Star-Wars-Empire-Strikes-Backa

In commemoration of this year’s world Star Wars Day, I’ve decided to pick out the 20 Greatest Star Wars Moments (in my opinion, of course). Star Wars is and has been so much a part of my life that it was hard to narrow this post down to just twenty.

There’s no other film franchise I can think of where it would be so difficult to narrow the list down to twenty; I’m actually not sure there’s another franchise where I could build the list up to twenty in the first place.

No film franchise, and possibly no entity in popular culture, has made itself so embedded a part of our collective cultural landscape and collective consciousness than the Star Wars films have. From first seeing Empire Strikes Back as seven-year-old to purchasing my first Return of the Jedi action figure (for record the Princess Leia ‘Boush’ figure was my first Star Wars toy – 1985; purchased for seventeen pence), to reading Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, through to seeing the trailer for The Phantom Menace and going mad with anticipation, and having the hairs on my skin stand on edge when I watched Revenge of the Sith, the House That Lucas Built has been a vital part of my life for literally as long as I can remember.

This is a list selected by someone who’s been in love with Star Wars for two and a half decades. It’s also the kind of list that is better selected after a suitable amount of time has passed and the films have had some time to age.

It is now nine years since the last proper Star Wars film and enough time has passed since the point where anti-prequel hatred was viral (though there’s still lots of anti-prequel hatred); so I imagine I can put forward an honest list of this type without attracting too many scathing remarks from those crowding the prequel-hate bandwagon.

And regardless what becomes of the Star Wars legacy in the near or distant future, regardless of what happens next year, nothing can take away from the memory and the lasting effect of the franchise’s past glories and special moments. Not all Star Wars fans are going to agree with this list, of course; and there are some obvious moments I’ve chosen not to include, such as the “I am your father” revelation from Empire Strikes Back, which doesn’t quite have the same power in 2014 as it did to its original audience in 1980. But lists of this type are much more interestingwhen they’re subjective and honest anyway, and not pandering to common opinion in some attempt to somehow be ’empirical’…

20. Obi Wan Versus Jango Fett (Attack of the Clones)

Just a fun, really cool and mostly lightsaberless showdown in the rain between Obi-Wan (played Ewan by I’m-having-the-time-of-my-life Magreggor) and Daddy Fett, while little Boba watches on and picks up tips. Having said that, Jango might’ve wished he’d lost here to Obi-Wan instead of the indignity of having his head lopped off by Windu later on. Obi-Wan was the best thing about Episode II and this simple one-on-one fight sequence was much better than most of the much bigger-scaled action later on in the Geonosis arena sequences.

 

 MPW-32638

19. Boonta Eve Podrace (The Phantom Menace)

Part  Ben Hur chariot race, part Wacky Races and part Formula 1, the Podrace sequence from Episode I, though slated by some, remains simply an astounding action sequence. It lacks the emotional undercurrent of, say, the Ben Hur chariot race, but entirely compensates for this with its pure speed and panache, and the awesomeness of Boy Anakin’s podracer. There are some annoying elements, yes – but when the overall action is at this level all can surely be forgiven. What it could’ve done with, however, was a sexy Penelope Pitstop girl-racer to provide another element to the fun; but even so, given all the gripes with the pacing of The Phantom Menace, the podrace was a perfect, awesome centre-piece to the movie.

 

18. The Holy Trinity Reunited (Return of the Jedi)

Yes, the simple appearance of the ghosts of Obi Wan, Yoda and Anakin at the end of ROTJ; they appear to Luke to let him know that Anakin has been redeemed and that the Force has been put somewhat back into balance. A very necessary moment that gives the Star Wars saga it’s final spiritual, life-affirming quality, the same way the Risen Jesus does in the Gospels.

Furthermore, I’m going to stick my neck out here – and I know LOTS of Star Wars fans will strongly disagree with this next statement – but I PREFER the Hayden Christensenn version as seen in the revised-revised ROTJ edition. I’m sorry – troll me if you like, but I’ve said it. To me it firmly and finally connects the two trilogies beautifully. Speaking as someone who properly, genuinely liked Revenge of the Sith a lot, that direct visual connection works very nicely for me, even if the logic doesn’t necessarily hold together. My childhood self (ROTJ) and my adult self (ROTS) were both happy. “Purists” (though how you can be a “purist” and hate George Lucas, I’m not sure I understand) can gripe all they want.

 

17. Luke Arrives at Jabba’s Palace (Return of the Jedi)

Nothing spectacular happens here. But once you’ve seen films like Return of the Jedi for the thirtieth time it’s no longer the big moments or action sequences that you notice, but the smaller, more subtle elements. In this instance, it’s that giant door squealing open and Luke’s silhouette appearing. It’s the moment you know shit’s going to kick off; the hero has arrived to rescue his friends.

throne2

But it’s more than that – it’s the difference in Luke Skywalker; when last we’d seen him it was as the young man who was caught utterly off-balance on Cloud City, who couldn’t handle his father, who wasn’t ready to face that situation (just as Yoda and Obi-Wan had tried to warn him), and who ended up hanging on for dear life and needing to be rescued by his friends despite having gone there to rescue them.

But now he’s different – now he strides into the enemy stronghold with calmness and serenity, puts two Gamorrean guards out cold with barely any effort, and waltzes into Jabba’s chamber to calmly demand what he’s come for. We see immediately that he is a changed man; he’s a Jedi now and with a Jedi demeanour to match.

The fully-realised Luke Skywalker has arrived; it truly is the ‘Return of the Jedi’.

Would’ve been even better had the deleted scene of Luke constructing his new lightsaber been included at the beginning; but even so it works pretty damn well anyway.

16. Chewbacca Trying to Re-Assemble 3P0 (Empire Strikes Back)

I’m sure it’s not a moment that immediately comes to mind for most people, but there’s always been something poignant to me about this very short moment with Chewie trying to reassemble the smashed protocol droid. Some of the most endearing moments in Star Wars don’t involve the ‘human’ characters at all; it was always extraordinary in the Original Trilogy how much emotion could be evoked from non-talking characters like Chewbacca or Artoo Deetoo. In this particular scene the Wookie’s distress at the situation – not Threepio’s pitiful state, but what’s going on with Han and what’s going to happen to Luke – comes across really strongly and I feel for him just as much watching it now as I did when I was seven years old.

I think there was always something about the Wookie’s inability to articulate his emotions that made his emotions translate even more powerfully; just this primal, guttural expression of sadness that expresses more than any dialogue could. And, of course, Threepio’s chararacteristically prissy complaining offsets the sadness with humour at the same time, which is why the character dynamics of the Original Trilogy worked so well. You cannot overestimate how important little character moments like this are to the overall film.

 

vlcsnap-2011-06-11-04h04m38s51a

15. The Birth of the Twins (Revenge of the Sith)

Inter-cut with the Frankenstein images of Anakin Skywalker being transformed against his will into Darth Vader, a distraught Padme gives birth to Luke and Leia as the prequel trilogy reaches the dramatic point it had been building to for three movies and a stressed-out Obi-Wan and Yoda look on, wondering what this means for the galaxy and the Force. It’s Padme’s final words that really give this moment its lasting poignancy; “I know there is still good in him,” the once proud and dutiful woman who has now given up on life tells Obi-Wan.

Having seen what Anakin has become and having (as far as he knows) destroyed the boy he’d tried to train, Obi-Wan will never put stock in Padme’s assertion that she has spoken out of enduring love for the Anakin that once was.

But it is Luke who will inherit this belief from a mother he’s never met – a belief and conviction in the goodness that is still within the father he has never known.

Once again it’s the key moments in Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi that really close the circle of the Star Wars saga. For all the gripes that are rightly or wrongly leveled at the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith put so much right and really did join the two trilogies together, not just with plot details but with emotional resonance and unifying themes.

 

vlcsnap-2013-06-20-04h53m56s50

14. Duel of the Fates (The Phantom Menace)

I’m personally very bored of the Phantom Menace hate; I was bored of it years ago actually and I’m stunned that it’s still going on so much fifteen years later. Anyone who can claim not to have been impressed by the Darth Maul duel against Kenobi and Qui-Gon is, one suspects, simply pretending. Darth Maul, I maintain, is one of the best characters in the franchise, and this high-octane fight sequence, aided along by the awesome Duel of the Fates theme, has to be one of the top five or so action sequences in the saga. The real genius part for me is when the fight is reduced to just Obi-Wan and Maul and all the music is gone – it just becomes a silent duel in which the tension is amplified, the ‘music’ becoming the hum of the lightsabers themselves. Brilliant.

 

13. Opening Sequence, Battle Over Coruscant, Killing of Count Dooku (Revenge of the Sith)

I know this is more than one scene technically, but it all flows so smoothly together that it’s difficult to separate it into its constituent elements. The best opening to a SW movie we’ve had and one of the best openings to a film I’ve ever seen, diving headlong into the high-octane space battle in all its rich detail and multitudinous elements. From the very first shot of the two Jedi Fighters joining the immense battle over Coruscant, to the sight of Obi Wan and Anakin soaring into the Invisible Hand, lightsabers quickly drawn, to the goosebump-inducing duel with Count Dooku and his beheading by a Dark-Side-bound Anakin Skywalker; just brilliant.

The sheer amount going on in those first five minutes or so in every frame and in every part of every shot is staggering; you can be watching it for the tenth time and still noticing cool details you missed before. Culminating in the duel with Count Dooku, we see the film’s first indication of Anakin’s journey towards the Dark Side as Dooku tries to manipulate and provoke the young Skywalker without realising that it’s going to result in his own death.

vlcsnap-2011-04-22-03h25m57s158

The shot of Anakin beheading Christopher Lee’s character with two lightsabers is one of the most memorable visuals in the entire saga – and one of the darkest.

What also really works well is the connection yet again between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi – the parallel between Palpatine sitting and watching Anakin and Dooku fighting to the death and Palpatine sitting and watching years later as Anakin and Luke have the same fight; in both cases Palpatine is watching his old apprentice fighting his soon-to-be apprentice.

This scene honestly gave me goosebumps when I first saw it in the cinema; it’s all the more fascinating because you already knew what Anakin’s fate was. But also what’s brilliant about this whole ROTS opening sequence is that you’ve got everything in it; the action, the space battle, the humour and banter, the manipulation and scheming, the darkness, even the Artoo-Deetoo moments, all within the first 10-15 minutes. And again the level of detail: even in the interior scene when the focus is on Anakin, Obi-Wan and Dooku, we’re still seeing so much detail in the exterior battle sequences visible from the windows.

And whoever had the idea of doing the battle in the upper atmosphere of the planet instead of out in space was a genius.


12. The Millenium Falcon Asteroid Chase (Empire Strikes Back)

As much as I also liked the asteroid sequence in Episode II, whenever I see the original Millenium Falcon  asteroid scene I immediately am transported back to my six-year-old self seeing it for the first time on TV and being blown away by it. It’s only flaw is that it should go on a little longer. The whole post-Hoth Falcon-fleeing-Star Destroyers sequence is awesome anyway, but it’s the asteroid belt that kicks arse the most, as Han Solo ducks, dodges and swerves to avoid the giant floating rocks, while the pursuing Tie-Fighters one by one meet their explosive ends. Han Solo at his coolest. And the music – it goes without saying by now – is utterly awesome.

 

11. Yoda Takes Out the Imperial Guards (Revenge of the Sith)
As far as I’m concerned Yoda’s two most kick-arse moments both occur in Revenge of the Sith; the first is when he beheads the two Clone Troopers on Kashyyyk and the second is this brief moment when he casually deals with the Emperor’s two guards, knocking them out like a bunch of pussies.

Priceless. Forget the duel with Dooku in Episode II, Yoda’s at his coolest with little moments of understated superiority like this.

The actual drawn-out showdown with Palpatine that ensues after this is actually one of the few things I didn’t like about Episode III; I dislike that sequence for the exact reasons why I do like this tiny preceding moment so much – whereas the bigger fight sequence has too much dialogue (some of it very bad) and is too overblown and drawn-out, this wordless, brief moment of Yoda taking out the two guards exhibits the tiny Jedi Master’s power and coolness much more effectively.

As an aside, I actually think the Yoda/Palpatine fight would’ve been much better with Yoda having no dialogue at all; it would’ve been much more powerful if Yoda just let Sideous do all the talking and just focused himself on silently, wordlessly and angrily trying to carry out his mission and destroy the Sith Lord. Unfortunately, Uncle George did not consult me on the final draft of the screenplay.

 

luke21

10. Yoda’s First Appearance (Empire Strikes Back)

“Away put your weapon – I mean you no harm!” Without doubt the best introduction moment that any Star Wars character had; this playful, slightly senile Yoda that appears to Luke on Dagobah was perhaps somewhat missed in the Prequel Trilogy where Yoda was much more solemn and less endearing. But then maybe a decade or two living alone on a swamp planet loosens you up a bit; or maybe it’s the change of pace that comes with retirement. Does Yoda recognise Artoo Deetoo here? Does everyone’s favourite astromech droid recognise the aged Jedi Master, for that matter? Who knows. But what an entrance for a character; though of course all the Yoda/Luke scenes in ESB are priceless.

 

rots-windu-jedi

9. Windu Versus Palpatine (Revenge of the Sith)

Perhaps a tad overlooked, drowned out by the bigger sequences, this deadly fight for control of the Republic and the galaxy is suitably understated, nicely offsetting the more dramatic fights and sequences in the film. The music here, as contrasted to the Mustafar duel, is unintrusive, even unnoticeable, and the duel is slower, more suspenseful. When I first saw it in the cinema – and even now, watching it on DVD – this scene gets me in the stomach; the sense of danger, the sense of impending doom.

While the later Yoda/Sideous duel in the Senate Chamber is the scene more directly designed to represent the death of the Republic and birth of Empire, for me it was always Windu’s scene that was the more dramatic and had the most tension. When Windu comes to arrest Palpatine there’s still everything to fight for, whereas by the time Yoda faces him all the damage has already been done. Unlike the somewhat silly dialgoue in the Yoda/Palpatine showdown, Mace Windu here wastes no words but is all business.

And the shame of it all, of course, is that Windu defeats Darth Sideous – it is simply Palpatine’s emotional manipulation of Anakin that seals the fate of the Jedi.

I object to the ease with which Palpatine takes out three of the supposedly greatest Jedi Masters (Saesee Tinn, Kit Fisto and Eeth Koth – who in this scene look like absolute pussies; Jar Jar would’ve put up a better fight), but aside from that it’s perfect; Sam Jackson’s swaggering in, Pulp Fiction style, the slow, cautious swordsmanship, the smashed window, Anakin’s tense arrival, Palpatine’s horrendous manipulation of the young Skywalker, and finally where it all goes horribly wrong and Windu is fried to death and tossed out the window like an unneeded banana peel. That next moment when Anakin drops to knees before the Sith Lord is a more upsetting moment than virtually anything in the Original Trilogy including Han Solo’s encasing in carbonite.

 

8. The Emperor Tries to Seduce Luke… (Return of the Jedi)

I know this technically is broken up into several scenes, but I’m counting it as one. The whole Palpatine attempt to get under Luke’s skin, to manipulate his feelings and turn him to the Dark Side, is possibly one of the most skin-crawling depictions of evil there has ever been. Ian McDiarmid is just masterful in this whole sequence and it stands as possibly the greatest depiction of fantasy or comic-type villainy of all time; the only performance I can think of that might equal McDiarmid’s Palpatine is Heath Ledger’s The Joker.

Every sentiment is so cruelly, so gleefully delivered, every word so pronounced and so cutting, it’s even more fun to watch as an adult than it was creepy to behold as a kid. He is just so convincing as the embodiment of all evil in the galaxy; and the darkness in these scenes – the Emperor’s maliciousness, Luke’s darker nature and demeanour, Vader’s quiet, almost sidelined role in things now, and John Williams’ creepy, stirring ‘Sith theme’ – just builds up slowly and deliberately towards our dark, tortured climaxe.

palp5

As I’ve said elsewhere too, the inter-dynamics of the Star Wars films are most powerful between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi; and nothing more so than the parallels between Palpatine’s seduction of Anakin in ROTS and his attempted seduction of Luke in these scenes. But he seems much more into it in ROTJ; by now his sickness and maliciousness is a couple of decades stronger, and whereas he seduced Anakin through careful, long-term manipulation, his attempted seduction of Luke is much more about sheer force of will.

He never considers Darth Vader a threat; that’s how diminished Anakin Skywalker has become by then in the Emperor’s eyes.

I was always so creeped out by the Emperor in these scenes when I was a child. And watching Revenge of the Sith as an adult brought it all back to me while adding a more complex element of manipulation; watching and comparing the Palpatine/Anakin scenes in ROTS and the Emperor’s scenes in ROTJ is fascinating.

George Lucas has often described the story elements in the saga as a repeating motif; the same patterns repeating themselves with the sort of rhythm of poetry. More than anywhere else it’s evident in Palpatine’s way of operating. But the best thing about the Emperor in ROTJ is simply how gleefully Ian McDiarmid bites into the role; as Lucas said of him, “He’s just so evil!”

 

7. The Anakin/Padme Force-Connection Scene (Revenge of the Sith)

While we can make fun of the Anakin/Padme romance scenes in all three prequels til we’re blue in the face, there were some moments that transcended that, most of all this simple, wordless scene in ROTS where Anakin has just told Windu that the Chancellor is the Sith Lord and Windu has told him to go wait in the Jedi Council chamber while they go to arrest Palpatine. As Anakin desperately tries to grapple with the urgent situation, trying to decide what to do, he looks across Coruscant towards where he senses his wife is and we cut to Padme in her apartment looking back across the sunset-laden cityscape to the Jedi Temple where she can sense Anakin reaching out to her through the Force.

vlcsnap-2011-05-08-04h23m49s182a

I’ve always found it poignant, even powerful – the music, the incredibly vivid visual look and feel of the scene, and the tension as we try to work out what Anakin is going to do. Nothing is communicated between them; if anything had been communicated, you wonder what exactly it would’ve been at that point.

The fact that this is a silent moment might ironically be a reason why it works so much better than most of the Padme/Anakin scenes in other films – there’s no bad dialogue to get in the way, it’s all just feeling and sensation and tone and tension, it’s completely impressionistic.

George Lucas has often said that the best of Star Wars is often like “a silent movie”; and in a scene like this you can see what he means.

We’re never told what exactly Padme is feeling or thinking, but also what’s fascinating about this scene is the implication that Padme may have some low-level Force sensitivities herself. The other dimension of why I find this scene poignant is that it connects very strongly, for me anyway, with the brief Luke/Leia Force connection moment in Empire Strikes Back when Luke is hanging off Bespin, calling out to be rescued. The difference of course is that whereas Leia rescued Luke, Padme is powerless to do anything for Anakin here.

 

6. Luke’s Descent/Force Connection (Empire Strikes Back)

The whole preceding father-son confrontation and fatherly revelation could of course also be included here, that whole duel sequence unarguably superb; but more specifically I’m referring to Luke’s despairing, hopeless leap from the gantry and his long fall. As he hangs off the rails of the Cloud City, a bottomless descent beneath him, traumatised and out of all hope, he does the only thing left to him – he reaches out with his feelings and calls to Leia. Leia, far away on the Falcon can feel his call; a close up on her face as she senses her deep connection to him, accompanied by a gentle swell of the Force Theme.

leia0

It’s a simple, poignant moment, made all the more so because Leia doesn’t even know at this point that she and Luke are twins.

It’s one of those moments, in fact, that’s much more meaningful post-prequel trilogy, now that we have much more of a sense of where Luke and Leia came from and what their parents went through; I consider this something of a sister scene to the Anakin/Padme ROTS moment mentioned above. While this entire final act of Empire is generally a cinematic masterclass – Han’s freezing in carbonite, Luke’s defeat at Vader’s hands, Artoo Deetoo’s heroics, Chewbacca having to re-assemble C3PO, Boba Fett’s mysteriousness, Leia and co’s rush to stop Slave 1 from departing with Han – it’s this quiet spiritual moment between brother and sister that I most think of when I think of Empire, as the humbled, devastated Luke has to be rescued by the very friends he’d come to try to rescue himself.

 

5. Battle Over Endor and Final Death Star Run (Return of the Jedi)

For all the incredible effects sequences and CGI across the six films, you still just can’t beat this final action sequence in the Original Trilogy, as Lando and the Millennium Falcon enter the superstructure and fire on the power generator and frantically flee the fiery cascade in a race against time through the Death Star’s labyrinth of tunnels. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this sequence plagiarized in various ways in other films and TV shows since.

MILFALDS

Further, the entire space-battle sequence that ends ROTJ remains the best such sequence in the saga, even including the opening sequences of ROTS. And it may court controversy to say it, but I submit that Lando Calrissian may be an even bigger bad-ass than Han Solo.

 

4. Tatooine Sunset (A New Hope)

It’s the single shot that is most remembered from any Star Wars film and the shot that most resonates with people; as John Williams’ legendary Force theme swells, a bored, disenfranchised Luke Skywalker looks out across the breathtaking twin sunset on Tatooine, dreaming of adventures and longing to get away from the tedium of his desert life. It speaks to the longing in every one of us, especially in our youth – the longing for excitement and adventure, the drive to get away from uninspiring surroundings and the suspicion that the grass is greener somewhere over that rainbow (or twin sunset).

In fact, like that Judy Garland moment in The Wizard of Oz, this simple shot remains one of the most iconic in cinema, and a perfect encapsulation of Luke Skywalker. While not as powerful, the final shot of Revenge of the Sith with the infant Luke being held towards that same sunset provides a fitting bridge between the two films. The fact that a planet that’s been discovered in another galaxy has been nicknamed ‘Tatooine’ in regard to having two suns is a highly fitting tribute.

 

3. Order 66: The Jedi Extermination (Revenge of the Sith)

The Sith’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’. It’s tough enough watching the moment when the hiding children in the temple approach the now Dark-Side Anakin innocently expecting that he’s there to protect them, but the sublime montage sequence of various Jedi being killed off in various locations just prods at the gut, especially watching the elegant Ki-Adi Mundi being gunned down by his own troops. All the different CGI locations are so beautifully rendered,especially considering that they only get about twenty seconds of screen time each, and the absolutely beautiful John Williams score for this sequence evokes the sense of injustice and tragedy perfectly.

The historic allusion to the SS (here represented by the Stormtroopers/Clonetroopers, with Palpatine I guess as Hitler) certainly adds an additional layer of resonance to it, but really it’s the sense of all the heroism, nobility and wisdom being coldly and systematically eliminated from the galaxy by these literal clones who have no independent thought or conscience and no loyalty to their commanders.

Yet, being Star Wars, even this bleak sequence has its triumphal moment when the Clonetroopers come to assassinate Master Yoda and add him to the list of dead Jedi – but Yoda senses their intent, leaps up and decapitates both of them in one swift, kick-ass motion. I’ve never been so glad to see someone get their head cut off; and I’ve never wanted to cheer so much as when Yoda does the business here. It’s a small comfort, given everything else that’s just happened; but it’s about as celebratory as ROTS allows.

 

vlcsnap-2011-06-11-03h55m44s70a
2. ‘Battle of the Heroes’: The Mustafar Duel (Revenge of the Sith)

A scene that every Star Wars fan had spent years and years wondering about. Absolutely spellbinding from start to finish; even if bits of the dialogue can be left behind, visually the sequence is breathtaking, possibly the most dramatic, evocative and downright pretty action sequence you’ll ever see in big-budget cinema. But it isn’t just the speed and fluency of the fighting or even the dramatic lava-planet backdrop that truly mark this sequence out – it’s the underlying emotion of this fight-to-the-death between two people who once loved each other; you know from the first parry that this fight has a terrible outcome.

You can sense everything going on in Obi Wan’s mind – his remorse over having failed his student and the preknowledge that he will have to kill him – and everything going on in Anakin’s warped and damaged psyche too; the pain of losing Padme, the sense that everything he’s done in betraying the Jedi, murdering the children and turning Sith, may have been for nothing, and the sense, at least until very late in the fight, that he doesn’t want to be fighting Obi Wan.

When Anakin is finally cut down after attempting the same maneuver Obi-Wan once used against Darth Maul, the full flood of emotion finally catches up with Kenobi and we can see this is a man who is questioning everything. Through the entire duel, Anakin has fought with hate and anger and Obi-Wan has simply given himself over to the Force, doing what has to be done; this duality continues right to the bitter end, right through to their final parting sentiments, Obi-Wan answering Anakin’s bitter “I hate you” with “you were my brother, Anakin; I loved you.”

As Anakin’s body is engulfed and destroyed by the flames, one stage of the Star Wars saga is over in fire and brimstone, and when Obi-Wan picks up his student’s lightsaber and takes it with him to one day give to Luke we are immediately reminded that another stage of the saga is waiting to begin anew.

As in all great Star Wars moments, John Williams’ music is the heartbeat that amplifies and lyricises the emotional context of what’s going on; the ‘Battle of the Heroes’ (a more bittersweet adaptation of the ‘Duel of the Fates’ score from The Phantom Menace ) score here is just pitch- perfect, tonally encapsulating and capturing the underlying emotion of the confrontation. The whole thing is absolute genius.

 

1. Luke’s Final Assault (Return of the Jedi)

It now looks very slow compared to the kick-ass lightsaber dueling of the prequel trilogy, but this final half-minute of the Luke/Vader contest at the end of Jedi is powered not by fancy moves or excellent choreography, but by the sense of emotion, climaxe and closure. It is aided massively by that extraordinary and dark choiral swell once Vader threatens Luke’s sister (you just can’t underestimate how much John Williams’s music adds to a scene or a moment like this) and Luke, devoid now of all hope, simply let’s rip into his father, no longer believing Anakin Skywalker can be redeemed.

Yet ironically it’s this very nothing-left-to-lose assault and Vader’s defeat that does induce the redemption of Anakin. In attacking in this way, Luke comes perilously close to the Dark Side himself – a moment much more resonant now that we’ve seen Revenge of the Sith. Post-ROTS we now recognise that in Luke’s ultimate resistance to Palpatine Vader sees the strength that he should’ve himself had all those years ago.

Thematically, there is a real resonance now between ROTS and ROTJ, particularly in Padme’s deathbed insistance that “there is still good in him”, her convinction that he can still be saved, and the naive, innocent (and ultimately correct) belief of her son here that this is true, even though the bitter and war-hardened Yoda and Obi-Wan disagree.

star_wars_39793

It’s Luke’s innocence and naivety that makes him the real hero of the Star Wars saga; he remains untainted by either ambition or tradition, nor jaded by the bitter history, but remains a noble idealist.

Played out in literal darkness and shadow, this is Star Wars at it’s most Gothic, and at it’s very best.

______________________


And that’s my Star Wars top twenty. If you disagree with it, have your say. And Happy Star Wars Day to all; May the 4th Be With you.

______________________

Advertisements
Comments
  1. roberthorvat says:

    Fantastic! I thought about doing this today, but I am glad I didn’t. Yours is so much better! I might get to it eventually before the release of the new movie though. Two scenes that I love are when R2D2 is laser stunned by a Jawa in episode 4 and the whole scene where they carry him to their transport. The other scene is where we are introduced to the bounty hunters in episode 5. Again, well done. May the fourth be with you!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Robert 🙂 Yeah, those are two really nice moments. You’ve made me realise I haven’t included an ‘Artoo moment’ in this list; I should’ve really done a top 40 instead of 20! What’s great about that Jawa/Artoo scene is the sense of isolation and wilderness as Artoo is moving along nervously. And yes, the Bounty Hunter scene is pretty classic too.
      Hey, you should definitely do your list too; I’d love to read it. And we can compare notes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Helena Khan says:

    Darth Vader’s epic line “The Emperor is not as forgiving as *I* am….”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thetruthisstrangerthanfiction says:

    dude… No “speeder bike scene”? I guess that’s one of those things that is admittedly connected to my eighties childhood bias.. The lame podracer scene was just an attempt to revamp and upgrade the original excitement of the speederbikes zooming around the trees of Endor. Man… As a kid I remember that being like just the most amazing thing! I wanted a speeder bike so bad…

    Of course, you know I’m prejudiced against the prequels. If I’m honest, I’d probably not put a single scene from any of them in my top twenty…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dude, I love the speeder bike scene too – along with about 70 other scenes, but I limited it to a top 20! And these things are pretty subjective; I wasn’t really trying to be empirical. And hey, you can pooh-pooh the prequels all you like: I’m standing my ground. There was some brilliant stuff in the prequels. And do you *seriously* think the Ep1 podrace was lame…? I’m surprised, as you are otherwise a remarkably intelligent fellow…:)

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s