November 17, 2019 – If you are feeling a bit academic and nostalgic – and you have spare time to read some intricately written reviews of the Star Wars saga – then Entertainment Weekly (EW) has a treat for you.
In its countdown to The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20), EW critic Darren Franich is in the midst of reviewing every film in the Star Wars franchise. But be forewarned: While Mr. Franich has a talent for weaving words and wields powers of observation that may make you look at Star Wars in a different light, his writing at times meanders into self-indulgent musings or digressions that make you scratch your head and wonder aloud: “Where is he going with this?”
Despite the foregoing challenges, the movie reviews of EW’s Darren Franich are well worth the time and effort to read; sometimes for his unique observations, other times the clever quips, and always for the sheer nostalgia.
Review of Star Wars (1977)
EW’s review of the George Lucas film that started it all was published on Oct. 23, 2019. Read the full review HERE.
Favorite excerpts from the review:
● At the Cantina: “But have you ever really thought about why they don’t like Luke? Imagine. You’re a barfly at the local, downing a few with your tusked colleague while Figrin D’An toodles his Kloo horn. Some floppy-haired pretty boy walks in with heavily laundered clothes, a judgey glare in his bright eyes, and a better-than-this attitude. To announce his presence at the bar, he actually pulls on the back of the bartender’s shirt: Faux pax, Luke, faux pas!”
● “[W]hat jumps off the screen are the machines. There’s no human gesture so poignant as R2-D2 fidgeting back and forth, like a trashcan in a long bathroom line.”
● “…Princess Leia watches her entire planet blow up — and gets over it. ‘Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?’ is her first line after the Death Star kabooms Alderaan. Treasure Fisher’s over-it delivery, like she left the party hours before you arrived. ‘We have no time for our sorrows, Commander,’ she explains later.”
Review of The Empire Strikes Back (1983)
EW’s review of The Empire Strikes Back was published on Oct. 30, 2019. You can read the full review HERE.
Many have already written about the well-worn, scuffed, battle-damaged look of Star Wars’ sets and props, which give George Lucas’s galaxy its signature look. But EW critic Darren Franich points out how deflatingly broken everything is in Empire:
“Nothing works in The Empire Strikes Back. The Millennium Falcon can’t jump to light speed, and the failing hyperdrive cackles like a wheezing hyena. The rebel airspeeders can’t go searching for lost Luke … because the engineers are ‘having some trouble adapting them to the cold’ … [I]n a movie full of tinkering we first see Chewbacca welding on the Falcon exterior. Han takes a turn with the welding torch, tells Chewie to flip a switch — and explosions sizzlepop at his feet … Leia is welding right before she kisses Han the first time. R2-D2 finally fixes the hyperdrive, so here’s the pulse-pounding climax: An engine, working.”
Some other favorite excerpts from the review:
● “The Lawrence Kasdan dialogue crackles. The John Williams score sounds like a cathedral made of fireworks. Director Irvin Kershner shoots with a walk-and-talk fluidity that makes Lucas’ own staging look painfully flat. All hail sound designer Ben Burtt: The tittering probe droid, the braying AT-AT laserspray.”
● “It’s a galaxy of terror: ice planet, swamp planet, sky city built atop a plummeting gas planet. And it’s a universe of machines that break down. Someone has to fix them … ‘My hands are dirty,’ Leia says. ‘My hands are dirty, too,’ Han responds: Who needs to say ‘I love you’ after that?”
Review of Return of the Jedi (1983)
EW’s review of Return of the Jedi was published on Nov. 6, 2019.
Read the full review HERE.
Not all of the EW critic’s points hit their mark. Many would disagree when he opines: “The Ewoks! They’re a snooze in Return of the Jedi, but I’ll go to bat for Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor, the awkward yet enthralling fairy tale spin-offs.”
The EW review makes worthier points with these observations:
● “Jabba’s a gangster … His whole organization exists to consume itself … The Rancor emerges from behind a gigantic door, and the jagged bottom of its portal will be the teeth that collapse into its skull. There’s always a bigger mouth waiting to devour you, and the substory ends at the Great Pit of Carkoon, where the Sarlacc Pit swallows anything you throw at it.”
● “Luke by this point is sexless and undesiring … His scenes with Vader and the Emperor are speechy postulations without feeling or danger. When Vader climactically lifts his boss into the air, Palpatine’s arms stay outstretched: He’s not even a fully posable action figure.”
Review of The Phantom Menace and More
Entertainment Weekly will be publishing additional reviews, including of the prequel trilogy, in the weeks to come. You can find a list of them here.