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Listen, that thing that I mentioned pissed me off in the last paragraph, I AM NOT GONNA SPOIL A THING, but if you pay attention, the thing that pissed me off personally is part of said fan service. And having said that, I almost wonder what the people behind this movie were thinking while making it. Keep in mind, while a good number of people seemed to enjoy “The Last Jedi,” I and many others was not really satisfied with it. This movie, in a way, seems to try to give something to everyone. Whether they liked “The Last Jedi,” hated it. Or whether they liked the other “Star Wars” movies, maybe hated those as well, it seems that a lot of time writing the screenplay went into focusing on elements that made other “Star Wars” screenplays what they are, but also what made “The Last Jedi” liked by certain people. This movie, even though it acknowledges the existence of “The Last Jedi,” sort of feels like an apology letter to viewers for “The Last Jedi.” Having disliked “The Last Jedi” myself, I can’t complain too much, but it feels like a script that is supposed to cater to anybody who ever watched “Star Wars” and admired a piece of it. This brings a complication into the mix. There will be things that will inevitably piss off some people, but there will also be things that will floor those same people in a positive way. For all I know, there could be someone out there that loves all things “Star Wars” that might end up liking EVERYTHING in this movie. I’m sure they’re out there.

I do not have all that much more to say about “The Rise of Skywalker,” but I gotta say as an ending to a nine film saga, this is surprisingly satisfying. I was worried that J.J. Abrams wouldn’t stick the landing, I was worried that I would feel unfulfilled for some reason, or the direction in this film will highlight a completely rushed ending. I gotta say one thing though. As much I enjoy having gotten my own opportunity to see an entire “Star Wars” trilogy with both previously established and newly established characters in theaters, I do not know if this film in particular is as fulfilling overall compared to the ending of “Return of the Jedi.” Again, I’m not going to spoil anything, but that film ended on such a note where the characters many of us have come to love got just about everything that they have come to earn. Admittedly, having seen this new ending, I WON’T GO INTO detail, but one character “acquires” something new that hasn’t been acquired yet that combines fan service and pure emotion. It also solves a complaint. What complaint? Not gonna tell ya. If I ever do a spoiler talk, I’ll be sure to bring this up.

Overall, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is entertaining, visually impressive (which shouldn’t be surprising, it’s “Star Wars”), and one more thing I will mention is this, because I feel I should not leave you all hanging without a mention of John Williams kicking ass with his score. I mentioned earlier that his score is heavily reliant on nostalgic themes, but whenever there is a scene that is heavy on said nostalgia or one that really needs a certain mood, Williams is there to bring the goods. I need time to see where I’ll rank this score, but as of now, this is one of the absolute best “Star Wars” scores I have ever heard. Having witnessed comments about this being the last “Star Wars” score from John Williams, I think he went out with an absolute bang. Williams, this world, nor does a galaxy far far away, deserve you. You are a god, enough said.

In the end, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is a flawed, but simultaneously charming finale to a nine film saga that has been going on for over forty years. Once more, I’ll bring up “The Last Jedi,” and I will say even though that film has glimmers of entertainment, it does not feel like a story worthy of the “Star Wars” name. This sequel is a bombastic roller coaster that is worth seeing, especially if you are a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise because I can probably guarantee that even if you end up not liking the movie overall, there will ultimately be SOMETHING to enjoy. But I must say one thing, and this is probably going to piss off some people.

So I have the unpopular opinion, although over the years I have found this unpopular opinion to be a bit more popular than I anticipated, of “Revenge of the Sith,” the finale to the prequel trilogy, being one of my favorite “Star Wars” movies. Another movie which I consider to be just as great is “Return of the Jedi,” the finale of the original trilogy. If I had to be honest, my thoughts on “The Rise of Skywalker” are not that positive compared to my thoughts on the other two movies I mentioned. I liked it, quite a bit in fact. But if I had to give the honest truth, “The Rise of Skywalker” is my least favorite of the three trilogy finales the saga has had so far. Even with that in mind, it’s still good. At the same time though, this does bring up one positive regarding the “Star Wars” saga as a whole, and a negative as well, depending on how you look at it. The finales of all the trilogies make up the one portion of the saga that is entirely positive in one way or another. Keep in mind, I love all the films in the original trilogy, so the beginning, middle, and end all work there. But “The Phantom Menace” was a fail to start off the prequel trilogy, and speaking of prequel failures, I also wasn’t a fan of the middle act of the trio of films, “Attack of the Clones.” Similarly, this most recent sequel trilogy had the disappointing middle entry “The Last Jedi.” The finales all worked, even this one, to my complete surprise. With that being said, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is worth a watch, especially in a big, obnoxious movie theater with fantastic sound, and I’m going to give it a rather high 6/10. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I think a 6 is a fair grade. Would I watch it again? Oh, you betcha. And technically, this film has some of the best sound and visual effects of the year, which isn’t new for a “Star Wars” film. But story-wise, there is an argument to make that even though I love how quick this movie progresses, it almost gets to that point where it becomes rushed. If the newer characters were better and if MAYBE it tried to focus going down one particular path as opposed to catering to a bunch of different demographics, the score could potentially be higher.

With all of what I just said in mind, this movie honestly has notable flaws, not to mention things that piss me off. But this movie is also satisfying overall, and the many positives of the movie tend to outweigh the negatives. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, and most importantly, it’s better than both “The Last Jedi” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” both movies which by the way, I felt disappointed by. I want to thank everyone for giving a great saga of films to remember. I hope various future “Star Wars” projects work out and I am looking forward to the future of the franchise should I continue to tune in. Thanks for reading this review! Next week is the limited release of the all new war film “1917.” It is going to be hitting theaters everywhere this January, but honestly this is a movie that I need to see as soon as possible because I have a feeling that it is going to be one of the best directed and well-shot movies of this particular release year. It comes out Christmas Day, which I’m busy on, but hopefully I can get my butt in a seat as soon as possible. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or if you want greater access to the blog, use a WordPress account. Be sure to like this post and share it with your friends, and check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker?” What did you think about it? Or, now that the three main “Star Wars” trilogies are concluded, which is your favorite? The prequels? The originals? Or the sequels? You know what, here’s another question. How would you personally rank the three trilogies? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!