The Star Wars universe has spawned a seemingly limitless quantity of films, shows and media. Some fans are inevitably going to be disappointed and relentlessly, often unfairly, compare the newer works to the near-untouchable original Star Wars trilogy.
But is it so untouchable? There are at least a few flaws in the original trilogy that most of us tend to overlook in our nostalgic, adventurous giddiness. Let’s discuss…
10 Things in the Original Star Wars Trilogy That Don’t Hold Up
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way early, shall we? Return of the Jedi is widely considered to be the weak link among the original trilogy, and looking back, the merchandise-friendly Ewoks feel like something of a Jar Jar Binks dry run. The cuddly tribal teddy bears would have been fine in moderation, but instead they play an integral role in bringing down the supposedly-powerful Empire. Ultimately, their presence weakens the Empire’s menace and cheapens the victory of the Rebellion.
This is one element of the trilogy that’s suffered due to the residual hype. However the extended universe has built him up into an ultimate badass (his entry on the Star Wars wiki is practically a novel), Boba Fett was originally little more than a cool design that eventually falls into a Sarlaac’s mouth in one of the most unintentionally funny moments in the series.
A New Hope was smart to kill off Kenobi — it packs an emotional punch, builds up the evil of Darth Vader and serves as a major motivator for Luke. Lucas’s mistake was in bringing Obi Wan back from the grave to serve as Luke’s supernatural adviser. It weakens the impact of his death and deprives Luke of the opportunity to be independent. Worse, it raises all sorts of questions about the permanence of death for the Jedi race.
Yoda was created by Jim Henson’s Industrial Light and Magic studio and voiced by frequent Henson collaborator Frank Oz. I’d argue he would feel more at home in a Muppet movie than he does in Empire Strikes Back. He alternates between cackling cartoonishly and dispensing solemn wisdom that isn’t really all that wise, once you think about it. “Do or do not — there is no try” is flat-out terrible advice, and he spends most of his scenes decrying Luke as a lost cause.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke spends a significant chunk of the film enduring rigorous training to become a Jedi under Yoda’s tutelage. Meanwhile, the rest of our heroes are slumming it around an asteroid field en route to Cloud City, working against the clock to repair the Millenium Falcon. Somehow these two events are played side-by-side as if they’re happening through the same time period, which makes roughly zero sense. While this may be a nitpick, it speaks to a larger flaw of the trilogy in grounding the film’s event to any concept of time. There are few sequences in the trilogy where I felt I had a strong grasp on how much time had passed between scenes. Does the trilogy take place across several years, or several weeks? It’s surprisingly difficult to tell.
One of the trilogy’s greatest triumphs is in production and character design, populating this fictional universe with distinct worlds and species to inhabit them. Unfortunately, the actual goings-on and relationships between those planets is poorly conveyed throughout. These are adventure films first and foremost, but even so, there are no worthwhile attempt to establish the political structure and dynamics that drive the plot. It all boils down to, Empire = evil, Rebellion = good. And if the rebels managed to dispose of the Empire and destroy the Death Star? Boom, war won, all problems solved. That’s how war works.
Like Boba Fett, the Emperor has a wonderful, villainous design, but he doesn’t manage to do anything worthy of all the buildup. The Emperor is the big baddie, a figure even more enigmatic than even Darth Vader, but his few scenes are spent whispering about how Luke is turning to the dark side, and then being thrown to his death without so much as a fight.
This is our protagonist, ladies and gentlemen, and boy, is he a bland one. Mark Hamill is now a gifted voice actor, but he’s unable to lend the character much charisma or pathos, especially when all he seems to do is whine. His actions feel random, more guided by the screenwriter’s needs than the character’s desires. Luke is so exceptionally boring that I struggle to think of anything else to say about him. Oh, wait…
Emperor Palpatine’s disappointing presence isn’t the only thing wrong with that supposed showdown scene near the end of Return. The scene should be one of the trilogy’s more exciting, but the empty, excessive threat of Luke turning to the dark side rings hollow, since we’ve seen no real evidence of that possibility. Still, Luke does nothing but anguish at the words until Vader finally intervenes himself. The scene is more satisfying with the prequels in mind now, seeing Anakin finally overcome his own evil, but it deprives Luke of any shot at heroism. This is supposed to be his movie, and again he falls short — as does this pivotal scene.
The other elements and characters come and go throughout the trilogy, but Lucas’s stunted dialogue remains. Luckily, the films are blessed with beautiful worlds, lightning-fast pacing and lovable characters to help distract from clunkly lines like “laugh it up fuzzball,” or the many iterations of “I have a bad feeling about this.” That isn’t even to mention the often nonsensical faux-philosophical Jedi ramblings (see: Yoda). The poor writing doesn’t approach the nadirs reached in the prequels, but the writing still remains one of the trilogy’s greatest downfalls.
Did we miss any flaws that really bug you? Let us know in the comments below.
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