Star Wars

Friday A/V Club: The Only Good Star Wars Sequel

No, it isn't The Empire Strikes Back.

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OK, OK: So the ASCIImation version of Star Wars is pretty good too.
Simon Jansen

The Internet is abuzz with excited speculations about the next Star Wars movie. This is a little odd, given that pretty much every "next Star Wars movie" in history has been terrible.

I will grant the possibility that my sour feelings about The Empire Strikes Back are colored by 9-year-old Jesse's realization at the end that he would have to wait three years to see how the cliffhanger resolved itself. (When I was nine, three years lasted nearly seven years. Nowadays, of course, three years can pass in about a month.) But even if I accept the popular notion that Empire is pretty good, that still leaves a series of bloated turkeys that are about as entertaining as a 90-minute scrolling text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Actually, that's pretty much what The Phantom Menace was, right? That and some sort of Rasta Elmo thing.) I'll make an exception for the Star Wars Christmas special, which is more entertaining than all the prequels put together, though not in any ways the creators intended. But beyond that…

No. There is one other exception, a single ray of light that shows it is possible to make a successful Star Wars sequel. In my head canon, it's the only one that exists. From January 1980, four months before The Empire struck theaters, I give you this:

(For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here. For another Star Wars/Muppets crossover, go here. For a more respectful take on Star Wars, talk to Suderman.)

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  1. I like the original tree just fine. Even Ewoks. Take that, hipster dick-bags.

    1. Hold on there, Zebulon. I’m about as far from hipster as it gets, and I hate the Ewoks. I mean, they’re stupid. If Lucas wanted them to defeat armored, blaster-wielding stormtroopers, he should’ve made them Wookies, as originally planned, or Force-masters. Ewoks were the beginning of Lucas tossing in money-making sidelines solely for that purpose.

      1. YUB YUB

      2. C’mon. One – he didn’t’ originally plan to use wookies’ any more than he had the plan for the prequels when doing the original trilogy. That’s just some of Lucas’ historical revisionism in the service of marketing.

        Two – there was a small force of stormtroopers placed there to lure the rebels in. Faced with potentially *thousands* of ewoks. Put a big enough pile of the walking fuzzy slippers on top of a stormtrooper and you can still crush him to death.

        1. Fine. Then they should’ve been like tribbles. I could live with millions of Ewoks suffocating stormtroopers.

          Mythbusters should test this myth.

          1. My favorite action figure from Star Wars

            1. Awesome. Almost as good as the Monolith action figure (“It’s full of stars!”).

          2. Something like an Ewok “bee-ball”? Yeah, that would have been cool.

            http://io9.com/5892986/meet-th…..al-kingdom

      3. I’m about as far from hipster as it gets, and I hate the Ewoks.

        Seconded. They were fucking retarded. They were also a harbinger of things to come (Jar Jar fucking Binks). Them and Howard the Duck. Which is an intereting movie in so far as it disproved the “genius story teller of a generation” mythos around Lucas. You can actually see the last shreds of Lucas’ credibility as a film maker go up in flames as you watch it.

    2. I loved “Jedi”. The final showdown with Vader and Palpatine is one of my favorite movie moments of all time.

      1. I liked that, too. In fact, I liked the whole film except for the stupid Ewoks. Even they would’ve been okay if limited to comic relief and not KILLING MACHINE TEDDY BEARS.

        1. I watched Jedi for the first time when I was 5. I loved the Ewoks and thought palpatine was scary. Also I was the intended audience. Now I know it isn’t the greatest thing ever, but it wins nostalgia points.

      2. That, in so far as it’s kind of the whole point of the saga (the fall and redemtion of Anakin Skywalker/ Darth Vader), and slave Leia make it worth watching.

    3. I was a dumb kid, granted, but the ewoks never seemed terribly out of place in a universe populated by furry bandolier-wearing apemen, debaucherous slugmen, colossal spaceslugs, effete squidmen, bothans, and exactly one black man.

      1. At least they picked the one black man who could be black enough for a whole galaxy.

        1. +1 Colt 45

        2. Heh. In the movie Fanboys (worth a watch if you’re a SW fan if for no other reason than you’ll see a lot of yourself/ your friends in the main characters, also worth watching if you’re interested in seeing Kristen Bell in a slave Leia costume).

          Anywho, Billy Dee Williams has a cameo, and in the DVD audio commentary track Kristen Bell tells a story about how when he first showed up to set, he arrives in a white limo, wearing a white suit, pimp hat, pimp walking stick, and he’s shaking hands with the other actors and introducing himself. He gets to her, and his eyes go from head to toe and back up as he says “Hello, what have we here!” in the Lando Calrission voice. Billy Dee Williams = PIMP.

          1. Indeed. In many dictionaries from the 80’s there is a picture – in color – of Billy Dee Williams next to the entry for “Suave” rather than a written definition.

    4. I’m a big fan of the entire final act. Who cares that the Ewoks won? They were clever little guys with the advantage of terrain and some big logs. We did see some of them die and the Imperials start to triumph, and showing more than that, some Ewok slaughter, would be unnecessary. Really, the complaints about how stupid and weak the Imperials on Endor are is more applicable to Han’s interactions with them, not the Ewoks’ fight.

      And the throne room stuff and the space battle are classic. I don’t think any cinematic space battle has topped RotJ.

      1. Good except for the silly Ewok battle. Which was silly. Accept the silliness of it.

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      http://www.work-cash.com

  2. Just re-watched the ruined special edition ones.

    I used to be more pissed about the story changes. Now I’m more pissed about the crap added all over the place. Stupid things running around to distract you from what the shot was. Crap flying around everywhere.

    Buildings changed for no reason. Stupid ones. Exterior shot of Leia through the window in Cloud City, then when you get the inside shot, there’s no windows in the room.

    Gah.

    1. I’ve got the original Star Wars on VHS. Sadly I no longer own a VCR.

      1. I may or may not have “acquired” laser disc rips of the original trilogy. I may still be trying to figure out encoding options to get them to play right on anything but the computers.

        1. Now I wouldnt know anything about this, of course, but if you were to go to google and maybe do a search for “star”, and then maybe a “wars”, followed by a “despecialized”, you may come accross a much better quality version without Jorge’s hamprints all over them. You might even find a torrent link where you can procure them for educational purposes only.

        2. The LaserDisc versions were released on DVD.

          1. The problem with the “original edition” DVD set from a few years back (I assume that’s what you’re alluding to) is that it doesn’t have any THX audio encoding. It’s the crappy 1977 original mono sound. Lucas did that on purpose because “that’s the original version, which is what you fanboys said you wanted.” IOW, it was a colossal fuck you, that’s why on his part.

        3. Everything’s better on a laserdisc!

      2. The VHS box set with the remastered THX soundtrack that came out in ~1992 is considered by many to be the best version to own. You get the remastered sound with none of the special edition stuff (most of the SE changes I’m OK with actually, except for Greedo shooting first, and them showing the emporer’s face more clearly in Empire, and in the Blu-Ray adding Vader screaming “NOOOOOOO” as he tossed Palpatine down the shaft… you know what, nevermind, fuck the special editions).

        I was really pissed when they released the original on DVD a few years back and didn’t include the THX audio enhancements. That was a total dick move on Lucas’ part and it was at that point I decided I would never give Lucas another dime as long as I live.

  3. This is worse than a Richman post. They’re the ravings of a mad man.

    Which, hey, that new Mad Max should be pretty great, right?

    1. Is the old Mad Max worth my time, or should I binge watch a season of Community instead?

      1. The orig Mad Max are three of the finest movies ever made in the history of cinema. In order of masterfulness – #2, #1, #3.

        If it’s all the same to you – I’ll droive that tankah….

        I AM THE NIGHTRIDER!!!

        1. #3 is the weakest, but Master-Blaster alone makes it worthwhile.

          1. 3 *is* the weakest – PG-13’d to death.

            Though Tina Turner was still smoking.

        2. #2 was second only to Highlander for the Academy Award for Best Movie Ever Made.

      2. If you have any Red Box rental kiosks near you start checking them for the originals. Usually Red Box will have original movies available a couple of weeks before the new version airs in theaters, and the cost of renting us quite low.

        http://www.redbox.com/

      3. Road Warrior is the best by far.

      4. If any of that series is on cable while I’m flipping through the channels, I am compelled to stop surfing and watch it. They’re all good.

  4. “I will grant the possibility that my sour feelings about The Empire Strikes Back are colored by 9-year-old Jesse’s realization at the end that he would have to wait three years to see how the cliffhanger resolved itself. ”

    You son of a bitch. Empire Strikes Back is the best movie in the series.

    GET OUT

    1. Well, you know, that is the mainstream opinion.

      Can’t have that at the A/V club. That’d almost be as bad as drinking Folgers, or buying a Dell laptop instead of a Macbook.

      1. Hey! I have Dells at work AND at home!

        *looks around nervously…*

        1. That’s it, turn in your scarf and horn rimmed glasses. And I expect the ironic beard clean shaven by morning.

    2. +1 wamp rat.

    3. Empire Strikes Back is the best movie in the series

      It ends on such a down note, and that’s what life is: a series of down endings. All Jedi had was a bunch of muppets.

  5. I never saw any of the four movies.

    *attempts to keep a straight face*

  6. It was sad when Spock died.

    1. Shhhh. You’re giving away the plot twist in Episode VII.

        1. I miss Madeline too

            1. Yes, a thousand times yes.

    2. He was impaled by a harpoon after landing the Galactica, right?

      1. You’re thinking of Moby-Trek.

  7. There were only three Star Wars movies. And the Empire Strikes Back was the best one.

  8. ROTJ has a lot of flaws but the space battle of Endor is the best in the franchise, hands down.

    And Luke’s final battle with Vader and his calm rejection of the Dark Side (after getting really pissed off and chopping Vader’s hand off) is a perfect conclusion to the whole three-movie story arc about him going from na?ve farm boy to Jedi knight.

    1. “Never. I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

      1. It was all those midi-chlorians.

        1. What the hell are you talking about?

          1. Pro, according to Lucas “I’m assuming that the midi-chlorians are a race that everybody knows about [in the world of Star Wars]. The way you interact and interface with this larger energy field [the Force] is through the midi-chlorians, which are sensitive to the energy. They are at the core of your life, which is the cell, the living cell. They are in a symbiotic relationship with the cell. And then, because they’re all interconnected as one, they can communicate with the larger Force field. That’s how you deal with the Force.”

            http://www.starwars.com/news/s…..-chlorians

        2. Such a disappointing concept

      2. So be it. Jedi.

      3. “So be it, Jedi.”

        ROTJ deserves a ton of credit for introducing the Emperor and not having him disappoint. That’s really hard to do when you already have a legendary villain in Vader.

        1. What’s brilliant about the Star Wars films is the mythology they developed. You can definitely detect the influence of Joseph Campbell on Lucas.

          1. Indeed. I read an interview with Campbell where he praised Lucas for Star Wars.

            Also, when creating the Death Star I think Lucas was influenced by the Comet Empire from the Space Battleship Yamato (Star Blazers) series when he lived in Japan.

  9. There are only three Star Wars movies. They were made in my youth. Everything else is false.

    That is all.

    /too old for the training he is

    1. No, I heard there’s some sequel coming out later in the year.

      1. “No, there is another…”

  10. 9-year-old Jesse’s realization at the end that he would have to wait three years to see how the cliffhanger resolved itself.

    Did 9 year old Jesse have the ability to see into the future so he could know how long it would be before the next one was released? Was it like ‘The Dead Zone’?

    1. Oh, Both ESB *and* RotJ are good sequels. RotJ just started to get shit on *years after release because people decided to hate on the ewoks, otherwise its on par with Star Wars itself – which, by the way, is inferior to Empire.

      1. “Both ESB *and* RotJ are good sequels”

        I think one ESB is quite enough thank you, and don’t personally feel she needs a sequel.

        1. Isn’t ESB the sequel to LS?

          1. DON’T TALK ABOUT LUCY!!

          2. …Oh, right, was confusing ESB with ENB.

            Of course, it’s Irish, I should’ve known he was referring to Bruenig.

      2. I had issues with Ewoks in ROTJ in the effing theater. And, for the record, I actually like the first film best.

        1. It’s close, but I liked the Empire Strikes Back best because of Yoda (my favorite scene in the entire franchise is him lifting the X-Wing out of the swamp) and having a believable and heartfelt love story between Han and Leia. It improved on all the good aspects of the first movie while adding more to the mythos.

          1. That, and the dialogue wasn’t completely atrocious

          2. It’s definitely close–Empire Strikes Back was great, too.

        2. The first film is the best.

          The two sequels rejected the original saturday-afternoon-space-opera vibe to become more serious movies (and they were very good movies). But, I always felt that was a bad decision.

          Any trilogy that doesn’t end with Luke getting the girl in the end is a repudiation of what made Star Wars so fucking brilliant.

          1. Well, she was his sister. We weren’t ready for that in the 70s.

            1. But that relationship was not revealed in the first movie.

              It’s been so long since I’ve watched any of the movies. But I remember feeling that the “reveal” was a cop-out in one of the sequels. The story didn’t have to go that way.

              1. I was just kidding. I’m quite confident Lucas had no idea it was going to go that way. I also think he’s full of shit when he claims that the story was planned out early on–it obviously wasn’t.

                1. Lucas made the greatest popcorn movie ever made, then turned his back on it.

                  The sequels are great movies; they’re just different movies.

                2. I think it worked out for the best in the end. Ford and Fisher had way better chemistry together and there wasn’t any room to add an additional love interest just for Luke.

                  1. Agreed.

                    Luke was too SERIOUS to care about women.

                    1. If there’s a flaw in the sequels it’s that the tension is supposed to come from Luke being tempted by the Dark Side.

                      But the problem is that look is just too guileless to turn and he lacks the imagination for evil. So I never felt there was any real risk he’d turn because other than his sense of duty to his friends he didn’t have any weaknesses or flaws for the Emperor to exploit.

          2. One of the worst things about the prequels was how it turned the Jedi Order into this really creepy cult where they take very young children and indoctrinate them into this weird philosophy that includes celibacy for no apparent reason.

            It’s never explained why Jedi can’t get married and have kids. I mean when you separate young children from their mothers you are already creating emotional issues that can be exploited by agents of the Dark Side, it’s how the Emperor got to Anakin in the first place.

            Letting them have normal, healthy relationships and families would probably make them less likely to turn.

            1. Ever heard of the Shaolin Monks?* I bet Lucas did. Celibate warriors.

              And Anakin’s corruption began when he violated his vow of chastity and married Amygdala.

              *Or the military orders of Catholic monks, but F d’A won’t want me to mention them.

              1. Pretty sure his corruption began some time before murdering a bunch of sand people.

                1. “Pretty sure his corruption began some time before murdering a bunch of sand people.”

                  Same principle – his human attachments (to his mother) prevailed over the stern dictates of Duty.

                  Of course, he should have been expelled (and executed) when he killed the sandpeople, but I suppose the Jedi Officers’ Union protected him from accountability.

                  And after his illicit marriage, he put his personal relationships ahead of the interests of his order…again.

              2. Or the military orders of Catholic monks

                Return of the Asshole

                1. F d’A:

                  I know you are, but what am I?

              3. Ever heard of the Shaolin Monks?* I bet Lucas did.

                He’s pretty much said outright that he based the force on “chi” and the Jedi on Shaolin monks, so yeah.

            2. Supposedly the theory goes that in order to hate you must first love and hate leads to the dark side. Therefore a Jedi must be devoid of love.

              That would also make sense for why they take kids so young. They never develop attachments to their families but instead are raised in the Jedi Order and taught almost from birth to avoid the emotional attachments that could lead to feelings of love.

              Of course the problem with this is that it shows an astounding lack of knowledge of the human condition. It sort of makes sense on the surface if you don’t really think about it but anyone who spent 5 minutes thinking about that would realize that humans being social animals will always find someone or something to form those close bonds with and you are exactly right, never really learning how to handle them would leave Jedi ripe for being dragged into the dark side

            3. They take the children very young so they don’t remember their families when they get older and have no attachments there.

              Regarding the celibacy thing, I think Maester Aemon actually put it best in Game of Thrones with his little “Love is the death of duty” spiel way back in the first season.

              Not that that makes it any less of a disagreeable philosophy though. Lord knows I’d be a dark sider if I were a force sensitive.

              1. ” 32But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

                -1 Corinthians 7:32-35

            4. Regardless, taking young children is disgusting because they don’t have a choice in the matter. It works much better if the Jedi Order is a higher calling that a young adult can choose to pursue if they develop the required Force sensitivity.

              1. The series gives only one example of the Jedi recruiting a child, and that didn’t end well.

          3. I thought it was such a bad decision, I didn’t even see the sequels. I emerged from the theater after Star Wars saying, “I hear it’s best 2 out of 3.” But I was joking!

            I’m sure there was plenty to say in the sequels, but I’m sure it could’ve been said better as a new departure & setting, not as part of a series.

  11. ASCII art is the only art I recognize.

    1. It does breathe purpose back into your old daisy-wheel printers, doesn’t it?

  12. You have insulted my nom du internet Monsieur Walker. Prepare to die.

  13. In my head canon, it’s the only one that exists.

    In my “head canon”, Troops is the best.

    You see, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru weren’t brutally murdered by Storm Troopers LEOs, it was all a big misunderstanding that they brought on themselves. Also, the Jawas were slaughtered for failure to obey over some stolen droids, which the brave Heroes in Blue White were able to successfully recover. The bloodshed could have been avoided had the Jawas simply cooperated with law enforcement instead of resisting.

    1. I ran across that years ago–brilliant.

  14. Jesus Christ! Now Reason is trying to alienate libertarian fanboys! This will not go unpunished!!! Jesse’s heresy must be destroyed.

    BTW. Ewoks suck. Original Muppet Show rocks. ESB is best Star Wars film HANDS DOWN.

    *drops mic, goes to find bar…*

  15. Star Wars sucks… as does Empire… and Return was the worst of a very bad lot. If I’m forced to pick one, SW wins just for the pure camp.

    I loved the movies when I was young, but recent time has not been kind to the series.

  16. I will grant the possibility that my sour feelings about The Empire Strikes Back are colored by 9-year-old Jesse’s realization at the end that he would have to wait three years to see how the cliffhanger resolved itself.

    That’s ok, I had a friend who had the exact same opinion. Then he became an adult and realized that Empire was in fact the best Star Wars movie of the entire franchise from plot, to pacing, to dialog, to structure. Hint: It wasn’t directed by Lucas.

    1. He also had help writing it, IIRC. Pretty much the only thing he did by himself on Empire was produce. Also, his wife helped edit the first two, but by the time of Return they had divorced and she was no longer around to help with editing, which is why the pacing and the structure of the story is so much worse.

      1. He should’ve had Milius do some editing.

      2. Lawrence Kasdan was a co-writer on V. Gary Kurtz produced IV & V. By the time VI was done, both the producer and director had changed to Lucas yes-men.

  17. There are only three one Star Wars movies.

    Fixed.

    I’ll accept the answer “two” if in an upcoming sequel it comes out that Vader was only messing with Luke’s mind and that this vast faceless remorseless empire wasn’t just run by a couple guys in robes who take advantage of family issues.

    1. That would be awesome.

      1. Wouldn’t it?

        We went from a lowly governor “holding Vader’s leash” to an Emperor whose claim to fame is that he looks scary and shoots lightning from his fingers.

        Far better if the Emperor is someone whom no one has ever seen and who may not even exist, but anyone who asks to see him ends up dead. Even Vader with all the power of the Dark Side is afraid of him. If he exists. That’s an evil empire. And that’s a universe in which exploring the Force and the power of the Dark Side is really interesting.

        And having Vader be, as Obi Wan originally said, not Luke’s dad but a friend of his dad who betrayed and murdered him is much better storytelling.

        Maybe The Force Awakens will open with Luke waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette.

  18. So my boyfriend forced me to watch Jupiter Ascending earlier this week, which was like an homage to the Star Wars prequels. Fortunately, there was no Jar-Jar in it, but it was full of vast CGI backgrounds with characters in freaky getups wandering around talking about diplomacy and politics, Interspersed with pointless action sequences involving characters we have never met and don’t give a shit about.

    The other thing I thought was funny is how the “Wachowski Siblings” apparently think that calling themselves the “Wachowski Siblings” is supposed to mean something important to people, despite the fact that they have made like 2 good movies in their entire career, and every single thing they have made since, in the last 15 years, which is somehow not a huge body of work, has been horrible. The similarities to George Lucas are too close for comfort.

  19. I saw Star Wars & thought it was cute. I got it: Someone could take all the clich?s of the old serials, put them in a vehicle with high prod’n values, & make it work pretty well. But when it came out later that they were actually going to do it as a serial, I said enough already.

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