Countdown to Skywalker

December 6, 2019

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” These are the words that have resonated with people for generations. For many of us, our parents grew up with original and prequel trilogies and now for us, we have the sequels. The Star Wars franchise holds a lot of value to its fandom.

To celebrate the release of the final installment of the Skywalker saga, “Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker,” RedEye will be reviewing each of the Star Wars film and discussing what Star Wars means to the students and staff at Manual.

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Phantom Menace” Review

“Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Phantom Menace” Review

We are all familiar with the idea that the Star Wars prequels were just terrible and to an extent this is a true statement. However, the movies actually had some good in them. “Star Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace,” while definitely not the best movie in the franchise, has some great moments and is overall a fairly decent movie. 

Phantom Menace had many pros, including its explanation as to how things started, who Obi-Wan Kenobi was, how Anakin became a Jedi and setting the stage for the only romantic relationship in the prequels.

But on the topic of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the downside to him and his master, Qui Gon Jinn, is that they were thrown into the movie with practically nothing, other than the fact they’re Jedi knights. No backstory or anything that we can really connect to. 

There may be a good explanation for why this may be, because for some reason, Jar Jar Binks, the most infamous CGI character in the history of bad character development, had way too much backstory than he deserved. Jar Jar was supposed to be a side character, nothing more. They used the time to describe Jar Jar’s backstory, but the movie needed to focus more on Anakin, not everyone else. They should have pulled from “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope,” and focused on Anakin like they did with Luke to create an easier connection between audience and character. 

Aside from Jar Jar, and undermined characters, the way they wrote Anikin Skywalker’s story was really interesting, bringing us back to Tatooine, explaining that he and his mother, Shmi Skywalker, how he didn’t have a father and was born a slave to the infamous Gangsters known throughout the Galaxy as the Hutts. 

The movie had some great moments, but another thing that made it somewhat odd and not like the originals was that it was more of a political war movie. It was a good idea in that it sets up the next two prequels, but in doing so it lost the “Star Wars” feel. 

Of course, “Phantom Menace” did have one really substantial pro: The end lightsaber duel with Darth Maul. Probably one of the best Lightsaber duels in the Star Wars franchise, bringing back the awesome lightsaber effects, making Maul’s lightsaber a giant double saber death machine, it’s clearly a sign not to mess with the red and black sith apprentice.

Another plus would be the fact, Liam Neeson, man the guy’s in everything, played his role as Qui Gon Jinn perfectly. His stature and looks brought life to the character, forgetting who he really was and just seeing Qui Gon Jinn. Even though he had no backstory, not even a hint, we had a connection to him regardless, especially towards the end (Spoilers!) when he is stabbed by Darth Maul. 

Although the movie was deemed an epic failure mainly due to the poor writing and the existence of certain characters, one thing saved it: its score. John Williams did, in fact, come back to do the music again for all of the prequels (really when does this guy stop?) and ended up creating one of the best battle scores, mentioned earlier, Duel of the Fates. His score, of course, brought back our love to this movie, even though it wasn’t the best, and made it better than it was made out to be.

Even though the prequels were always undermined by society, many pros came out of them, just not that many. But in retrospect, there was a lot to lean off of in them. So in total, the Phantom Menace was not entirely a failure, though George Lucas was wrong about one thing–Jar Jar is not the key to all of this.

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars The Phantom Menace” is by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected under the fact this is a review and can be used for educational purposes. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “Attack of the Clones” Review

“Star Wars Attack of the Clones” is by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected under the fact this is a review and can be used for educational purposes. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “Attack of the Clones” Review

While “The Phantom Menace” was a fairly anticlimactic beginning to the prequel series, its followup wasn’t much better. “Star Wars: Episode II–Attack of the Clones” had the chance to make the prequels great, and while the stories it tells aren’t bad and add a lot of development to how we get the beginning of the Empire, it lacks in emotion and seriousness where it needs it most, further ruining the name of the prequel series. 

“Attack of the Clones” centers around Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) 10 years after the events of “The Phantom Menace” as he trains to become a Jedi Master under the eye of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) while also dealing with his feelings towards Padmé (Natalie Portman). In addition, side stories about the clone army’s creation and Palpatine’s rise in power within the Republic are all featured.

The movie is essentially broken down to those three storylines; Anakin and Padmé’s growing relationship, Obi-Wan’s investigation which leads him to the discovery of the clone army and the Republic’s struggle to keep the galaxy in order with Palpatine growing in power which will lead to his eventual takeover.

It’s important to state that none of these storylines are better than the other. Each of the storylines have good aspects about them and bad aspects, but some are arguably worse than the others. The worse storyline, in my opinion, Anakin and Padmé’s.

Anakin is almost psychologically manipulative towards Padmé and gets her to do anything he wants. When they kiss for the first time in the movie, she immediately backs away saying they could never be, but he almost guilt trips her into being okay with it. Furthermore, his tone is manipulative to make her feel guilty. Even at their wedding, at the end of the movie, she never smiles or acts very happy about the whole affair.

The only great thing about this is that we get to see how Anakin favors his emotions and starts to give in to the dark side, even if he can seem humorous and creepy at the same time

The other two storylines, Obi-Wan’s and Palpatine’s, are not great, but they aren’t awful. Obi-Wan’s story is the better of the two, but it can sometimes be not serious enough and can be laughed at with no farther thought. Palpatine’s story and the political side of the plot can also be easily understood but are boring and lack excitement.

Another positive of this movie is the insight to the Clone Army, one of the biggest aspects of the Star Wars universe. Seeing all the clones for the first time together and in battle when defending Padmé, Anakin and Obi-Wan at the end gladiator scene is one of the highlights of the film.

Furthermore, just as the score is one of the saviors of “The Phantom Menace,” the score in “Attack of the Clones” is just as beautiful. Composed by John Williams, the man behind a lot of the famous scores from famous 80s and 90s movies, the score helps drastic create differences between scenes like Anakin and Padmé’s wedding and the battle scenes and bring back the nostalgia of the original trilogy.

Overall, “Attack of the Clones” isn’t an awful movie, it’s definitely not the best and while it is considered one of the worst additions to the Star Wars franchise (besides the holiday special, of course,) it did what the second movie needed to accomplish by setting up the scene for the third movie.

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars Attack of the Clones” is by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected under the fact this is a review and can be used for educational purposes. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “Revenge of the Sith” Review

“Star Wars:Episode III—Revenge of the Sith” is by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected in that this is a review and is being used for educational purposes. RedEye claims no ownership of this photo. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “Revenge of the Sith” Review

Wrapping up the abhorred prequel trilogy, “Revenge of the Sith” provides a (somewhat) happy landing for a story that got off to a rocky start.

The problems from the previous two are still present, but far less severe. It’s still filled with bizarre editing choices, fades and bad CGI but at least there’s a story you’re interested in. “Revenge of the Sith” benefits from being the conclusion; Anakin Skywalker’s (Hayden Christensen) corruption and the rise of Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is the raison d’être for the trilogy. It just took two god awful movies to get to it.

“Revenge of the Sith” follows Anakin as he is manipulated and misled by Chancellor, soon to be emperor, Palpatine. After killing Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) at Palpatine’s urging, Anakin is appointed to the Jedi Council under the pretenses that he’ll be an informant for Palpatine. As Anakin’s faith in the Council  fades, he grows closer to Palpatine who encourages him to explore the dark side of the force.

This progression makes sense for Anakin, it just takes too long. That’s my problem with the whole movie: it’s got some incredible moments that are bogged down by a long runtime and idiotic post production decisions.

Obi-Wan Kenobi’s (Ewan McGregor) storyline is essentially filler. After rescuing Palpatine with Anakin, Obi-Wan sets off to track down General Grievous (Matthew Wood), the commander of the Separatist military. No matter hard McGregor tries, and he does try, he can’t make this plot point feel necessary.

It’s once he returns to Mustafar and realizes the path Anakin is going down, that McGregor really stands out. It’s cliche to say McGregor is the best part of the prequels but he’s just so good. If only he weren’t given nothing to work with until the last 30 minutes. 

Christensen and Natalie Portman’s performances as Anakin and Padmé are still hollow, not an ounce of chemistry between them, but at least their story is finally compelling. When Anakin returns, Padmé reveals she’s pregnant. Soon Anakin has nightmares of Padmé dying during childbirth. Anakin begins dabbling in the dark side to prevent her death. Though their love story is a tragedy, the movie is too ham-fisted with its execution for it to be touching. Their interactions are so melodramatic to the point it’s funny. But hey, funny equals entertaining, and if you don’t take Star Wars too seriously, it’s a lot more enjoyable.

Overall, I like “Revenge of the Sith.” It’s a solid ending to a really bad trilogy. On a technical level it’s a bit messy, but it does what the prequel trilogy set out to do: tell the story of Anakin Skywalker and set up “Episode IV—A New Hope.”

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars:Episode III—Revenge of the Sith” is by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected in that this is a review and is being used for educational purposes. RedEye claims no ownership of this photo. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “A New Hope” Review

Countdown to Skywalker: “A New Hope” Review

One of the most historic movies in cinema history, and it belongs to arguably the most famous science fiction franchises. “A New Hope” sparked the film industry with its cinema magic of starfighters blasting each other in space, the nostalgic Darth Vader breath echoing throughout corridors of ships, tales of bounty hunters, rebels, Jedis, and more!

This all-star cast, including now well known names like Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Peter Mayhews (Chewbacca), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), included many new faces to the entertainment world. For much of the cast, this was their big break, including the main three characters. For some, this was their first big break including the main trio and to the others, this was a huge project that would further boost them up. 

 When the movie began, the original title was actually called “The Star Wars: The Adventure of Luke Starkiller,” which you will notice many references to the name Starkiller later in the franchise (wink, wink). Though many people did not consider it to be the best since the sequels to it blew the Box Office literally to a galaxy far, far away, let’s dive into what made the movie a hit in the 70s.

First off, the acting is just a little cringe worthy, but pretty funny, especially towards the beginning of Luke’s story. This is not, of course, to undermine Mark Hamill, as this was one of his earliest big roles for a film. He nailed it, of course, giving the story a relatable character for the audience to connect to… at least for this film.

This story is set up when Luke’s aunt and uncle are killed and he is left with perhaps the most famous robots in the history of movies, R2-D2 and C-3P0. Following the supposedly last Jedi Obi Wan-Kenobi, or Ben Kenobi, Luke ends up having to make the choice of following Ben into the Resistance (because he was just too short to be Stormtrooper).

Along the way, we are introduced to Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo, one of the most famous smugglers in the galaxy. Ford’s character, alongside Carrie Fisher and Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca, all of them make the story move along in the best way possible.

With Fisher’s feministic yet powerful acting and attitude as the Princess of Alderaan, Leia Organa, she has redefined womens’ roles in cinema history, and is who really brings “Star Wars” to life. Harrison and Chewie just help the story make it funny, absolutely hilarious, and help create one of the most iconic and lovable duos to date.

Another intriguing element to this movie is the odd story behind Darth Vader’s two actors, David Prowse who stands in as Vader and James Earl Jones who voices him. While Prowse was actually supposed to be the actor, voice and everything, it ended up being Jones’s voice because George Lucas thought Jones’s authoritative voice, booming with hatred and menace was a better fit.  In the end, it’s safe to say this was the right call with Jones’s Vader voice becoming one of the most iconic voices in movie history. 

And lastly, the birth of the Lightsaber. The final Lightsaber between Vader and Kenobi is probably one of the coolest movie scenes in the series, and to think that there wasn’t that much technology in the late 70’s for effects like that is amazing and stunned many beloved sci-fi fans. And not only fans but other filmmakers as well.

Furthermore, “A New Hope” ended up inspiring a generation of new space operas like Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” Roger Corman’s take-off called “Battle Beyond the Stars,” the arcade game Galaga, Nick Castle’s “The Last Starfighter” and more. Seriously people there are endless spin-offs, rip-offs, take-offs and I can go on for another three pages.

But without a New Hope, even though it has a lack of action and loses your interest after a while, and the love around it, none of these could have existed. This movie started one of the biggest franchises in the world and continued to only get better with “Empire Strikes Back” and further on, “Return of the Jedi.” 

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars:Episode IV—A New Hope” is by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected in that this is a review and is being used for educational purposes. RedEye claims no ownership of this photo. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “Empire Strikes Back” Review

Countdown to Skywalker: “Empire Strikes Back” Review

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

“I love you. I know.”

“No, I am your father.”

These three quotes are quite possibly some of the most well-known quotes in pop culture history, and they all come from one movie, “Star Wars: Chapter V—The Empire Strikes Back.”

Arguably the best Star Wars movie in the saga, “Empire Strikes Back” picks back up the story of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as they continue their fight against the Empire. In this movie specifically, Luke begins his training with Master Yoda on Dagobah and Han and Leia work on the rebel base and attempt to reconnect with an old friend, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), which quickly goes south.

“Empire Strikes Back” manages to do two things that make it so unique and groundbreaking—it breaks the trend of sequels not living up to the first movie and the good guys don’t come out victorious in this movie.

“Empire” manages to top “A New Hope” in a number of ways, starting with its storylines. You have Luke’s emotional and challenging training which goes into the psychological and twisted thoughts he must overcome to ensure he doesn’t fall to the dark side. Then you have Leia and Han which includes not only the fight against the Empire, but the rising tension which leads to their eventual relationship.

It is important to note though that the real-life Han and Leia, Ford and Fisher, weren’t as romantic and in love as their movie counterparts. Ford started an affair with Fisher in 1977 during the filming of “A New Hope” which hurt Fisher a lot. Ford had two kids and a wife at this time and Fisher was only 19 years old. She wrote about this affair in her memoir “The Princess Diarist” and how much it hurt her.

Although this can affect the viewing experience when watching “Empire,” it doesn’t take away from the amazing sequences and scenes this movie offers. Having the separate stories of Luke training and Han and Leia attempting to reach out to Lando and them coming together in one grand finale where Han is frozen in carbonite and it is revealed that Vader is Luke’s father (which is one of the best plot twists in cinema history) is beautiful to watch all come together.

The only potential downside to be seen is that the movie doesn’t have a huge fight other than the fight between Vader and Luke, which can hardly be seen as a battle because it’s just a brutal takedown by Vader. This movie relies heavily on storytelling and, in the grand scheme of the trilogy, is the rising action.

This means though that the viewers are left in a state of shock and unease as the movie ends and the rebels are not ahead any more than they were at the beginning of the movie. It’s part of what makes “Empire Strikes Back” so amazing and enticing to the stories—you feel the need to watch the next movie. Han is off to Jabba’s palace, frozen in carbonite, Luke has his hand cut off and Leia’s closest friends and army are facing one of the toughest times of this war. You know you have to watch the next one to just make sure everything ends up okay.

Overall, “Empire Strikes Back” is a phenomenal piece of art that deserves all the credit it gets. From the characters to the innovating storylines to further the trilogy into its final installment, “Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi,” its no doubt this movie is a masterpiece.

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” is by Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected under the fact this is a review and can be used for educational purposes. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “Return of the Jedi” Review

Scene where Luke and Darth Vader have their final duel in the Emperor’s throne room.

Countdown to Skywalker: “Return of the Jedi” Review

The movie that was the cherry on top of the original trilogy, “Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi” goes out with a bang, throwing viewers into one of the most epic movie series finales ever. Including giant slug gangsters, an emotionally conflicting lightsaber battle and deadly teddy bears, this movie keeps audiences on the edge of their seat and has continued to do so for 36 years.

In the beginning, we finally see Jabba the Hutt (not the CGI version), one of the most infamous gangsters in the galaxy, where he keeps Han Solo frozen in carbonate as a trophy. From there we see all the characters have reunited—Leia, C3PO, R2D2, Lando and Luke Skywalker, who is now a Jedi Knight. And even one of the coolest villains is back, Boba Fett, the infamous bounty hunter.

This movie also contains one of the most controversial yet popular outfits in cinema history—the “Slave Leia bikini” or as it is now called, “Hutt Slayer.” The iron bikini Fisher sports while in Jabba’s palace has been reproduced, sold at conventions, photos of her have been made into prints, action figures of that outfit have been made and so much more. While it caused Fisher a lot of anxiety, especially earlier designs of it where it revealed even more, there’s no doubt it’s one of the most iconic outfits to date. 

This movie brings back the love for the series though and just by seeing the characters again in the first twenty minutes of the film, the nostalgia comes rushing back. Then when you see an unfinished Death Star two point oh, surrounded by Star Destroyers, the infamously catchy tune of the Imperial March booming in your ears as we see Darth Vader’s ship arrive clad in black steel, with his hollow breath, it’s like you never even left the theater of “Empire Strikes Back.” 

“Return of the Jedi” was just like the other two films, only we knew it was the end of the trilogy and that we weren’t going to see any of these characters return again after this. This is especially touching when we see Obi Wan’s ghost, and Luke’s final moments with Yoda before the cherished movie puppet passed away. 

Although the film was darkened, probably due to the Emperor’s presence in the film, the film was also pretty bright and cheery when we see the rebellion coming together again to fight and destroy the second Death Star once and for all, because we don’t want a third one…

Wait a minute…

Oh right there will be a third, but that’s for a different trilogy.

And we have to appreciate the Ewoks. There’s just no denying that we all went “aww” when we saw them for the first time. And they really do come in handy during the Battle of Endor. And let’s be honest, we could watch Ewoks fight Stormtroopers all day. In addition, the movie actually features a very famous little actor, Warwick Davis, who has played in dozens of films like “The Leprechaun,” “Harry Potter” and “Willow” just to name a few, and has made his claim in Hollywood known.

“Return of the Jedi” has what could arguably be the best lightsaber battle in the whole series, rivaling Obi-Wan and Anakin’s final fight at the end of “Revenge of the Sith.” It’s well written with the Emperor’s attempt at manipulating Luke to become a Sith Lord by having him kill his father in rage to save his friends.

Next is the fact that we want Luke to beat Vader because we want redemption from the battle in “Empire Strikes Back,” and lastly it has the best score behind it with John Williams making it more dramatic to emphasize the mood and tension of the scene with a gothic choir and orchestra. 

With this balance between dark and light, the film was a whole emotional roller coaster that would end what we cannot recreate or refurbish ever again—the original trilogy.

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” is by Lucasfilms. This still was released for press and is protected under the fact this is a review and can be used for educational purposes. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Force Awakens” Review

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Force Awakens” Review

Kicking off the sequel trilogy, “The Force Awakens” balances nostalgia with new life in an enthralling return to form for the saga. Sure, the prequels have their moments, but come on, this is undeniably well-made. It’s a bit too long and a bit too familiar but it recaptured the joy and excitement I felt when I first watched Star Wars.

30 years after “Return of the Jedi,” the story continues as a new regime, the First Order, comes to power. The Resistance, led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), rises against it. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is nowhere to be seen. This setup is very reminiscent of “A New Hope,” as an ultimate good and an ultimate evil face off and the Jedi are nowhere to be found.

On the desert planet of Jakku, an orphan scavenger (Daisy Ridley) waits for her family to come back for her. On that same planet, resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) finds a map to Luke and leaves it with his droid, BB-8, before he is arrested by First Order leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Horrified by the violence of the First Order, stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega), soon to be named Finn, helps Poe escape its custody. A chase ensues and the pair crash lands on Jakku. At the same time, BB-8 stumbles upon Rey and she takes him in. Lots of things happen and the movie ends up following Rey, Finn, BB-8, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) as they try to get as far away from intergalactic conflict, and Kylo Ren, as possible.

“The Force Awakens” is a big movie. It has a long runtime, there are a lot of people in it, it had a huge budget behind it. And there’s pros and cons to all of these things.

Runtime is my biggest issue with every Star Wars movie Disney has produced, not just “The Force Awakens.” It seems like every movie has a weird sequence that relies on CGI rather than practical effects and doesn’t add much to the story other than getting characters from point A to point B. They always feel out of place and take up too much time. In “The Force Awakens,” the rathtars sequence fills that role. As this two hour 15 minute movie plows on, out of place moments, odd sequences and poor editing choices add up. Nothing is ever perfect, but for a movie as big as this, you think they’d go above and beyond to weed out filler. On the other hand, this mammoth runtime can be justified. How else are you going to set up another trilogy that builds off of the two before it?

The cast of “The Force Awakens” is probably the strongest part about the movie. Gwendolyn Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson and Andy Serkis, all powerhouses in their own right, make up the supporting cast. The lead trio of Ridley, Boyega and Isaac are outstanding; their energy is infectious and their chemistry is undeniable. Driver kills it as Kylo Ren and is arguably the breakout star of this trilogy. And on top of that, Fisher, Hamill and Ford all reprise their iconic roles.

Everybody’s great in it, there’s just not enough of everybody. Isaac is in the movie for maybe 5 minutes, Serkis appears only as a hologram, Christie gets two scenes and Fisher isn’t there much either. Though to be fair, with a cast this strong, how can you give everyone enough screen time?

I know I just harped on the movie for being too long and now I’m saying there’s not enough, but those are the insanely high expectations “The Force Awakens” faces. The original trilogy is borderline sacred to people, and the prequels are almost universally (and unfairly) hated, seemingly killing the saga. And then, the biggest company in the world buys the Star Wars franchise and starts channeling billions of dollars into a new trilogy, a trilogy that has to recapture the magic of the originals and make up for the prequels and stand on its own. That’s a nearly impossible task for one movie.

Yes, “The Force Awakens” has its flaws, but I think it doesn’t get enough credit. So much of the discussion around the new Star Wars movies is about how they compare to the originals and how they don’t fill adults with the same sense of wonder they experienced when they were 13 seeing “A New Hope” for the first time and not enough of it focuses on the 13-year-olds who saw “The Force Awakens” in theaters. I was one of those 13-year-olds, and let me tell you, “The Force Awakens” was life changing.

This is the film that got me into movies. This is the film that helped me find a new passion. Sure, there are better movies out there, but those movies didn’t inspire me to write and consume stories and reviews. I wore my hair like Rey’s for a year after this movie came out. That’s how you should judge it’s impact.

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is by Lucasfilms and Disney. This still was released for press and is protected under the fact this is a review and can be used for educational purposes. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Last Jedi” Review

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Last Jedi” Review

This one’s on Lucasfilm for hiring a director known for subverting expectations to make the second film in a trilogy. Rian Johnson made a great movie that undercut everything set up by “The Force Awakens.” It’s an ambitious and thematically interesting movie in a series that’s become familiar, but it’s also a bit of a mess.

The structure of “The Last Jedi” is quite simple: there’s 3 separate storylines that come together at the climax to make for an epic conclusion. So in that sense, one-third of “The Last Jedi” is an amazing movie, one-third is an okay movie, and one-third is a dumpster fire (a dumpster fire that I’ll defend!).

The strongest part of “The Last Jedi” is easily the relationship between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). After defeating Kylo in “The Force Awakens,” Rey goes off to find Luke and learn the ways of the force, and Kylo returns to Emperor Snoke to finally complete his training. To both of their surprise, the force connects the pair, allowing them to communicate and grow close. Their force connection is the most interesting part of the movie. They come to understand one another and, dare I say it, develop a fondness for their former adversary.

Driver and Ridley are both amazing, revealing new depth to their wounded and lonely characters, moving away from the black and white nature of Star Wars. As Luke tells Rey, she “went straight to the dark,” and even after Kylo Ren has killed his father, he’s still tempted to return to the light. Rather than being presented as opposites, the hero and villain are presented as one in the same. This sets up an ending to the saga that moves away from the strict Jedi code with no room for emotion that caused Anakin to turn to the dark and Luke to isolate himself. Rather than repeating the original trilogy, “The Last Jedi” allows the sequels to come to a new, morally ambiguous conclusion.

Meanwhile, there’s Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) story line. Leia (Carrie Fisher) falls into a coma after a First Order attack, leaving Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) in command. Immediately Poe and Holdo clash. Throughout the movie, it cuts back to the power struggle between the two. Poe’s gut reaction and subsequent insurrection are completely misguided; Holdo sacrifices herself to save the rebellion, Poe included. Johnson uses a character the audience knows and trusts to show the downfalls of pride. Though there might be too much of it, their power struggle blurs the lines between good and bad, revealing no one is entirely right and no one is entirely wrong. Holdo was too harsh and dismissive but Poe was too arrogant and rash.

Then, there’s Finn (John Boyega) and Rose’s (Kelly Marie Tran) storyline. It is pretty bad. The pair is essentially given a side quest, and a convoluted one at that. They must go to Canto Bight, a casino planet, to find a codebreaker to get them access to the First Order so that they can stop them from tracking the Resistance. Yeah, I don’t know either. On Canto Bight, they’re given a crash course on basic social justice themes: war profiteering bad, animal abuse bad and child slavery bad. Their storyline isn’t great, but Boyega, Tran and BB-8 have a lot of chemistry with Benicio del Toro.

“The Last Jedi” is a flawed but different take on Star Wars that I appreciate for existing.

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi” is by Lucasfilm and Disney. This still was released for press and is protected in that this is a review and is being used for educational purposes. 

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Rise of Skywalker” Review


Joonas Suotamo is Chewbacca, Oscar Isaac is Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley is Rey and John Boyega is Finn in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Countdown to Skywalker: “The Rise of Skywalker” Review

Spoiler alert: This review contains minor spoilers for “The Rise of Skywalker.” Please proceed at your own pace. 

It’s the movie we’ve all been waiting for. The end of a trilogy, the end of a trilogy of trilogies and the reason we’ve been reviewing the Star Wars saga in the first place—”Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

“The Rise of Skywalker,” in some ways, acts as though “The Last Jedi” never happened, and while in the beginning it seems frustrating, it was a good call on director J.J. Abrams’s part. The movie picks up with the ongoing war against the First Order, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues training to be a Jedi under General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), all the while Poe (Oscar Issac) and Finn (John Boyega) continue working on missions to help the resistance. In addition, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is being manipulated by Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who has been surviving on a Sith planet since the events of “Return of the Jedi.”

“The Rise of Skywalker” answers many questions that have arisen since the new trilogy has started, including the big one, what is Rey’s heritage? In addition, you get a slight insight to more about Poe’s past and his life before joining the resistance. Some of the new characters that join the trio, like Jannah who lives on Kef Bir, also add insight as Finn grows fond of them and relates with also once being a Stormtrooper himself.

Of course with so much new stuff and new characters, there are some plot holes and some characters aren’t given as much screen time, but for a normal fan, these won’t ruin the experience. Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Lando (Billy Dee Williams) are two characters that unfortunately don’t get enough screen time, but this simply has to do with the fact they aren’t main characters and are almost never on the planet the protagonists are on.

While we do get to see a lot of Rey, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), Kylo Ren is one of the best aspects of this movie. Adam Driver’s acting is phenomenal and Ren’s character arc gets a rewarding payoff, especially after waiting three movies for it to come full circle. Driver’s chemistry with Ridley is also what makes their scenes so captivating and emotional while watching. Although Poe and Finn are fun to watch, there are moments where you never want the screen to leave Kylo and Rey. 

Although the stories of the characters themselves are great, “The Rise of Skywalker” really dropped on its romantic relationships. In the prequels, you have Anakin and Padme and in the original trilogy, you have Leia and Han. In this trilogy though, there is no clear relationship in the end. Poe gets a past female love interest that serves almost no purpose for his character development, Finn has a crush on Rey still, but it goes nowhere, as expected. There are one two kisses in this movie, but there are no final relationships at the end of the movie.

In my own opinion, Finn and Poe would have been a great couple, as the chemistry is very clearly there. Issac even commented that he wish it would have been explored and present in the movie.

This does bring up though one of the key complaints about the movie. It handles romance and sexuality, gender and race in a controversial way, one that many people have commented on. There are a large amount of complaints about how the movie has no female power, but I would beg to differ.

I believe that major franchises like “Star Wars” and “Marvel” have a large way to go in terms of equality. These are franchises that have such a large following that they should be promoting more equality in all race, gender and sexuality but you shouldn’t diss an entire movie based off of that aspect alone. I also believe that many characters are disregarded, especially Rose, but as I said before, there wasn’t a point to her being on the screen as much as people would have liked her to be.

One of the biggest questions though that you may be wondering, is how does this movie wrap up the trilogy and the Skywalker saga as a whole?

This movie is a fun and beautiful ending to the trilogy. For the entire saga, I think it does a good job at tying up the biggest loose ends and presents an ending that takes aspects from all three trilogies (even some aspects from the TV shows “The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels”), to wrap up the story we have all come to know and love.

As someone who has been a fan almost my entire life, I really enjoyed “Rise of Skywalker.” I don’t think it was a perfect movie by any means (and to be fair I don’t think any movie is perfect), but I found it satisfying and fulfilling most of my dreams for the end. Characters were redeemed, bonds were created, battles were fought and questions were answered. It’ll make you cry, it’ll make you happy and make you feel everything in-between. It’s an experience everyone should experience if you like the Star Wars franchise.

Featured Image Citation: “Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker” is by Lucasfilm and Disney. This still was released for press and is protected in that this is a review and is being used for educational purposes. 

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About the Contributors
Tyler Lericos, Staffer
Tyler Lericos was a staffer for Manual RedEye 2019-20. He loves filmmaking and music composing, and spends a lot of time with his baby brother, Jack. You can contact him at [email protected]
Norah Wulkopf, Staffer
Norah Wulkopf was a staffer for Manual RedEye 2019-20.  She is the Copy Editor of The Crimson Yearbook this year. If she’s not watching a movie or walking through a park, she’s probably in the woods of her favorite summer camp. You can contact her at [email protected]

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