I saw "STAR WARS Episode IV - A New Hope" back in December 1977. Few, those that wasn't there, understand what an impact "Star Wars" made. The only thing coming close in later years is "The Matrix", and that doesn't even come close. The thing is. "Star Wars" came out of absolutely nothing. With "The Matrix", you had already seen the new kind of F/X that started with Star Wars, and you've seen the style in movies such as "Blade Runner", "Batman" etc. What "The Matrix" did, was that it took that and upped it a notch, packing a lot of elements together in a way that hadn't been seen before it. Not exactly a revolution in the same scale as "Star Wars". "Star Wars", alone, created the interest there is in film now, with all the media surrounding film today. Of course, you could be interested in movies before "Star Wars", but you didn't have "Fans", you didn't have 1,001 film magazines, you didn't have lines around the block on opening night. Movies, as an event, was (re-)created by "Star Wars".
That's only haft the truth, of course. The thing is. "Star Wars" (A New Hope) was one heck of an adventure told in a universal, basic story. If you look back at the original "Star Wars", it doesn't have a single flaw really (Except maybe it's look). The story is simple, surprisingly simple, since it feels like a lot more. Essentially, the whole film is: Get the broad out and blow up the "castle". As with "Lord of the Rings", which is essentially.. Get to that volcano and dump this ring into it, "Star Wars" contains such a lot more. It's a complete world, with a distinct look and workings. You sense the "life". Very much because, what is shown is "everyday life". You have an ordinary farm boy with everyday problems with machines that doesn't work etc, standing there looking towards the horizon, longing to get away. They visit a standard bar, they play "chess" as their in-flight entertainment. All that was carried over to the whole trilogy. The Millenium Falcon not working etc. People, or creatures, reacting to things. Remember that narrow escape with the Millenium Falcon chased by the exploding Death Star? The close-ups of Lando Calrissian and his co-pilot, that look of.. "Whew.. that was close".
Another thing with the first Trilogy, is the "magic" images, forever imprinted in one's mind. The scene at the beginning, with the first appearance of Darth Vader. Luke standing looking at the horizon with the 2 suns, Millenium Falcon against the star as he come to the rescue of Luke. The Dart Vader vs. Luke Skywalker duel atop the Carbon Freeze, the Battle of Hoth, Yoda raising Luke's ship from the swamp, the Destroyer crashing into another tip first, Millenium Falcon racing around the surface of a Destroyer etc etc.
To say that it's tricky to repeat that, is an understatement, and I'm sure Lucas thought long and hard before doing the new trilogy. At the same time he would be able to create the look he always had wanted and to complete the whole story, at the same time, it would have to compete with the original Trilogy.
I saw "STAR WARS Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" yesterday..
A lot of people is disappointed by I - III, which is understandable. I'm not. I think it's generally great. Very different, for good or bad. (The tricky thing is that I - III has it's look, with IV - VI a completely different style, which will make it slightly strange to see them as they're supposed to be seen, I - VI).
What I do miss from I - III, is the "people". Especially in II - III. Very much thanks to it being about Politicians, Royals and the Jedi. No ordinary people need to apply. The problem with that, is that you don't have anyone to identify. The only one with some human reactions is Anakin, and he's the one you can't identify with. Essentially, the events are too big. Too much is going on story-wise, with the business of war etc, to allow time enough for the people involved in all of it. The Jedi being too busy saving the world to be silly. Yoda in "The Empire Strikes Back" is fun, silly wise "man". Here, all he can do is seeing the world going to hell, and being unable to do anything about it. Not exactly the time to be "silly". In the attempt to cram everything in, the pace is so fast, you barely pick up on what's happening before we jump to the next location and what happens there. There's Padmé and Anakin, there's Obi-Van, There's Yoda, There's Palpatine, there's the droid army, the separatists, Jar-Jar, Wookies.. All having their place in the history in how things came to be. All of it needing to be told.
[SPOILER] General Dooku is killed by Anakin. A lot of people complain that Dooku dies too fast and easily. The thing is. The scene is there to show what an impressive skill the young Anakin have gained, and how ruthless he's becoming, cutting Dooku short. The thing is. It becomes a short sequence among all other, which diminish the importance of it being done in the way it's done. You never get a sense of how key that scene actually is. [END OF SPOILER].
There's a lot to tell, and what's told is the way towards doom. The way to Caligula and Nero of Rome, to Hitler and Mussolini. (And similarities with the politics of USA at the moment). It's not exactly a fun ride we're in for, which is the total opposite of episode IV - VI which is an uplifting story, where things go from a certain state to victory, with the good thing, storywise, is that it's able to just follow a bunch of rebels doing underground work inside a state of "normality", where most people go on living their day to day life. No big politics or World War going on.
George Lucas has done a really good job within the limits he had. In the end, he had to think about the whole saga. I - VI, and it's as such STAR WARS should be seen, when it comes to story and themes. The thing is. The saga would be a totally different experience to someone born today, being able to see the Saga from start to end. The problem with me, and most other seeing it, is that the Original Trilogy was way too good and memorable. We can't see I - III without remembering IV - VI, which would be like reading "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" before reading "Fellowship of the Ring". If one is able to see the whole Saga, a lot more make sense.
Jar-Jar has gotten a lot of critique, and the general lack of him in II and III is seen as Lucas listening to the "fans". The problem with that, is that the "fans" totally misses the point of Jar-Jar. He represented the common people. Slightly clumpsy etc. As opposed to the noble Senators, Royals, Jedi Knights etc. Someone that try to live day to day. That might drop the pancakes on the floor, that bump their toes in furniture etc. It was he, representing "people" that gave Paladin absolute power in Episode II, the same way that German people put Hitler into power etc. It wasn't as if Hitler, or Palpatine, grabbed the power by force. They played their cards well, inside the democratic system and was handed the power they got, and that's the essential theme of Star Wars. How democracy turned into a dictatorship, which was overthrown by rebels.
Looking at both the Trilogies, as separate enteties, it's interesting to see the differences.
Both Anakin and Luke starts out as simple, innocent "boys" that gets involved in the business of the world. Both of them have doubts and problems. The difference is that Anakin's friends is too busy with the big cause. Nothing can deviate from the problems at hand. The Jedi Knights have their plans made up, and even if they notice his problems, his lack of a a platform. Not knowing his place. It doesn't fit into their plans. Nobody sits down and tell him.. "Hey.. we understand how you feel, but if you want to know.. you're the chosen one. Our master of masters". [SPOILER] Not until it's too late, when Anakin's already lost to the other side because the one who told him how good he is, what plans he had for him, was the bad guy, Palpatine. [END OF SPOILER]. If you know you're good, one of the best, but lost.. Not knowing your place in the big scheme of things. Then, if someone takes their time to tell you that you're good, that there is a place for you. Aren't you willing to listen?
No matter how busy Leia was with the rebels, how greedy Han Solo might have been etc.. They always had time for Luke etc. Friendship plays a big part in IV-VI. R2-D2 and C3PO might getting on each other's nerves, but they would never ever let the other down. The reward and safety can't stop Lando from helping Han Solo and friends. Luke wouldn't dream of abandon Han Solo at Jabba the Hut, even if it came in the way of the big things. Let's overturn the Republic, but first save Han.
As for "Return of the Sith". Now I was impressed by "Attack of the Clones". It was very well written, and surprisingly engaging, despite knowing the outcome. If Obi-Van fights a life-threatning duel with Django Fett, you know Obi-Van can't be in danger.. "Hey.. he lived in Episode IV, so..". Still, in "Attack of the Clones", Lucas was able to conceal that fact and make it engaging. To have you sit on needles, wondering about the outcome etc.
That's a slight problem with "Return of the the Sith". The first half of the movie doesn't really engage, as you try to keep up with the pace. Such a lot of things happens, you struggle to place things in some context. It was some years since I saw "Attack of the Clones" and the movie picks up where that one left, without any introduction, except the scrawl at the beginning. That way, with all things going on, you sort of have to remember who this and that is, and what they've done earlier etc. Seeing "Attack of the Clones" right before seeing "Return of the Sith" would be of great help, for sure. When the movie narrows down to the very basic story, when it becomes all about Anakin, it's way easier to concentrate on the story and the movie becomes way more engaging, and impressive.
The last half of the movie is a great, intense drama playing out. A tragedy of monumental proportions unfolding, and one can't avoid being struck silent by it. You could feel it in the movie theater, how people silently followed the events. Not because they weren't engaged in what happened, but the exact opposite. A sort of darkness, gloom.. filling the theater.
It was extremely impressing to see the drama unfold, as well as how all the pieces neatly fell into place leading up to Episode IV. At least I, felt it in my heart, when [SPOILER] Padmé says "Leia.. ", and when you hear Luke's theme at the very ending, when his adoptive parents holds him, looking at the horizon with the two suns, mimicing the scene with Luke in Episode IV. [END OF SPOILER].
In the end.. STAR WARS is special. Very special. The way you feel when the STAR WARS theme and the logo comes up at the beginning of the film, the way it's done in all the previous films. It's hard not to feel some kind of anticpation, interest in what's gonna happen in the movie (right from the start). You're engaged from the moment you hear the 20th Century Fox March. It's an event. No matter how you might or might not have felt for Episode I and II. You sit there, because you have to, etc.. Because Star Wars is Star Wars.