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Friday, May 5, 2017

Ranking the Seven

I respect the ranking in this article - The only correct ranking of Star Wars films - as Matthew Walther's arguments are sound and his reasoning without flaws.  This is his list:

7. Attack of the Clones
6. Revenge of the Sith
5. The Phantom Menace
4. The Force Awakens
3. Return of the Jedi
2. The Empire Strikes Back
1. A New Hope

As with anything in life, others may have a different opinion and that's all this is - my opinion.

First, I would bump "The Force Awakens" higher than "The Empire Strikes Back" as "Empire" is not my favorite in the original trilogy. In "The Force Awakens," I liked seeing Han Solo's integration into the plot and the way the off-screen turmoil had shaken Han & Leia's relationship to the core. I was also okay with the character arc of Han Solo, though I wonder who is going to translate what Chewbacca says in "The Last Jedi" and whatever the third film (Episode IX) is called - assuming Chewbacca survives to the 9th film.

What I didn't like about "The Empire Strikes Back" was the lack of screen time for the core heroes - Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO - being together. From the first time I saw "A New Hope," the scenes on the Death Star were my favorite - especially the mysterious trash compactor scene, which no one gives enough credit to as far as its value in developing Leia's character and exposing Solo's true motivation. When I saw "The Empire Strikes Back," I was seeing those heroes being separated from pretty much the beginning of the movie. Sure, they're together as Luke is recovering, but soon thereafter, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and C-3PO go one way and Luke & R2-D2 go another. I did like the introduction of Lando as another layer to the Han Solo character and look forward to seeing more of their history in the forthcoming Han Solo solo movie.

That's why I liked "Return of the Jedi" better - having the core heroes together in two action sequences - first at the beginning at Jabba's Palace and then at the end on the forest moon of Endor - is what spoke to me. It gives "Return of the Jedi" the ever so slight edge. I also have to mention two other parts of "Return of the Jedi" that have resonated more and more over time. The first is the infamous quote "It's a trap!" which any married man thinks when his wife asks for his opinion. Second, I really like Obi-Wan Kenobi's careful explanation to Luke about Darth Vader's origin. Yes, "The Empire Strikes Back" had the epic cliffhanger (is Darth Vader really Luke's father?!?) and seeing it specifically addressed even after Yoda avoids the question is something I liked. I especially like Kenobi's phrase "from a certain point of view" and equally like Luke's skeptical reaction to that reasoning.

As for the prequel trilogy, I actually liked "Attack of the Clones" for its backstory about the Clone Wars, which were mysteriously mentioned in Leia's hologram message in Obi-Wan's house and then never really addressed again in "The Empire Strikes Back" or "Return of the Jedi." I also liked the way Kenobi's fight with Grievous explains his disdain for blasters with his "so uncivilized" comment. The opening action sequence with the chasing of the bounty hunter through the city is mesmerizing. Listening carefully, I can pick out the seeds of disarray between Obi-Wan & Anakin as Obi-Wan is trying to instruct Anakin, whose ears are not able to listen to his teacher.

For the same type of backstory explanation, I liked "Revenge of the Sith" for both its magnificent opening battle and for allowing me to see the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. It wasn't about wanting to see the physical act of Anakin being burned - it was to see the motivation behind his actions and why he had a falling out (to put it bluntly) with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

By default, then, "The Phantom Menace" falls to number 7. I thought the opening scenes jumped from one to the next too  quickly. They're on a ship to negotiate, then their ship is destroyed, then they're on a planet, they meet a new alien, then they're going through the planet core and seeing one fish eating another, then they're escaping the planet, and rather conveniently end up on Tattooine, where they just happen to run into a young Anakin Skywalker. What I really did like was this concept that was introduced where an entire planet is a single city - that was something brand-new. Since it was never mentioned in the original trilogy, it served as a new layer to the Star Wars universe.

Thus, to summarize, this is my order for the 7 films is as follows:

7. The Phantom Menace
6. Attack of the Clones
5. Revenge of the Sith
4. The Empire Strikes Back
3. The Force Awakens
2. Return of the Jedi
1. A New Hope
And because my job is to communicate ideas, here's a nice table showing Walther's ranking and my ranking of the 7 films:
RankMatthew Walther's Rankprhmusic's Rank
7Attack of the ClonesThe Phantom Menace
6Revenge of the SithAttack of the Clones
5The Phantom MenaceRevenge of the Sith
4The Force AwakensThe Empire Strikes Back
3Return of the JediThe Force Awakens
2The Empire Strikes BackReturn of the Jedi
1A New HopeA New Hope
Honestly, though, ranking the movies in the Star Wars franchise is a lot like ranking Metallica albums - for as much as I would like to say that only "[my favorite album]" can be number 1, there are likely equally passionate fans who would disagree. As long as people are open to new ideas and perspectives, we can all live in harmony.

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