Star Wars: an expert and a newbie view the classic series

The Star Wars series is a benchmark of modern film, helping to define the meaning of the summer movie. Its special effects, storyline and self-contained world was brand new to audiences and the whole picture fit together so well that it virtually defined cinematic success in the late ’70s.

For some, these original films, “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” still remain undisputed classics of both science fiction and cult films. They’re smart without being too smart, fun without sacrificing brains and easy to grasp for anyone who comes across the films. For these viewers, the films are unassailable bits of popular culture, able to eternally withstand the test of time.

That’s why George Lucas has become such an infuriating figure. His ’90s remastering of the films inserted a variety of CGI characters, a handful of mysteriously and pointlessly used special effects and scenes that dramatically changed the nature of the characters. Lucas recently re-released the entire series, including the mostly abysmal prequel trilogy, in a feature packed BLU-Ray collection, making even more unnecessary changes to his film.

For cinephiles, the changing of a film seems insane, especially with a series of movies as culturally revered and loved as “Star Wars.” Sure, there are new bells and whistles, but they just distract from the original. These cuts are seen by many as taking away from the glory of the original films.

But how much glory is in those original films? A long time Star Wars fan and a newbie to the series sat down one Saturday afternoon to watch all the original films and try to find out.

 

Jackson Adams, Expert

Let’s get one thing straight, “Star Wars” is the smartest and possibly the best kids movie ever made. There are bright, vibrant characters, lots of action and a lot of fun, family-friendly banter.  It was my favorite movie as a kid, so I still have a lot of stored nostalgia for the films.

Watching it again, especially all together, I was struck with how good the movies still look. There’s a lot of weight behind the characters and action, and most of that comes from actors actually being on stages or on location. These aren’t movies filled with CGI and the effect is obvious. You feel the danger, and the action has weight.

I will say the filmmakers didn’t do as much world building as we’d like to imagine. Intergalactic bounty hunter and fan favorite Boba Fett isn’t named in “Empire Strikes Back” and we don’t even hear anyone mention him by name until seconds before he is killed in “Return of the Jedi.” It’s strange just how much work fans did to link their favorite characters to the movies they loved.

One of the things I like the most about watching the movies again is seeing the evolution of Lucas as a screenwriter and more importantly, director Irvin Kirshner as he handles the series’ best film, “Empire Strikes Back.” His cinematography is striking and bleak, perfect for the darkest chapter of the series, and several very inventive sequences, particularly the POV shots during the Battle of Hoth are some of the best of the series. Lucas returned to direct the final part of the trilogy and the drop off of filmmaking quality is both noticeable and sad.

I guess the important thing really is that, yes, the films still do work. They’re well made, often smart and just a blast to watch. Sure, the mythology is a little half-baked and “Return of the Jedi” always bored the ever living crap out of me, but I still legitimately am a big fan of these movies. I think most of it is nostalgia, but there are few movies that remain this much fun and this exciting after every watch. I could watch Leia insult Chewie and Han say “then I’ll see you in hell” pretty much any day.

 

Alex Ross, Newbie

I may have been one of the few 20-year-old males in America who had never seen Star Wars.

I wasn’t against seeing the movies; I just never sought them out either. I didn’t grow up watching the original trilogy and really had no interest in seeing them as a teenager. I never saw the fascination with the series and thought it was for nerds and adults my parents’ age.

But it was impossible to ignore “Star Wars.” You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard the phrases “Luke, I am your father” and “may the force be with you.”

No one can deny the impact the series has had on pop culture in the United States. It’s the third highest grossing film series ever, but until I watched the first three films, I never understood why.

25 years later, “Star Wars” is cheesy to say the least. The dialogue at times was a bit ridiculous and some of the special effects were over the top, mainly the explosions in “A New Hope.” I found myself laughing through most of “Episode IV” but was drawn in at the same time.

The plot was predictable. Of course, Luke and his ragtag team of buddies would ultimately conquer the evil of the Empire and Darth Vader. But despite its downfalls, “Star Wars” still passes the test of time.

The visuals are excellent even in today’s age. I can’t imagine how awesome seeing the first movie in theaters would have been in 1977. I didn’t expect movies that were nearly three decades old to have the kind of shots it did.

I think what stuck out most to me was how fun the trilogy is. The dialogue, while cheesy, is effective in drawing in the audience. Connections are made with all the characters. Even Chewbacca, who speaks in grunts and roars, is given dialogue that helps better develop his personality.

In hindsight, I wish I had watched “Star Wars” as an adolescent. The visuals and characters would have had a greater impact and the cheesy elements wouldn’t have been noticeable.

I finally understand why the movie is a cult classic in this country. I have found a greater appreciation for “Star Wars.”