For some reason I sat through Episodes I-VI of Star Wars. Luckily, I did it all at once. The overlap was downright frustrating in places but the difference in the two sets of films couldn’t be clearer. Impressions, analysis, screen shots and low blows after the jump.
What is this going to be like? I almost didn’t make it through the overtures, but then the analysis and nostalgia overload overtook my senses.
Episode IV is the slowest to the draw because of course. All the openings are space except for Episode VI’s desert. There could potentially be four Tattooines onscreen at the same time. C3P0 is the herald of the original trilogy. My interest is piqued. I’ve never actually watched Episode II, just clips because of course. My first impression is it is very dull. II is boring and III is stupid. Which is worse? The II/III debate. Maybe it’s the heavily muddled dialog, but Episode I is coming out in the lead for Prequels.
20 minutes in and it’s the first time you hear “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” It’s popping off on Hoth. Luke, Leia and Han are all in Jabba’s Palace. Obi-Wan and QGJ have liberated Amidala. A lengthy chase sequence has occurred. A lengthy chase sequence has occurred. You’re wasting my time, II & III. For movies absolutely jammed with bullshit, you are both moving forward excruciatingly slowly. Other impressions include Episodes V and VI actually have artistic cinematography and the overlap in the films as a whole is more than just visual.
Watching this mess became something more than catching a Yoda Yoda Lando Lando or triple double R2 Luke. The horrible remade music from Jabba’s Palace playing over the fight with Count Dooku actually makes both awful parts into a beautiful whole. Leia kisses Luke, Leia kisses Han. Screenwipes that cross from one movie to the next. Anakin asks what the Force is and Luke says he wants to learn the ways of the Force. It’s one thing to see two of the same face.
It’s another when both Lukes reach out in unison. Sure, chaos can line a bunch of stuff up at once. Sometimes all six movies get quiet at the same time.
But some of the timing is more than mirrors. Yoda is dying and Owen and Birru are dead and Luke just said “This is it. Dagobah System.” The beats of Lucas’ storytelling are beginning to reveal themselves. I am trying to take notes and watch Luke fight Vader in two movies at the same time. Luke getting his first lightsaber paired with showing how far he’s come with it.
The bulk of my attention is drawn to the original trilogy because of course. The thing is, there’s more to them. Owen and Birru are arguing about Luke’s future and the first transport is away and that guy who really loves the Rancor are all happening at once. Chewie and R2 play future chess, Ewoks brandish spears, Luke swings through the jungle. There’s just a lot going on, little character moments and broad aesthetic changes from the space opera that dominates the prequels. Those have been a lot of walking, talking, sitting. A lot of franchise characters and visual references to the original trilogy. Yoda flying around on the space pillow makes me want to burn my childhood to the ground. You have to watch Anakin be both a head taller and a head shorter than Padme at the same time. You have to endure Palpatine and Watto pushing their lines out like tired Banthas taking a crap. On the other hand, Watto’s hat. Look, I could rail on the picnic or Palpatine yelling “Power!” (Did that actually happen? I was up late) or Yoda Ex Machina all night. But my real problem is the dark side of nostalgia, stuff like Episode II having a scene set at Owen and Birru’s that looks exactly like one in Episode IV. The only way to make the blatant reference more subtle is to have a voiceover screaming HAVE YOU SEEN A NEW HOPE? THIS IS LIKE IN A NEW HOPE.
The original trilogy had so much to offer. It is fun to call back to because it is so rich. That said, go watch Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars cartoon. Or, if you’re brave, watch all six Episodes at the same time yourself.