Star Wars is one of, if not the biggest franchise in the world, and it all stemmed from an $11 million space opera in 1977. My big fear revisiting this revered trilogy, especially after the fiasco of the prequels, was how well they had aged, and if they were as good I remembered. I found the answer to be a mix.
Right out the gate, for films ranging between 42 and 36 years old, they look pretty good. Yes, there is the occasional weird looking creature and the odd naff bit of action, but ultimately are nice-looking films. It’s use of practical effects can really sell the world at times – something that was inherently lacking in the prequels. Ironically, the worst visuals of the original trilogy are the CGI elements that has been added in the years since its release.
As I watched these films chronologically, the name of the game in Episodes IV-VI, compared to I-III, is simplicity. The story at its core, is good versus evil, the light side and the dark – and there are definetely no senate meetings. Goals and obstacles are clear, and we aren’t bogged down by politics, an abundance of names and an overbearing and forced love story. It is a truly timeless story, but that does not mean it is all good.
I had forgotten how comparatively small-scale A New Hope is, but with its small budget, it is still impressively large-scale. Where A New Hope let me down though is its slow pacing and stilted dialogue. Overall, it lacks the energetic presence that most of the other films possess, and nostalgia wasn’t enough to move past it.
However, things pick up exponentially with The Empire Strikes Back. The pace is upped, the dialogue improved, the scale widened, and the stakes higher than ever. After being a bit bummed out by A New Hope I thought that I would watch Empire across different viewings. Two hours later the credits were rolling, and I had finished a film that felt a fraction of the length of A New Hope – which is nearly the exact same runtime. Empire brings a levity and maturity to this fantastical sci-fi realm, which allow you to take the story much more seriously. Where I felt generally disengaged in A New Hope, I genuinely gasped as Vader utters the infamous “I am your father”. The story and characters had me engaged in a way, that I don’t think I had had in the previous four episodes.
Then as I arrived at the final instalment, Return of the Jedi, I felt conflicted. Previously my least favourite, now better considered than IV, Return of the Jedi, has a bigger and excellent story, but takes away that seriousness, present in V. I know that all Star Wars are all part of a big money making machine, appealing to primarily children, but this felt like the instalment that pandered to that audience the most. Despite the irritating presence of the Ewoks, Return of the Jedi still brings the story to a fulfilling ending, and cements the saga as the timeless classic that we all know and love.
It goes without saying that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer and Harrison Ford are excellent as the three leads. While their roles aren’t uber-dramatic, they each bring a likeability to their respective character in a way that has resulted in Luke, Leia and Han staying as relatable and lovable for more than four decades.
The original trilogy of Star Wars has stood the test of time. While at times the quality can be questioned as you watch with rose-tinted glasses and heaps of nostalgia, these are still immensely enjoyable forms of escapism. They bring drama, romance, comedy, suspense and action into one series of films, that delivers an interesting, established and expansive new galaxy.