Where does The Last Jedi fit within the Star Wars canon?
Is it better than Rogue One? Or close to Return of the Jedi?
Oh no. It’s another Star Wars ranking. Here’s how we think the latest dull space opera compares to its light-sabered kin.
9: STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 - THE PHANTOM MENACE
If it’s a Star Wars ranking then we know we’ll have an early encounter with the film that helped teach Generation X about the awful disappointments that life inflicts upon us all. The most anticipated film of all time turned out to be a dud of universe-straining proportions. Jar Jar Binks, the insulting, racially dubious alien, has become a signifier of 1990s confusion. No re-evaluation has followed.
8: STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES
I can’t remember anything about this, but I do know that it was slightly better than the film that came before it. Wasn’t this the one where Yoda became all tasty with his light sabre? It was. Let’s fill up the rest of the space by noting how the prequel series offered, in its titles, practical lessons on how to use the colon and the em-dash. They gave up on that for the current bunch.
7: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
This is already a controversial view, but stay with me here. The new film squanders much of the goodwill generated by The Force Awakens by permitting enough fan service for an episode of the notorious prequel trilogy. Having introduced some interesting characters in Episode VII, JJ Abrams’s team failed to find anything interesting to do with them. Still, fans can fall back on the comforting strains of John Williams’s score and Mark Hamill’s stubborn performance as Luke Skywalker. Close your eyes and it could be 1978.
6. STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH
You have to hand it (or some of it) to George Lucas. The prequel trilogy was a disappointment, but it got better as it went along. By the time we got to part three, we had something that looked a little like a proper motion picture. The prequel trilogy existed to explain Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace and his embrace of the Darth Vader persona. Everything that came before felt like so much padding around a delayed killer blow. Hayden Christensen still underwhelms, but Natalie Portman is there to add class.
5. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Rogue One was almost a terrific film. There were stories of disputes on set. We know that significant reshoots took place. So closed were the mouths of those in the know that we’re still not sure whether the confusion made for a better or a worse film. At any rate, we did get a superb lead in the spirited, funny, charismatic Felicity Jones. The picture had a clean quest at its heart. The surrounding gang (though too male) were well cast. What a shame it meandered so crazily towards its confused close. A touch more focus and it would have been a stormer.
4. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
It was not a completely terrible idea to return to the template of the opening film. After all, that structure had its own roots in ancient myth and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. JJ Abrams, no fool, poked the structure and came up with a charming neo-Luke in Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Yes, there were a few cheap pulls at the nostalgia handle. But who can begrudge old fans a sight of Chewbacca and Han Solo back in action. A satisfactory clearing of the throat.
3. THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
In Star Wars rankings, it is often noted that, if it weren’t for the Ewoks, then Return of the Jedi might be the best of the opening trilogy. They are to this picture as George Lazenby is to the excellent On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The Ewoks are, you see, just for kids. Let’s clear this up now. The Star Wars films are primarily kids’ entertainments and the Ewoks are the best thing in what is already a pretty good film. It’s also got good Jabba the Hutt stuff.
2. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
At which point, the regular reader of Star Wars rankings thumps the article on its side as if trying to mend a TV from the 1970s. “This bloody things broken again. It’s got The Empire Strikes Back somewhere other than number one.” Calm down. The Empire Strikes Back is a great sequel. Buoyed up by the original film’s success, Lucas and his team set to further fleshing out characters and further expanding the universe. Lovely relationship between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Great, grim denouement. A classic space opera.
1. STAR WARS
The name of the film is Star Wars. I know that for a fact. I saw it in 1978 and that’s what appeared on the screen as John Williams’s stirring theme blasted us towards the fag end of a famously troubled decade. If you want to call it Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope then knock yourself out. Maybe, Paul Blart: Mall Cop will be called something else in a few decades, but I’m sticking with its current name also.
Star Wars should not be blamed for ending the period of post-classical Hollywood cinema. Something was eventually going to kill that semi-movement and return Hollywood to raw commerce. We should rejoice that it was such a delightful entertainment. It was top of the Star Wars rankings in 1977 (second place: space) and it remains so today.