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