We're here again with another showdown in the Star Wars Madness Tournament, and this time we've got one for the ages! Facing off are the original film in the franchise, Star Wars: A New Hope, and one that followed forty years later, The Last Jedi. After securing a first round bye, A New Hope is looking to show us that it still has some of that timeless magic left to move beyond the Elite Eight. Following its convincing first round victory, The Last Jedi is on a mission to let the past die and become what it believes it's meant to be: the champion. Will Luke Skywalker's hopeful call to adventure hold firm in fans' hearts, or does his tricky final act have what it takes to project victory? Decide which film deserves the Medal of Bravery and VOTE BELOW!
Released: May 25th, 1977
Director: George Lucas
Era: Original Trilogy
Box Office: $775,512,064
Synopsis: Luke Skywalker joins forces with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and C-3PO & R2-D2 to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.
Pros: The one that started it all, A New Hope is the definitive modern fairy tale. The entire cast is stellar; casting a group of unknowns supported by a couple of stars was a masterstroke by Lucas. The lived-in universe makes everything feel so real, and the desire for adventure makes Luke Skywalker such a relatable entry point for the targeted younger audience as he stands alongside a scoundrel, a princess, a Wookie, two droids, and a mystic warrior. The instance Darth Vader boarded the Tantive IV an icon was born, and the harrowing Battle of Yavin demonstrated the values of faith and friendship as Han Solo showed us he had a heart of gold. Leia proved she could hold her own with the big boys, taking over her own rescue when things went awry and giving Han flip at every turn, despite his efforts to save her. When Obi-Wan told Luke to use the Force during the trench run, real magic was truly captured. Or maybe it was the Force. John Williams set the bar impossibly high with his groundbreaking score, a bar he would surpass multiple times thereafter. The only Star Wars film to win any Oscars (seven), A New Hope redefined the way movies were made and changed cinema forever overnight.
Cons: The flaws in this film are few, most being related to the aging effects and technology. The space battles can be awkward and slow compared to the newer films, particularly the Falcon's escape from the Death Star. The Battle of Yavin has received some digital touch ups in recent years, but many of the shots in that dogfight are still a little rough. The lightsabers could certainly use some digital improvements, particularly during Luke's session with the training droid when the blade is nearly white, a failed at attempt at using reflective material to achieve fluorescence. This film sticks out a bit in the sense that it’s a complete story and its sequels make alterations to the history described by Obi-Wan, and it’s the only film in the trilogy in which the characters clearly look like they’re from the 70s as opposed to the more timeless look in its successors.
Director: Rian Johnson
Era: Sequel Trilogy
Box Office: $1,333,539,889
Synopsis: Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers, and develops a mysterious connection with Kylo Ren. Meanwhile, the First Order seeks to destroy the remnants of the Resistance and rule the galaxy unopposed.
Pros: Picking up the literal cliffhanger Luke and Rey found themselves on, The Last Jedi carried the sequel trilogy forward by taking a deeper look inside its characters. Once again, Adam Driver delivered a strong performance as Kylo Ren, going to great lengths to show us the inner turmoil inside the former Ben Solo. Ren killing his master Snoke and the following team-up with Rey was the highlight of the film, temporarily taking the saga into uncharted territories. The final true performance by Carrie Fisher as Leia was one of her best, showing us yet again the burden of loss the princess carries while trying to hand the leadership baton off to Poe. The cinematography was gorgeous, and the scenes Luke shared with Yoda and Leia showed us the farmboy we knew from the original trilogy.
Cons: This is a controversial topic to touch, to say the least, so it needs to be emphasized that this is personal opinion. The direction taken with Luke just didn’t work. A jaded, cynical Luke is an interesting concept, but how he got to that point doesn’t really fit with the values of the Luke of old, and his unexpected death following the Force projection feat didn’t feel like a satisfying payoff. As a symbol of hope and optimism before, Luke’s largely gloomy portrayal didn’t sit right in many ways. The sequence on Canto Bight proved to be inconsequential, and the Great Space Chase was a snooze. Rose Tico, while acted as well as possible, was a walking contradiction (looking at you, “saving what we love”), and Finn sadly took a backseat in the film and his sacrifice was a missed golden opportunity. The tonal difference between Episodes VII and VIII was jarring given that they touch back to back with more separation was badly being needed, and many of the jokes felt out of touch with the generally dry humor in Star Wars. General Hux quickly went from competent nazi blowing up systems to the butt of every joke, and the film has a tendency to make an attempt at humor right in the middle of heavy moments, removing tension from the scenes. There were some genuinely cool moments, but the film seemed to go out of its way to surprise the audience instead of taking the organic direction for the story. Subverted expectations don’t always mean better results, and while the film took many risks, there were still many glaring similarities to Empire.