Reviewing something like the STAR WARS TRILOGY is something best avoided if possible- I mean, what CAN be said about these films? Globally recognised as works of total genius, A NEW HOPE (I? calling it that from now on, it fits in with the prequels as a ?ix film saga? THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI are the three films that for me as a sixteen year old define my childhood more than any others. Seeing them with new eyes as I did in 1997 when they were re-released, I fell in love with the worlds of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Artoo, Threepio and Darth Vader. I bought all the cool new toys, my Dagobah Luke sits next to me as I write this review. The STAR WARS movies, although seen now as the latter half of a six film story- in essence the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, this trilogy worked alone for twenty plus years, and still does today. Arriving in 1977, A NEW HOPE blew the movie going world away, and it remains probably the best movie in terms of sheer excitement. The Lightsabers! The Aliens! The Death Star run! Although this cost the least to make, George Lucas ensured ANH was not stunted by the (by todays standards) very low budget. The film is enthused with childlike energy, a dynamic synergy between the cast, and special effects that with Lucas?new CGI improvements (I?l come to that later) still work today. But in essence this is a movie all about characters, from the pitch perfect villain in Darth Vader to the snappy banter between the films three leads. The comedy dynamic is filled so well here by R2-D2 and C-3PO- a feat that would never really be repeated, and would eventually degenerate into the lame jokes as seen in ATTACK OF THE CLONES. However, this is the film that started it all and got it so right, John Williams amazing music, George Lucas?wonderful direction, the fact that every place visited has a look and a feel all of its own, the fact these people were able to make an alien world seem so plausible, is astonishing in itself. It really is no wonder this won the coveted ?est Movie EVER?at this years Scifind awards, A NEW HOPE is a testament to summer and general moviemaking and a landmark in motion pictures- and its also my personal favourite movie.
If A NEW HOPE kicked things off in amazing style then THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK not only pulls off that rare trick of continuing the story started in the previous film, but introduces new characters, whilst not at the expense of the older ones. Yoda, Lando, Boba Fett all come in with this movie- the diminutive Jedi master looking the best he ever has or will (CGI can do many things, but no Yoda) and Boba Fett is a legend! This film, directed with fresh energy by Irving Kershner is dark, clever, thrilling and funny. It builds a meaningful romance between Han and Leia whilst training Luke up as a Jedi Knight, without making it stuffy or pompous. This is the film that gives the trilogy many of its classic moments- the snow battle, the asteroid chase, Yoda (what? He deserves more mentions) and THAT saber duel and THAT revelation. This is the film where we find out that Darth is the daddy and is a complete bastard. He tortures his daughter and her lover, only to bring his son to Bespin, to then slice his hand off! He freezes Han Solo in Carbonite for christs sake! It all ends on such a downer, and that is its strength- it? dark, moody and quite brilliant. The years between ANH enabled effects wizards ILM to improve on their craft to such an extent they pull things off that would have been impossible three years prior. Again, brilliant.
RETURN OF THE JEDI is the movie where people start to nit pick, to find problems. It? the film with The Emperor, and err?he Ewoks. I find no problem with the little ?ub Nubbing?furballs, but many fans do. They claim JEDI is where the rot set in for Lucas, claiming its stilted, unimaginative (the Second Death Star) and childish. Hmm. Looking for problemsUcan find none. JEDI is, if not quite as good as the previous films, far better than anything else out there. Speeder Bikes! The space battle! Jabba The Hutt! Vader VS Luke part II! It contains, again, priceless movie moments. It? fun and dark. The Ewoks, if anything offer some fun to cut through the dark talk of death and the dark side between Vader, Luke and the Emperor. It wraps up everyone? story arc, giving the saga as a whole a sense of closure. Vader? sacrifice and subsequent unmasking give a fitting end to his story, as does the newly revised force ghost image at the end of the film. ROTJ is just as much fun as its predecessors- it ends the STAR WARS saga with forty minutes of solid action- no mean feat, in that it is riveting stuff. Peerless entertainment.
THE EXTRAS: Before I go on, purists be warned, these are the Special Edition versions released in 1997, with added tweaks (and in my eyes, they are all improvements- yes, even Han and Greedo.) Anyone looking for more on this can find it in the news section or elsewhere on the net. The extras are pretty comprehensive- its great stuff, but I wouldn? have minded a BIT more- deleted scenes anyone? It is out there, making it seem its all being saved up for a 2007 Hi-Def DVD releaseU. In short, we get three featurettes on the movie (fun, but far too short) a few promos, a nine minute Episode III teaser (fun while it lasts), production gallery, trailers, an Easter egg and the two and a half hour EMPIRE OF DREAMS documentary. I couldn? go into any more detail on the movies than this does, and neither could anyone else I suspect, so it is totally riveting stuff, despite the bum numbing length. It deserves many, many awards. The sound on these movies is amazing for films as old as they are. But it? the picture that really impresses, every mark, blast point and gun turret is crystal clear. The opening of ANH with the star destroyer passing overhead looks awesome. Overall, these were the dvds we wanted. An amazing set, with amazing films, truly, these are three of the greatest moviesNever. But you knew that already.