Ranking the Star Wars movies: No. 7

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Sam Dunham

BY SAM DUNHAM (’17)

The holiday season is upon us and that means only one thing. No, not presents or sledding or chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Star Wars returns to the big screen yet again, and promises to be bigger and better than ever.

But before we look to see what Disney puts under our tree this year, it is only appropriate that we reflect on the Star Wars of Christmases (and Summers) Past. This science-fiction franchise has been a centerpiece of Hollywood since the ’70s, and to this day is perhaps the most quotable and recognizable brand in all of America. Whether it’s the iconic lines, beloved protagonists or infamous villains, everyone remembers Star Wars for something. Through its ups and downs, this timeless story has been just that: timeless. So without further ado, here is every Star Wars film ranked from worst to best.

Note: Not included in these rankings are the two animated films “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars” (yes, there’s a difference) since they are not a part of the complete saga. Also excluded is the 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special”, a movie so horrendous that it should never be associated with any Star Wars list.

7) “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”

What else is there to be said about this vastly disappointing prequel?

What was supposed to be an exciting return to the Star Wars universe after over a decade of waiting quickly became a miserable two hours in the theater for lifelong fans. After the massive success of the original trilogy, creator George Lucas was granted full control of the prequel movies, a decision that would prove costly. Although the movie was visually innovative and was a huge box office success (8th of all time in domestic box office), it lacked the charm and appeal of the originals. There were good actors all around such as Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, but the characters were robotic and painfully uninteresting. If you don’t believe it, just try describing the personalities of Qui-Gon Jin or young Obi-Wan or Queen Amidala. There are only so many synonyms for emotionless and stoic.

The blandness of the characters isn’t the only issue with the movie. Constant exposition is forced down our throats as we are forced to endure boring scenes of political debates and council meetings. The lightsaber battles seem fun but are so choreographed that it seems more like a ballet dance and less like a fight for one’s life. The CGI is so dated that the visual effects of the original trilogy far exceed it. Perhaps worst of all, Jar Jar Binks is the most hated movie character in cinema history. Not because he delivers a chilling performance or portrays a horrible villain (although there are theories about that), but because his semi-racist rastafarian voice and his bumbling, unfunny comedy are so out of place in a sci-fi adventure that he has spawned more hate websites and violent fanfiction than Osama Bin Laden.

Regardless of everyone’s favorite big-eared Bill Cosby impersonator, “The Phantom Menace” is sadly only a shadow of the original trilogy. There are positives, for sure. Darth Maul is a truly awesome villain, however he barely shows up in the movie. The pod-racing scene is also fun, and simply seeing some of the returning planets and characters was a joy for many Star Wars fans.

However, simply put, Lucas completely missed the point of what we loved about Star Wars. Innovation in the first three films came from blood, sweat, tears, and a passion for the work Lucas and co. was doing. In “The Phantom Menace” however, Lucas seemed to get everything backwards. If Lucas should be condemned for one mistake in this movie, it is his lack of originality and imagination. He did not push the boundaries like he did in the seventies and eighties, but rather cut corners and exploited a high budget in order to get things done easier. And that is the true issue with “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”, above all others. Convenience and repetition were chosen over hard work and innovation.