Four Em­pire writ­ers tackle the big­gest fran­chise of them all. May the Force be with them

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS -

It is a pe­riod of civil war. The Em­pire staff en­ter a hid­den base in an at­tempt to rank the Star Wars films…

Chris: First up, we’re not putting those dread­ful Ewok films in. Let’s keep this fo­cused on the ten the­atri­cal movies.

James: Shall we start with what we think is the best?

Chris: Yes. I would say that, in­con­tro­vert­ibly, the great­est Star Wars film by a coun­try mile is The Em­pire Strikes Back.

James: Not so much.

Helen: That’s not my num­ber one.

Jonathan: Yeah, no.

James: This is the per­ceived wis­dom, that Em­pire Strikes Back is dark and edgy and cool and there­fore the best and has a re­ally down­beat end­ing. It’s a bril­liant film, but it’s not the best. It’s not A New Hope.

Helen: A New Hope is the ab­so­lute pin­na­cle. Without it, you have noth­ing. It has a com­plete story — a be­gin­ning, mid­dle and end — which is the one area where, in­con­tro­vert­ibly, it stands head and shoul­ders above Em­pire.

Chris: Con­tro­vert­ibly!

James: Star Wars has a pu­rity. It’s a sin­gle-track story with very clean mile­stones. It’s per­fectly formed and mag­nif­i­cently crafted. It has the best open­ing of all of them with the Star De­stroyer com­ing over­head. I think that film is ab­so­lutely mag­i­cal.

Jonathan: The one I re­mem­ber more than any­thing is Jedi. That stuck with me be­cause of all the crazy crea­tures in Jabba’s Palace. But if I were to sit down and watch any of them, the one I would choose is most likely A New Hope be­cause it’s so joy­ous all the way through. Chris: Em­pire Strikes Back is the best. Not be­cause I’m a cool dude who likes a bleak end­ing. Though I do like that. I think it’s a more con­fi­dent movie. A bet­ter movie. The char­ac­ter work is fan­tas­tic. I think vis­ually it’s bet­ter. The lightsaber bat­tle be­tween Luke and Darth is pos­si­bly the vis­ual high point of the series.

Helen: I don’t dis­agree with any of that.

Chris: So let’s put it at num­ber one. James: The thing with Em­pire is it’s a film of spares. There’s a spare ev­ery­one by de­sign. No­body was signed up for Jedi, so Ge­orge Lu­cas needed a spare Luke, so ‘there is an­other Sky­walker’. And if Har­ri­son Ford didn’t come back, he needed a spare Han, which is where Lando comes in. The Em­peror was in­tro­duced as a po­ten­tial spare Vader in case he couldn’t get James Earl Jones. Yoda is a re­place­ment for Obi-wan.

Helen: There’s only one Leia. We can’t have two women in a film be­cause that would be prob­lem­atic.

Chris: It has the great­est twist in cinema his­tory. We can all agree on that.

Jonathan: It’s amaz­ing be­cause of the emo­tional weight it car­ries. It’s not just a par­lour trick. It mat­ters to Luke.

Helen: It would have been bet­ter if it hadn’t been at­tempted again and again in ev­ery other film for the last 40 years.

Chris: My list falls into three dis­tinct cat­e­gories. The orig­i­nal tril­ogy in the top three, the pre­quels in the bot­tom three, and the mid­dle films are the four new Star Wars films.

James: Same, but I strug­gled with this a lot. The pre­quels have mo­ments of sheer ge­nius but also mo­ments so ap­palling they make you want to claw your own eye­balls out of your head.

Chris: The pre­quels were much ma­ligned and haven’t aged well, but there is great stuff. The Po­drace. Duel Of The Fates. Re­venge Of The Sith has a crack­ing open­ing 20 min­utes. Or­der

66, which is great.

Helen: Aw­ful. But amaz­ing. But aw­ful. Yoda with a lightsaber, which I re­ally like. James: The or­tho­doxy is that The Phan­tom Men­ace is the worst Star Wars

film. I am here to tell you that it’s the best of the three pre­quels.

Helen: What?

James: At­tack Of The Clones is the worst by a coun­try mile. Re­venge Of The Sith is all show and no sub­stance.

Jonathan: It’s my least favourite of the pre­quels. At­tack Of The Clones, for all its faults, has a sem­blance of mys­tery and the be­gin­nings of a ro­mance for the ages.

Sith is a re­lent­less pa­rade of events you know have to hap­pen. It’s sim­ply tick­ing boxes.

Chris: I would re­visit those films in a way that I wouldn’t re­visit the new batch.

James: I have af­fec­tion for them, in all their ter­ri­ble glory.

Helen: I would ab­so­lutely go back to the new batch be­fore any of those.

Chris: The new films are in the mid­dle of my top ten, but I don’t have a lot of af­fec­tion for them.

James: The Force Awak­ens gives me the warm, fuzzy Star Wars feel­ing in the way The Last Jedi doesn’t. But I think

The Last Jedi is prob­a­bly a bet­ter film.

Helen: It’s def­i­nitely a bet­ter film.

I think it’s the first in a lit­tle while that’s done some­thing fresh and new, in the way Em­pire did.

Jonathan: It did sur­prise us. It’s hard for a block­buster to do that these days. That fi­nal hour of The Last Jedi is a re­mark­able hour of cinema.

James: It’s amaz­ing how po­lar­is­ing that film is. The ha­tred for it is ex­tra­or­di­nary. When I came out of it, I thought, “Peo­ple are go­ing to loathe this.” It doesn’t feel like the Star Wars they want it to be. Force Awak­ens was the op­po­site. It was in­cred­i­bly fa­mil­iar, if a lit­tle de­riv­a­tive.

Chris: That’s why I don’t like it.

Helen: I think The Force Awak­ens is a palate cleanser. It’s a re-state­ment of val­ues, and of what Star Wars is. Chris: I dis­agree. You can take The Force Awak­ens and over­lay it per­fectly over A New Hope. It’s so safe. There are no sur­prises what­so­ever. That re­ally frus­trated me.

Helen: But I think we needed that to some ex­tent.

Chris: Enough squab­bling. Let’s vote!

Episodes i-viii, and Rogue one: A star WARS story, are out now on dvd, Blu-ray and down­load. solo: A star WARS story is in cin­e­mas now

To lis­ten to the full Star Wars de­bate as a pod­cast, go to www.em­pire­on­line. com/pod­cast

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