So it all comes down to this; one final review that literally brings us to the moment people have been clamoring for probably since 1983. Granted, I still love “Revenge of the Sith” despite the reservations of my cohorts at Simplistic Reviews, so I’ve only been waiting for another “Star Wars” movie for ten years. Without further adieu, let’s slide right into “Return of the Jedi” from 1983.
“Jedi” picks up soon after the events of “The Empire Strikes Back.” A rescue mission has brought our cast of characters to the lair of the vile criminal gangster, Jabba the Hutt on Tattoine to free Han Solo, still frozen in carbonite.
All goes well until Leia, disguised as the bounty hunter Boushh, is found freeing Han from his carbonite prison and becomes Jabba’s personal cuddle buddy. However, when all seems lost, enter Luke Skywalker, now a full-blown Jedi Knight to the rescue. But of course, he is captured as well after nearly meeting his demise at the hands of a Rancor.
But like all good plans, there is a third man on the inside; that man is Lando Calrissian, the administrator of this rescue. After traveling out to the Dune Sea of Tattoine; Luke, Han, and Chewbacca all learn their fates that they will be fed to the Sarlacc. Springing into action, Luke is able to free his friends, avoid being eaten, and destroys Jabba’s Sail Barge, but only after Leia offs him herself.
After the daring rescue, Luke decides he needs to head back to Dagobah to pay Yoda a visit while the rest of the crew heads off to plan their next move against The Empire. Han, Leia, Chewbacca receive a briefing from Rebel Leaders that a new Death Star is in the works and that the shield generator is hidden on one of the moons of Endor, where Luke re-joins them after the death of Yoda. The adventure continues…..
While on Endor, the group encounter Stormtroopers on Speeder bikes, but more importantly, they encounter the fuzzy inhabitants of Endor, the Ewoks. Luckily before Han, Luke, and the rest of the team become dinner, Luke makes them see the error of their ways and makes the ever-worried, C-3PO as a golden god which the Ewoks worship.
After being freed, Luke decides it’s time to face his father, Darth Vader, again, while Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the Ewoks assault the shield generator with the rest of the Rebel fleet ready to attack the Death Star.
Captured by Vader, Luke is taken to the Death Star to meet with Emperor Palpatine who tries to tempt him to follow his father’s path to the Dark Side. Luke fights his father in an epic lightsaber duel, but rebuffs The Emperor who tells him to strike Vader down. Finally seeing the error of his says, Vader dispatches Palpatine while saving Luke and redeeming himself in the process.
Meanwhile, on Endor, the shield generator is shutdown and the assault on the Death Star begins as Lando leads the charge in the Millennium Falcon. Needless to say, good prevails and evil is defeated, while Anakin and Luke reconcile in his dying breathe. It all ends with a grand Ewok celebration and Lando clapping his hands.
That’s the film in a nutshell, and if you got through my plot ramblings, I’ll make my thoughts on this film quick.
While “Jedi” isn’t, and will never, eclipse the genius that is “Empire Strikes Back” if you go back and revisit this film over and over there are some incredible things going on. From the relationship between Vader, Luke, and the Emperor, which looking back is such an important part of this film, to Luke’s decision to finally face his father and try to bring him back to the light, and of course the final words of Yoda before he becomes one with The Force, there is some powerful stuff, but on the other hand……
…….Ewoks. Yes, Ewoks. You can certainly tell this was a George Lucas decision to include more bankable and economic-generating creatures in a galaxy far, far away, but of course close enough to a Toys R’ Us. Maybe if I was of an age when this film came out, I’m sure I would have been begging my parents for a stuffed Ewok, but looking at it now from an objective film-goer, the Ewoks rank up there with the Gungans on useless and annoying “Star Wars” creatures. Sure, stone me for comparing Ewoks with Gungans, but in reality it was Chewbacca that got on that AT-ST and helped defeat the Stormtroopers, not the Ewoks.
Ranking as my #3 (current) film in the “Star Wars” film franchise, “Jedi” has it’s share of great scenes and high adventure, but there are just enough quirks and overall annoying creatures that keep this from being #2 on the list.
With that being said, we are here….the moment many have been waiting for for ten long years….The Force has awaken….catch all of you soon.
Along with Jay Cluitt, the gang from Simplistic Reviews thought it would be best to do some reenacting of all 6 films. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is
And today we bring you
As we inch closer to the release of this year’s most anticipated release, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip” I thought it only appropriate to bring up another film that might garner some attention in the next month or so; “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” I know much hasn’t been made of this film and it’s flying under the radar, but to get everyone in the mood and to be completely original, it seemed time to take a look back and discuss the previous six entries in the “Star Wars” franchise and do a little retrospective.
While many people don’t like to admit that they exist, the “Star Wars” prequels do in fact, and they are canon to the entire “Star Wars” universe. Sorry people, but they do. With that being said, let’s start ripping the band-aid off right away and jump right into 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” released 16 years after “Return of the Jedi.”
“Phantom” takes place 32 years before “A New Hope” and regales the audience with the story of trade agreements, treaty signings, bartering for parts of a ship, diplomacy, Jedi Council meetings, oh, and some lightsaber action. If you’re a big fan of intergalactic politics, you might find some fun in “Phantom,” but for most of us, even the biggest “Star Wars” fans will find the fun and will mostly be yearning for what came before in the later “sequels,” and by sequels I mean the original three films.
During “Phantom” we meet some old faces, just younger; including Jedi in training Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Padawan learner of Jedi Knight, Qui-Gon Jinn, Senator Palpatine who will eventually become Emperor Palpatine in the later films, and of course Anakin Skywalker, the one who was thought to bring balance to The Force, but instead turned his back on the Jedi order and would become Darth Vader.
|Why’sa peoples hate’sa me so much….|
The main issue with “Phantom” and there are plenty, is the gall of it’s creator, George Lucas, to expect old fans of the series to like what he likes no matter what. Sure, I get it, the original trilogy was written at a different time and place. The 70s and 80s were interesting time, and while studios had priorities like selling toys, lunchboxes, collectible cups at McDonald’s and Burger King, the 90s brought about a time where not only were the kids that grew up with “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” now adults, but many of them were wealthy adults, or at least man-children, that would eat up collectibles like candy. Not to mention, most of these adults now had children that only had to point at something they saw at K-B Toys (yes, K-B Toys used to be a thing) and it was rung up at the cash register. While I blame Lucas for 90% of what you end up seeing on screen, there is plenty of blame to go around with yes-men/women and plenty of people that would not say no to the all-mighty Lucas who created something so beloved and everlasting that nothing we could do would be wrong. Well, hindsight is 20/20 and with the rise of the Internet, “Phantom” has gone down as not only one of the worst films in the “Star Wars” Universe, but some might say one of the worst films ever made.
|I’m just here for the purple lightsaber|
Okay, with that out of the way, let the “Star Wars” fan come out and actually say some good things about this film, this should be short of course;
The relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is the heartbeat of the film, albeit a weak one that isn’t fully explored or fleshed out. It’s clear that both Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson are trying their best with what they’ve been given and knowing the lore of “Star Wars” the relationship between a Jedi and his Padawan learner is a powerful thing, I just wish there was more to it. The seeds are planted early that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon often are at odds, especially about taking Anakin to Coruscant to showcase him in front of the other Master Jedi, but there is that mutual love and respect between the two, as well as the student and teacher motif, that while it may seem lame, makes a more profound effect later on in “Revenge of the Sith.”
|I could have been a contender…|
Darth Maul also makes a decent showing, even though it’s far too short of one. In the original trilogy the only bad guy you worried about was Darth Vader. Sure, Boba Fett was cool, and I would almost call Maul the Boba Fett of the prequel series. While we get to see so little of him, he was turned into somewhat of a cult figure in the series, much like Fett himself. There is no denying that the final lightsaber fight between Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon is the highlight of this film, it was so much a highlight that later we would get prequel books about the origin of Maul and the inevitable return of Maul as a half Sith, half robot with spider-legs, that was the appeal of Maul.
Of course I could beat a dead horse, but outside of those few lone bright spots, “Phantom” is plagued by issues that turn a once proud franchise into a near “MST3K” quality film. From the pratfalls of Jar Jar Binks, to the neverending Pod Racer sequence, to the cringe-worthy dialogue spewed by Jake Lloyd as the future Dark Lord of the Sith, and of course the lifeless performance by Natalie Portman, this film lacks fun, goodness, and the goofy innocence of “Star Wars” films past and replaces it with goofy out of place humor and lifeless exposition that will leave many fans, like myself, hollow and yearning for nostalgia, or at least “The Star Wars Christmas Special.”
So, has another 16 years made this film any better? Not really. The CG looks dated, the characters are just as insufferable, and outside of this film being canon, there really isn’t much you’ll get out of it. Many of the best things about “Phantom” aren’t even brought up again in the proceeding films, original trilogy included, so it begs the questions? What was the purpose of the prequels, namely this film? Oh yeah…..midi-chlorians….that’s it…..midi-chlorians……
Stay tuned in the next few days for more “Star Wars” goodness as we move on to another winner; “Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones.”
Little self involvement time. I haven’t written a review in a while mainly because I’ve been busy preparing content for our monthly podcast here at Simplistic Reviews. (SELF PROMOTION DURING SELF PROMOTION…SO AWESOME) Anyway, when the days between reviews started piling up, I became cautious picking the PROPER comeback movie to review next. (I was this close to reviewing Parker there for a minute, so count your blessings.) This week, however, I happened to go against my previous judgement and against many preconceived assumptions by the masses and watch a film that made me anxious to talk about. The film is Oz The Great And Powerful. A movie that I have heard maligned even before it came out. A movie that certainly does not deserve it.
Oz The Great And Powerful is a….DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!…prequel to the 1939 cinematic classic The Wizard Of Oz. And for those who have been hiding under a rock in a cave in Timbuktu, The Wizard of Oz is about a Kansas girl named Dorothy who is whisked away by a tornado and sent to a magical world where wicked witches are the norm, munchkins are a plenty, and lions are cowardly. Dorothy journeys to find a supposed wizard who can send her back home. That wizard…74 YEAR SPOILER ALERT…turns out to be just a man behind a curtain named Oz. Oz The Great And Powerful fills in all the blanks on how he got there and why certain witchly characters got their wickedness.
Now maybe because I’ve had to rewatch Star Wars episodes 1 through 3 for my 9 to 5 job, I’m standing on a hyperbole soapbox here. However, I don’t regret saying that Oz The Great And Powerful is one of the greatest….DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!….prequels ever made. My favorite, by the way is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. When the familiar pieces of The Wizard Of Oz began to neatly fall into place in Oz The Great And Powerful, I got the same feeling I had when Blondie picks up that iconic poncho. The same feeling I didn’t get when Lucas clumsily dropped his pieces on the ground, brushed off and forced onto me at the last minute. The Good The Bad And The Ugly sets up a world that, frankly, is pretty easy to set up. The Wizard Of Oz is anything but. It has enough oddly shaped moving parts to make an Ikea salesman blush. (Rimshot. Nailed it.) One day I’ll have a discussion about how the land of Oz is just an imaginary place where one subconsciously goes to work out their inner issues. A theme this film duplicates and also nails by the way. However, for the sake of avoiding an even bigger monicker as an overly-analytical, auteur theory douche, I’ll stick with the simple things that make this film work.
I was very surprised that Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland disappointed me. I thought that his famously quirky style would be perfect for the material. It is why I was worried that director Sam Raimi might stumble into the same pitfalls with Oz The Great And Powerful. Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard Of Oz are two worlds that are terrific at hiding morose, gruesome, and inappropriate subtext under colorful, shiny, childish window dressing. Burton brought more of the morose subtext to the light, thus dragging down Alice In Wonderland away from what it was intended. Whereas, Raimi keeps the balance and tone of his film’s predecessor. I believe Raimi knew it was suicide to mess with a formula as delicate as The Wizard Of Oz. Burton made subtext the focal point when he should have remembered it is the wonder the makes the world. Raimi thrives here and never takes his eye off the ball.
Despite being an actor I very well should hate, I can’t help but like James Franco. Perhaps it is his ‘in on the joke’ personality and the fact he never takes himself too seriously that disarms me. His talent, when he’s trying, is undeniable. This isn’t Franco’s finest work but I believe he’s perfectly cast as Oz. Oz is a failed showman. A man with the potential for great things, but seems to never be 100% genuine. A man you want to expose as a fraud not laud as a talent. Franco seems to fit the bill. Since Spider-Man Raimi has seemed to know how to use Franco’s more unpopular tendencies. His mugging for the camera never feels out of place in a Raimi film. And his tender moments, ones that would be cheesy in any other film, seem right at home here. Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams stand tall, where other actors would sleepwalk. That includes Weisz’s great nod to, coincidentally Return Of The Jedi, and having a sorcery battle with Williams that rivals even that of Gandalf and Saruman. But the stand out here is Mila Kunis. She has been proving since That 70s Show that shes not just a pretty…pretty…pretty…damn she’s pretty…face. It is probably known to all her role in the film. However, I won’t spoil it other than to say she completely humanized and made me empathize with a character I thought would be impossible to.
Oz The Great And Powerful isn’t the greatest film you’ll see this year by a longshot. But it knows what it wants to be, it knows what it has to be, and accomplishes these things nearly perfectly. Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and imagine for a moment what you deem a PROPER…DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!…prequel to one of the most classic, iconic, and ‘out there’ films in almost the last hundred years. Click your heals three times, open your eyes, watch Oz The Great And Powerful…then tell me I’m wrong.