Thursday 7 February 2013

Rank the Films: Star Wars

As any regular reader of feeling fuzzier will know, lists are pretty darn nifty. We have a profound appreciation for straight-up lists. This is the thinking behind Rank the Films, a regular feature that pulls apart the pros and cons of a series of films, ranking them in order of good to bad. 

In this second part we look at the Star Wars franchise. We've gone through all six Star Wars films (Clone Wars doesn't count) and ranked them from worst to best. Give it a read and leave me a comment letting me know what you think!

6th - Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%

Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor in The Phantom Menace
After so many years of expectation and build-up, The Phantom Menace can only be seen as none other than a big fat let down. With anticipation for a new foray into a galaxy far far away at fever pitch, the unexpected change of tone and direction for Star Wars left many fans out in cold.

Pacing, character development, script writing are all pretty shoddy at times in Phantom Menace. Whilst the concluding third is a visual treat and pretty exciting to watch, the middle chapter can begin to bore; one can only endure so many conversations about midi-chlorians and trade disputes before you begin to dream up inventive ways of killing off Jar Jar.

Thank God Lucas saw the need to include the heart-pounding pod-race, one of the saga's stand-out action set-pieces that goes some way to redeeming Phantom Menace from being a complete disaster.

5th - Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

The Battle of Geonosis 
Time and repeat viewing have not been kind to Attack of the Clones in my opinion. Whilst there are certaintly some fantastic and imaginative visuals to delight viewers, Attack of the Clones suffers from many of the shortfalls that Phantom Menace does. 

Hayden Christensen as Anakin grates after about 5 minutes of screen time, whilst Natalie Portman is handed a script that coughs and splutters. By this point, Ewan McGregor has grown into his role as Obi-Wan whilst supporting cast members like Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee and Ian McDiarmid add then necessary gravitas. 

It is redeemed by the ending that promises greater things to come for the third prequel. Be honest, Yoda gave you the chills with that last line. 

4th - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Luke and Vader face the Emperor
Despite being the weakest of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi nevertheless stands heads and shoulders above Menace and Clones by some way. Bringing the entire saga to a close, Return of the Jedi is all about taking the fight the Empire and Luke confronting his father, Darth Vader. It brings together some fantastic action and adventure to end the saga in fine fashion.

In terms of pacing, ROTJ races past at lightspeed, the action barely easing-up for the entirety of the 133 minute run-time. Zooming from the wastelands of Tatoonie to the forests of Endor, the visuals in the final chapter of the original trilogy are impressive given when it was released.

3rd - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Natalie Portman as Senator Amidala
Possibly the most crucial film in the saga (in terms of storytelling), Revenge of the Sith struggles slightly by compressing so much into its two hour and twenty minute runtime. Covering enough story to cover two prequels, Revenge of the Sith sees young Anakin turn to the dark side of the Force in a desperate attempt to save his wife from death.

Being heralded as a fitting send-off for big screen Star Wars adventures at the time (at least until 2015 rolls around), Revenge of the Sith isn't by any means perfect and at times the scripting and dialogue feels every bit as forced (pun) as it did in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

Lucas squeezes so much in during Episode III to the degree that Anakin's fall from grace is a little rushed and the enactment of Order 66 feels skated across too briefly. On the other hand, Revenge of the Sith doesn't disappoint in other areas. The Clone Wars look every bit as bloody as Obi-Wan makes them sound in Episode IV, whilst the final confrontation between Anakin and Obi-Wan is a full of emotional weight and trauma.

2nd - Episode IV: A New Hope (1979)

Harrison Ford as Han Solo
The first, the original, the classic. The best? Not quite. Star Wars (retitled A New Hope in 1997), certainty is a fantastic film, its bold visuals and fun storytelling taking the world by storm at the tail end of the 1970's. It has been said that Star Wars forever changed the landscape of blockbuster cinema. It certainly left an indelible mark in our memories by introducing us to some fantastic characters.

From humble farm-boy Luke Skywalker taking his first steps towards the stars to Ben Kenobi providing wizened musings on the ways of the Force, Star Wars wasn't just a film; it opened up an entire universe of storytelling and adventure. Still endlessly entertaining and quotable today, Star Wars is only just pipped to first place by it's deeper, darker sequel The Empire Strikes Back.

1st - Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

"I am your father"
A lesson in how sequels should be made, The Empire Strikes Back takes everything movie-goers loved about the original Star Wars and dialled it up to eleven. 

After laying the foundations of a wider universe and narrative in Star Wars, George Lucas and co. shocked everyone by flipping the entire story on its head at the climax of Empire Strikes Back with one mother of a cliffhanger. Luke left battered and bruised, Leia heartbroken, Han tortured and captured, the Alliance broken and shattered, Empire Strikes Back works simply because it doesn't have an ending. We are left open-mouthed as the film lives up to its title and our heroes are well and truly beaten. 

To say that Episode V is the best Star Wars film is underselling it. It is a contender for one of the best films ever, period. Empire Strikes Back was voted in at #3 on the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time by Empire Magazine as well as #8 by Total Film Magazine. Even if your not a fan of the Star Wars saga, it's well worth watching Empire Strikes Back

So there we have it, each Star Wars film rated and slated! Let me know what you think below!

Also, let me know below what you think about the news that Disney will be making several  Star Wars character spin-off movies using characters such as Han Solo, Boba Fett and Yoda. Could be a good thing idea but films based on singular characters from an existing series haven't always been amazing (X-Men: Origins Wolverine).

You can view Rank the Films #1: Harry Potter by clicking on this link: Rank the Films #1: Harry Potter

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