I’m the Juggernaut B*tch!

X-Men: The Last Stand should have been enough to end 20th Century Fox’s take on the X-Men. Since it almost completely derailed the X-trilogy. X-Men: The Last Stand is clearly weaker by comparison. Not that it doesn’t have enough to both please and anger fans of the X-Men. By 2006, Marvel movies were everywhere. I was excited to see what seemed like the conclusion to the pioneering X-Men films. At 10 years old, I was a bigger fan of the X-Men. So I recognized Beast, Angel, Juggernaut, and other Mutants in the trailer. After seeing X-Men: The Last Stand in theaters, I was blown away by the fanservice, but equally annoyed at the mistreatment of key characters.

A lot of the final result can be blamed on studio interference and Bryan Singer’s departure. After directing both X-Men and X2, Singer left to work with the competition. Leaving his already successful superhero franchise in the dust. He was eventually replaced by Brett Ratner. A director who often favors style over substance. Which lead to them butchering one of the most acclaimed comic book storylines. Both the Dark Phoenix Saga and “Gifted” storylines were blended in a way that fit the established continuity. Despite the restrictions that previous X-Men movies had, it’s clear that some kind of effort was made to increase comic book accuracy. However misguided it was in the end…

5. X-Men The Last Stand

The X-Men

X-Men: The Last Stand opens in a similar way to the original X-Men. By showing two different Mutant’s manifesting their power in a way that’s important to the plot. The first flashback features Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr visiting one of their new students. This was the earliest use of digital de-aging in film. It may be a common practise now, but here Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen look airbrushed. They meet a young Jean Grey at her house where she shows off her omega level power of telekinesis. While lifting objects, we get a quick cameo of Stan Lee hosing and Chris Claremont mowing. Claremont wrote the Dark Phoenix Saga. A famous X-Men storyline where Jean becomes unstoppable after absorbing the Phoenix force. I read the arc later on and it’s vastly different than what the movie does. The second flashback features a young Warren Worthington III horrifically clipping his Angel wings. Which inspires his father to create a Mutant cure. An idea present in the “Gifted” storyline. The cure comes from a Mutant boy based on Leech.

Since X-Men: The Last Stand was the most expensive movie made at the time, they were free to go all out. We finally see the Danger Room which is mostly a virtual reality simulator. Fans will recognize its simulation as the Days of Future Past storyline. It was awesome to finally see a Sentinel on the big screen (even if it’s just a head). Another comic nod is the Fastball Special where Colossus throws Wolverine at an opponent. After three movies and a growing career, it’s clear that Fox only ever cared about Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is always top of his game, but he really didn’t need to be the star this time around. Especially after Logan already discovered his origin. On the other hand, Halle Berry is finally given the presence she deserves. Since an omega level Mutant like Storm is way more important than how she was portrayed in the previous movies. Storm embraces her leadership role, her weather manipulation is way more hands on, and she sides against the cure. Her shorter hairstyle is also reflective of Berry.

Once again, Cyclops is mistreated. It’s a crime that James Marsden never got a chance to do justice to such an important X-Men. Scheduling conflicts meant the unforgivable decision by the studio to kill him off. When Jean rises from the ashes, she kills Scott off-screen. A major difference between the comic, is that Jean became the Phoenix through a cosmic entity. Other Marvel superheroes were involved and her devastating power reached galactic proportions. In the movie, the Phoenix is simply an alternate personality that Professor X repressed. It’s nowhere near as epic, but Famke Janssen is good at switching between Jean and Phoenix’s lustful rage.

Meanwhile, Magneto and Pyro return to build a greater Brotherhood of Mutants. Hoping to destroy the cure. Along with a handful of bizarre randoms are generic versions of Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, and Kid Omega. Although inaccurate, Dania Ramirez does standout as a speedster version of Callisto who can sense Mutant powers. She helps Magneto find Mystique and other potential recruits. In true comic fashion, Magneto dispatches of several trucks with ease. Rebecca Romijn has way more lines, badass moments, and suggestive shots, but she’s also shortchanged. As Mystique becomes human early on when shot by the cure. Magneto coldly abandons her and leaves with his new Brotherhood.

X-Men: The Last Stand is very overcrowded, but it does make good use of those new additions. Kelsey Grammer was inspired casting as Beast. His blue fur and introduction reading a book upside down is ripped straight out of the comics. Beast currently works with the President, but it only made sense for him to be a longtime friend of the X-Men. Nightcrawler was left out with no explanation. Although it’s easy to figure out makeup was the reason. Ben Foster spreads his Angel wings by denying the cure, but he’s barely in the movie otherwise. Rounding out the original X-Men is Shawn Ashmore as Iceman. Anna Paquin is severely reduced after Rogue considers the cure. She’s also jealous of Bobby and Kitty. After two separate recast cameos, Kitty Pryde is finally played by established actress Ellen Page. Her walking through walls is surprisingly good in a fight. Daniel Cudmore is also on the team as Colossus, but he barely has any lines.

On the villain side is a surprisingly accurate Multiple Man and Juggernaut. Vinnie Jones brings a moderately faithful unstoppable Juggernaut to life. Except he’s a Mutant with no relation to Xavier. Professor X and Magento reunite with different ways of reaching the Phoenix possessed Jean. A fight breaks out between Wolverine, Storm, Juggernaut, and Callisto in Jean’s house. As Jean’s power grows, she shockingly disintegrates the Professor. Another unforgivable studio decision that enraged me at the time. A distraught Magento takes the Phoenix to join the Brotherhood, but she’s mostly stuck in the background until the movie figures out what to do with her. Logan attempts to get her back while evading an attacking spike Mutant. Then Magneto sends him away after giving an ironic speech about Mutant domination. The army switches to plastic cure weapons and Beast rejoins his fellow X-Men. Only then does Wolverine lead Storm, Beast, Iceman, Shadowcat, and Colossus in a last stand against Magneto. They take the X-Jet to Alcatraz and Magneto gets there in an impressively powerful sequence where he moves the Golden Gate Bridge.

The final battle is a fun mix of superpowers and fan pleasing moments that no other X-Men movie had. Makes me wish this was the time they replaced the black leather outfits. Wolverine snikts Mutants, Beast goes full beast, Storm brings the thunder, Iceman puts up ice walls, Colossus is unstoppable, and Kitty runs through everyone. When Magneto sends Juggernaut to kill the cure, Kitty runs in to stop him. Leading to a ridiculous (but hilarious) recreation of the meme, “I’m the Juggernaut B*tch!” They both run through walls, but Juggernaut is defeated by the boy’s close proximity. The other Mutants try to kill Worthington II whose caught by Angel at the last second. Storm defeats Callisto with a lightning blast. And I cheered the moment Iceman defeated Pyro by finally becoming ice. Another gasp came when Wolverine distracts Magneto long enough for Beast to cure him.

Leaving Phoenix as the remaining threat. She destroys everything around her and it’s clear Wolverine’s healing is all that can stop her. Very similar to Van Helsing, Jackman is forced to kill the woman he loves while shirtless and screaming. Making it the last unforgivable major X-Men death in the movie. In the end, Storm runs Xavier’s School, Beast becomes an ambassador, Rogue decides to cure herself, Wolverine sticks around, and Magneto’s powers seem to be returning. In an after credit scene, Xavier seems to have entered the body of one of Moira MacTaggert’s patients. X-Men: The Last Stand ends up being a mixed bag. The Mutant action is way more of a spectacle with greater comic accuracy. Fan favorite characters were equally welcome. Especially since the budget finally made it possible to cram everyone in. The biggest problems continue to be a noticeable shift in direction and killing off characters that were so much more in the comics. The conflicting Dark Phoenix Saga and idea of a cure suffer as a result. X-Men: The Last Stand both honors and dishonors its rich source material.

6. X-Men The Last Stand

The Brotherhood of Mutants

Preceded by: X2 & X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Weapon X

X2 was the best Marvel sequel made at the time and it still holds up as one of the best in the X-franchise. X-Men proved modern superhero movies could be successful and other Marvel adaptations proved they were here to stay. So 20th Century Fox greenlit X2 immediately. Rather than go with a mostly original story, X2 incorporates two separate X-Men storylines into its plot. Return to Weapon X is a storyline dealing with the shadowy organization that made Wolverine. God Loves, Man Kills is a storyline that features human villain William Stryker and his war on Mutants. Both storylines perfectly blend together to make a sequel that’s bigger, deeper, and more action packed than its predecessor.

By 2003, I was a huge fan of Marvel superheroes. My knowledge of the X-Men grew after playing a video game and seeing them in a comic. I still wasn’t an expert, but I recognized characters a bit more. So I was just as excited to see X2 in theaters. There was definitely more superhero action to enjoy, but more suggestive scenes were uncomfortable to watch with my parents. Bryan Singer made the wise choice to fully develop established characters rather than overcrowd X2 with too many new Mutants. Giving Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike more opportunity to stand out…

3. X2 X-Men United

The X-Men

X2 has one of the best openings in any superhero movie. As Nightcrawler attacks the White House to the tune of Mozart’s Requiem. It’s a high energy introduction that makes perfect use of his teleportation. The bigger budget finally made it possible to use Nightcrawler, but Beast and the Danger Room were still too expensive. Angel, Gambit, and the Sentinels were left out for similar reasons. Although a human Dr. Hank McCoy can still be seen doing an interview on TV. The Danger Room set was built, but nothing was filmed on it. Alan Cumming was always the best choice to play Nightcrawler. He may not be wearing his signature red costume, but every other complex piece of his character is utilized. Just like the comics, Nightcrawler is a blue demonic looking German Mutant former member of the circus with a strong Catholic faith. His faith centers the movie, but it does limit his bamfing mostly to rescue. While his jokester personality is only hinted at. As is the possibility of him being Mystique’s son. Similar to Mystique, Cumming’s blue makeup was more extensive with the addition of angelic symbols.

X2 picks up right where X-Men left off. Logan is off searching for answers about his past at Alkali Lake. Since Hugh Jackman became a breakout star, he’s given a lot more opportunity to fully explore Wolverine. After winning an Oscar for Best Actress, Halle Berry was similarly given more screen time as Storm. Thankfully she drops her terrible attempt at an African accent. Storm’s weather controlling power has also gotten a lot better. Famke Janssen shows off more sides of Jean Grey. You can tell something went wrong after the Statue of Liberty. Leaving her unable to fully control her telekinesis. A field trip to a Museum gives Professor X an opportunity to show off his impressive ability to mentally freeze people around him. Patrick Stewart’s role is his biggest so far, as Charles Xavier is placed more in the action. Sadly James Marsden ends up being short changed. Cyclops gets a few good blasts in, but he’s left out of almost everything.

Leaving more room for the teenage X-Men. Anna Paquin better rounds out Rogue with a more confident comic accurate appearance and greater difficulty dealing with her powers. After his small cameo in X-Men, Shawn Ashmore proves to be a cool choice for Iceman. He’s originally a founding member in the comics, but here he’s younger and dating Rogue. His ice powers translate well to the screen even if he doesn’t become ice or use an ice bridge. Pyro on the other hand, is completely different than the comics. A recast Aaron Stanford plays a young student Pyro who uses a lighter to manipulate fire. Of course he does become more villainous over the course of the movie. The attack on the White House leads to the X-Men being split up. Storm & Jean are sent to find Nightcrawler in Boston, Wolverine watches the kids in the X-Mansion, and Xavier & Cyclops question Magneto in prison. Ian McKellen is now able to develop the many sides of Magneto.

Since Magneto’s still in a specially designed plastic prison, William Stryker is really the main villain. A Mutant hating military scientist that only Brian Cox could play. Although this Stryker has many differences from the comics. Instead of being a religious extremist, Stryker seeks to both control and exterminate Mutants using military means. Another change was making Stryker the one who gave Wolverine his Adamantium. Kelly Hu is his deadly mostly silent brainwashed right hand woman Lady Deathstrike. Who’s vastly simplified compared to the comics. Stryker’s plan consists of gaining information from Magneto about Cerebro, kidnapping Mutants at Xavier’s School, and using his illusion creating Mutant son to manipulate Professor X into mentally destroying all the Mutants.

Meanwhile, Mystique still disguised as Senator Kelly, plans to break Magneto out of prison. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is even deadlier and more seductive this time. She briefly appears without makeup, disguising herself as a sexy bar girl. In one of the more uncomfortable scenes, Mystique seduces a guard and injects him with metal. Leading to an exceptional display of Magneto’s power during a prison escape. Wolverine is similarly given a badass display of his berserker rage when he claws his way through Stryker’s soldiers. We also see plenty of cameos from other Mutants. Kitty Pryde escapes by walking through walls, Siryn alerts her fellow students, and Colossus fights off some soldiers. He’s not Russian, but Daniel Cudmore has the perfect build for Colossus even in a brief appearance. Before he has time to find answers, Wolverine leaves with Rogue, Iceman, and Pyro to regroup with Storm & Jean in Boston. They go to Bobby’s house where he “comes out” to his parents about being a Mutant. Unfortunately, his jerk brother calls the cops and Pyro makes things worse by unleashing his power.

The X-Jet arrives and it leads to an intense confrontation with the airforce where Storm creates multiple tornados, Nightcrawler catches Rogue, and Jean fails to stop a missile. Luckily Magneto is there to catch them. Like the comics, Magneto forms a temporary alliance with the X-Men. While at the same time recruiting Pyro and having his own agenda that results in humans being targeted in Cerebro. After Mystique gracefully fights off Stryker’s soldiers, she manages to get the X-Men into the underground compound. Storm encourages Nightcrawler to save the children (one of them being Jubilee) and the Professor. Jean is forced to fight a manipulated Cyclops with disastrous results. But the best fight by far is between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike. After discovering his entire bloody origin, the claws come out. It’s an awesome, positively savage fight between clawed Mutants with increased healing factors. Deathstrike clearly has the upper hand and is only defeated when injected with Adamantium.

In the end, Stryker is chained up to the flooding compound and Wolverine turns his back on him. When the X-Jet won’t start up in time, Jean sacrifices herself to save everyone. Something that shocked me as a kid, before I learned more about the Dark Phoenix Saga. Finally, the X-Men make their position clear to the President by assuring him Mutants aren’t the enemy. X2 has a vast improvement of CGI, action, and drama. The black leather suits stay the same despite other Marvel movies showing it was possible to be comic book accurate. I can still accept it since it was difficult enough pulling off each character.

More character development also meant more romance. Rogue and Iceman represent the difficulty of being a power draining Mutant with raging hormones. He’s no Gambit, but their relationship feels right for the movie. Cyclops cares very deeply for Jean and so does Logan. Since Cyclops is mostly absent, Logan and Jean share more romantic moments. Even Mystique randomly wants to get with Wolverine. Although her shapeshifting scene in the tent was mostly a studio request. Every Mutant is given their own individual time to shine. Each of them perfectly displaying their distinct superpower. The only thing that’s missing is a Stan Lee cameo. X2: X-Men United goes to show what Marvel’s Mutants could be capable of.

4. X2 X-Men United

Nightcrawler attacks the White House

Preceded by: X-Men & Followed by: X-Men: The Last Stand

Mutation: It is the Key to Our Evolution

X-Men is the comic book movie that ushered in the modern success of superhero movies. Its importance to the genre should never be understated. X-Men is also the first genuinely good Marvel movie. The key was to take the source material seriously. A problem that plagued every other Marvel movie at the time. Before X-Men, all that was made was Howard the Duck and a bunch of low budget direct-to-video crap. Blade was a step in the right direction, but Marvel was still yet to make a big budget adaptation of one of their major properties. X-Men was created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby in 1963 during the Silver Age of comics. The unique team of Mutants was celebrated for dealing with issues like prejudice.

Although Stan Lee got things started, it’s really writers like Chris Claremont who diversified the X-Men into who they are today. The success of The Animated Series just made a movie the next logical step. Ironically, Lauren Shuler Donner (wife of Richard Donner) was the one who ended up producing. I just wish Marvel didn’t sell its rights to 20th Century Fox. Bryan Singer’s familiarity with themes of prejudice made him a natural choice for director. The beginning of 2000 was a perfect time to bring special effects heavy Marvel characters to life. Making X-Men the first superhero movie I ever saw. Since my parents were big comic book fans, my brother and I saw it in theaters. At 5 years old, I became an instant fan despite knowing nothing about the comics at the time. I didn’t really become an expert of X-Men comics until way later…

1. X-Men

The X-Men

X-Men centers on the conflict between Mutants and the rest of humanity. Just like in the comics, Mutants manifest special abilities at a young age. The magnitude of their power results in them being feared and hated. Although the X-Men belong with the rest of the Marvel universe, I have to admit it makes sense for them to live in a world where Mutants are the only superpowered individuals. Otherwise, X-Men is very faithful to the spirit of the comics. Bryan Singer was sure to balance superhero action with complex character drama. While at the same time giving it a sleek early 2000’s aesthetic. Meaning colorful yellow spandex is replaced by gritty black leather similar to The Matrix. Sure it might have been difficult to take the costumes seriously, but I’ll always prefer comic book accuracy over anything else. It was 2000, so fans just sort of accepted the leather as long as the characters were faithful.

The original Uncanny X-Men consisted of Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, and their founder Professor X. The movie instead creates its own continuity in order to utilize popular Mutants from their 1975 roster change. Now the team consists of Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. Rogue became the primary teenage recruit and other important X-Men like Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and Pyro only have cameos. While more expensive teammates like Beast or Nightcrawler had to be left out. The Brotherhood of Mutants was also changed to accommodate key villains. Archenemy Magneto now leads Mystique, Sabretooth, and Toad. All of whom have similar simplified appearances. Magneto only retains his trademark cape and helmet.

X-Men begins with a lesson on Mutation and a thrilling theme by Michael Kamen. Don’t expect to see the Marvel logo just yet. X-Men isn’t exactly a conventional origin story, but we do get a glimpse of how Magneto and Rogue manifested their powers. First with its miserable opening of Magneto discovering his ability to control metal in a concentration camp. Then in the “Not too distant future” where Rogue kissing a boy puts him in a coma. The primary conflict is between Senator Kelly’s attempt to register Mutants and Magneto’s plot to mutate the human race using a magnetically powered machine. Charles Xavier and his old friend Erik Lehnsherr represent the conflicting views of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Professor X fights for a peaceful solution while Magneto fights by any means necessary. Their complex relationship perfectly translates from the comics.

Sir Patrick Stewart was inspired casting for the powerful wheelchair bound telepath. Although Professor X wasn’t specifically British, Stewart was already bald and very commanding. Equally inspired was the casting of Sir Ian McKellen as the villainous Master of Magnetism. Successfully propelling McKellen’s career a year before Lord of the Rings. Rogue goes on the run to Canada where she encounters Wolverine. Who easily beats a guy in a cage fight. It’s a perfect introduction to an iconic fan favorite X-Men. Made even better when his Adamantium claws pop out for the first time. Hard to believe Hugh Jackman was just an unknown Australian theater guy at the time, but his subtle animalistic rage made him perfect for the role. His only minor flaw was being too tall and too handsome. Since Wolverine is supposed to be a short bruiser. Jackman isn’t jacked, but his hairstyle looks good in live-action.

Oscar winning actress Anna Paquin is great at playing a young Rogue longing for acceptance despite being unable to touch, but it’s not exactly accurate. Although she fits the movie’s theme, Rogue is supposed to be a powerful seductive Mutant. Fortunately she does become more confident by the end (and even gets her iconic white streak). Logan develops a strong bond with Rogue that brings out the best in him. While driving, they’re attacked by the vicious Sabretooth. Wolverine’s archenemy whose simplified to just being an intimidating animalistic henchmen played by wrestler Tyler Mane. The X-Men make their presence known by rescuing them both. The X-Mansion in New York is their base of operations. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is filled with gifted Mutant students. While the underground base is shiny and full of X’s. The Danger Room was too expensive to film, but Cerebro makes an impression. A confused Logan is mentally guided by Professor X who introduces him to the rest of the team.

James Marsden fits Cyclops’ visor well, but it’s really the only time he shows any leadership. His love triangle with Jean and rivalry with Wolverine are just as well represented. Halle Berry was everywhere at the time, so it only made sense that she was cast as Storm. Her hair was white, she kept her cape, but she wasn’t as dark as the African Mutant and what’s the deal with her accent? Famke Janssen was equally popular at the time. Her Jean Grey shows glimpses of telekinetic power, but there’s not enough screen time for her to show it. Magneto’s plan is revealed when Mystique reveals herself. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos definitely stands out as the blue shape shifting Mutant. Instead of wearing a white outfit, Mystique is naked with scales. Giving her a sexy seductive menace. Then there’s Toad. A disgusting minor villain that Ray Park manages to jazz up with his signature acrobatics. Magneto’s plan consists of testing his machine on Senator Kelly, turning him into a Mutant, but using Rogue’s power draining abilities to increase its power, and mutate World Leaders.

When Rogue is kidnaped, Magneto displays his full power by turning everyone’s guns against them. Mystique poisons Cerebro, subduing Xavier in the process. The climax consists of the X-Men taking their awesome X-Jet to fight the Brotherhood at the Statue of Liberty. Wolverine vs. a Wolverine disguised Mystique is a fun fight, but Toad getting the upper hand on Mutants as powerful as Jean Grey and Storm is just ridiculous. At least it brings out the full weather controlling might of Storm. Ruined by the hilariously bad joke about what happens to a Toad that’s struck by lightning. Wolverine manages to claw Mystique, but she gets away. Magneto magnetically imprisons the X-Men except for Wolverine who has a berserk confrontation with Sabertooth. Their fight atop Lady Liberty is legendary. After Wolverine finally says “Bub,” Cyclops finishes him off with his optic blast. Magneto is finally defeated when Wolverine slices through his machine and lets Rogue absorb his healing. Logan leaves to seek answers about his past, Rogue is accepted by the X-Men, Mystique secretly poses as Senator Kelly, and Charles & Erik discuss humanity in a perfectly symbolic game of chess.

X-Men was definitely ahead of its time as a Marvel superhero movie. The action makes uncanny use of every unique power. Even if the CGI is a bit dated at times. Although it takes its commentary on Mutant prejudice seriously, there are still plenty of funny moments. Along with a handful of strange moments. Namely Senator Kelly becoming a disturbing water Mutant. Look out for Stan Lee’s traditional cameo as a hot dog vendor. I’ll always have fond memories of seeing X-Men as a kid learning about superheroes for the first time. Sure X-Men seems dated with its inaccurate costumes and loose approach to certain characters, but its sincere action packed style is exactly what superhero movies needed at the time.

2. X-Men

X-Men in the X-Mansion

Followed by: X2

A Thousand Generations Live in You Now

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker or as it’s officially designated, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker is the messy conclusion to what is now known as the Skywalker saga. Ending the sequel trilogy and hopefully ending Disney’s barrage of constant Star Wars movies for a long time. After The Last Jedi let me down and Solo left me unenthusiastic, I just didn’t know if I could still feel excitement for the final “Episode” anymore. Then the trailer dropped along with the title reveal and I was a screaming fan again. Promotional material leaned heavily into nostalgia with familiar music and unexpected character reveals. There was also the promise of The Rise of Skywalker being an epic conclusion.

What audiences hoped would be a thrilling Star Wars opus, ending up being the most objectively bad Star Wars movie ever made. Why is it I was more excited for the season finale of The Mandalorian then the finale of the movies that made it possible? The sequel trilogy was doomed the moment George Lucas sold its rights to Disney. They didn’t see a beloved personal franchise, they saw a corporate money making assignment. The primary focus of The Rise of Skywalker was to make everyone happy. So already respected director of The Force Awakens J. J. Abrams came back to essentially retcon past mistakes and give fans all the fanservice they wanted. Resulting in a disjointed trilogy with an unclear identity that almost single handedly ruins the entire saga. SPOILER ALERT! (you’re gonna need it)…

32. The Rise of Skywalker

Rey vs. Kylo Ren

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…, Lucasfilm Ltd., Star Wars, John Williams’ theme, Episode roman numeral, subtitle, and space opening crawl are all shown for the final time. At least until Episode X, XI, & XII come out. Before Disney does that, I had to savor the in theater experience. You can tell The Rise of Skywalker is gonna be rough from the very first sentence. With the extremely vague “The dead speak,” Emperor Palpatine is back with no build up whatsoever. General Leia sends Resistance fighters to investigate the broadcast from beyond the grave while Rey continues her Jedi training. We open on the newly dubbed Supreme Leader Kylo Ren slaughtering random aliens on an unknown planet in an attempt to find Palpatine’s location. He finds the ridiculously named Sith wayfinder which leads him to the spooky Sith planet Exegol. Emperor Palpatine has always been the true villain of Star Wars, but The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi had zero indication he’d appear. But his dark presence still gives me chills. Palpatine directly quotes Revenge of the Sith by saying the Dark side is unnatural and it’s all the explanation we get.

Snoke was just his puppet and Darth Vader’s voice is what lead Ben to the Dark side. His “genius” plan is a Final Order of superlaser equipped Star Destroyers hidden beneath the planet. Complete with red Sith Troopers. Remember that Palpatine wants Rey dead as well. Rey is now ridiculously overpowered and being trained by Leia. Who finally gets a chance to show off her knowledge of the Force. By having Rey run an obstacle course. Meanwhile in space, Poe Dameron and Finn take the Millenium Falcon to receive intel from an unknown spy about Palpatine’s whereabouts. They evade an armada of TIE fighters by performing a move that’s never been done before. Lightspeed skipping through a bunch of random planets. Once the Resistance reconvene, Rey learns about the Sith wayfinder from a convenient journal page Luke left behind. After 2 whole movies, Rey, Finn, and Poe finally become the sequel trilogies main trio. A trio that constantly bickers and has no reason to be together. C-3PO, Chewbacca, and BB-8 accompany them as well. Leaving R2-D2, Maz Kanata, Leia, Rose, and the rest of the Resistance behind.

The Rise of Skywalker then becomes a rushed scavenger hunt to planets we barely get to known. They first arrive on Pasaana (the 6th freakin’ desert planet). During a festival, Rey longs for a last name. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren rebuilds his helmet and brings in the Knights of Ren. Another one of those Force bonds reveals Rey’s whereabouts. A masked stranger intervenes, revealing himself to be none other than Lando Calrissian. Now the circle of familiar faces is complete. He points them in the direction of a Sith dagger that they find while evading Stormtroopers that fly now. Then they sink in a convenient patch of quicksand. Finn tries to tell Rey something, but it’s never brought up again. They end up underground where a giant snake lives. Except it’s a poor injured creature that Rey just so happens to know how to Force heal, because who cares at this point. 3PO finally gets something to do by reading the Sith dagger, but his inability to read the forbidden language means visiting a whole other planet. But not before Rey confronts Kylo by cutting through his ship. Chewie is taken on a First Order transport that Rey stops mid-takeoff with Kylo holding on as well. Until Rey destroys it with Force lightning in a shocking twist of events. I gasped, but I was counting the minutes before Chewie turned up alive.

With the Falcon stolen, they take one belonging to the dead Jedi hunter. BB-8 is even given his own bland sidekick D-0. 3PO’s translation is handled in the snowy mountain city of Kijimi. It’s there we meet a brand new character named Zorii Bliss. A masked warrior and Poe’s old flame who reveals he used to be a spice runner. Not that any of that matters. A cute little merchandising opportunity named Babu Frik reveals 3PO’s Sith translation will wipe his memory. It should be a poignant moment, but these characters are the furthest thing from 3PO’s friends. The wayfinders coordinates are revealed and Rey senses Chewie’s survival. They mount a rescue that takes out a ton of Stormtroopers on Kylo’s Star Destroyer. Finn & Poe are captured, but General Hux reveals himself to be the spy. Before that has time to sink in, he’s immediately killed and replaced by the more threatening Allegiant General Pryde. Even in separate locations, Rey and Kylo manage to have a lightsaber duel. Vader’s helmet gives away her location as Kylo intends to reveal the rest of Rey’s story. It turns out Rey is so overpowered because she’s the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. An unexpectedly expected twist that reinterprets Rey’s parents being nobodies and leaves too many questions unanswered.

In the most convoluted way possible, the Sith dagger has to line up with the wreckage of the second Death Star on the ocean moon Kef Bir. Thus revealing the location of the wayfinder. But not before we meet another character we have no time to care about. Jannah is a former Stormtrooper like Finn who might be Lando’s daughter I guess. Rey goes in alone where she’s confronted by an out of nowhere vision of herself as a Sith. Complete with highly impractical hinged double-edge lightsaber. Kylo destroys the only reason we’ve been going on this quest and the 2 engage in a lightsaber duel. I didn’t think it was possible, but their moderately paced back and forth duel is boring. It eventually ends when Leia reaches out to her son and very unceremoniously dies because of it. When Kylo is fatally stabbed, Rey heals him. I can’t say I was expecting Han Solo to appear, but his heart to heart talk is what brings back Ben Solo. A distraught Rey exiles herself on Anch-To, intending to destroy everything. That’s when a much softer Luke appears as a Force ghost to catch his lightsaber. He recounts Leia’s Jedi training, gives Rey her lightsaber, and lifts his X-Wing out of the ocean.

The climax (that liberally borrows from Endgame) is split between the Resistance making a final stand against the Final Order fleet and Rey confronting her grandfather. The ship battle consists of space horses and a last minute army of Rebels across the galaxy. Palpatine does a complete 180 by saying he wants Rey to strike him down so that he can live again. A blaster wielding Ben comes to her rescue and Rey gives him Luke’s lightsaber with (you guessed it) another random Force power. Ben kills the Knights of Ren like they never mattered and he stands with Rey against the Emperor. Only to reveal another bit of Force nonsense about them being something called a dyad. Their energy rejuvenates Palpatine long enough to electrify the Resistance. That’s when Rey hears the familiar voices of past Jedi giving her encouragement. The combined power of 2 lightsabers destroys Palpatine with his own lightning. Rey dies, but Ben returns the favor by healing her. They also share a random kiss before he suddenly dies himself. Everyone across the galaxy celebrates and Rey buries Luke & Leia’s lightsabers on Tatooine. Rey reveals her own yellow lightsaber and decides to adopt the name Rey Skywalker. Despite having absolutely no connection to the name. Then the Skywalker saga ends where it started. Gazing at a binary sunset…

31. The Rise of Skywalker

Rey and Chewie prepare to take off

The Rise of Skywalker is a lot like Return of the Jedi in terms of story structure. And a lot like every other Star Wars movie, because nostalgia is all they have left. There’s more emphasis on the Emperor, a Jedi confronting the Dark Side, a desperate final battle, and even Ewoks make a brief cameo. Like most directors hired by Disney, original director Colin Trevorrow quite sighting creative differences. Proving how flawed their different director each movie scheme was. Instead of finding someone new, J. J. Abrams returned. Since Rian Johnson threw away everything The Force Awakens set up, it’s no wonder Abrams practically ignores The Last Jedi. I didn’t like its total disregard for things fans love about Star Wars, but even I can admit the trilogy suffers because of it. I can’t imagine Trevorrow being an better. The Rise of Skywalker makes its fanservice clear in its title alone. Making Star Wars about the Skywalker family after all. As well as pandering to fans by giving them everything they want. Chewie gets a medal, Leia uses a lightsaber in a flashback, and prequels are acknowledged.

Like the previous films, Carrie Fisher was supposed to have a central role. Sadly, Fisher’s passing made it impossible for Leia to fully explore her potential as a Jedi. Instead of omitting her entirely, they made the unnatural decision to work around her past deleted scenes. You never believe she’s really there and her death is so abrupt that I still felt nothing. Mark Hamill shows up just to apologize for his out of character behavior and fulfill Luke Skywalker’s goal to lift an X-Wing. Harrison Ford brings his best to Han Solo, but it’s obvious he’s stopped caring. Billy Dee Williams was last to inevitably return as Lando. Williams has notably continued voicing Lando throughout the years, but his 36 year live-action reprisal is the longest in movie history. Of course Denis Lawson makes a cameo as Wedge Antilles too. No matter the era, Ian McDiarmid has always been menacing as Palpatine. I just wish his villainous plan, cheesy dialogue, or reason for living made some kind of sense. A clone of the Emperor was an idea in the comics, but the nauseating idea of Palpatine having children was not. Honestly the reveal feels more like fan fiction.

Although it does sort of save Rey for me if I know she’s related to an existing character. I never liked the idea of her being a random overpowered nobody to begin with. Unfortunately, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac aren’t a compelling trio and we still barely know any of their respective characters. Chewie has more emotion in his Wookie growls then they do when Leia dies. Rey essentially ruins the ending of Return of the Jedi by stealing Anakin’s professed redemption. What’s the point of Episode IVI if Rey just comes in and kills the Emperor all over again. Finn only exists now to scream “Rey!!!” and possibly be Force sensitive. Except any answer to that is never addressed. Poe is still just discount Han Solo without the authority. The only consistent character with a logical arc is Kylo Ren. Adam Driver is both ruthless and heroic. I expected him to redeem himself, but fighting with his father’s blaster and uncle’s lightsaber was an added bonus. I just wish his abrupt death didn’t make audiences laugh. I know Rey & Ben’s kiss had no build up, but after Finn & Rose, I’ll accept any romance they cobble together.

I’m glad Rose got reduced screen time à la Jar Jar Binks. Even though Kelly Marie Tran deserved better. Since The Last Jedi uneventfully killed characters with potential, Abrams barely acknowledges any of Johnson’s creations. For example, “Holdo maneuver” is now impossible. Unfortunately it also meant the creation of too many new last minute characters. Keri Russell hides her face as Zorii, newcomer Naomi Ackie’s Jannah was likely added for diversity, and do we seriously need another droid. Did rolling hair dryer D-0 serve any purpose? At least the only consistent presence across all 9 Episodes is C-3PO & R2-D2. Anthony Daniels never fails to be bring 3PO to life. Considering the decade, I expected some kind of LGBT moment. But the blink & you’ll miss it (easily edited) kiss between nameless lesbian extras was totally pointless. With the exception of Babu Frik, alien extras continue to be unmemorable. While the new planets go by so fast that none of them stand out.

The overall fan disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker (and the entire sequel trilogy), was enough to give the prequel trilogy a renewed appreciation. George Lucas was misguided in a lot of areas, but at least he delivered on a different, but familiar trilogy with a singular vision. The excitement of hearing familiar Jedi voices would have been 10 times better if they appeared physically. But hearing Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Expanded Universe Jedi Ahsoka Tano, Kanan Jarrus, Aayla Secura, Luminara Unduli, and Adi Gallia was just as satisfying. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker isn’t unwatchable, but it crams in more than any Star Wars movie should. I’ll just stick with the Star Wars saga that put an epic galaxy full of adventure and possibility before anything else. “May the Force be with you.”

Star_Wars_Rise_of_Skywalker_Reviews1

Rey and Kylo Ren destroy Darth Vader’s helmet

Preceded by: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

The Kessel Run

Solo: A Star Wars Story was doomed from the start. Were people seriously asking for a Han Solo origin movie? Well the idea was originally conceived by George Lucas as part of Star Wars: Underworld. Then it become a movie, but with Lucas selling the rights to Disney, it was them that developed it. For a studio that wants to downplay the prequels as much as possible, Disney really leaned into the idea of multiple anthology films for a while. As I said before, Star Wars is not Marvel. You can’t release a new Star Wars movie every year and expect people to maintain interest in the same old galaxy and type of characters over and over again. There are so many reasons why Solo ended up becoming the first Star Wars box-office failure.

Popular directing duo Phil Lord & Chris Miller were notably let go for creative differences. Leaving former George Lucas collaborator Ron Howard as their replacement. Fans still had a bad taste in their mouths left by The Last Jedi, so giving Solo a traditional May release was way too close. It didn’t help that a trailer hadn’t arrived until a mere 3 months before it hit theaters. Solo was the first Star Wars movie that I had no anticipation for before going to see it. Crowd reactions were scarce and no one seemed to care. Solo is far from bad, but it’s far from groundbreaking. Which is a major problem for something in the Star Wars universe. SPOILER ALERT! (I’ve run out of clever things to say)…

28. Solo

Han Solo and Chewbacca look around

Solo begins with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…,” but it makes the half-assed decision to have an opening text instead of an opening crawl. Which feels just as wrong as Rogue One omitting it entirely. Only it made me a lot more angry to see the title casually flying above a planet instead of in space. The fact that “A Star Wars Story” remains in tact is just as inconsistent. Solo can only be described as a space western. Making it the most tonally different of the live-action Star Wars movies. With Harrison Ford all but retired from the role, a young Han Solo needed to be cast. Ironically the same thing happened before with Young Indiana Jones. Alden Ehrenreich wasn’t a huge star, but he fits the dashing rogue well enough. His only problem is being too nice. This Han can say he’s a bad guy as much as he wants, but you can’t make him too unlikable. Since Corellian ships have been mentioned in the past, it only made sense for Han to have grown up on Corellia. A shipping planet ruled by a criminal underworld. A strange centipede creature named Lady Proxima offers shelter in return for loyalty. Except Han and his never before seen lady love Qi’ra plan to escape with never before mentioned Coaxium fuel.

Emilia Clarke is the third beautiful British brunette heroine in a row. Okay Disney, this is getting ridiculous. Now every live-action Star Wars movie is lead by a brunette. Han and Qi’ra grew up together and they plan to make it off the planet together. A landspeeder car chase ensues and they manage to evade capture. Until Imperial forces separate them. We then see the Imperial recruitment process for the first time. They actually use the “Imperial March” in their propaganda campaign. As Han signs up as a flight cadet, a random Imperial officer takes his lack of a family name a little too literally. That’s seriously why his name is Han Solo. But the unnecessary callbacks don’t stop there. Dice that were barely visible in A New Hope now have their own backstory. I had no clue what they meant when they were shown in The Last Jedi. Now they’re an important token of Han’s affection towards Qi’ra. 3 years later, Han washed out of the flight academy and ended up in the infantry on foggy planet Mimban. It’s there he meets a ragtag band of rogues. Haven’t seen that before. I wonder who’s gonna die first?

Since he’s in everything now, Woody Harrelson plays morally ambiguous smuggler turned mentor figure Tobias Beckett. Thandie Newton is his wife Val and Jon Favreau voices blue four armed monkey pilot who won’t shut up Rio Durant. They deny him access into their crew at first and Han is left in an underground prison for deserters. The beast who’s also stuck there turns out to be Chewbacca. Although there were several first meetings envisioned for Han & Chewie, meeting in a prison with Han speaking Wookie is now canon. They work together to return to Beckett’s crew and Han decides Chewie needs a nickname. While discussing their first mission, Chewie mentions a family on Kashyyyk, and Han gets his signature blaster. On Vandor-1 (yet another snow planet), the crew attempt to steal Coaxium in a nail biting train heist. The mission fails when mysterious masked Cloud Riders, lead by Enfys Nest, hijack the shipment. The rest of the crew obviously dies and Beckett is left to answer to a crime syndicate called Crimson Dawn. This particular syndicate is lead by Dryden Vos. Basically Paul Bettany with face scars and a light dagger. Either have a lightsaber or don’t, no more of this in between nonsense.

It’s there on Vos’ yacht that we see more mock cantina singers. Han happens to run into Qi’ra, who somehow became a top member of Crimson Dawn. In order to pay off their debt, Han, Chewie, Beckett, and Qi’ra are sent to steal unrefined Coaxium on the well known spice planet Kessel. But not before Qi’ra leads them to the perfect ship. Of course it had to be Lando Calrissian’s. Donald Glover perfectly recaptures Billy Dee Williams’ cool suave personality. He even mispronounces Han’s name just to retcon past mistakes. That doesn’t mean I’d rather be seeing his spin-off. Just as The Empire Strikes Back mentions, Han won the Millennium Falcon in a card game. Sabacc has existed in Star Wars for years. Their high stakes game is rigged in Lando’s favor. Then we’re introduced to another new character ruined by political correctness. Phoebe Waller-Bridge motion captures the third comic Disney droid sidekick. L3-37’s only traits are shouting about droid inequality and trying to make robosexuality a thing. C-3PO & R2-D2 she is not. I’m annoyed that they don’t even make an appearance. The Millennium Falcon is seen in a cleaner white & blue Republic state. They agree to work together in order to get the Coaxium.

Kessel is seen for the first time as L3 starts a droid revolt and Chewie frees Wookie prisoners. It’s the only time Anthony Daniels makes an appearance, except as a Wookie. L3 is obviously destroyed, but not before tarnishing the Falcon with her navigation system. It’s then we’re finally shown the legendary “Kessel run” in less than 12 parsecs. Showing it to be an overblown CGI space tunnel with a giant tentacle monster inside. The Falcon is damaged until it more closely resembles the older version. It’s there on Savareen that Han, Chewie, Beckett, and Qi’ra encounter Enfys. Who’s just a female leader of a band of Rebels. Beckett obviously double-crosses Han and everyone turns against each other. Qi’ra manages to kill Vos, but she stays behind so that Han can pursue Beckett. Since Han explicitly stated that he’s never seen an all-powerful Force, none of that is shown in his presence. Instead Qi’ra makes an unexpected call to former Sith Lord Maul. Again played by Ray Park, but voiced by Sam Witwer. Unless you’ve seen The Clone Wars or Rebels, his appearance will leave you with a bunch of questions. His sole purpose is to use the Force and present his lightsaber. Since Disney sucks at representing Force users.

Han then confirms that he does indeed shoot first, by killing Beckett. Han doesn’t join the Rebellion, but he does win a rematch game against Lando. With the Millenium Falcon in Han & Chewie’s possession, their next move is to meet a very important gangster on Tatooine. Too bad we’ll never see it. Since Solo can only be described as uninspired. The train heist and “Kessel run” are fun sequences we haven’t seen before, but they’re nothing special. Despite fans clearly wanting an Obi-Wan spin-off, Disney keeps on doing the same old blaster duels and space battles. It doesn’t help that everything is set in the original trilogy’s time frame. Ron Howard is a suitable replacement director, but his choice of dark barely visible lighting is awful. I’m also annoyed by the excessive amount of swearing. Star Wars is no stranger to occasional language, but it just never felt right to me. John Powell’s western themed soundtrack fits at least. With so many production problems and a total lack of interest, Solo proves some character backstories should be left to the imagination. “May the Force be with you.”

29. Solo

The Millennium Falcon

It’s Time for the Jedi to End

Star Wars: The Last Jedi or as it’s officially designated, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is the most unwatchable Star Wars movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve been dreading this review for so long due to its divisive nature. I’m very much on the dislike side, but I have no problem with people who found enjoyment where I couldn’t. Of course that wasn’t the case before the sequel came out. After Rogue One, all eyes were on the next “Episode.” The Force Awakens was safe and familiar, but it was time to see how the sequel trilogy could differentiate itself from what came before. The trailer was exciting and the title felt like a perfect fit. Critics were calling The Last Jedi a game changing nearly 3 hour epic journey.

I sat in the theater filled with anticipation until I slowly started to realize I didn’t like it. Officially ending my trust of professional movie critics. Many fans consider the prequels to be the thing that hurt Star Wars, but The Last Jedi is physically painful for me to watch more than once. At least I can still have fun with the prequels. With so many people involved in a blockbuster like this, you can lay the blame on anyone. I point the finger at producer Kathleen Kennedy, director Rian Johnson, and Disney. Kennedy for favoring an agenda over logical storytelling, Johnson for dumping on everything fans love about Star Wars, and Disney for clearly not having a plan mapped out. SPOILER ALERT! (and rant alert)…

25. The Last Jedi

Rey and Kylo Ren fight praetorian guards

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… following the Lucasfilm Ltd. logo and preceding the opening crawl are the only genuinely good parts of The Last Jedi. Okay it’s not that bad, but this was before I started to get mad. I could still maintain my excitement while listening to John Williams’ score. The rest of the soundtrack is once again by the numbers. The crawl is really just a recap of The Force Awakens. Since there’s no major time skip thanks to the ending. The Resistance’s next move is to evacuate their base when the First Order catches up to them. General Leia Organa sends a fleet of X-Wings and bombers to attack their Dreadnaught. They’re like Star Destroyers only less memorable. Poe Dameron & BB-8 are the first to make contact with First Order General Hux. The Last Jedi lost me the second it opened with a “Yo mama” joke. After rolling my eyes, the Resistance face the loss of their ships. Except for one bomber captained by a random female pilot who sacrifices herself by vertically dropping the remaining bombs. Yeah that’s not how gravity works. As the Resistance retreats, Finn wakes up from a ridiculous stasis pod asking about Rey.

The 2 year cliffhanger is finally addressed on Ahch-To. An ocean planet with a single island on it. The island is populated by both alien caretakers and Porgs. Bird penguin creatures that are obvious toy friendly marketing tools. Although everyone thought Porgs would be the worst part of the movie, they’re actually not bad. Rey hands Luke his lightsaber and I’ll never forgive what comes next. Luke callously tosses his father’s lightsaber over his shoulder as a cheap joke. The biggest insult for longtime fans such as myself. The greatest hero of the galaxy is reduced to an angry hermit who ran away from conflict. His X-Wing is submerged underwater, he goes fishing, and drinks blue alien breast milk in the cringiest way possible. It takes Chewbacca breaking down his door, visiting the Millennium Falcon, and R2-D2 replaying Princess Leia’s message (yes, I too have seen A New Hope) to encourage Luke to train Rey. Meanwhile in space, Kylo Ren physically speaks with Supreme Leader Snoke. Without a hologram obstructing his appearance, Snoke is revealed to be a large deformed humanoid dressed in a bizarrely flashy gold robe. After insulting Kylo, he has a tantrum that results in his pointless helmet being destroyed.

Back on the Resistance ship, Leia demotes Poe for being too reckless I guess. Then it’s revealed that the First Order were somehow able to track them in lightspeed. Something that’s never been established in Star Wars before. Kylo leads the charge and toys with the decision to kill his own mother. Until someone else does it for him. Resulting in the unceremonious death of Admiral Ackbar and presumed end of Leia. Only then do we finally get to see Leia use the Force. Which they had to ruin with her flying through space like Mary Poppins. Leia is then put out of commission for practically the entire movie. Leaving purple haired lady Vice Admiral Holdo in charge. For no reason whatsoever, she withholds information and talks down to Poe because he’s a flyboy. The Resistance slowly loses fuel (because that’s a thing now) and Holdo’s lack of a plan eventually leads to a mutiny. But not before a fleeing Finn meets the worst new character since Jar Jar Binks. Rose Tico is a maintenance worker who’s sisters with the deceased bomber. She’s enamored with Finn, but stuns him before finding a way to insert herself in the action. Poe, Finn, and Rose learn from Maz Kanata (who has a random action scene) that a codebreaker on Canto Bight can deactivate the First Order’s tracking device. Oh yeah, C-3PO is present as well.

In the most pointless series of events in The Last Jedi, Finn, Rose, and BB-8 travel to the out of place casino planet where we’re forced to hear about mistreated space horses and how horrible rich people are. They end up in a prison that happens to have another codebreaker named DJ. The entire trip amounts to abused stable children helping Finn & Rose free the poor space horses and destroying the casino in the process. Meanwhile, an overly cynical Luke gives Rey 3 lessons about the Force and how everything is the Jedi’s fault. Rey continues to be overpowered with barely any training. Yet another never before seen Force ability is introduced that connects Rey with Kylo. They learn they’re not so different and he’s also shown shirtless for no good reason. Rey is then drawn to a cave of endless mirrors revealing her parents to be… nobody. Later Rey learns the dark truth behind Ben’s past. That Luke thought about killing him when he swayed towards the Dark Side. Something Luke Skywalker would never do! It results in a staff duel followed by Rey’s departure.

Luke tries to burn down the Jedi Temple and Yoda’s Force ghost shows up for a lesson. It’s pleasing to see Yoda again, but why is he acting like crazy Yoda and since when is a Jedi able to control lightning. The action is still split 3 ways with DJ breaking the First Order’s code for Finn & Rose, Kylo taking Rey to Snoke’s throne room, and Leia waking up long enough to subdue Poe so that Holdo can finally reveal her plan. To take out the First Order fleet using lightspeed. Which is definitely not how lightspeed works. DJ turns out to be a traitor and Captain Phasma is revealed to still be alive. The former Stormtrooper duels with his former superior in a fight that once again ends with her disposal. Snoke Forces Rey into submission long enough for Kylo to turn against him. Snoke is ultimately wasted, but I can’t deny the impact of the moment. It leads to the only lightsaber related duel in the movie. Rey and Kylo teaming up to fight red kyber equipped praetorian guards. Only Kylo continues to push Rey to the Dark side. Her refusal splits Luke’s lightsaber in half.

After all of that, we still have a whole other battle to get to. On the snow, I mean salt planet of Crait. Where mock Walkers corner the Resistance and a Starkiller laser can fire at any moment. The only hope is to use old skimmer ships to attack. Finn attempts to fulfill his destiny through sacrifice, but Rose steals his moment and kisses him out of nowhere. It all seems hopeless until a freshly shaved Luke returns with a final farewell for his sister. Luke confronts Kylo in a lightsaber duel, but sike! Yet another random Force ability reveals Luke projected himself from Anch-To. Then Luke dies and I honestly felt nothing. The final payoff is nothing more than Rey moving rocks and the Resistance escaping. Hoping to restart the Rebellion. It all ends with a tacked on pre-credits scene revealing a stable boy to be Force sensitive…

26. The Last Jedi

Rey finds Luke Skywalker

The Last Jedi is a lot like The Empire Strikes Back in terms of story structure. Expect it’s inferior in every way. There’s villains striking back, ship troubles, a Jedi master training the hero on a remote planet, a prophetic vision, a desperate battle on a white planet with Walkers, and Master Yoda. Parts of Return of the Jedi occur with a Dark lord pitting the hero and villain against each other in a throne room. Despite the obvious similarities, The Last Jedi doesn’t understand what makes Star Wars special. Disney clearly didn’t think this trilogy through. They were so desperate to recapture the original trilogy that they thought different directors meant better movies. J. J. Abrams had ideas for the sequel, but Rian Johnson threw it all out to do his own thing. Kinda like what happened with George Lucas. Johnson has said multiple times that he prefers divisive filmmaking. That should have been a major redflag.

The Star Wars saga revels in tradition. So the lack of wilhelm screams, barely any screen wipes, a flashback, and no one saying “I have a bad feeling about this” is infuriating. As are the lack of answers for anything. Snoke is nobody, Rey’s parents are nobody, nothing matters. Subverting expectations isn’t clever, it’s lazy. Then there are other problems that Disney continues to make. I like a good space battle and blaster fight as much as the next fan, but it’s the only thing The Last Jedi seems to care about. I wanna see a lightsaber duel. Instead it’s just Rey and Kylo Ren fighting a group of disposable Royal guard knock offs. I’m so sick of weapons that aren’t lightsabers using kyber technology. Not to mention Luke and Rey fighting with sticks and Finn using a shocking weapon on Phasma. Other battles range from visually appealing, but average to completely illogical. People gasped when lightspeed was used as a weapon, but even if that did make sense, why has no one tried it before?

Johnson seems to think the Force is just magic. Communicating across distances and astral projection were only created for story purposes. The whole movie is one big car chase in space that lasts 2 hours & 32 minutes. Why did it need to be that long?  Far too much is packed in that leads nowhere. Since the codebreaker was a traitor, the entire Canto Bight sidequest was meaningless. No wonder it wasn’t featured in promotional material. Don’t get me started on the aliens and casino that’s barely different from our own. Plus the CGI is prequel quality. Practical effects were still a priority, but it’s once again questionable. I’m not surprised Yoda is a puppet, but it couldn’t look less believable. New planets are slightly more memorable. Except that Craite is an obvious stand in for Hoth. A soldier had to taste the ground just to confirm its salt. The red dust is a striking image, but The Last Jedi goes overboard with red.

Just like it goes overboard with humor. Star Wars is not Marvel for crying out loud. Quit undercutting every dramatic moment with jokes. So many bizarre moments were turned into memes. Luke drinking a space cow’s milk, Leia floating through space, and shirtless Kylo Ren don’t belong in Star Wars. Just like a forced agenda doesn’t belong. Remember when Star Wars used to be a timeless tale of good vs. evil. I don’t want to think about identity politics, why war profiteering is bad, or see Chewie refusing to eat meat because Porgs make sad faces. I just want a fun escape from the real world. Nearly every character suffers due to more effort being put into that. Even Mark Hamill agrees Luke Skywalker would never give up and become a cynical coward. I should have cried when Luke died gazing at a binary sunset, but I just couldn’t feel for this version of Luke. I couldn’t stop crying the moment I discovered Carrie Fisher passed away. So it’s a real shame she was sidelined and unable to complete her journey as Leia. At least I’ll always treasure her moment with Hamill.

Daisy Ridley continues to give Rey no defining personality and barely any reason to care about someone as powerful as her. Oscar Isaac has more to do as Poe, but he’s continually pushed around. The same happens to Domhnall Gleeson. Turning Hux into a sniveling joke. John Boyega is robbed of any chance to do something meaningful with Finn. Without Phasma and without sacrifice, his arc is over. Andy Serkis is equally robbed with Snoke’s casual death. Anthony Daniels has nothing to do as 3PO, R2 is sidelined, and BB-8 is an action droid. All the new characters feel wrong. DJ is lame and I don’t get Benicio del Toro’s weird stutter. I couldn’t care less about Laura Dern as Vice Admiral purple hair. And I truly feel sorry for Kelly Marie Tran being connected to a pointless character like Rose. Adam Driver is the only one who manages to keep Kylo Ren interesting, but even he tries to kill the past. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why The Last Jedi was scored so high or why it made so much money. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi felt like an insult to a franchise I’ve loved since I was a child. “May the Force be with you.”

27. The Last Jedi

Chewie flies with a Porg

Preceded by: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens & Followed by: Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

Save the Rebellion, Save the Dream

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was made for the sole purpose of fixing one of the biggest plot holes in Star Wars history. After Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars, they made it clear that it would be one of their major franchises. That didn’t fully sink in until after Rogue One entered serious production. Since Star Wars is an overarching saga, I had no idea what to think about anthology films. It was strange seeing 2 Star Wars movies in a row, but Disney was sure to make Rogue One as different as possible. Without losing important hallmarks of the franchise. Notable changes include a lack of opening crawl, no John Williams score, cutting without wacky screen wipes, and a lapse of time. Of course “A Star Wars Story” was tacked on so as to not confuse casual moviegoers.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens became the third highest grossing movie of all time, so Rogue One was worthy of anticipation before the next “Episode” came out. Rogue One is the only Star Wars movie based on an opening crawl. Events are meant to match up to the one’s preceding A New Hope. The idea to answer the question of how the Death Star plans were stolen is as old as the unproduced TV series Star Wars: Underworld. It was revived as Rogue One and Godzilla director Gareth Edwards was chosen to direct. Despite having no involvement whatsoever, George Lucas gave the film his seal of approval. SPOILER ALERT! (for non-fans mostly)…

23. Rogue One

Jyn and company prepare to steal the Death Star plans

Rogue One thankfully begins with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” after the Lucasfilm Ltd. logo, but it just feels hollow without an opening crawl. Instead all the backstory is shown in the first ever extended flashback sequence in Star Wars. Frequent villainous actor Mads Mikkelsen plays former Imperial scientist Galen Erso. The Empire tracks him down to the vacant planet Lah’mu. Equally frequent villainous actor Ben Mendelsohn is the never before seen Imperial weapons developer Commander Krennic. Erso is forcefully taken to work on the Death Star. His wife is killed, but his daughter Jyn escapes. Leaving Saw Gerrera to raise her. Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie to directly reference something from the extended universe. Saw Gerrera actually first appeared in The Clone Wars as a young war rebel who suffered a great lose in the name of victory. Now he’s a radicalized Rebel extremist. Forest Whitaker is a terrific actor, but I’m not sure what he’s trying to do. Gerrera’s horse voice, cybernetic replacements, and extreme methods all seem very random.

15 years later, Jyn Erso grows into Felicity Jones. The second beautiful British brunette heroine in a row. Jyn is rebellious, wants to find her father, and that’s about all we learn about her. Meanwhile on several less than memorable planets in the galaxy, defected Empire cargo pilot Bodhi Rook gets a hologram from Galen, Rebel spy Cassian Andor learns that the completion of the Death Star is imminent, and he rescues Jyn with his large reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO. He may be just another droid with a big personality, but Alan Tudyk is genuinely funny as K-2SO. Thankfully Rogue One isn’t reliant on humor. Jyn is brought to the Rebel Alliance on Yavin 4. Despite Disney wanting to distance themselves from the prequels as much as possible, I was pleased to see Jimmy Smits and Genevieve O’Reilly reprise their Revenge of the Sith roles as Bail Organa and Mon Mothma respectively. The interesting thing about O’Reilly is that she only appeared in a deleted scene beforehand. Mothma instructs Jyn to join the Rebellion in order to find her father. Unaware Cassian is there to take him out. Diego Luna plays Cassian as a morally ambiguous Han Solo clone.

Jyn, Cassian, and K2 are sent to find Gerrera on Jedha (yet another desert planet). They discover a city where kyber crystals are being mined for the Death Star. Hardcore Star Wars fans will recognize them as the primary power source for lightsabers. While there, the Rebels make allies with heavy blaster mercenary Baze Malbus and blind maybe Jedi Guardian of the Whills Chirrut Îmwe. They’re cool looking characters, but I can’t remember their names to save my life. When they meet Bodhi in Gerrera’s prison, Galen’s message reveals he’s built a hidden weakness into the Death Star. So the Death Star being easily blown up by a simple blast from a torpedo isn’t just serious oversight. Meanwhile on the Death Star, Krennic discusses a test fire with a familiar face. Obviously it doesn’t make sense for Grand Moff Tarkin not to appear, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this. The late Peter Cushing is brought back from the dead with unsettling CGI reconstruction. By using old movies as reference. This is the only time I’d say that technology goes too far. A low power shot is fired at Jeddah where the Rebels escape, but Gerrara is killed in the process.

Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, and Luna all make for an ethnically diverse band of mostly one dimensional characters. With the message lost, Jyn and the Rebels instead locate Galen on the foggy planet Eadu. It doesn’t amount to much since Galen is killed by Rebel bombers after revealing his betrayal to Krennic. Krennic is then sent to Darth Vader’s castle on a planet that’s obviously Mustafar. Vader’s presence is indescribable, but you can hear the age in James Earl Jones’ voice. Plus the random scene is only included to show off Vader’s signature Force choking. Rogue One really picks up when Jyn and the rest of her Rebel team go rogue by hijacking an Imperial ship. Calling themselves “Rogue One,” they finally attempt to steal the plans from the Empire. They can be found on the beach planet Scarif in an Imperial compound’s crane operated archives. Jyn, Cassian, and K2 disguise themselves as Imperials in order to find the plans. Chirrut, Baze, and Bodhi hold off AT-AT’s and attempt to send out a transmission.

The Rebels learn about their plan and everyone takes an X-Wing for back up. It just wouldn’t be Star Wars without a cameo from R2-D2 and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. Rebels fans will also recognize the name Hera Syndulla. It’s not as noticable, but important Rebel pilots are also digitally recreated. While the Mon Calamari are key to the battle as well. Since this is a prequel, don’t expect any of the new rogues to survive. The plans are successfully transmitted, but each hero dies one by one until the Death Star takes out everyone else. Leading to the greatest Star Wars scene Disney has ever produced. Darth Vader ignites his lightsaber and takes out a hallway full of terrified Rebels. That scene alone proves Vader will always be the most intimidating force in the galaxy and is well worth the price of admission. Now that requires a PG-13 rating. The lead up to A New Hope matches perfectly when Captain Antilles hands the plans over to a hopeful Princess Leia. Her CGI recreation is so brief that you barely notice if it’s convincing or not.

Rogue One went to greater lengths in recreating the original trilogy. Blasters, Stormtrooper armor, and specific costumes were even used from the original film. The callbacks are occasionally on the nose (like showing the cantina thugs), but it’s just nice to see familiar aliens and droids for a change. Michael Giacchino is no John Williams, but his score at least captures its war theme. Although Gareth Edwards was a fine director, it’s obvious from the trailers that a lot was re-shot. Specifically the omission of the cheesy line “I rebel.” Luckily Disney maintained the dark tone of a story where everyone dies. I just wish the rest the movie wasn’t so drab and colorless. Rogue One takes time to get to the action, but when it does, you’ll find it’s a surprisingly entertaining way to build on the Star Wars mythos. “May the Force be with you.”

24. Rogue One

Darth Vader confronts Krennic

Chewie, We’re Home

Star Wars: The Force Awakens or as it’s officially designated, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is the safe reintroduction to the Star Wars saga. With 10 years between Revenge of the Sith and a 32 year chronological gap between Return of the Jedi, I honestly never thought I’d see more Star Wars movies. I was perfectly happy with Star Wars: The Clone Wars, video games, comics, toys, LEGO, and anything else that was still being made at the time. All the hardcore Star Wars fans know George Lucas envisioned Stars Wars as a 9 Episode saga. The original trilogy first, the prequel trilogy second, and the sequel trilogy third. Lucas’ advancing age and unwillingness to get things started lead to his fateful decision to sell his creation to the corporate overlords at Disney.

I was stunned by the decision, but I can’t deny my overwhelming excitement. I didn’t even question the choice of director J. J. Abrams too much. The Force Awakens title felt like Star Wars, the trailer filled me with nostalgia, yet offered something new, and every tiny bit of information was worth analysis. Although we considered going with our parents, Star Wars was always something my brother and I were more dedicated to. Seeing Star Wars on the big screen again, surrounded by like minded fans, was indescribable. I was so overwhelmed by nostalgia and possibility that I didn’t let the full impact of the movie sink in until way later. As the least controversial installment in the sequel trilogy, The Force Awakens is technically the best. SPOILER ALERT! (now might be the time)…

20. The Force Awakens

Rey and Finn flee

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… continues to give me chills everytime I read it. Lack of the 20th Century Fox theme is disappointing, but no one wants to see the Disney logo before Star Wars. Now it’s just an anti-climactic silent Lucasfilm Ltd. logo. I couldn’t resist humming along to John Williams’ nostalgic theme, although none of his new stuff stands out. The opening crawl makes it clear that Luke Skywalker won’t be around for most of the movie. With only unanswered questions left about why he’s the last Jedi. 32 years after Return of the Jedi, the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance have been replaced by knock off versions calling themselves the First Order and Resistance. The Republic has been rebuilt, but the First Order seeks to destroy it. Since she’s now older than a Princess, General Leia Organa leads the Resistance in a search for her brother.

The Force Awakens opens on the desert planet Jakku. It’s like Tatooine, but different somehow. Ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron is there to receive a clue about Luke’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, the First Order is not far behind. Stormtroopers are once again the army that’s used. They just have sleeker armor and are slightly better shots. Their commander and Dark side Force user is Kylo Ren. The most intriguing new character made for Star Wars at the time. His black helmet and modulated voice gave off Darth Vader vibes and his three-pronged lightsaber (however impractical) was awesome to see. Although I couldn’t help but question his new Force abilities. Specifically stopping blaster fire midair, unlocking someone’s mind with the Force, and making someone faint with it. Before Poe’s capture, he gives the map to BB-8. Basically a droid shaped like an orange beach ball. All the devastation left on Jakku becomes too much for one Stormtrooper in particular. FN-2187 is sent away by chrome armored female Stormtrooper Captain Phasma. Another interesting new character. Only FN-2187 escapes with Poe in exchange for safe passage out of the First Order. The resulting TIE fighter chase earns him the name Finn.

Finn is mostly just the comic relief, but his rejection of the First Order at least gives him more of a personal journey. He essentially joins the Resistance the moment Poe is presumed dead. We’re then introduced to Rey. A lowly staff wielding scavenger who earns food trading parts she finds from decaying Star Destroyers. We learn everything we need to know about her in her silent introduction. She’s a dreamer longing for a way off her planet. Rey’s life changes the second she saves BB-8. Even more when she bumps into Finn. Leading the First Order directly to them. Take one guess which ship they end up escaping on. That’s right, an abandoned Millennium Falcon. Rey is apparently an expert pilot who gets them out of a ground level encounter with TIE fighters. While making repairs to the ship, Finn entrusts BB-8 with his secret and the Falcon is boarded by none other than Han Solo and Chewbacca. It’s like Han and Chewie never left. Han is grumpier, but time has opened his eyes to bigger things in the galaxy. He essentially takes on the role of Ben Kenobi by becoming a mentor figure. Trying his best to explain the Force and how Luke exiled himself after failing to train a new generation of Jedi.

Everything comes to a sudden halt when Han negotiates with rival gangs and monstrous Rathtars attack. After that pointless detour, Han takes everyone to meet a Resistance ally on Takodana (a forest planet I guess). Meanwhile, Kylo Ren learns of Solo’s involvement by speaking with Supreme Leader Snoke. A villainous Dark lord with limitless possibilities who reveals Kylo to be the son of Han & Leia. On Takodana, Han, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 go to see Maz Kanata in her castle cantina. Maz is an ancient alien with a mysterious connection to the Force. Rey discovers that she somehow found Luke’s lightsaber after it fell in The Empire Strikes Back. It gives Rey a vision that leaves open so many unanswered questions about her past and Force sensitivity. Before anything is answered, the First Order strikes back at the New Republic by taking out 4 planets at once. The blast came from Starkiller Base. Basically the Death Star if it was attached to planet Hoth. Kylo Ren and an army of Stormtroopers arrive on Takodana and in the confusion, Rey is captured, Finn uses the lightsaber, and Poe & the Resistance fly in to help.

That’s when Leia and Han finally reunite after spending time apart. Of course they’re interrupted by C-3PO. Meanwhile at their base on D’Qar, R2-D2 is powered down in Luke’s absence. You know the drill, the Resistance discuss a plan to destroy Starkiller Base. The plan consists of Han, Chewie, and Finn avoiding detection with lightspeed and planting explosives directly on the Base. Finn is more interested in saving Rey who manages to easily escape on her own. After resisting an unmasked Kylo Ren and casually using a Jedi mind trick on a suave Stormtrooper. Everyone reunites, but Han attempts to reason with his son. Revealing his name to be Ben Solo. Despite the lack of personal connection Han or Leia had with Obi-Wan. In their heart stopping exchange, Ben chooses the Dark side. The death of a famous character is emotional, but I saw it coming from a mile away. So I didn’t manage to cry, but you can feel the pain in Chewie’s growls.

Finn and Rey escape as X-Wing pilots take out more of Starkiller Base. While running through the snow, Kylo Ren stands between them. Finn’s lack of Force sensitivity cuts their lightsaber duel short. Although I didn’t know what it meant at the time, I found Rey dramatically summoning Luke’s lightsaber to be very cheerworthy. Their duel is intense and just fast enough to feel exciting. It ends when Ren is scarred and the crumbling planet separates them before exploding into a sun. Back at the Base, Han is mourned, Finn is unconscious, R2 wakes up in time to complete Luke’s map, and Leia sends Rey, R2, and Chewie off on the Falcon to find him. Rey finds Luke on Ahch-To where she presents him with his father’s lightsaber. Ending with the first ever Star Wars cliffhanger…

ep7_ia_175875_j

Han Solo and Chewbacca return to the Millennium Falcon

The Force Awakens is a lot like A New Hope in terms of story structure. And by “a lot like,” I mean it’s practically a remake. There’s a longing orphan living on a desert planet, a dictatorial regime of Stormtroopers lead by a helmet wearing villain cloaked in black, a McGuffin hidden in a droid sought after by resisting heroes, a cantina, a planet destroying super weapon, the death of a mentor (followed by a big “No!”), and so much more. Among other things, lack of originality is really the biggest problem with The Force Awakens. But it was practically a studio requirement. Even when fans criticized his decisions, George Lucas remained passionate about Star Wars. I won’t act like all his ideas for the sequel trilogy sounded great, but Disney throwing them out completely was a low blow. Plus there were perfectly good extended universe stories that could have been used. Disney and newly appointed Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy essentially hijacked Lucas’ franchise to make it however they wanted. Which meant playing it safe with a throwback that would please fans. As well as releasing it around the toy friendly Christmas season instead of the traditional May.

I was never a huge Trekkie, but I have to admit J. J. Abrams leaving Star Trek for Star Wars felt like a betrayal. But I didn’t question Abrams too much because I knew he was in a difficult position. How to awaken a dormant franchise, please fans, do something new, and not repeat the mistakes of the prequels? I’d say he did well enough to earn the biggest box-office gross of the saga. So The Force Awakens refers to both the Force and Star Wars. Several decisions were made to recapture the feel of the original trilogy. The Force Awakens was shot on film, practical effects were a priority, and CGI was minimized. I understand the decision, but not every practical effect looks convincing. Why does something from the 80’s look better than something created now? You can see all the hard work that was put into the aliens and droids, but some just feel off. I’m not crazy about the lack of familiar Star Wars aliens. Outside of key characters like Chewie, Admiral Ackbar, or Nien Nunb. Easily the best practical effect is BB-8. I’m still trying to figure out how his sphere technology works.

CGI mostly went to fighter battles, lightsabers, and sparse motion capture characters. Notably Supreme Leader Snoke and Maz Kanata. Planets were almost entirely shot on location. Sure it’s not artificial, but some settings feel less memorable because of it. Outside of Jakku, how many other new planets can you name off the top of your head? Another franchise tradition was the use of newcomers and A-listers. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford were all in vastly different places before agreeing to return. Hamill preferred voice acting, Fisher limited herself mostly to cameos, and Ford continued making blockbusters. Hamil and Fisher had to lose weight, but Ford was still in perfect shape. Out of the 3, Han Solo has the biggest role and it’s like he never left the Millennium Falcon. I know Fisher grew more snarky over the years, but she brings a weary optimism to an older Leia. I’ll always treasure the brief moments she spends with Ford. Of course the sheer lack of Luke Skywalker in promotional material was suspicious. It only gave more anticipation to Hamill’s eventual appearance. I can’t say I was expecting long hair & a Jedi beard.

Although they were relegated to minor roles, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker were welcomed legacy actors too. C-3PO & R2-D2 are the heart of Star Wars afterall. New faces included British actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. Both of whom appeared in small independent work beforehand. Their casting was meant to add more diversity, but the idea of a black Stormtrooper or one carrying a lightsaber wasn’t exactly new. Boyega is fine as Finn, but his over reliance of semi-comedic banter doesn’t feel natural. Neither does his friendship with Rey or Poe. In fact, most character interactions feel artificial. Plus the humor feels forced at times. Ridley does an admirable job as Rey, but it’s difficult to judge her personality when she’s perfect at everything. At least her hairstyle & staff wielding gave her potential as an icon. Poe Dameron is basically a Han Solo clone, except he could have been killed off before they realized Oscar Isaac had more potential. It’s ironic that the roles are reversed with his Ex_Machina co-star Domhnall Gleeson. General Hux is a ruthless Nazi-esque Commander, but the Stormtrooper salute is a bit on the nose.

Adam Driver is the best new actor playing the best new character. It’s obvious from his name that Kylo Ren isn’t a Sith, but his idealization of Darth Vader is clear. In fact most of The Force Awakens is characters appreciating the original trilogy. The Knights of Ren, a brand new crossguard lightsaber, his fun to imitate voice, and moral complexity were all key to making Kylo Ren an intriguing new character. Gwendoline Christie had just as much potential as Captain Phasma, but she’s thrown out just like Boba Fett. The biggest new A-listers were Andy Serkis and Lupita Nyong’o. Serkis maintains his motion capture credibility as the unusually mysterious deformed villain Snoke. While Nyong’o is practically unrecognizable as Maz Kanata. Since Star Wars was a big deal for everyone, a multitude of big name actors make cameos. Abrams favorites Simon Pegg and Dominic Monaghan, 007 himself Daniel Craig as a Stormtrooper, and even Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd. The Force Awakens continued to favor a PG-13 rating. Only it feels more forced when characters randomly swear and blood is shown indiscriminately. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens succeeds with nostalgia, but that’ll only get Disney so far. “May the Force be with you.”

22. The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren confronts Rey and Finn

Preceded by: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi & Followed by: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

My Jedi Training didn’t Prepare Me for this

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is basically one long TV pilot, but it was the first piece of new Star Wars media in 3 years. I didn’t really know how to respond to it when my brother first brought it to my attention. Yet it made sense after the main saga was complete. That way the open ended Clones Wars could finally be addressed. Not that they haven’t been address just as well in a 2003 micro-series. Dave Filoni developed the 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars as multiple pilots for a TV series on Cartoon Network, but George Lucas said it was too good not to be a movie. The stiff sort of ugly animation was his idea. Since my brother and I were bigger fans, this was the first Star Wars movie we saw by ourselves. Although it seemed unnecessary, I was just happy to see Star Wars on the big screen again. Even after it became the worst reviewed theatrical film of the franchise.

The Clone Wars is set in the first year after Attack of the Clones. There’s something wrong about seeing a Warner Bros. logo before Lucasfilm, but “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” remains in tact. John Williams doesn’t perform the score, but an alternate version is heard. Only the opening crawl is replaced by narration. Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Clone Troopers deal with Separatist droid armies on the planet Christophsis. They’re interrupted by the arrival of orange Togruta Padawan Ahsoka Tano. A newly created apprentice for Anakin. Her reckless behavior wins him over and they’re informed by Yoda that Jabba the Hutt’s son Rotta has been kidnapped. His safe return could spell a victory for the Republic. As Obi-Wan negotiates a treaty, Anakin & Ahsoka find the stinky little slug on Teth. Only to end up in a trap laid by Count Dooku and his previously created bald Dathomiri apprentice Asajj Ventress. She uses her 2 lightsabers in a duel with Obi-Wan. Anakin, Ahsoka, and R2-D2 escape with the Hutt on the Twilight.

Meanwhile, Padmé discovers the truth about the kidnapping on Coruscant with C-3PO’s help. It all ends with a somber return to Tatooine where Anakin has a rematch with Dooku. The Jedi are successful, but Darth Sidious stills reigns in the shadows. The animation gives the same kind of fluid pace to the action. James Arnold Taylor is an excellent Obi-Wan, but I still find Matt Lanter to sound too macho as Anakin. The armored Jedi look is a good carry over from the original Clone Wars. Ahsoka is kind of bratty, but Ashley Eckstein was in good hands with her. Plus Dee Bradley Baker giving more personality to Clones like Captain Rex is a highlight. The only returning actors are Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, and of course Anthony Daniels. A movie wasn’t the best call, but it didn’t stop Star Wars: The Clone Wars from becoming an awesome TV series. “May the Force be with you.”

19. The Clone Wars

Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet Ahsoka Tano

Unlimited Power!

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is the best Star Wars movie of the prequel trilogy by default. But that doesn’t mean Revenge of the Sith didn’t do a much better job than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. There were a bit less fan complaints about Attack of the Clones, but it was still the first Star Wars movie that didn’t gross #1 in its year. Revenge of the Sith was meant to finally bridge the gap between prequels and the original trilogy. So there was no way fans would miss out no matter how many times they were let down. 2005 came around and despite minor persistent flaws, it was the first prequel to be genuinely good. I completed the Star Wars saga before I turned 10 years old.

At 9 years old, I was finally at an age where I was just nerdy enough to have my own theories. It seemed like the third installment would never come, but my anticipation grew the moment I saw the trailer. Of course major reveals couldn’t be hidden forever and the fate of key characters were already in the open. My dad took my brother and I to see Revenge of the Sith and it was everything us hardcore Star Wars fans could ask for. The story is something that George Lucas had envisioned since before Star Wars was even released. Hints of the plot could be found in all 3 original trilogy films, but it was only refined after the first 2 prequels. All of Lucas’ passion for the franchise ended up making this the last movie he ever directed. SPOILER ALERT! (despite the obvious outcome)…

16. Revenge of the Sith

Anakin Skywalker vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… is shown for the final time under the 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd. banners. We had to savor it, since we all thought this was the last time we’d ever see it. The opening crawl makes it clear from the first word that war is the true driving force this time around. Except that practically the entire Clone War is left to the imagination. As Revenge of the Sith takes place when the Clone Wars are nearing the end. Count Dooku has been head of the Separatist movement the entire time. Along with a never before seen droid leader called General Grievous. An intimidating cybernetically enhanced alien war general complete with cape, a collection of stolen Jedi lightsabers, and a rather nasty cough. Grievous is yet another uniquely memorable antagonist in the prequels. He’s responsible for kidnapping high ranking Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Who’s too important not to finally be given a bigger role.

Thanks to a tie-in video game, I already knew what the opening shot would be. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker take their fighters to rescue Palpatine. Obi-Wan is now a Jedi Master and Anakin is now a Jedi Knight. They’ve now grown to see themselves as brothers. An extremely chaotic space battle above Coruscant ensues where the Jedi and Clones shoot through numerous droid enemies. Including the new ship tampering Buzz droids. R4 isn’t so lucky, but R2-D2 takes care of them. Obi-Wan and Anakin end up inside Grievous’ ship and cut through all the Battle droids, Destroyer droids, and Super Battle droids in their way. R2 even gets his own unexpected action scene where he manages to destroy 2 squeaky voiced Super Battle droids. Palpatine is reached, but Count Dooku initiates a much needed rematch. Obi-Wan and Anakin manage to hold their own this time, but Obi-Wan is still taken out of the battle. In a violent twist of fate, Anakin cuts off Dooku’s hands and makes another push towards the Dark side by decapitating him. It was at the urgency of Palpatine. Who’s been like a mentor to Anakin since he was a youngling.

Several over-the-top occurrences take place before everyone comes face to face with Grievous. After escaping once more, the Jedi are left to fight his Magnaguards and crash land the massive ship on their own. Apart from Dooku’s demise, the first act is mostly insignificant, but it is a fun mission before the heavier stuff starts. That’s when Anakin’s secret wife Padmé reveals that she’s pregnant. Something that puts her out of commission for most of the movie. While joyful at first, it soon becomes a nightmare when visions of Padmé’s death start to occur. It’s at that time Palpatine makes a calculated decision to appoint Anakin to the Jedi Council. Only their refusal to make him master causes a rift in Anakin’s trust of the Jedi. More so when he’s chosen to spy on the suspiciously powerful Senate leader. The final straw is Yoda telling Anakin to let go of attachment and Palpatine alluding to a chance to save Padmé. By telling a poignant legend about powerful Sith lord Darth Plagueis. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan is tasked with ending the Clone Wars after they find Grievous hiding on Utapau and Yoda is tasked with assisting the Wookies on Kashyyyk.

Utapau is basically a giant hole in a planet where Clones fight off the remaining droid armies. Obi-Wan stands alone in true hero fashion. That’s when General Grievous pulls out a grand total of four blue & green lightsabers. Their duel is brief, but it doesn’t end there. They take their separate modes of transportation and Obi-Wan finally has him cornered. In a clever bit of irony, it’s a clumsy random blaster that ends Grievous for good. When Palpatine reveals the obvious truth to Anakin, Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, and 2 other Jedi try to take him by force. Palpatine ignites his gold lightsaber and goes full Sith lord, managing to kill 3 Jedi with ease. All except the highly skilled Windu, who gains an upper hand in the duel. Anakin pleads for his life and Palpatine unleashes the full power of his Force lightning. Resulting in an explanation for his deformed appearance. I can’t begin to describe the initial shock of Anakin cutting off Windu’s arm, Palpatine striking him with lightning, and Windu falling to his death. It all happens so fast that you’re unable to process what comes next.

Darth Sidious is now unstoppable and Anakin swears himself over to the Dark side. Finally giving birth to Darth Vader. That’s when Palpatine executes Order 66. A massive purge of the Jedi. Ki-Adi-Mundi, Aayla Secura, Plo Koon (and the audience) are all taken off guard when every Clone Trooper turns on them. Vader leads a charge against the Jedi Temple where he commits his most unforgivable act. The off-screen annihilation of all the Jedi younglings. Easily the darkest moment in Star Wars history. Vader is then sent to the volcanic planet Mustafar to end the Separatists as well. The only Jedi to come out unscathed are Obi-Wan and Yoda. Obi-Wan survives a blast from Clone Commander Cody and Yoda escapes Kashyyyk with General Tarfful and Chewbacca’s help. Very important Senator Bail Organa survives as well. The three of them team up and Obi-Wan and Yoda discover the dark truth on Coruscant. As Palpatine declares a new Galactic Empire, Padmé is left in the dark. Until Obi-Wan reveals everything. That sends her, a gold plated C-3PO, and a stowed away Obi-Wan off to Mustafar.

Padmé’s reunion with Anakin ends in a heartbreaking tragedy when her refusal to rule with him results in her being Force choked. Leading to the most monumental lightsaber duel of all time. Brothers turned enemies, Obi-Wan and Anakin fight in an extended duel consisting of Force pushes, even strikes, and lava destroying everything around them. All the while Yoda faces Darth Sidious in a power filled duel that literally topples the Senate. At the end of their duel, Anakin makes a grave mistake that costs him his arm & legs. As Obi-Wan makes an impassioned speech about his fallen apprentice, Anakin is burned alive. Every piece of the A New Hope puzzle is put into place. Obi-Wan picks up Anakin’s lightsaber, Padmé dies giving birth to Luke & Leia, Darth Vader dons a black breathing suit, Yoda exiles himself, R2 & 3PO join a new Rebellian, the Death Star is under construction, Leia is raised by Bail Organa on Alderaan, and Obi-Wan takes Luke to be raised by his Uncle Owen & Aunt Beru on Tatooine…

17. Revenge of the Sith

Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. General Grievous

Revenge of the Sith is a lot like Return of the Jedi in terms of story structure. There’s a disconnected first act, a greater emphasis on Palpatine, and Darth Vader losing a limb against someone close to him. Plus the title Revenge of the Sith directly references the alternate Revenge of the Jedi title. Only here it makes more sense since the Sith definitely seek revenge. The biggest difference between third installments is the tone shift. Return of the Jedi was lighter than what came before and Revenge of the Sith is darker than what came before. It was so intense that it earned Star Wars its first ever PG-13 rating. Despite seeing many PG-13 movies before I was 9, I was still shocked by some of it. Hundreds of Jedi die brutal deaths and Anakin’s body is engulfed in flames. I thought it would be as simple as falling in a volcano, but I wasn’t prepared for how graphic it ended up being. George Lucas had been eluding to Darth Vader’s transformation since 1977. That’s why Obi-Wan’s monologue is used in the teaser trailer. Just to show how closely it matches up. We experience the Clone Wars, the friendship of Obi-Wan and Anakin, Anakin as a clever star pilot, and how Vader was seduced by the Dark side of the Force. Remember that the details are all from a certain point of view.

Revenge of the Sith is easily the most excessive Star Wars movie. Appropriate since Lucas had many questions to answer and likely wanted to go out with a bang. There are 5 separate lightsaber duels, at least 9 different planets, several distinct lightsabers, and 2 CGI armies. Not to mention the most CGI usage in the saga. Mustafa alone was one big time consuming special effect. Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen trained extensively to bring the duel to life. Fast paced, well choreographed lightsaber duels are the one thing that everyone agrees are better in the prequels. All the flips and Force movement makes the original trilogy look slower by comparison. Not to say the duel doesn’t go on a long time. It’s still difficult for Christensen not to come across as whiny, but he’s perfectly terrifying anytime he doesn’t speak. Anakin Skywalker now has longer hair & a scar. Moments when he’s cloaked as Vader with yellow eyes are genuinely threatening. McGregor has now fully transformed into Alec Guinness. From his voice to his short hair & beard. Obi-Wan Kenobi is the true hero of the prequels who’s always been a highlight.

Regrettably, Natalie Portman doesn’t have much to do as Padmé, but it’s understandable. Giving birth to Luke & Leia and her somber funeral are key moments. Although it brings up questions about how Leia was able to remember her as an infant. Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker manage to become the only actors to appear in all 6 movies. R2-D2 is given lots of action, but C-3PO mostly sits things out. Samuel L. Jackson once again gives Mace Windu a badass lightsaber moment and it’s enough before his death. Same with Christopher Lee’s brief appearance as Count Dooku. General Grievous was sort of meant as a precursor to Darth Vader. Matthew Wood’s modulated voice, Grievous’ mysterious scorpion-like droid body, and ability to split his arms into 4 make him a notably excessive threat. Although Temuera Morrison doesn’t give the Clones much personality, their transition into Stormtroopers is still very unfortunate.

After his forgettable appearance in Attack of the Clones, Jimmy Smits is given a chance to shine as Bail Organa. Yet we still could have gotten more in a deleted scene that features Bail and Mon Mothma negotiating a Rebel Alliance. Other original trilogy characters were tossed around, but we ended with Peter Mayhew returning as Chewie because why not. There was also a deleted scene of Yoda landing on Dagobah, but Lucas wisely kept the focus on the Skywalker family. Not that Yoda isn’t given several chances to demonstrate his power. Ranging from less jumpy lightsaber duels and an even match with the Dark lord of the Sith. I like how the less emphasis on politics can be summed up in the Senate being used as a battlefield. The only real problem with Revenge of the Sith is the melodramatic dialogue. Ewan McGregor brings emotion to Obi-Wan’s heartbreaking speech, but even he can’t say the word “younglings” with a straight face. Plus Frank Oz’ backwards Yoda talk has never been perfect in the prequels. Anakin and Padmé’s sweet nothings are still off and Anakin’s descent is loaded with artificial Shakespearean declarations. Anakin turning on Padmé is still upsetting though.

You can always count on John Williams to infuse a pivotal duel like this with an epic theme. “Battle of the Heroes” is on par with “Duel of the Fate.” The true scene stealer in Revenge of the Sith is Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. He’s having the time of his life hamming it up as the Sith lord. Laughing maniacally, unleashing “UNLIMITED POWER!,” and all his deliciously evil actions are just so much fun to watch. Of course I get chills the moment Anakin officially becomes Darth Vader by taking his first breath. Hayden Christensen fits the suit well and James Earl Jones is a welcomed voice. It’s a dramatic moment ruined by Vader’s loud “Noooooo!” Once you have a complete saga, the prequels end up forming a coherent whole. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith proves George Lucas may have dropped the ball in the past, but Jar Jar is reduced, the action is focused, and a binary sunset is the perfect conclusion. “May the Force be with you.”

18. Revenge of the Sith

Darth Vader is born

Preceded by: Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones & Followed by: Star Wars: Episode VI – A New Hope