Spoilers! If you haven’t seen any of the movies, there may be spoilers in here.
Here goes: It started with “Hey, bro, what do you say to watching Episode 6 this Saturday… with a brand new surround sound system?” When I checked in the morning it had become “Join us in watching the Complete Star Wars saga, episodes 1 through 6 – in THAT order.” It had already been pointed out to me that this marathon would be longer than the Lord of the Rings Trilogy marathon – even with the extended cuts – but I thought if Shawn’s good for it, then I am too! (There’s no way I’d agree to the LOTR extended cut marathon).
Going into the films, these were my favorite Star Wars flicks in order:
Episodes 4, 6, 1, 3, 5, 2.
Note how of the original trilogy, episode 5 was dead last. Yes. Dead last. I’ll tell you why.
Nothing happens in Episode 5.
Nothing memorable that is.
I’ve seen Episode 4, 6, and 1 at least a dozen times each. After re-watching Episodes 2 and 3 a few years ago, I realized how much fun Episode 3 was, and how little I hated Anakin in it. I still thought Episode 2 was really lacking, possibly because I hated the whiny little bitch Anakin – even though I understood what George Lucas was saying with that character choice. Plus, I was shocked how Padme could spend an entire movie in gorgeous outfits, and I barely remembered it – probably because the sexiest outfit (the white skin-tight one) was in the least motivated action piece of the series.
So when I finished Episode 2 & 3 a few years ago, I couldn’t help but compare it to Episode 5. In fact, I could barely remember Episode 5. I started to think back. What happened? Darth Vader tells Luke he’s his father. Um…. Yoda’s in it. Um… Cloud City….. Oh, and Hoth.
So I rewatched Episode 5, too. And I was shocked to find that was I bored to hell through most of it. Then it ended. That’s what shocked me. Luke is hanging from an antenna; he’s saved by the crew who turns back because Leia can sense Luke’s peril, and saves him. Then they’re looking out at the window for some reason (and I forget where), and it cuts to credits. — Worst ending ever!!!
I was so shocked by that crappy ending I had to call my brother and compare it to Lords of the Rings – Fellowship of the Rings, which just… you know, ended. Nobody had told me there was going to be two other 3 hour movies in the LOTR series, so when Sam and Frodo finally get to see the eye of Mordor, I’m thinking “this is it. This is the quiet before the storm.” I’m mounting up for a big battle. Then it ends. But Episode 5 was worse. There was no anticipation; no direction as to what was next; maybe an off-the-cuff comment that Luke’s going back to degobah? Then it ends. And I sat back and said to myself “Good god. Nothing happened.” And the truth is not that nothing happened, but that nothing was accomplished. And the heroes were left worse off than they began, with more questions than purpose.
So that’s what I remembered going into the mararthon.
What I remember leaving the marathon was …. Strangeness. By episode 6, I was pretty tired and my contacts dried out, so I had to rewet them.
But overall, here goes.
Episode 1-3 were so dense and difficult to follow that I spent a ton of energy trying to keep track of all the characters and planet names, just to figure out the characters motivations, so I could string together a semblance of story. By the time I was at Episode 4-6, they flew by as if they were only an hour long. Not only because I had seen them many times before but because they were easier to follow, probably because less happens in them – especially Episode 5. The other thing I realized was that Episode 1-3 follows the story of Obi Wan, Anakin, and Padme (this was more clear in episodes 2 and 3), where Episode 4-6 followed the story of Luke, Han, and Leia.
Episode 1-3 had the dilemma of having a lead who you wound up hating for much of the series, who would start as a hero and because he couldn’t control his feelings would become a villain. Obi-Wan was a Jedi and had to be rather minimally emotive by design (and yet he was the most endearing). And Padme, who was strong but had no range in emotion, making the romance in Episode 2 less believable.
Episode 4-6 instead followed an angsty but eager-to-help kid who steps up to the plate and becomes a hero fast, then develops his heroism as the series moves forward (with the help of Yoda in Episode 5, and his belief in his father in Episode 6). It also had at its core a love triangle, since the first film (Episode 4). They just milked the whole “two guys vying for one girl” joke – hard-core in Episode 5, until the reveal in Episode 6. It was that love triangle dynamic that kept it light and made you fall in love with the leads. Rewatching Episode 4-6 back to back, you see how chipper and witty the three leads are and how they all sort of love each other like family – but are all too macho to admit it. For example, Han Solo starts as this no-good smuggler but quickly turns out to be a really nice guy. He’s not tough to deal with at all, in fact, he’s rather charming, and he even puts his life and livelihood (the Millennium Falcon) on the line for Luke when he saves the day at the end. Then the first (boring) 45 minutes of the next movie is just to prove that Han isn’t a bad guy because he braves the cold to find Luke (after a bunch of will-they-won’t-they moments with Leia). And then in Episode 6, he’s just a nice guy, hero type. It really makes you wonder… what was he doing in Mos Eisley in the first place?
After you compare the characters in each trilogy, the next talking point becomes the plot. In both trilogies, the plot is based around the political events in the Republic (or Empire) that drives the military actions that motivate and inform nearly every scene in every movie.
Episode 4-6 was simple.
Episode 4: The Rebels versus the Empire, embodied by Darth Vader and the Death Star.
Episode 5: The Rebels versus the Empire, embodied by Darth Vader and the Emperor.
Episode 6: The Rebels versus the Empire, embodied by Darth Vader, the Emperor, and the Death Star.
Episodes 1-3 seemed to be satisfied with leaving us asking “what’s going on?” because for any given scene, even the Jedi themselves were uncertain of who the bad guy was. There was this Phantom Menace that nobody could identify. There was clearly a Sith lord, but who he was and how much influence he had in any given scene was unknown to us and the Jedi. While there were identified villians (Darth Maul, Dooku, and Grievous),
Lucas broke one of the (Duenas) rules of a great hero story:
“There must be a clear villain.”
So let’s try the A versus B method:
Episode 1: Um…. The Naboo versus the trade federation Droid Army? But half the movie, the Jedi spend with Anakin, trying to get their ship repaired to get to Coruscant. At least the finale was clear and triumphant: The Gungans (and Naboo) versus the Droid Army (and Trade Federation). The good guys win.
Episode 2: Um…. There really is no “versus” plot until maybe the end, when it becomes clear(er) that it would be the Separatists versus the Republic – but even then, I had to try really hard to figure out whose army is whose. That really muddled the whole Coliseum battles. So I guess it became the Separatists’ Droid Army and Count Dooku (who is rebelling against the Sith Lord – or working with the Sith Lord?), versus the Republic with their Clone Army, led by the Jedi (who did or didn’t commission the damn thing) at the behest of Chancellor Palpatine. But half the movie, they spend finding out about the droid army.
Episode 3: The Republic versus the Separatists. After figuring it out in Episode 2, this became clearer. It starts with the death of Episode 2’s villain, Dooku. So they killed the Sith lord, right? But there’s still war as long as there’s General Grievous. Surely, they figure out that there’s another Sith? I guess we didn’t have to wait too long because Palpatine comes right out and tells Anikin. But he’s real clever because he plays on Anakin’s fear of losing Padme to make him betray the Jedi council, justify the murder, and take the right hand of the true Sith Master. So… politically, the battles were confusing. Still I liked the movie.
Why did I like Episode 3 so much? Probably because that’s when Palpatine shows all his cards. He’s so good in every scene he’s in. And when you think back to every action he takes – even in other films – he always places himself in win-win scenarios. Plus, we’ve established the relationship between Anakin and Padme, so we’re not shocked or trying to justify it anymore. Plus the movie moves like a Michael Bay film. No joke. It is relentless. And the few scenes where there is no battles going on, the dialogue is crazy good (maybe I’m just thinking of the scene where Anakin and Palpatine are watching some show, and it ends with Palpatine saying “Not from a Jedi”). Plus, all the tragedy. The tragedy of Obi-Wan having to kill Anakin (or leave him for dead). The tragedy of all the Jedi being knocked off with “Code 66”. The tragedy of Padme dying giving birth because of her loss of love due to the grim actions of Anakin trying to become all-powerful to keep her from dying. Now that’s irony! And it opens up well. The fun thing about Episode 4-6 is all the comic bickering between characters. Episode 3 (or was it 2) had great rapport between Anakin and Obi-Wan. I don’t remember all of Episode 3, but I remember enjoying it all.
So leaving the Marathon, my rankings are:
Episodes 4, 1, 6, 3, 5, 2.
Episode 4- Because the music is great, the fight scenes are amazing, the characters are lovable, and the ending is triumphant. and the following musical cues: Ben-Kenobi’s Death and Tie Fighter Chase, Battle of Yavin 4, Throne Room and End Credits.
Episode 1- Because it holds a special place in my young boy heart. It’s about a kid with magical powers who saves the day. Plus, the pod race, Darth Maul (and finale battle), and the following musical cues: Fanfare, Duel of the Fates, Battle Droids, Parade and End Credits.
Episode 6- Because even when I was young, I was a little irked by the whole kill-the death-star-again plot point, but only irked because overall it was just a fun movie! (save for the scenes on Tatooine with Jabba the Hutt which I tend to forget exist). And the music to the Forrest Battle, and Ewok Celebration.
Episode 3- Because of all the action, Palpatine laying out his cards, all the tragedy and twists.
Episode 5- Because it introduced the “Imperial March” and Yoda, and the cool fight where Vader reveals he’s his daddy. Everything else about it was just flat. Hoth was boring, except for the five minutes of AT-AT walkers which was cool for just a moment when they tied the cable around the feet. Cloud City was like… what’s this all about? And then they get captured there. Yoda put me to sleep. Everyone of those scenes. Luke’s vision of Vader confused me as a child and still seems out-of-place. And it was the shortest of all the films. And it ended like “what the hell”?
Episode 2- Because there were some really good scenes, Padme’s pretty hot in it, but I can’t remember most of it. And the fact that I couldn’t care less about the battles and chase scenes in last hour where they’re in the Coliseum because I couldn’t follow the plot, made it almost a waste of time.
Before: Episodes 4, 6, 1, 3, 5, 2.
After: Episodes 4, 1, 6, 3, 5, 2.