Note: The Supernaughts do not endorse this "definitive" ranking from our eccentric colleague Agent Smith, more commonly known as Indiana Peach.
6. Revenge of the Sith
The only Star Wars film lacking a single standout piece of music from John Williams. Episode I had “Duel of the Fates”, Episode II had “Across the Stars”, Episode III had zip. It is the bottom of the barrel.
By the end of the first reel we have witnessed 1. a ridiculous action sequence where Obi Wan and Anakin comandeer a giant spaceship, crash landing it on Coruscant without coming to any harm whatsoever, 2. R2-D2 engaging in unfunny shenanigans, 3. the anticlimactic beheading of Count Dooku who had been developed as a mysterious villain with dope info and his own agenda in Attack of the Clones. ROTS reminds us that we are squarely in prequel town by disposing of him without much fanfare instead of working him into the plot. It would have been great to see him have a last minute change of heart like Vader in Return of the Jedi and die some kind of hero’s death when Anakin went to take out the younglings. There was potential there. Off with his head.
Like almost everything in the prequels, the death of Count Dooku reminds us that if it’s even a little bit interesting or has the potential to be it will quickly sabotaged by the lackluster writing.
It should have been an alarm bell to everyone that the two most interesting characters in Episode I were killed off. That should have given us food for thought, but it didn’t.
Wouldn’t it have been better to see a climactic lightsaber duel with Darth Maul in film III instead of the ball numbing, blue on blue, lava planet one that we got? Lightsaber fights were never supposed to be about showcasing the best Eastern martial arts swordplay; it was more about the dialogue between the characters that upped the stakes so that when the sabers did clash you felt it in your bones. Here the only thing you feel in your bones is a slight admiration for some of the effects work by ILM on Mustafar.
In the production diaries Ewan and Hayden are always giving each other blowjobs about how awesome their sword work is. People on the crew had to have been skeptical of these two.
*General Grevious is one of the worst villains in the history of cinema. He’s an alien who coughs. Also he’s a robot and that means he doesn’t have to have any personality or backstory whatsoever. He just shows up? How does that even work?
*The scene where Obi Wan rides the alien mount and takes out some bad guys (you know the scene) is the moment that the prequel trilogy has a cardiac arrest. It was limping along on life support but with that scene it just flatlines. He’s gone, Jim.
*Anakin killing the younglings is tonally flawed; it comes out of nowhere not just in the film but in the entire Star Wars universe where kids aren’t really a major factor at all. This is pure prequel town though where things get thrown in that don’t fit the logic of the universe or the mythology but Lucas thinks it’s interesting on a really vague, abstract, and possibly political level.
*Order 66. Silly name and kind of self-sabotage in a way because it subtly connects the Star Wars universe to our own. The hunting down of the Jedi was one of the things we were all kind of amped about for the previous twenty years and then it just turned out to be a crappy montage with a CGI flower covering the screen so we couldn’t see more bad CGI. Pure prequel town. Worst payoff ever.
People like to highlight some key scenes in Revenge of the Sith to say that it’s a quality entry. The scene where Anakin and Padme are staring out the windows at each other for example. But the only reason anyone cares about that is it looks like someone actually tried to photograph the scene well. It’s like by this point Lucas finally had remembered how to tell a story using a camera lens again. Not well really, but at least it looked like he was relearning how to convey some kind of additional information about the story using the camera. Great job…..
There is one borderline interesting scene in the movie and that is where Palpatine tells Anakin about Darth Plagueis at the opera. But I think there may be a homosexual subtext to that scene. If you pay attention it actually looks like Anakin is giving the Emperor a handjob underneath their robes. Maybe he is. But ultimately even that scene is just a dead end. If we wanted to hear about Darth Plagueis then it would have been better to bring him up in an earlier film. That’s just basically useless information by the time we hear it and it may sound cool, but it doesn’t go anywhere.
Maybe after that scene if we had seen Anakin trying to summon corpses back to life at the Coruscant morgue and flipping out that might have been a more interesting way to show how the sickness of the Dark Side was invading his mind. But we didn’t, of course. It was too late in the game to make shit interesting. Another scene of Yoda jumping around like Sonic the Hedgehog with a lightsaber while the Emperor threw a bunch of of empty chairs in the Senate chamber at him was the trilogy’s grand finale. I know, it was so so deep.
Finally for an epilogue we got Bail Organa driving Yoda off into the night throwing in the towel on the whole thing. And who could forget the “Unlimited power!” scene, one of the worst in all of Star Wars.
When the time the credits rolled there was no sense of finality to it. By the time we hit the doors of the cinema or brought the next cup of coffee or cola to our lips we had all completely forgotten about it like shaking off that nicotine-sick feeling you get after smoking too many cigarettes.
I find nothing at all to like in Revenge of the Sith. I can’t think of a single thing.
Really Lucas? Really? Noooo!
The final shot is Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin and the Death Star and it’s the biggest cop out in cinema history (conventional wisdom). After six hours of broken promises and broken dreams the final few moments don’t send a chill down our spines. It just leaves us scratching our heads. And we have to ask ourselves if this wasn’t the point all along. To drain the magic out of the original trilogy itself. Seeing Vader on the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer at the end of Revenge of the Sith was what we all wanted to see, but by the time we saw it we wished we hadn’t. But we didn’t know why.
Thumbs down. Huge thumbs down.
5. The Phantom Menace
The Battle of Naboo was the jump the shark moment for the entire prequel trilogy. It was that moment when the truth sank in that you were seeing a bad movie. It was that moment where you went from uneasily quieting that voice in the back of your head asking “When is the movie going to start?” to coming to grips with the fact that this was the movie. This is what you had been anticipating all spring while the leaves were budding. And not even the above average duel between Maul and Qui-Gon could erase the dirty feeling. The poorly edited Phantom Menace. Quite possibly one of the worst edited, most badly paced films in cinema history. “Through the planet’s core.”
The entire movie was like sobering up from a glance by a pretty girl that you thought was for you. As time passes it dawns on you that, indeed no, you will not be taking her to the dance. Instead you will be eating a hamburger alone on one of the benches outside Rally’s feeling the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and turning over a chapter from an Asimov novel in your mind that you stayed up all night reading instead of doing homework as a result of which you failed a French quiz. “I guess she wasn’t smiling at me,” you think, as you sip up the last of the cola and it makes that empty gurgling sound. You will be alone forever.
That is the feeling we all had watching Phantom Menace when the Gungan army deployed its weird balls of energy on the charmless droids. Alone.
There was one cool shot in the film in the first ten minutes of the droids unloading in the woods. It almost looked like something from Return of the Jedi, but the stakes plummeted when Jar Jar turned up out of nowhere five seconds later and the trilogy never became relevant again.
Looking back at the way the film is put together you realize something about the entire prequel trilogy and that is that Lucas was just too rusty to direct these films. He had been away from the chair too long and wasn’t the right guy for the job. Period.
I’m not sure what else really needs to be said about Episode I that hasn’t already been said a billion trillion times. The best single thing about the film was the poster of Jake Lloyd with Darth Vader’s shadow. That was cool. I also kind of liked the parade at the end for some reason.
Does anyone want to explain how they absconded with Anakin to Naboo but left his mother to die in slavery?
Episode I introduced us to Darth Sidious. Is he or is he not Emperor Palpatine? Turns out he is and it’s an open and shut case. But if it was going to be that obvious why keep it secret? Why not just develop Palpatine right off the bat from film 1 instead of hiding the football if you weren’t going to do anything by keeping him under wraps like that?
Natalie Portman was in this too. She pretended to be Padme, but we all knew she was the queen and there was no payoff associated with this. But then it was played like a reveal.
THE PLOT: Trade Federation is blockading Naboo meaning no one can trade with them. This is all orchestrated by Emperor Palpatine because……….the um…..because he wants to create a crisis so he will be given total authority to rule the galaxy as a legitimately installed dictator….right…….so he’s basically Rahm Emanuel. Terrifying.
Moving on. What I want to say about Jar Jar Binks is this. Lucas should have stuck to his guns and kept Binks in a prominent role for the following two films. It couldn’t have made things worse than they turned out to be, and Lucas should have taken it as a challenge to make the character finally endearing after all was said and done. That way he could have turned around and been like “see you had to hate him to like him” and it would have been at least logical. Still bad but if we had gone through some shit with Jar Jar maybe we all would have come around. Instead Lucas has Jar Jar be the guy who helps get Palpatine his coveted “emergency powers.” See that’s just Lucas being bitter because he really did think that Jar Jar was going to connect and then everyone was just blown away by how insane the character was.
Maybe Binks wasn’t even that bad, but he was given too much to do in Episode I. You could make the case that Jar Jar Binks is the main character in Episode I. He goes from zero to hero and redeems himself in the eyes of his fellow Gungans. And that’s more of an arc than any other character in the film. True facts.
Why did Qui-Gon have to die? Again it’s like Maul, or Dooku, or Amidala, or the mystery of Sidious or the entire prequel trilogy. Things are set up and then either not paid off or not developed as they should be.
“Duel of the Fates”, however, is awesome. We all can agree that this is a piece of music from a movie that we all wanted to see.
And finally, Midi-Chlorians? Why demystify the universe? Because maybe subconsciously that’s what Lucas wanted.
4. Attack of the Clones
The best of the prequels by a country mile. The first act is as strong as anything Lucas was ever going to do again in this universe. And despite the extremely awkward casting of Hayden and the weird romantic scenes between him and Amidala (so so weird) Attack of the Clones has several cool scenes, designs, and action sequences.
First of all we got to see Coruscant up close and that was great. Although the action sequence immediately goes to prequel town by having Anakin jumping off the speeder and flying through the air and Obi Wan following up with the D.O.A. one-liner “I hate it when he does that” it was still awesome to see Coruscant from the ground level and accompanied by a pretty cool new John Williams track as well. So that was good.
Also I really liked the opening shot of Amidala’s ship landing at Coruscant. On the big screen it sounded pretty rad and looked awesome, like an homage to a WWII bomber. Also if you check out that clip I discovered a possible typo in the opening crawl. I’m pretty sure it should be “Separatist movement” or “Separatist Movement” because that is actually what they were called. The Separatist Council. They weren’t just some breakaway group with a different name. You see what I’m saying? I guess you don’t HAVE to capitalize it but it’s incredibly lazy.
Kamino feels like an actual Star Wars location that Ralph McQuarrie might have come up with. It’s mysterious dammit! What kind of life forms are going on underneath the waves on Kamino? I want to know.
Jango Fett had cool blue Mandalorian armor. But why did they have to drag his kid into the picture? The original trilogy doesn’t have any brats running around but the prequels have quite a few. And they are all useless except insofar as it shows how evil Anakin is for murdering all of them. That’s pretty strong.
Anyway Jango and Obi Wan have a pretty good altercation on Kamino.
I also liked the character of Dax for some reason. He feels like a Star Wars character and he looks cool. Like “Order 66” though they have him working in this barely disguised 50’s diner setting and it’s like…why are they crossing over our reality with the Star Wars reality? It’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. They don’t have burger joints. It’s just more prequel town ambition that was embarrassing.
Last but not least Attack of the Clones gave us not one but two sexy outfits for Natalie Portman. So how is that a drawback? Let me know in the comments.
Attack of the Clones falls apart of course (if it was ever together I’m not sure . . . like all prequels the magic dissipates early . . . very early) and by the third act Lucas just seems like he’s making shit up as he goes along.
Prequel town moment #1 is Portman falling out of a ship and Obi Wan screaming at Anakin about staying the course and sacrifice. Portman lands on a pile of sand and brushes herself off. So she’s an immortal. The stakes reach probably their nadir in the prequel trilogy there. It’s so crucial to an understanding of how unserious Lucas was in making these films that Portman just survives that fall. She survives because she has to, meaning that the scene should have been re-written because it doesn’t make any sense. But it wasn’t. Isn’t that mind-blowing? It’s a first draft, but not even a good first draft. It reads like Lucas in his pajamas at 10:30 in the morning after he has rummaged around in his fridge and finished off all the lox and bagels. He’s sitting there depressed in front of his computer screen thinking “I should work on this.” So he works on it for like ten minutes then goes to Arby’s in his Lamborghini. Months later he shows up on the set and doesn’t care he’s just like “roll cameras.” Makes sense.
For the rest of film 2 after Portman hits the sand without spraining an ankle it’s like there is just a valueless landscape playing out in front of our eyes, like whatever is going on in the background of Waiting for Godot. The apotheosis of meaninglessness. Yoda starts jumping around with his lightsaber and that’s when you see the kids with spastic disorders are the only people still vibing with the movie. I’m sorry that’s mean, but it’s true.
3. The Empire Strikes Back
Great film and the gold standard for the modern dark blockbuster. The whole idea of doing a “darker” popular entertainment really began here and in my opinion has never been eclipsed. The movie is lean and mean. It has the best script of any of the films, and there are some very odd and terrific musical cues.
“The Asteroid Field” is obviously the standout sequence and musical number and could be the most exultant marriage of music and image outside of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
That said, the movie is pretty vague. The main characters meander along towards their rendezvous with destiny at the out of the way gas mining colony on Bespin. I think that’s what is going on there. What exactly is Cloud City anyway? What is up with all the chutes and antennae and what have you?
This film introduced Yoda, Boba Fett, The Emperor, and it was great. I watched it a lot.
The film is just gigantic. Everything feels huge and important. Unlike modern CGI effects that draw attention to their artifice in a bad way, the practical effects here loom large in the imagination and make you feel not just glued to the screen but as if the film is playing right on top of your eyeballs. The film is thirty five years old and the effects are more….effective than basically anything that comes out now.
The only dodgy piece was the yeti at the beginning, and the Tauntauns were pretty weird too but in a good way.
The Imperial Probe Droid opening grabs you by the throat and draws you into the films deep, dark, cold, abyssal pessimism. It’s really the only true war film in the trilogy if you ask me. The Imperials are just a martial group of savages throughout, constantly aggressing and pursuing the enemy. It is fitting that the Imperial March theme came out of this film.
2. Star Wars
This movie wants so hard to be Sci-Fi but ultimately it’s just a popcorn crowd pleaser that wears its heart on its sleeve. I mean that is one sappy ending isn’t it? Man, I love every god damn minute of this.
A New Hope, unlike its sequels, has an almost cerebral pace. There are many quiet moments and moments of reflection here. This is the Zen instalment in the franchise.
This is one of the best films ever made. Totally unique and engrossing. Brilliantly edited. If you actually sit down and watch the film you see that Lucas really did grow out of that bumper crop of 70’s filmmakers who made so many enduring films. The movie is so competently put together and the story fires on all cylinders throughout.
When this movie came out it changed the world.
1. Return of the Jedi
The best Star Wars film is Return of the Jedi. It gives you the Star Wars universe fully formed, three-dimensional, huge, rich. It gives you the setting of a galaxy far, far away and makes it seem not like something filmed on a back lot. Unlike Empire it doesn’t have that soundstage feel to it. It feels like they actually took their cameras to wherever Darth Vader actually lives. The hangar bay sequence at the beginning is maybe the most seamless weaving of visual effects I have ever seen. Nothing about it doesn’t look real. And even if it does look like a miniature it moves like something in real life so you mentally second guess your own reason. Maybe it is real after all. Return of the Jedi makes the Star Wars feel like it exists in space and time and not just in our imagination. It doesn’t back us into a corner like Empire but instead exhilarates and opens up the possibilities of the galaxy back up to us just like the original film.
Sure it gives you the dark stuff with Han Solo encased in carbonite, but it’s not half-baked like TESB. That film simply should not have ended where it did and needed another rewrite. I always come back to the scene where Luke is making the impulsive decision to go to Bespin, Yoda is trying to talk him out of it and Yoda claims “there is another.” Now that really hints at a completely different story than we wound up with, and I have always wondered if he was actually talking about Princess Leia because if he was then that hints at a much more intense and darker overall trilogy. To follow through on that idea, then Luke should have died at the end of Empire and Princess Leia should have taken up his lightsaber and sought revenge on Vader. Interestingly the original title of Return of the Jedi was Revenge of the Jedi. But the fact of the matter is that is not what happened. So there was no reason for things to go all dark and cliff-hangery at the end of Empire. I’m not saying don’t have Han encased in carbonite, but the movie just abruptly ends with some martial fanfare and a picturesque shot of Luke and Leia looking at a spiral galaxy and I have always felt like they over-promised with the film, beginning with the Battle on Hoth. The movie is obviously the second part of a trilogy, but that doesn’t mean it should not have a third act, and you simply cannot tell me that the movie resolves itself responsibly.
It’s a hard job though to write great endings and Jedi like the original film has a gangbusters ending right up there with the best that Hollywood has to offer.
Empire on the other hand is a morbidly pessimistic film by comparison with ROTJ and even ANH. You have the rebels getting annihilated on Hoth, you have Luke confronting his demons on Dagobah, you have Han getting hot needled, C3PO getting torn to pieces, Luke getting dismembered, and then it all ends with Han taken away by a bounty hunter. That is just relentlessly bleak. I love it, but can you imagine if the saga had stayed that dark? You see but that’s what is interesting about that comment that Yoda makes about “another,” because I’m thinking maybe the trilogy could have gone dark like that. And if it had I wonder what it would have been like.
I don’t know, but Return of the Jedi is my cup of tea. It is less sturm and drang and more Flash Gordon meets Charles Dickens. The score by John Williams is priceless. The movie is weird too. I don’t care if people don’t like Ewoks. I like Ewoks. They’re fun.
It has the Emperor. The Emperor is fun and the movie invented the blue lightning thing. The space battle is the best of any of the films. The designs are subtle and badass. The Imperial Shuttle, the half-built Death Star, the green lightsaber and the best lightsaber moment in the saga.
Is it weird that Princess Leia turns out to be Luke’s sister. Yeah probably. It doesn’t make that much sense but hey who gives a damn? It makes more sense than anything in the prequels. I don’t care.
The movie has great pacing. And everything resolves itself into the yub nub dance that is musical nectar of the gods. If you want to see a Star Wars film you pop this on. It’s a great hang out movie.
You all know you grew up watching this one the most. Don’t lie now that you’re old and baggy and want to sound deep by talking up TESB. You know it’s ROTJ. We all know.