“The circle is now complete”: On watching Star Wars for the first time

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(Warning, warning: massive spoilers! If you’re like me and are one of the
six people who have never 
seen Star Wars, probably don’t read on!)

Everything I knew about Star Wars before December 4th,:

  • ‘Luke, I am your father’
  • Jedis (good), Darth Vader people (bad)
  • Lightsabers, good side have green and bad side have red
  • R2D2 and C-3PO, couldn’t tell you what they look like or do
  • Princess Leia with the cinnamon-roll hair and wears a gold bikini next to a giant slug
  • Stormtroopers are… things that look bad
  • ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’
  • ‘It’s a trap!’
  • Jedis wear beige robes (known because my childhood bear has a Jedi costume)
  • All the films are Darth Vader and Luke and fighting with lightsabers in space

That was it. That was everything. I’d had two previous experiences of Star Wars, once at my aunt’s house about 10 years ago, my cousin eagerly showing me one of them, but I got bored and stopped watching. The other, at a friend’s house when I was 15 – we watched Revenge of the Sith and I fell asleep 10 minutes in.

I expected it to just be lots of Jedis in space fighting with lightsabers. Oh, I was wrong.

I was (unsurprisingly) sceptical of watching the films. Having seen the reaction on the internet to the trailer for the new film, I was doubtful that they could live up to the hype. To me, it was like Pokémon – something that people were experienced to when they were younger, and loved still because of the nostalgia. To this day, I could probably recognise Pikachu and that’s about it.

I asked around some friends before watching, curious about the best order to watch them in. Result: people are really passionate about the order of Star Wars.

First Response (majority of the internet): “IV, V, VI, I, II, III. Need to watch it like this, the plot twists will ruin the original three for you otherwise, I, II and III provide interesting backstory for after IV, V and VI, and the emotional impact is lost otherwise.”

Second Response (mum): “THERE ARE ONLY THREE FILMS, THE ONES RELEASED BETWEEN 1977 AND 1983, AND THE OTHERS DO NOT EXIST THERE ARE NO OTHERS.”

Third Response (one friend): “Eh I would watch them chronologically, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, makes the most sense to me personally.”

I went with the third response. I didn’t want to jump in with IV: A New Hope, without watching the prequels. I thought, ‘I know nothing, so let’s get some backstory’. And hey, that’s the order George Lucas intends, who am I to argue with him?

I discarded the argument that the prequels had no real story and only existed as backstory for the ‘real story’, Luke destroying the Empire and saving his father, because I wanted the full immersion. Even if I was watching twenty minutes of pod-racing, to me it added to the environment and the characters, and it meant I got to laugh at the Padawan plaits for longer.

 

I: The Phantom Menace

So, apparently controversially, this was my first Star Wars film. I probably should have seen it by now.

Most of it consisted of me being confused about the names, getting people mixed up, finding ‘Naboo’ a funny word and trying to make sense of the plot. It was the only film that I didn’t get annoyed by Anakin though – his hair was cute and he made my favourite character, C-3PO. I enjoyed it, it just didn’t seem to be that relevant now having watched II-VI. Established characters such as Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Chancellor Valorum are killed or removed before it ends – Darth Maul is killed at the end and never mentioned again and it doesn’t really matter that Obi-Wan was being trained by Qui-Gon because he is well into training Anakin by episode II. Other characters are unimportant to the plot (Watto), or are just established better in later episodes, like Mace Windu and Darth Sidious. Also, some parts of the film just make no sense – the Padmé/Queen subplot didn’t seem necessary, only so people could interact with Padmé without the title of Queen, but it’s all a bit confusing and unnecessary and led me to think they were different people until her death.

Rating: for me, someone who wanted to be fully immersed, I loved the parts of Tatooine we got to see, and it was a fun episode – but relevance-wise, less important. The pod-racing though, that was fun, and reminded me of Mario Kart. Favourite quote: “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering, and suffering leads to the Dark Side.” Would recommend it even if it’s just to see Tatooine. Although still not sure what the phantom menace is; please explain. 6/10.

 

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II: Attack of the Clones

First thought: Anakin acting like a bratty teen was annoying. Although it made him a lot more interesting, despite the arrogance, tantrums and whining. And it was one of my main focuses throughout the film. He also didn’t seem to be able to stop himself around Padmé, with his dead-eyed staring and making her uncomfortable (as seen in her saying, “you’re making me uncomfortable”. Red flags there girl!)

It was more relevant than Episode I, but just a bit… boring, especially when compared to the others. The CGI commitment meant large-scale battle sequences, and although some parts, like the chase scene between the Fetts and Obi-Wan through the asteroids, were interesting, the battles seemed to last forever. Even the part of me that likes to curl up with my cat and watch The Notebook couldn’t get on board with Anakin and Padmé’s flirting, especially with the whole, ‘hey we’re getting married now even though Jedis shouldn’t have these kind of connections and we’ll have to keep it a secret’ thing.

Despite the pacing of the film, I enjoyed it, especially how Jar Jar’s idiocy basically led to the rise of the Stormtroopers in service of the eventual Empire – meesa think yousa was stupid for putting him in such a position of power.

Rating: Still trying to see the hype. Anakin’s hair is silly. Slow and Jar is annoying. C-3PO and R2 are still my favourites. Favourite quote: “You don’t want to sell me death sticks”, “I don’t want to sell you death sticks”. Ahh, Jedi mind tricks. 5/10.

 

III: Revenge of the Sith

This one, I loved. The rise of Darth Sidious was one of the best plots of the prequels, mainly because of how well it had been introduced from the beginning. Anakin was less annoying, and more cringey – I’d heard that III is the worst written, and some of his lines made his scenes a cringe-fest, especially with Padmé.

Speaking of them… their relationship had always had a bit of a creepy element to it, and she seemed to be mostly useless in this film, spending most of it pretending not to be pregnant and then making Anakin see her dying in childbirth, ending with him moving to the Dark Side. What a selfish woman! (Disclaimer: this writer is a feminist but actually just thinks Padmé was a bit useless.)

This film got more interesting than the previous two, with the Jedis beginning to be killed off and the Reign of the Sith Lord beginning. I wanted Anakin to be developed more than he was though; despite having three films devoted to him, I never felt like his character was as three dimensional as it could have been. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop me from being angry about him turning to the Dark Side. Stupid emotions.

It was at the end of III that I really appreciated the order in which I was watching the films. To know that Darth Vader was Anakin, and to see Luke not yet knowing until he’s told by Darth Vader, just made the later films all the more interesting (plus, who doesn’t know that he’s Luke’s father?! Nothing to spoil there!).

Obi-Wan’s character development and the, “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them… You were my brother Anakin! I loved you” quote was heartbreaking. The despair on his face and the loss he would have felt, having to watch the person he thought would bring balance to the Force burn (and to him, assumedly die), and knowing that his final moments of knowing Anakin had been realisation of Anakin having turned to the Dark Side – “Only a Sith deals in absolutes”. I regretted having no tissues to hand. A good film.

Rating: The hatred in Anakin’s voice as he screamed, “I hate you” at Obi-Wan was harrowing. The most interesting film so far by a mile, even if Padmé was pretty useless. I liked that Samuel L. Jackson would only do it if he could have a purple lightsaber. Favourite quote: See Obi-Wan above. 8/10.

 

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IV: A New Hope

The original film, with instantly likeable characters like Luke and an interesting story, was probably my favourite one. I was told it was the one that was made first because it’s the best self-contained film, and I actually have few criticisms of it.

I got frustrated trying to work out if the Stormtroopers were human or not – I could see they were bulked-up and based on the clone things (are they droids?), but I couldn’t tell if they were human. I was also really curious to find out what made the Empire so evil that there were rebels (other than, you know, their tendency to explode the occasional planet).

The graphics were obviously dated, but that didn’t take anything away from the film, and are surprisingly good considering the film is from 1977. Han was also really annoying to me, and for most of the film just seemed selfish and manipulative.

Also, Luke really confused me in this film. He saw the destruction of where he lived, realised his aunt and uncle had been murdered, and later on the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi… no reaction. Not one tear, or quivering lip, or punch in the wall. Just an air of, “Ah well let’s get on with it”. Heartless Luke.

Han shot first.

Rating: Han returning to help Luke and the rebellion at the end was cute. I still love C-3Po and R2. I was surprised at how many pop culture references came out of this one, like “These are not the droids you are looking for” and “the Force is strong with this one.” Favourite quote, though: droids. Who doesn’t love Jedi mind tricks?!. Probably my favourite film. No annoying characters! 9/10 (10/10 if Luke had been more human).

 

V: The Empire Strikes Back

The penultimate film! I loved that this one could just get straight into the story and not spend time developing the characters, there wasn’t a load of backstory, and could have actually been a pretty good stand-alone.

The storylines all worked well together, and nothing seemed to be cliché. And it felt episodic – we were seeing different chapters in the lives of the characters, with a narrative that tied them in to each other. In my opinion, second-best only to IV.

I preferred Han a lot more in this film; he had a lot more personality and had greater development than in IV. Although, Yoda was my favourite character in this film; he reminded me of Mr Miyagi from The Karate Kid when he was training Luke, especially when he was standing on or hanging off of Luke.

I also liked the additions of characters like Lando and the Imperial Walkers, and the development of pre-existing characters like bad-ass, well-written Leia.

This film gave me genuine worry over how they would get out of their situations, over Han surviving the carbon freezing, and of Luke’s fate once he arrived at Cloud City.

Rating: Not much to say on this one – it was good, I liked it, the Boba Fett following in his father’s footsteps thing was good, it was an interesting film and all tied up well with a good narrative. 8/10, because I think surely Darth Vader can get someone else to do his errands for him, considering how terrifying he is, and Luke could have at least entertained the idea of ruling the galaxy with his father.

 

VI: Return of the Jedi

The final film.

Something I’ve failed to mention; I love the writing at the start of each film, and was sad to know that I have to wait TWO WHOLE WEEKS to see it again. It’s such a convenient way to give backstory, so we can get straight into the film without the need for build-up.

First off: I loved the Ewoks. They remind me of teddy bears and are completely adorable.

This film, out of all of them, seemed to be the first that was more family-friendly – the series seemed more infantilised, with a lot more silliness than the rest, for the benefit of appealing to more people. I can understand it from the point of view of money and exposing more people to it, but it just made it less good in my opinion, especially compared to IV and V.

It felt more episodic than V, but definitely would not be good as a stand-alone – it wouldn’t make much sense, but it doesn’t need to be a good stand-alone. It did exactly what a finale needed to do; tying up loose ends and giving answers to questions that viewers and characters had.

Despite Leia having worn that costume and being Jabba’s slave for a while, she still remained an intelligent and strong female character, and I loved that it was her who killed him and didn’t need saving by anyone else.

I felt so invested with the characters by this film, and seeing their final battles and everyone getting their moment just made it a good finale for me.

This film made me particularly glad that I watched them in the order that I had; knowing that, not only is Vader Anakin (which is revealed in the original trilogy anyway) but having seen Anakin fall to the Dark side in I, II and III, made his death with Luke all the more sad to watch. Slight confusion because I wasn’t that sure why Luke burnt his helmet, but minor point.

BOBA FETT DESERVED A BETTER DEATH. I mean, he kinda helped with the rebels a little. I’m not 100% satisfied with his ending. But speaking of endings, the guard dying over scary, murdering Rancor’s death was sad – to that guard, he might as well have been a kitten called Fluffy and was his baby. Poor guy. Poor murdered Rancor.

(EDIT: he didn’t die. He’s found in the sands outside the Sarlacc’s now-rottign corpse after incinerating its insides, his armour melted and fused to his skin and what flesh is on show is covered in acid and sunburns. the person who finds him figures out who he is, nurses him back to health, and after recovering he accepts a job to infiltrate the Bounty Hunters Guild (whom he was quite proudly NOT a member of) and was to use them to help to kill a very valuable bounty, currently in the emlploy/service/prisoner of Jabba’s cousin.)

Rating: A satisfying end, despite the feeling of it being a film that is family-friendly rather than for the fans. Didn’t like Jabba (never liked Jabba). The CGI changes were a mess though; Young Anakin being put in at the end really messed with my head. Favourite quote: obviously “It’s a trap!” Still love C-3PO and Ewoks. 8/10

 

What I took away from Star Wars

The films definitely live up to the hype, and I wish I had watched them earlier. I now understand a phenomenal number of pop culture references, but also why so many people have so much love for these films. They really are genre-defining, important films and I think anyone can watch them and get something from them. As someone whose childhood was Harry Potter, I found that Star Wars isn’t like Pokémon like I originally thought – as in, it’s not popular just because of the nostalgia, they’re actually very good films, with insightful story lines, relatable and well-written characters. With three more films to shortly come, I’m working on my Wookiee call and costume for the 18th. May the Force be with you!

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Third year PAIR student and live editor. Also the Wessex Scene's Head of Events. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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