Star Wars Marathon: Review: Star Wars (Special Edition, 1977)

The Star Wars marathon trots on, and this, this is the review where everyone, even my family, will begin to hate me!

Written By: George Lucas
Directed By: George Lucas

Here we go, this is my moment of eternal damnation, the moment when I will utter a sentence that will turn most sentient beings, and definitely every franchise (by the way for the purposes of this review I will refer to the Star Wars franchise simply as “the franchise” to avoid confusion with the actual movie title) fan, against me. I do not like Star Wars! I never have really, even if I did have a two or so year period where I lied and tried to convince myself that I had to like it, I couldn’t be a franchise fan and not like this film, right? But, I am who I am and the more I thought about it, the more I watched it, the more it became obvious to me that I do not like Star Wars.

There are certainly elements of Star Wars that I like, nay, love. The entire sequence of the break from the prison cell on the Death Star up until right before the showdown with Darth Vader is primo, primo stuff. The same is true of the first appearance of Vader and the Stormtroopers, or of the final battle sequence over Yavin. I wish I could distill a film out of those sequences and those sequences alone, because everything else is so, so grating to me. Star Wars is a clear case of a movie that is on when it is on and off when it is off.

I won’t deny that in terms of sound, world design , and special effects, Star Wars is a great film. It’s easily the best pre-1980′s film I’ve seen in regards to those three categories, and there are films to this very day that can’t come close to matching Star Wars at those aspects.

The question then becomes, what didn’t Bill like about Star Wars? I’ve written some praise, some very high praise in fact, so what exactly is it that irks this Chicagoan so much about Star Wars?

Let’s begin with possibly my biggest pet peeve in the entire film, it never makes me care. I had no emotional investment with any of the characters because the film was so busy with plodding exposition about what made up the fantasy land of Star Wars instead of giving time to its characters. Ben Kenobi should matter, but his death is a nothing event for me, he’s just an old man that Luke knew for a few days and the movie never did a single thing to heighten him in my eyes so when he does bite the dust I could care less. I firmly believe that Vader became iconic based on image alone, because outside of his image and one Force choke the movie spends as little time as possible giving his character any meat. Sure, Han is cool, the Princess is pretty hot but kind of annoying, and Chewbacca is Chewbacca. But, that leaves us with a protagonist in the form of Luke Skywalker who is a whiny bitch and annoying to boot. I didn’t want to root for him, about twenty minutes into the film I wanted Vader to swoop in from the skies and kill the little fucker, that’s how much he annoyed me in this film.

As you will recall in my Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith review I lauded praise upon the lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The duel between Vader and Kenobi in Star Wars gives me the chance to go in the opposite direction. My problems with this particular duel are twofold, 1) as previously mentioned there’s no investment in either character, so despite the build-up to the duel being kind of okay the actual duel fails to draw me in because of said lack of investment. But mostly my problems reside in 2) it’s two old guys standing still and gently moving their lightsabers towards one another. It’s not dramatic, it’s not exciting, it looks atrocious. I don’t need flips and acrobatics, or the best duel ever put to celluloid, but I do need some sense of action and something to pull me into the battle, the duel in Star Wars had neither and is easily the worst duel in all of the franchise saga.

I know I sound like a depressing hit parade by this point, just as I know that most of you have balled your hands into fists and proclaimed me an idiot twenty times over already. Sadly, I am not done, although we’re almost there. If I had to pick out the one facet of Star Wars that has always bugged me it is the frivolous nature of the entire film. This goes back to the lack of investment in the story and characters, these are supposed to be matters of import that are taking place but the film glosses over every event so quickly that they feel far too light and happenstance to be worth much of anything.

Wait a minute, hold the presses, forget everything I’ve said before this, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I have fallen asleep every single time I’ve tried to give Star Wars a go. It has some great action set pieces, but it frames those set pieces around so much boring exposition. The film is content to move at a snail’s pace, overloading the audience with a lot of unnecessary information, and by the time it gets to something designed to wake the audience up I am usually legitimately asleep. I know not a lot of people are fans of the boring complaint when it comes to films, but I don’t think a sci-fi adventure film should bore me, yet Star Wars does and that is why above all the other reasons I have never been a fan of Star Wars.

Each and every time I watch Star Wars I want to love it, I want to be a Star Wars fan. Yet, it’s apparently never to be, with each viewing I move further and further away from even liking the film. I know I am intensely in the minority, but I know what I like and I know that I don’t like Star Wars. All I can say is thank goodness I saw Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back first.

Check out Edgar’s review at Between The Seats.

Rating:

**

Cheers,
Bill

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11 responses to “Star Wars Marathon: Review: Star Wars (Special Edition, 1977)

  1. edgar chaput

    I knew something like this was coming. I didn’t know where exactly your problems would be with the movie, but I remembered you bitching about Episode IV at some point on the Filmspotting message boards.

    Alright. Of course the true rebuttal will come next Sunday, but if I could share some immediate thoughts right now: I find myself agreeing with some of your points, only you seem to especially peeved about them whereas I’m more melllow and ‘meh’ about those same points.

    I a little confused in your assessments of the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader characters. we’ve been watching these films as part of a series thus far, and therefore Episode IV is a continuation of what we’ve seen before, so how exactly you don’t ‘feel anything’ for those two guys is a little strange. They look different from 3 films ago, but it’s still the same people. We know their backgrounds since we’ve been watching them for 3 freaking films already!

    Regarding Han and Leia as uninteresting… I think I’ll wait until next Sunday to formulate a full rebuttal, although a few hints as to why they do work are dropped in my own review (even though I wrote mine without having read yours).

    The pacing…I’m going to have to adisagree with you on that. You’ll quickly find that out upon reading my own review. That’s like the first thing I award with praise.

    Anyways, I don’t want this comment to turn into an actual rebuttal, that’ll be for next Sunday, but boy are we going to have a good time with this one. Duel of the Fates!

  2. edgar chaput

    I should point out that your review didn’t anger me. On the contrary, it was massively insightful and entertaining. The bit about eternal damnation and the use of terms like ‘hold the presses!’ got me laughing pretty hard.

  3. While I’ll agree to disagree with your review.

    I still love you.

  4. You are not alone – I don’t like it either.

    I think a lot of Star Wars fans had some kind of movie epiphany watching it as a youngster, and that’s why they love it so dearly. I didn’t see them until they were re-released in cinemas in 1997, by which time I was 15 and had already developed an interest in a wide range of cinema. I thought the films were occasionally exciting, but they were mostly rather boring and flat, and, like you, I never felt emotionally invested in them. For some reason, I still went and watched The Phantom Menace in 1999. That was enough to completely end my interest in this franchise.

    I just think there are so many films that do the kind of things Star Wars does much better. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a more involving space epic, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a more thrilling throwback to the adventure stories of an earlier era, and while Lucas does create a handful of instantly memorable characters (Darth Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca), the storytelling is weak and his direction is plodding. I’m afraid I just don’t get it.

  5. Edgar,

    –I realize that it’s the same characters we’ve been seeing for the past three movies, in regards to Vader and Obi-Wan, but my criticism is two-fold. 1) Even knowing their history I don’t feel this film gets into that history or their relationship so that when they do face off I’m drawn into the final showdown between longtime friends, and 2) It’s a complaint I’ve always had with the film and even as other films were made and I became more engrossed in the world of Anakin and Obi-Wan I still found A New Hope lacking when it comes to adding depth or meaning to their relationship.

    –I didn’t say Han and Leia were uninteresting, I actually find both of them fun and interesting, even if Lucas and Fisher do push Leia a little too much so that she becomes a bit annoying. My point was more that for as interesting as they may be they are overshadowed by the main character Luke and how boring and irritating he is.

    -I look forward to our rebuttals, I always do, but this time we will definitely be disagreeing more.

    Void

    –I know. : )

    Phil

    –As much as I agree with what you are saying about this film, I am still a big fan of the franchise and most of the misgivings I have with A New Hope fade away in the rest of the films.

  6. I completely agree. About everything. It just doesn’t work when you aren’t 5. I saw it at 5 and I liked it. I saw it at 6 and I liked it less. By the time I was 10 or so, Phantom came out and I actually liked that one more than this one. Now (22) I don’t really like any of them. Give me KOTOR any day of the week.

  7. KOTOR’s the best.

  8. I agree with this quite a bit. I’m a big fan of the Star Wars universe, but I remember recently there was a LOTR trilogy and SW trilogy marathon going on around the same time. I kept wanting to like A New Hope, but FotR kept me more entertained, with its solid acting, fantastic scores, engaging story, and great action scenes. ESB is the only film in the original trilogy that is above the level of “campy adventure movie”.

  9. I don’t really care for your review, but I guess I can see where you are coming from.

    I’ve always found it hard to be invested in the characters of any film, so it’s something I don’t hold against the film unless it’s trying to elicit that emotion from me.

    I haven’t watched A New Hope in years so maybe now as an adult I’ll feel the same way.

  10. Junior – I can’t agree with your general feelings on Star Wars as a franchise, but they do apply to this particular film nicely.

    Noke – KOTOR is awesome.

    Jeremy – As much as I love Star Wars, when it comes down to only the films I feel that Lord of the Rings blows Star Wars out of the water.

    James – Maybe, or you may love it more than you did before, that’s the great thing about revisiting movies.

  11. Pingback: Review: Annie Hall (1977) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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