Star Wars Sucks

Star Wars Sucks.  I know, I know, everybody loves Star Wars! How dare I say it sucks. Really, though, think about it. What is Star Wars? It’s a collection of movies (yes, yes, Kevin, there are books, comic books, video games, tv series, albums, etc etc etc, but for now let’s just look at the movies).

The movies that make up the world of Star Wars are:

Star Wars*
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
The Force Awakens
The Last Jedi
Rogue One
The Ewok Adventure
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

The question is, are these films any good?  Of the twelve films listed here I would argue that three are genuinely great films. Those are The Empire Strikes Back; The Last Jedi; Rogue One.  Another two are good. Those are Star Wars and The Force Awakens. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor is at least worth watching for Wilford Brimley. The rest are bad to very bad. Let’s look at the films individually, shall we?

Star Wars happened because George Lucas wanted to rip off Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s films Yojimbo and Seven Samurai had become popular in the west and had even been remade for western audiences (as Fistful of Dollars and The Magnificent Seven, respectively). Lucas chose the lesser known Hidden Fortress. He reworked that samurai tale into a space opera with wizards in place of samurai. It was a kid’s movie and he did a good job of packing it with things that kids would like. Hell, I loved it as a child. As an adult, I can see its myriad flaws.  Don’t get me wrong; I like it. It just isn’t a great film.

Star Wars was followed by The Empire Strikes back. Empire is remarkable for several reasons. It takes a much darker, more adult tone. It leans into the horror or war. It takes the themes of family seriously. It’s a bleak, dark, thoughtful film. Empire towers over the first film. Sadly, the third entry in the trilogy would not build upon those themes or that tone.

Return of the Jedi went back to the kid movie roots of the series. Sure, you can read a Vietnam word allegory into it, but even that feels toned down. The Ewoks were clearly a cynical ploy to capture more toy dollars.

The Ewok Adventure is a failure in every way but one. It sure sold a lot of fluffy Ewok toys.

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor is bad. But, the presence of Wilford Brimley elevates it when he is onscreen.

Then the world thought that they were finished with Star Wars. Sadly, we were wrong.

George Lucas vomited The Phantom Menace into theaters just as the 20th century was coming to a close. It feels kind of fitting that we rang out the century that birthed movies with this pile of overwrought, badly acted, terribly edited, horribly written muck. This film fails at every level. It is overlong, poorly paced, dim-witted, and ugly to look at. Lucas miscast Jake Lloyd in the lead role, and clearly had no idea how to direct a child. The plot is nonsense of the first order. It simultaneously tries to lean hard into childhood wish fulfilment and also bogs itself down with politics and economics. That’s what kids love: trade negotiations!

Let’s not linger over Jar-Jar. Best that he be forgotten and never mentioned again.

Lucas even manages to demystify his earlier mythology (Midichlorians, anyone?).

Attack of the Clones is unwatchable. Hayden Christensen is badly miscast and never manages to be even slightly believable. The story arc is a joke. The love story fails to convince, or even entertain.

Revenge of the Sith is the best of the three prequels, and it is very, very, very bad. It does have a pretty good fight scene. It feels like a terrible attempt at reverse engineering the plots of the prior movies to try to get to something that almost makes sense.  Again, Christensen is just not very good.

It would be ten years before the Star Wars films came rushing back. Luckily for everyone, J.J. Abrams is really into fan service.

The Force Awakens is largely just a second shot at the original Star Wars, but it really elevates itself via the new dynamic characters that he revolves around. Rey, Finn, and Poe are well rounded, interesting, and fun. Abrams made Star Wars fun again.

Rogue One was the first live-action theatrical SW film to not focus around the main storyline that we had, up to this point, spent decades exploring. It was a revelation. Basically a soft SF Wild Bunch. It looks delicious. The cast is just right. It maintains its somber tone throughout. Rogue One is a grown up movie for the dark sort of world we currently inhabit.

Then Rian Johnson jumped into the fray. The Last Jedi is like nothing that had come before. Johnson, best known for Brick and Looper, injects new levels of comedy, and balances it against the darkest tone of any SW save for Rogue One. He ties together the story arcs of the old characters with the burgeoning stories of the new cast. He gives us a light saber duel that looks lifted directly from a Kurosawa film. This movie manages to actually say something, to be about something bigger than space wizards, and to entertain. The Last Jedi is an extraordinary achievement.

Then there’s Solo. What can we say about this abortion of a film that hasn’t already been said? No one wanted it. No One needed it. It’s an incoherent mess that somehow manages to spoil a lot of what came before. It’s a heist film, maybe. But it doesn’t seem to know that it’s a heist film. It’s bland, and feels like it lasts about ten hours. Watching this film is a slog. It’s drudgery. It sucks.

Of the twelve films, three are great and two are good (we will leave aside the Brimley quotient for now). The majority of the Star Wars movies are bad to terrible and, sorry to say, that means that Star Wars sucks.

* The film is Star Wars and ever shall it be. The Episode IV: A New Hope stuff was added later, and it's dumb. Call the movie by its name.