This coming December the highly anticipated Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker will give us the final installment (really?) in the Star Wars universe, a place that so many of us have visited for over four decades now. This “space opera” series is one of my personal favorites, so I thought it might be fun to recall some quotes, memorable and otherwise, from the first eight films, as well as offer some observations about each one. I’ll do this in episodic order, which is the same way the films should be watched.
EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
We all were puzzled when the initial three films to appear on the screen (1977, 1980, 1983) were numbered Episodes IV-VI. So okay, we learned that creator George Lucas had planned a prequel trilogy, and we were patient—more or less. I mean, sixteen years is a long time.
Just how excited were we when The Phantom Menace premiered? Its box office gross topped one billion (with a “b”) dollars, not bad for two decades ago. This in spite of the fact that Episode I did not resonate with critics, or with many regular audiences. It is, to this day, the lowest-rated film in the series.
So what happened? A lot of the blame fell upon the shoulders of the Jar Jar Binks character. He was too cartoonish, a “merchandising opportunity,” some called him. He was added to provide comic relief—but he was not funny, others said. Okay, I found him annoying, but not enough to distract me from the heart of the film, which was to introduce the young Anakin Skywalker (the future Darth Vader) and his Jedi mentor-to-be, Obi Wan Kenobi, as well as others from the earlier trilogy. And with advanced CGI special effects, The Phantom Menace was a visually stunning production.
“Mom, you said that the biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps each other.” Nine-year-old Anakin started out as a caring human being. (Things being what they are these days, that line still resonates.)
Shmi Skywalker, when asked about Anakin’s father, replies, “There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” (Hmm, an immaculate birth?)
Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi Wan’s mentor, talking about Anakin: “Finding him was the will of the Force. I have no doubt of that.”
With his dying breath, Qui-Gon tells Obi Wan, “He is the chosen one. He will bring balance. Train him.”
Finally, Obi Wan says something to Anakin that he—and so many others—will come to regret: “The council has given me permission to train you. You will be a Jedi, I promise.”
EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
Though better received than its predecessor, Episode II did not do nearly as well at the box office. The story takes place ten years after The Phantom Menace, its focus on the growing unrest between different factions in the galaxy, ultimately leading to the Clone Wars.
Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, are assigned to protect Senator Padmé Amidala, former queen of Naboo. Anakin has been in love with Padmé since he was a boy. He is a headstrong young man, as we see when he returns to his home world to rescue his mother from Tusken Raiders. After she dies in his arms, Anakin goes berserk and massacres the entire tribe. Hints of the villainous Darth Vader are already apparent. Defying the Jedi order, Anakin and Padmé are married.
In a prophetic comment, Obi Wan asks Anakin, “Why do I get the feeling that you’re going to be the death of me?” Anakin’s reply: “Don’t say that, master. You’re the closest thing I have to a father. I love you. I don’t want to cause you pain.”
Anakin pours his anger out to Padmé regarding his mother’s death and his subsequent actions: “I killed them. I killed them all! They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women…and the children too!”
C-3PO, as he sees the assembly line putting out droids: “Oh my goodness! Shut me down. Machines building machines. How perverse!”
“Are you allowed to love? I thought that was forbidden for a Jedi.” Padmé to Anakin.
Delusions of grandeur? Maybe so, when Anakin says, “One day, I will become the greatest Jedi ever! I will even learn how to stop people from dying.”
Obi Wan voices a warning to Anakin, ending with a humorous—and timely—observation: “Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin, they betray you. You’ve made a commitment to the Jedi Order, a commitment not easily broken. And don’t forget she’s a politician. They’re not to be trusted.”
Chancellor Palpatine, who will become the evil Emperor, upon attaining new authority: “It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me.” (Seriously full of crap!)
Palpatine knows how powerful Anakin can become, and how to lure him to the Dark Side: “I see you becoming the greatest of all Jedi, Anakin. Even more powerful than Master Yoda.” (Gulp!)
Finally, regarding their love, Padmé tells Anakin, “We’d be living a lie. One we couldn’t keep, even if we wanted to. I couldn’t do that. Could you, Anakin? “Could you live like that?” (Apparently so, as their marriage at the end of Episode II points out.)
EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
The third film in the early trilogy did well at the box office, and it resonated both with critics and audiences. I especially loved the extended light sabre duel between Obi Wan and Anakin—now Darth Vader—on a volcanic planet. By this time Vader and the Emperor have destroyed many of the Jedi or Jedi-to-be, and Padmé, now pregnant (with Luke and Leia), is near death as she sees the man she loves turned over to the Dark Side. The transition to what will occur in Episode IV is practically seamless. Revenge of the Sith is the darkest of all the early episodes, but that was a given. It is a thrilling—as well as heartbreaking—film.
The Emperor, addressing the cheering Senate: “In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.”
Padmé, upon hearing the above: “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.”
Anakin’s visions of Padmé’s death motivate his actions and choices throughout this film. Before he turns, he seeks Yoda’s council: “Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.” When Anakin says, “I won’t let these visions come true, Master Yoda,” the Jedi Master tells him, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.”
Before their epic battle, Obi Wan tells Anakin, “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness!” When Anakin shouts, “I hate you!” Obi Wan replies, “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you!”
Brokenhearted, Padmé dies after giving birth to twins that she names Luke and Leia. The infant girl is taken by Senator Organa to be raised on his home world of Alderaan. Obi Wan takes Luke to a step-family on Tatooine, then goes into exile there. Yoda has since gone into exile on Dagobah. The stage is set for Episode IV: A New Hope, which I’ll address next week, along with Episodes V and VI.