I have very few marketable skills in this world. My existence is merely justified because of gratuitous sarcasm, and the fact that it isn’t all that cost effective to send me into space to live out my days so as not to disturb the peace of what remains of polite society. And so, while my presence is tolerated, my opinions remain unsolicited. But, if there is one topic that I truly fancy myself an expert on, it would be Star Wars.
Ahh, yes, Star Wars: The most elaborate toy commercial ever conceived by a man with a fabulous collection of flannel shirts and a turkey neck with its own gravitational pull. It really is so much more that that now, but that was the twinkle in the eye of billionaire sellout, George Lucas, praise be unto he, sometime in the early 70s.
If I haven’t made it clear yet, I would like to take this moment to reiterate that I am what the ancient Sumerians would call a “nerd”. I know this may be shocking and perhaps you need to take a few days to process this new information. But, if you took that breaking news on the chin like a champ, let me take you to the magical world of whimsy that is a Top 10 List; spewing from my brain like an overflowing sceptic tank.
Star Wars is a franchise that just happens to have 10 live-action films, which conveniently, is the same exact number I use to rank things. Oh, there is just so much magic in the world. I’m not counting the animated film “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” from 2008 or the abomination that is the “Star Wars Holiday Special” because those just complicate things. No one likes the number 12 anyway. But that means, as of now, every film gets a ranking! Hurray for participation medals! Take that, Baby Boomers!
I guess there could be spoilers ahead but who hasn’t seen these movies already? But just in case:
10. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
I already wrote a 15-page dissertation on why this movie is objectively bad (you should check that out, by the way. I worked really hard on it), so I will not waste anyone’s time with all that. Just know that this film goes out of its way to drain everything of meaning and value. But for the moment, let’s just celebrate that this film is in the Top 10! All things are possible.
The plot is essentially a slow-speed chase, with a pointless side-mission for Rose and Finn to do something that has zero consequences, good or bad, and a three-way skype call with Luke, Kylo, and Rey. Oh yeah, Poe is there too and he is 100% irrational. But don’t you worry your pretty little faces because Vice Admiral Holdo is there to be irrational AND condescending too. Seriously, why does she refuse to tell anybody her escape plan until 2/3 of the fleet have already died? She was so bad that Poe, who has been publicly reprimanded for being impulsive and short-sighted, still managed to convince many of the commanding officers to stage a mutiny against her because EVERYONE WAS DYING IN FRONT OF THEM AND SHE WOULDN’T TELL ANYONE WHAT THE PLAN WAS.
I could rant about this for longer than anyone is willing to listen, as I have already proven, but just know that this film really doesn’t make sense. It is lazy and relies on shallow ideas of complexity to tell a story that burns everything to the ground just to replace it with a stick-figure version of itself. I was so disappointed with this film, I was depressed for two days following my first viewing. I did enjoy it a little more on subsequent viewings, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply knew where I was going to be let down and either braced myself or tuned them out.
To be fair, the film had some positives. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Kylo and Rey. Their Force visions of each other were a genuinely nice addition to the lure of what the Force could do in the universe and it offered great character development for the two leads. If only they didn’t make Kylo do a 180o once Rey rejected his offer. While I didn’t love the reasoning for Luke’s cynicism, I did enjoy his less optimistic take. A man who has seen the best and worst the universe has to offer is bound to change his perspective slightly over the course of 30 years. I have no issue with him being a recluse turned off by the ideas of the Jedi, I just wish they gave him a better reason that he felt Kylo having a bad dream and felt that attempted murder in cold blood was the natural solution.
The Leia scene is unforgivable though.
9. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The biggest winner to come out of Disney’s multi-billion-dollar purchase of Star Wars from George Lucas is arguably “Attack of the Clones”. This film usually hides behind “The Phantom Menace” as a human shield for criticism, but if you really take the time to study the two films, that scholars, such as myself have done, you’ll see that Episode II is actually the low-point of the Prequel Trilogy. Yet Disney tossed it yet another bone when they made “The Last Jedi”, dethroning “Attack of the Clones” as the worst film in the series. Kudos all around.
Why does this film sit near the bottom of the list? First and foremost, this film suffers from a major pacing issue. You do not meet Count Dooku, the primary antagonist, until over an hour and 10 minutes into the film. In fact, he is only mentioned once in a boring political conference within the first 10 minutes and then is forgotten about. In the meantime, we see Anakin and Padme have a really awkward flirting montage, which brings me to my second big issue: acting.
I really don’t think Hayden Christensen is that bad of an actor, but sweet Jesus is he wooden in this film. He has absolutely no charisma or powerful inflection in his voice. Every word he says sounds like his own trachea isn’t sure of itself, which makes him seem like just an angsty teenager when he is trying to express genuine frustration. Nothing about his performance makes you believe that Anakin is special, and frankly, there is less than zero chemistry between him and Natalie Portman. But I blame George Lucas, who really seems to think human beings actually say things like “I am haunted by the kiss that you should have never given me”. Why don’t you ease up there, Shakespeare? Not all of us are reading at a 3rd grade level just yet. If I heard anybody say that in real life, I would immediately assume they were a cop.
And speaking of cops, why is everyone just ok with Anakin murdering an entire village? “To be angry is to be human” Padme tells him, as this prominent pacifist Senator justifies the admitted extermination of children as a reasonable reaction. I too would think that it is normal for your stalker of the past decade to kill misunderstood minorities in a blind fury. I think I would marry him too! Yoda just chalks it up to Anakin being in terrible pain. Do you know who can’t feel pain or anger anymore? All the Tuskin Raiders he slaughtered in their sleep! Wow, this Anakin fellow seems kind of like an unhinged psychopath. Good thing there are clearly visible signs for everyone to see so they can give him the help he needs before things get really out of hand. Oh, wait…
But, like “The Last Jedi”, Episode II has redeeming qualities. For starters, my nostalgia filter actually helps me look past it faults. That is not an objective quality but it is a fact and I thought I should mention it to be fair. More importantly, Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan is perfect. Yeah, he is very patronizing and a bad mentor in the film, but he is so charismatic and let’s face it, Anakin is not exactly the easiest person to deal with. His lack of patience is very understandable. Furthermore, this film does an outstanding job of expanding the universe with diverse worlds. A great deal is added to the lure of Star Wars with the inclusion of planets like Kamino and Geonosis, and their visual representations on screen are an experience we should not take for granted.
The Battle of Geonosis is also beautifully rendered. In a film that is often accused of being oversaturated with CGI, it is scenes like this one that show you why George Lucas chose to make his films the way he did. The bright blue and red laser blasts within the dust storms of crashing starships is one of the most iconic images of the Prequel Trilogy, and it is truly the most epic part of actual war show since the Battle of Hoth. Having hundreds of Jedi using lightsabers for the first time is just icing on the cake. If you really simplify your thinking and just watch this film as a slideshow of cool visuals, you’ll enjoy this film.
8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
I have relatively very little to say about “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. It is the epitome of nothingness. It doesn’t add anything to Star Wars and it really doesn’t take away anything from Star Wars. It exists but if it didn’t would you miss it? Would anything be significantly different in the Star Wars universe? Nope.
We basically knew everything we needed to know about this film before we saw it from the brief conversation Ben and Luke had with Han in the Mos Eisley Cantina in the original Star Wars. We knew Han was cocky. We knew he loved Chewy. We knew he loved the Falcon. We knew he made the Kessel Run. We knew from “The Empire Strikes Back” that he won the ship from Lando and they may not have always been on good terms.
There were no questions that we needed answered, and in turn, the film answered no questions. It was simply a visual representation of what we already knew but had to use our imagination to see before. But now they cut out the fun stuff for us and we don’t even need to waste the effort trying to imagine it. All we got to see was what Woody Harrelson would look like if he had hair, a forced Darth Maul cameo, and for some reason, the third Disney Star Wars movie with a tentacle monster in it. I am actually pretty concerned with that last trend.
I have no real complaints about the film. You could watch it several times and you won’t find anything egregiously wrong with it like you do with other films in the series. It just doesn’t do much to justify its existence (something I find incredibly relatable). It is very ehhhh. Maybe you could enjoy it more if you watch it before you ever see the original Star Wars, but I would imagine that section of the fanbase is a bit thin.
7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens
This was Disney’s first Star Wars movie. It came out 10 years after the conclusion of the Prequel Trilogy and let’s just say fans were moderately excited. When I first saw this movie, I loved it. It was utterly flawless and everything I could have ever wanted in a film. But Father Time is undefeated, I guess, and as the sands of time began to flow and the excitement began to dwindle, I was able to see “The Force Awakens” for what it was.
If I could describe this movie with one word it would be “safe”. It takes very few risks with its story, following a suspiciously similar plot to the original Star Wars, even to the point where minor details that could have been changed with little consequence to the story, such as the climate of the planet the hero was from, were the same. Seriously, if it had to be a desert, why couldn’t Rey be from Tatooine? Or if it had to be a different planet, why does it need to be the knockoff Wal Mart brand Tatooine? The reuse of Stormtroopers, Tie Fighters, X-Wings, an Antagonist who wears all black and uses a voice modulator, and a planet-sized super weapon just made it feel like it was a high-quality fan film with enough changes to make it legally distinct from the original to avoid a lawsuit. But for whatever reason they had, Disney believed that Star Wars was a risk in itself, and that if they were to make a movie, maybe they wouldn’t have an audience unless it was familiar. I believe this to be a slight miscalculation on their part.
But other than it being painfully unoriginal, there really is nothing but good things to say about this film (Although, if you cheat on a test and get an A, maybe you don’t deserve praise). The characters are likeable and offer blank canvases to take Star Wars in many new directions after this introduction. The action set pieces are invigorating with some of the more impressive aerial dogfights we have seen in the franchise. The lightsaber battle at the end felt like a personal struggle, and while I didn’t understand Kylo allowing Rey the time to close her eyes and gather herself to defeat him, I was compelled the entire time. Kylo screaming “Traitor!” at Finn while he bangs his chest wound is my favorite line in the film. And when Rey force pulls the lightsaber and first accepts her role in the story, it gave everyone in the theater chills. There is a lot of positivity to draw from this film, and while it may not break the mold at all, it was simply the seeds for the new trilogy to grow out from.
6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
For the longest time, “The Phantom Menace” was the low hanging fruit for Star Wars criticism. It was the first Prequel and the first film to try to do its own thing. You could ask a group of Star Wars fans, and the general consensus is that this one belongs near the bottom of the rankings. But, if you ask them all individually, without the pressure of groupthink, I bet you would find that opinions begin to get a little for favorable.
Since I like to get the negatives out of the way first, I should address the Gungan in the room: Jar Jar Binks. No one likes him unironically. He’s objectively annoying and kind of a racist stereotype of Caribbean people. If his role was just slightly reduced to where he wasn’t a main character, however, I feel like he would be tolerated far more than he is. Not everything that happens needs a broken-English one-liner from him. It’s ok if he isn’t onscreen for every scene, George. Everything in moderation. Maybe leave him on the ship when they go to Tatooine? Apparently, you thought it was a good idea to do that to Obi Wan and everyone likes him. Whatever. It’s just a thought. I’m not here.
There is also a considerable amount of downtime designated for talking in council meetings and senate hearings. I actually enjoy these aspects because they make the Universe feel like they consist of functioning bodies that do actually have thoughts behind their decisions. I also studied Political Science in college so I have a soft spot for how bureaucracy operates. Having said that, I can see why people lament this aspect of the films. It drags the film out and takes away from showing us how things are done by telling us via exposition. Again, anything in moderation can be good, but George might have gone a little overboard with it here.
But other than all that, “The Phantom Menace” is really enjoyable. Darth Maul, although very stoic and mostly silent, is a badass antagonist that is legitimately threatening. The lightsaber duel with him at the end is without question one of the finest in the entire series. It is brilliantly choreographed and capped off with an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Not to mention John Williams composed “Duel of the Fates” for this battle, which is a top musical composition for the franchise.
The lead Jedi of Qui-Gon and Obi Wan are very fun characters. Qui-Gon has a moral philosophy that makes him trust the Force more than he trusts the people around him, and Obi Wan is a kid who is by-the-book. They both have sharp wits and their natural charisma makes them the center of every conversation they are in. Their mentor-mentee dynamic brings most of the human drama and relatable feeling to the film.
The biggest addition though was that of Pod Racing, which was a risk because it cut away from the plot to add something new. I personally love the Pod Racing scenes. They are intense, visually stimulating, and something that stands out amongst the rest of the Star Wars lure. Having the fate of the heroes depend on Anakin’s victory was a smart way to introduce the concept in the film without it feeling so random and abrupt. The only issue is that because it takes so long, the sense of urgency with the original mission seems to be lost in the excitement.
5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Guys, we made it to the Original Trilogy! We did it! It is telling that the worst of the originals is still in the top half of the entire franchise. Just maybe that is the reason Disney is so insistent on staying in this era for all their projects. They will run this into the ground if it is the last thing they do.
The conclusion to the Original Trilogy, “Return of the Jedi” for about 30 years served as the finale to the main saga and just the second time the protagonists kill millions of people in a terrorist attack. On a scientific note, no one would be dancing to “Yub Nub” on Endor after they destroyed the Death Star II, because the smoking wreckage of the space station would have crashed down on the moon and incinerated absolutely everything, especially the cuddly teddy bears with sticks. But don’t think about that.
I only have one real fault with this film and one minor issue. The major fault is that the first half of the movie and the second half are essentially two totally different films. Other than the characters themselves, nothing from the characters’ experiences at Jabba’s Palace or on his sail barge are mentioned ever again. They defeat Jabba, and nothing they do there leads into the actions or location of the final half. We are told there is a rebel fleet massing near Sullust, but only after they are already gathering. All the Rebels just know where to meet up and they forgot to tell the audience until they were already there. And from there, the goals of the protagonists are totally different and unrelated to their goals in the first half. I just think the transition from one mission to the other is needlessly clunky and could have been implemented with more finesse.
The minor issue is the Ewoks and how the rebels spend a lot of time bonding with them when we were told they were under time constraints. It’s not that the scenes with the Ewok tribe are bad, they just slow down the pace of this supposedly stressful race against the clock. However, once you get past that scene, the intensity cranks back up and you feel the stress of their mission yet again.
The best part of the film is definitely Luke’s final confrontation with Vader in the Emperor’s throne room. Luke has to overcome his anger and spare his father’s life after a heated duel where Vader threatens to bring his sister to the Dark Side instead of him. The Emperor is sitting there menacingly, mocking Luke and the ideology he clings to, until Luke stands up to him. Then he unleashes blue lightning from his hands and tortures Luke! That is a total game changer. The Emperor talks the talk and proves he can walk the walk too. I am not sure if I agree with the canonical explanation that Vader was redeemed by turning on the Emperor and saving Luke, seeing as though Vader committed genocide a few times, but it is a powerful moment of sacrifice nonetheless when he finally does come to his son’s aide.
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
This is my favorite cinematic contribution by our vengeful Disney overlords to the Star Wars franchise. It is an exceptionally low bar, I know, but don’t let that sway you into believing this is just the best of a bad bunch. “Rogue One” has a lot of positives to offer. Similar to “Solo”, this movie is based off of something that is just briefly mentioned in the original Star Wars, but is actually a story worth telling. Because we weren’t given that many details about the mission to steal the Death Star plans, “Rogue One” was essentially able to create the story from the ground up, with only a vague understanding of the end result locked in.
Now, the movie is not flawless. It really does drag early on when the crew is first meeting each other, creating somewhat underwhelming motivations for characters that aren’t Jyn Erso. And every event only really loosely leads into one another until the first test of the Death Star on Jedha. You get enough to coherently understand what is happening and why most people are on the side of the conflict that they are on, but it is not very fleshed out.
Where the film really stands out is it’s 3rd act. The whole sequence with the Battle of Scarif and its coinciding espionage mission are some of the strongest moments of Star Wars. There are stakes and consequences associated with the success or failure of the actions of every character. It is brilliantly executed and adds so much to a story that, for the longest time, the franchise refused to acknowledge just how important and pivotal it actually is.
Another tremendous addition is the character of Galen Erso. Galen is the scientist responsible for designing the Death Star, but he is a reluctant participant, shamefully creating a device of immense destruction. His moral struggle to do what is right while also doing what is necessary is a struggle unlike any other we have seen in other Star Wars films. It just so happens that his presence also cleans up a major plot hole from the original Star Wars. Now it makes perfect sense why the largest economic investment in galactic history would have a convenient “One-hit KO” spot that the Empire would not know about but Luke could exploit. And what luck, the story is actually entertaining on top of it all. Isn’t that neat?
For what it’s worth, I love Ben Mendelssohn’s Director Krennic. Mendelssohn was born to play sleazy executives, but Krennic is so much fun to watch as he desperately tries to make himself important when no one really cares about him. He is a smartass and nothing can top his over-the-top delivery for the line “the POWER we are dealing with is immeasurable”. What is not to love about this character?
It would also be sacrilege to ignore the single most badass moment in all of cinema. Darth Vader. Rebel Soldiers. A small corridor. A crimson lightsaber. I had a heart attack when I saw this in theaters and I am beginning to go back into cardiac arrest as I write this. Just inject this scene directly into my veins forever.
3. Episode IV: A New Hope
This is where it all began. Please don’t pay attention to the fact that this ranked 4th on my All-Greatest Films list, yet it is only the 3rd best Star Wars movie. There are different criteria… you know what? I don’t need to justify myself to you. It is my world, my rules (I actually want you all to like me. I need friends). “A New Hope”, or better known as the Original “Star Wars” that I have often referred to in previous entries, is the trailblazer that is the reason we have an industry surrounding big budget blockbusters. Our lives would be even more meaningless without it.
“A New Hope” introduced so many of the iconic heroes and villains that have become mainstays in pop culture. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, and everyone’s favorite, Jek Porkins, all debut in this film. Talk about a powerhouse cast. Luke represents the innocent hero that we can all relate to. Leia is the take-charge leader that could kick all of our asses, but only after she saves them. Han and Chewie are adorably disinterested and sarcastic. Ben has been creepily stalking a child alone in the desert for 2 decades but its ok because he gives him a sword and takes him to a bar the first time they meet. Having an old man as a friend has its benefits, kids. Together, this band of misfits are going to kill millions of people by bombing a taxpayer-funded military base that houses our troops in white. High-Five for terrorism!
This film about all the good that space ISIS does is not all sunshine and rainbows though. There are some major pacing problems in the first half of the film. These issues have caused many of the fans who grew up in the prequel era, such as myself (although I am not one of the fans I am referring to), get bored when we watch R2 and C-3PO walk slowly through the desert for 20 minutes before we even meet Luke. Honestly, the whole film drags until Ben takes Luke to the Cantina to look for a pilot. Once the Millennium Falcon blasts its way out of the Mos Eisley Spaceport, the movie kicks into high gear. But that is really the only issue with the film. The story is a simple one but it may never be presented in a more appealing way, and since people have been ripping off the story for decades, I think we have our proof.
Considering the film came out in May of 1977, the special effects are tremendous. George Lucas might not be the most sophisticated writer in the world, but he is an ambitious storyteller. His willingness to try new methods is what makes him stand out. The effects pushed the boundaries of the time and still hold up relatively well today. They are clearly the ancestor of the CGI we have now but it certainly isn’t unwatchable like many other films of the time. And without this movie, perhaps we wouldn’t have our modern CGI now.
But this is the film that taught us about the Force. About doing what is right and how good beats evil and all that junk. How exciting was it to watch Luke’s trench run and race against the clock? How uplifting was it to see Han swoop in at the last minute to selflessly help Luke? How devastating was it to see Vader kill Ben right in front of Luke? These moments are etched into the halls of cinema legend. We cannot discount just how high this film set the bar for so long. This film is the seed that a behemoth of a franchise grew from. Even if there are stories that are better than this, its is because “A New Hope” walked that the rest could run. They all stand on the soldiers of this giant. And, it’s a fun ride in its own right.
2. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
If I were to make this pick 10 years ago, I would be labeled a heathen and cast out among the lepers for my blasphemy. It would be unthinkable to put a Prequel film this high, but oh, the times, they are a’ changing. As us Prequel babies grow up and Original Trilogy-era babies begin to grow old and senile, our voices will drown out the hate. The Prequels are enjoyable. There, I said it. Fight me. They have their flaws, but they offer so much more than they detract. “Revenge of the Sith” was a worthy grand finale to the divisive trilogy.
“Revenge of the Sith” is everything you could ever want in a Star Wars film. It is full of action, personal emotions, grand space battles, intimate lightsaber fights, good versus evil, and enough moral ambiguity to actually make you question something. But like every Prequel film that was written by George Lucas, Episode III is weighed down heavily by ridiculous dialogue and wooden acting by Hayden Christensen. Again, I think he is a decent actor and he is probably doing the best he can with the material he was given, but every time he delivers a line, it is hard to believe he was the first choice for the role. He actually does a far better job acting when he is just using facial expressions and body language. He just talks too much.
But other than that one flaw, I challenge you to find anything wrong with this movie. The acting by everyone else is exemplary. Ian McDiarmid gives us the most in-depth look at the Emperor we have ever seen. What was once just a mysterious puppet-master character, became a central player in the events that transpire on screen. This was essentially the equivalent to Thanos coming out from all the post-credit scenes in the MCU to actually be the antagonist of a film. And his performance is delightfully twisted. His over-the-top cackling and crazy face just show how detached from humanity he is and that he is truly the embodiment of pure evil. As a child, the reveal of his identity was mind-blowing, but even now, the subtleties of his character in the previous films are more impactful because he stuck the landing in “Revenge of the Sith”.
The two most emotionally impactful scenes in this film are Order 66 and the lightsaber duel on Mustafar. John Williams once again scores these scenes perfectly, where you can feel the heartbreak of loosing your family with every note. (I often play the song “Battle of the Heroes”, which plays during the Mustafar fight, while I’m in the shower. It makes me feel powerful and I don’t need your judgment). Watching every Jedi be betrayed and slaughtered as they fight a war for the very enemy they were trying to defeat is bone-chilling, but nothing will top Obi Wan and Anakin dueling over the lava planes of Mustafar. Anakin, fully embracing the Dark Side, corrupted by Palpatine into believing the Jedi were plotting to overthrow everything he loves, turns on his former mentor and brother, Obi Wan, in a battle to the death. The choreography is the best it has ever been in the entire franchise, but the emotional weight of the stakes of the battle are what solidify it as the best fight scene in the entire franchise.
I believe “Revenge of the Sith” is often grouped in with the other Prequel films, in regards to similar criticisms, but it is a much stronger story than either of those. Perhaps if Episode I and Episode II were better executed, fans and critics would appreciate the payoff in Episode III more. It is incredible how large the scale of this film is, as far as world building goes, yet it does not feel discrediting to the big picture that the film focuses on the stories of individuals. For too long, this film has gone unappreciated in the fandom. The Prequels will rise again!
1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
At last, we have arrived at our inevitable destination. What can be described as one of the greatest sequels ever put to film, Episode V is the epitome of Star Wars. A battle of good versus evil, light versus dark, and (30-YEAR-OLD SPOILER ALERT) father versus son. Where its predecessor relied on an easy story to appeal to every audience, “The Empire Strikes Back” simplifies the story elements in order to make a more intimate narrative that focuses on character development and world building. It took what came before it, and expanded on it without invalidating anything that came before it (unlike some other films I know).
Normally, I like to get the flaws out of the way first so I can end each entry on as positive of a note as I can muster. But “Empire” really doesn’t have any noticeable flaws really worth anybody’s time. Maybe the absence of a real space battle disappoints you, but the small chase scene through the asteroid field will have to hold you over. Sorry. I guess you’ll just have to live with a one film break in your displays of space terrorism.
“Empire” is widely considered the crowning jewel of the franchise, and for a good reason. It adds so much to the Star Wars lure, and takes itself seriously enough to understand the stakes of the events taking place. Luke is one kid who knows he is untrained, and is likely the only hope for the entire galaxy. He feels the weight of his situation and seeks help. Yoda introduces him and the audience to just how grand the Force is. (Fun Fact: this is the first film where we see the Force used as a form of telepathy. It was just a guiding presence in the original.) But Luke struggles. He struggles harnessing his abilities. He struggles doing what is necessary over doing what is right. He struggles to believe in himself. He is a very human character, and his emotional growth in this film changes him from a whiny protagonist who seemingly can’t do much wrong, to a hero fighting an uphill battle that he is losing. And when he goes off and acts impulsively, instead of overcoming the odds like every cliché trope would say he should, he loses. But this signals that he has so much more room to grow, that perhaps it takes more discipline than he exhibited to best his foe. This film acts as a transitional phase for Luke’s character. He was this prodigy full of potential, but now he sees that things won’t always be so easy, and he learns this lesson the hard way.
But Luke is not the only character who goes on a journey of self-discovery. Leia and Han, upon fleeing for their lives and being trapped in an alien’s mouth, learn to let down their walls. They have feelings for each other, or at the very least sexual tension so thick you can cut it with a butter knife. It takes being stranded, desperate, and betrayed by the smooth criminal of Cloud City, Lando Calrissian, to force them to grow and realize that they both are kind of difficult to be around, and therefore are perfect for each other. Leia even tells Han she loves him, only for him to say “I know” and be frozen in carbonite, potentially never to be seen from again, immediately afterwards. Sounds like someone is afraid of commitment. Am I right? Right?… Guys?… Ok I’ll see myself out.
But before I go, I need to talk about Darth Vader. Not only do we see that he looks like moldy ice cream under his helmet, but we really see his human side in this film too. I mean, human in the same way that Joseph Stalin was human. The hard, cold, metal shell begins to peel away as we get the first glimpses as to who he is underneath. And shockingly (Unless you speak German) he was Luke’s father! But, with surprising subtlety, he actually does express his love for Luke in this film, by convincing the Emperor that he could be turned into an ally instead of being destroyed. It is a really soft touch, but enough that you see a father trying to save his son from death. To me, it is clear that Vader has a very skewed understanding of love, but in his own way he does love Luke. He is the last known connection he has to the man he used to be, before the dark times. Before the Empire. You know he does not want to kill Luke, and that when Luke rejected Vader’s offer to join him, somewhere deep down, Anakin was proud of his son.