The Star Wars Saga

 

Reviewed and Ranked

 

Part 3



The Star Wars Saga: Reviewed and Ranked
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The Star Wars Saga:

Star Wars: (Original Trilogy)
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) | Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars: (Prequel Trilogy)
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) | Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Star Wars: (Sequel Trilogy)
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
| Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)
Star Wars: Episode IX (2019)

The Star Wars Saga: Reviewed and Ranked
Reviews and Rankings (in Episodic Chronological Order) - Part 3
The Sequel Trilogy

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

Chronological Story Order: 7
Release Order
: 7
Series Rank: 3 out of 8

Notable: The first part of a sequel trilogy of Star Wars (Episodes VII, VIII and IX). This was the second Star Wars film to be released in IMAX, and the first to be released in IMAX 3D. It was released 32 years after its immediate chronological predecessor, Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). Every other live-action Star Wars film before was released in May, except for this one, released in December.
Tagline:
"Every generation has a story."
Director: J.J. Abrams
Plot:
Opening Crawl: "Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed. With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help in restoring peace and justice to the galaxy. Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to Jakku, where an old ally has discovered a clue to Luke’s whereabouts..."

The setting was thirty years after the Battle of Endor and the defeat of the Galactic Empire, portrayed in Return of the Jedi. The galaxy was still at war, pitting the New Republic (and its Resistance fighters) against the villainous forces of the First Order, successors of the Galactic Empire. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), the ex-Princess, sent Starfighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) (with his rolling, orange and white droid-robot astromech BB-8) on a secret mission to the desert planet of Jakku to help locate and save the last Jedi, her twin brother Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), from the evil First Order. Poe was given a star-map by village elder Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) that might help the Resistance locate Luke. Poe was trailed by First Order Stormtroopers, who assaulted the village. A large command shuttle from an orbiting Star Destroyer also landed, carrying evil, dark-hooded Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who wielded a fiery-red plasma, cross-guarded lightsaber, possessed strong mind-probing powers, and was allied with the Dark Side. [The Vader-obsessed villain took orders from the First Order's Supreme Leader Lord Snoke (Andy Serkis) via hologram.] Ren was aided by chrome-plated, metallic-armored Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Poe hid the map inside his droid, who was instructed to deliver it to General Leia, as the village and its inhabitants were decimated, Lor was murdered, and Poe was captured. One of the Stormtroopers, reluctant to fire during the massacre, was FN-2187, later renamed Finn (John Boyega), who would soon turn his back on the Dark Side and join the Resistance. On the planet Jakku, young orphaned scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) who was collecting the wreckage of many years of war, was trading her scrap wares at the local Niima Outpost with unscrupulous Unkar Plutt (Simon Pegg). Rey rescued BB-8 from desert scavenger Teedo (Kiran Shah) riding a Luggabeast. After changing allegiances and defecting, Finn traitorously aided imprisoned Poe in his escape from the Star Destroyer in a stolen TIE fighter. Their TIE fighter crash-landed on Jakku and a search immediately began for the escapees and the missing droid. Separately ejected from the fighter, Finn (posing as a Resistance pilot) met Rey and BB-8 at the Niima Outpost, where they were forced to flee from pursuing Stormtroopers in the marketplace. They escaped in a rusted, old freighter named the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Rey, and soon found themselves drawn into another massive freighter, the pirate ship Eravana, piloted by notorious ex-General and smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his co-pilot Chewbacca. Rey's and Finn's mission to get BB-8 back to Resistance was delayed when the ship was boarded by two groups of criminals. Fortuitously, Rey and Finn accidentally released the ship's cargo by opening container doors, unleashing three giant tentacled Rathtars with sharp teeth that attacked the gang members, allowing the group to flee in the Falcon. They set course for Takodana, to meet up with Han's old friend, dimunitive ancient pirate Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o). At her pirate's castle, Maz sensed the Force calling Rey, and Rey was drawn to a relic - an old Jedi lightsaber in a wooden box in the sub-chambers - the one previously used by Anakin and Luke. Finn, seeking adventure elsewhere, seriously considered leaving to become a mercenary. Meanwhile, First Order forces were consolidating their military might under young and ruthless General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), at their hidden Starkiller Base (a mobile ice planet), in violation of treaty restrictions of the Galaxy. During a rally at the Starkiller Base, Hux announced their development of a new superweapon, dubbed Starkiller, capable of directing the Sun's energy to decimate star systems. In a lethal demonstration, the superweapon destroyed the Republic-controlled Hosnian star system and its main planet, Hosnian Prime. The pursuing forces of the First Order detected the presence of the group on Takodana, dispatched TIE fighters and troops, and assaulted and destroyed Maz's castle - with Kylo Ren in command. Finn used the lightsaber to defend the group, but eventually, he, Han and Chewbacca were taken into custody by the First Order troops. Suddenly, Resistance group troops and X-Wing fighters approached in a successful counter-attack, led by Poe Dameron (who had survived the crash on Jakku), and the First Order was sent into retreat. However, nearby in the woods, Rey was relentlessly pursued by Kylo Ren, rendered unconscious, abducted and taken into his shuttle and later imprisoned at the Starkiller base. A Resistance transport landed, carrying General Leia and C-3PO.
During a brief reunion scene, Han grimly told Leia about seeing Kylo Ren: "I saw him. Leia, I saw our son. He was here." [Note: Luke had disappeared after one of his Jedi apprentices turned to the Dark Side, became Kylo Ren, and destroyed all that Luke had built.] The Resistance fighters and the Millennium Falcon (carrying Maz, Chewie, Han, Finn, and BB-8) regrouped at a subterranean base on the mottled green planet of D'Qar (surrounded by icy asteroid belt rings). The map in BB-8's memory banks, according to C-3PO, was incomplete and didn't match any known charted system. Leia and Han spoke about their son's decision to embrace the Dark Side, leading to their own separation. She blamed Supreme Leader Lord Snoke but still held out hope. While imprisoned at the Starkiller base, Rey was tortured and questioned by Kylo Ren (who used his mind-probe powers on her), but she resisted and fought back with her own burgeoning Force powers ("I'm not giving you anything"). She told him that she sensed fear in him: ("You're afraid that you will never be as strong as Darth Vader"). When he departed, she was able to escape her cell with a Jedi mind trick played on a Stormtrooper guard. Ren's discovery of her escape angered him and he went into a fit of rage. At the Resistance base, the fighters were debriefed as they prepared for a counter-offensive assault against the Starkiller Base and its superweapon (it drained the power of the sun to get charged so that it could destroy D'Qar). Leia warned everyone: "Our system is the next target." The Resistance's strategy was to blow up the thermal oscillator (in Precinct 47) that enabled the charging process to occur. If obliterated, it would "destabilize the core and cripple the weapon." Poe vowed to lead an assault of X-wing fighters to attack and disable the Starkiller base's shield emitters, so that they could blow up their "big gun." The assault of the Starkiller Base commenced with the Millennium Falcon crash-landing on the snowy and icy Starkiller Base planet. Han, Chewie, and Finn infiltrated the main control-room headquarters, captured Captain Phasma, and forced her to lower and disable the shield emitters before disposing of her down a garbage chute. Poe and his X-Wing fighters were given the go-ahead to attack their target (the hexagonal-shaped oscillator). The heroes' continued approach to the weapon power station to set thermal detonators in the base's power station luckily included a surprise reunion with Rey in a Base hallway. However, due to stiff defenses put up by the Starkiller Base and the First Order's TIE fighters, the Resistance forces seemed doomed. Kylo Ren and his father Han confronted each other at distant ends of a narrow catwalk bridge within the base. Han addressed Kylo with his original name ("Ben" Solo), and asked his son to remove his mask. Kylo replied: "Your son is gone. He was weak and foolish like his father, so I destroyed him." Han blamed the Supreme Leader: "Snoke is using you for your power." When they came closer and were face-to-face, Han said it wasn't "too late," and pleaded with his fallen Jedi son to "come home" and abandon the Dark Side. Ren briefly surrendered his red light-saber to Han, but then resisted, ignited the saber, and thrust it through Han's torso. After being stabbed to death, Han stroked his son's face, then fell into an abyss from the catwalk. At the same time, the power station explosives were detonated by Chewie, and a blaster fire-fight began between the surviving heroes and Ren (who was wounded). He chased Rey and Finn outside the Base as they fled into the woods toward the Falcon. When they came face-to-face, Ren knocked Rey unconscious, and then faced the traitorous Finn wielding Luke's blue lightsaber - the duel ended with the defeated Finn suffering major injuries. Regaining consciousness, Rey resumed the fight against Kylo with the light-saber, channeling the Force within her. Kylo suffered multiple wounds, was severely injured and fell back on the snow as a collapsing sink-hole separated him from Rey - he suffered an unknown fate. Chewie activated the Falcon and rescued both Rey and the seriously-injured Finn. In the air-war between the TIE fighters and the dwindling number of Resistance pilots, and with only 30 seconds remaining before the superweapon was fully charged, one remaining X-Wing fighter (piloted by Poe) released its payload in the trench at the Starkiller's oscillator, triggering other explosions that obliterated the entire base. In a panic, General Hux reported to Lord Snoke that the base had been massively damaged ("the collapse of the planet has begun"), and they immediately evacuated and abandoned the installation (hoping to locate Ren). Back at the Resistance base at D'Qar where everyone was reunited, the heroes celebrated a mixed victory - the First Order base was destroyed, but Han was dead, and Finn was seriously injured and unconscious. Dormant droid R2-D2 suddenly awakened and revealed the remaining section of the holographic map to Luke's hidden location that matched up with BB-8's fragment - the completed map pointed to a water-covered planet known as Ahch-To. In the concluding scene set on a remote, craggy island in an unknown world, Rey (accompanied by Chewbacca and R2-D2) had flown there in the Falcon, hoping to locate Luke. After Rey's arduous trek up a steep path of stone steps to the summit, a cloaked and hooded figure was found standing with his back to her. The bearded figure slowly turned towards her, removed his hood (with both hands - his right hand was mechanical) and revealed himself to be Luke Skywalker. She extended his light-saber to him with her left hand - frozen in a standstill, as the film concluded.
Academy Awards:
Nominated for five Academy Awards (with no wins): Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects.
Razzie Awards: None.
Production Budget:
$245 million.
Box-Office:
$936.7 million (domestic), $2.068 billion (worldwide)
Run-Time:
135 minutes




Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)

Chronological Story Order: 8
Release Order
: 8
Series Rank: 5 out of 8

Notable: The second part of a sequel trilogy of Star Wars films (Episodes VII, VIII and IX). This was the 8th film in the entire saga. This was the fourth Star Wars film to be released in IMAX. It was released on the 40th year anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars film in 1977. This was the second Star Wars film in the saga to be released in December. It was Carrie Fisher's final film (to portray Princess/General Leia Organa) - she died at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016, about one year before the film's premiere in Los Angeles on December 9, 2017. At the time, it was the longest of the eight Star Wars Saga films, at 152 minutes.
Director: Rian Johnson
Plot:
Opening Crawl: "The FIRST ORDER reigns. Having decimated the peaceful Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys his merciless legions to seize military control of the galaxy. Only General Leia Organa's band of RESISTANCE fighters stand against the rising tyranny, certain that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will return and restore a spark of hope to the fight. But the Resistance has been exposed. As the First Order speeds toward the Rebel base, the brave heroes mount a desperate escape...."

The First Order fleet (under the command of General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, CGI)) was threatening General Leia Organa's (Carrie Fisher) Rebel base on the planet of D'Qar. To allow most of the Rebel transports to evacuate all of the Resistance fighters, ace pilot, Commander Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) (with droid BB-8) disobediently but successfully counter-attacked and destroyed the First Order's Dreadnought, although most of his squadron's compatriots were killed. The Rebels escaped by jumping through a wormhole and entering into hyperspace at lightspeed, in search of a new base. Poe was reprimanded and demoted by Leia for his reckless disobedience. Meanwhile, scavenger and Resistance rebel Rey (Daisy Ridley) had traveled on the Millennium Falcon (with droid R2-D2 and Wookie Chewbacca) to the oceanic planet of Ahch-To where she located the reclusive "Last Jedi" Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia's twin brother. In self-imposed exile, Luke tossed away the lightsaber offered to him by Rey, and refused to be recruited to help his sister Leia in the Resistance movement. He learned of his brother-in-law Han Solo's death at the hands of First Order leader Kylo Ren (aka Ben Solo) (Adam Driver), Leia's and Han's son. Snoke was serving as apprentice Ren's Master, to groom him to become like his Dark Lord grandfather, Darth Vader. To Rey, Luke revealed a sacred tree library holding the ancient Jedi texts. He realized that Rey had the ability of seeing visions, and was possibly Force-sensitive, but steadfastly refused to initiate her and teach her the ways of the Force. Surprisingly, the First Order fleet (Snoke's ship, a Star Destroyer named Supremacy) was able to track the Rebel transports through hyperspace with new tracking capabilities. Kylo Ren (newly-motivated after being reprimanded by Snoke) piloted his own Starfighter to lead an assault of TIE-fighters against the Resistance fleet, but hesitated to fire at the Rebel bridge when he sensed that his mother (Leia Organa) was present. A massive blast sucked Leia out into space without protection, critically injuring and incapacitating her. On the island, Luke reconsidered helping the Rebels, and informed Rey that he would begin her basic initiation training (three lessons) in the ways of a Jedi. Poe was upset when Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) was put in command of the remaining Resistance forces. Runaway First Order Stormtrooper Finn (FN-2187) (John Boyega) teamed up with mechanic/maintenance worker Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), with Poe's support, to disable the "dedicated power breaker" that enabled the tracker on the First Order's Star Destroyer ship. However, they first had to locate a Master Codebreaker (Justin Theroux) in the casino city of Canto Bight. Rey began communicating with Ren through involuntary shared visions via the Force. Luke became concerned about Rey's level of "raw strength" - identical to what he had seen in his nephew Ben Solo (Kylo Ren!) when Luke was training him as a Jedi. In a troubling flashback, he recalled how Ben had chosen the Dark Side through the corrupting influence of Supreme Leader Snoke. In Canto Bight, Finn and Rose were arrested before they were able to confer with the Codebreaker, for illegally parking their shuttle on the beach. In their jail cell, they met a common thief known as DJ (Benicio del Toro) who offered his services for a price. During a jail break, a fathier stable boy helped them free all the abused race animals with Rose and Finn riding on two of them. DJ and BB-8 had stolen a luxury spacecraft/yacht and rescued them, and the group flew on toward the Supremacy - to resume their plan to disarm the hyperspace tracker. Back on the Rebel ship, Admiral Holdo's cowardly plan for the Resistance forces was to abandon their vulnerable cruiser using a fleet of smaller transport vessels for evacuation - a risky plan that dismayed Poe. Eventually, Rey left Luke on the island and flew off on the Millennium Falcon, to find Kylo Ren and urge him to use the powers of the Force for good. Although warned by Luke, she believed that she could redeem him from the Dark Side, and that he could save the entire galaxy ("He's our last hope"). Luke's vision of Yoda led to the burning of the sacred tree library, but unbeknownst to Luke, Rey had already taken the ancient texts with her. Aggravated by the lack of leadership from Admiral Holdo, Poe staged a mutiny and took control of the bridge. Soon after, Leia revived, ended Poe's mutiny, and took over command. Holdo bravely volunteered to stay behind and pilot the cruiser single-handedly, while the evacuation onto transports was occurring. The transports were heading for the mineral planet of Crait, an "uncharted hideout" with a heavily-armored but abandoned Rebel base. At the same time, Rey entered Snoke's flagship the Supremacy, where she was greeted by Ren and two Stormtroopers with handcuffs and taken to Snoke's throne room. In another part of the ship, Finn and Rose had been apprehended by Stormtroopers led by chrome-armored Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). They discovered that DJ had betrayed them and they were about to be executed. In Snoke's throne room, Ren was ordered by Snoke to kill Rey, but instead, he bisected Snoke in two with Luke's lightsaber. Then Rey and Ren fought off Snoke's elite guards, but afterwards struggled for possession of the lightsaber that broke into two pieces. Ren was thrown unconscious, while Rey fled in Snoke's escape craft. As Finn and Rose were about to be beheaded by laser axes, Admiral Holdo self-sacrificially rammed the Rebel cruiser into Snoke's flagship, the Supremacy, and split it in two. The chaos interrupted the execution, and Finn dueled Captain Phasma to the death when she fell into a flaming chasm. Ren assumed command of the First Order when he revived, told General Hux that Rey had killed Snoke, and choked Hux into submission. By this time, the Rebels had reached a fortified mine (an abandoned base) on the planet of Crait, and awaited a tremendous assault by the First Order - from TIE-fighters, AT-walkers, and a massive Superlaser battering-ram cannon. Finn, Rose and BB-8 crash-landed in a stolen tri-winged shuttle while escaping from pursuing TIE-fighters, and then with other Rebels attempted to draw away fire in rusty old skim-speeders. Rey also arrived with Chewie and joined the fire-fight in the Millennium Falcon. Rose was severely wounded when she prevented Finn from heroically destroying the cannon. Suddenly, Luke appeared and confronted Ren outside the Base, and appeared invincible when fired upon. His stalling tactics during a lightsaber duel with Ren allowed the Rebels to escape from the rear of the mine, with help from Rey's control of the Force. After Luke invited Ren to strike him down, Ren's laser blade passed through him with no harm, revealing that Luke's body was only a non-corporeal, ghostly projection of his real physical body, still on the island of Ahch-To. Luke bid his nephew goodbye before his projection faded from view: "See you around, kid." Sapped of strength, exhausted and weakened, Luke collapsed on a rock slab, stared up at Ahch-To's blazing setting suns on the horizon, and then slowly faded away completely - he had become one with the Force. On Crait, Rey and Leia sensed Luke's passing away. As the surviving Resistance evacuees flew away on the Millennium Falcon, Finn opened a drawer on the vessel and accidentally found the collection of leather-bound books taken by Rey from the original Jedi library that Yoda had destroyed. In the final scene on Canto Bight, the young stable boy listened to a legendary tale told by another stable kid about "Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master," then summoned a broom propped by the door - with the Force - to effortlessly glide into his hand. As he gazed upward to the skies, the camera revealed Rose's Resistance insignia ring on his finger.
Set-Pieces: the attack on the First Order's Dreadnought during the Resistance's evacuation of D'Qar, the First Order's assault on the Rebel flagship cruiser after it disengaged from lightspeed - led by Kylo Ren - and the destruction of the bridge, the fathier stampede through the Canto Bight casino and escape to the Libertine, Kylo Ren's and Rey's light-saber battle in Snoke's throne room against his elite guards after the killing of Snoke, the cross-cutting between the simultaneous collision of the Raddus into the First Order's Destroyer the Supremacy as Ren and Rey struggled to possess Luke's lightsaber and Finn and Rose were about to be executed; the duel between Finn and Captain Phasma; and the concluding Battle on Crait including the lightsaber duel between Luke and his nephew Kylo Ren.
Academy Awards:
Nominated for four Academy Awards (with no wins): Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
Razzie Awards: None.
Production Budget:
$200-217 million
Box-Office:
$620.2 million (domestic), and $1.33 billion (worldwide)
Run-Time:
152 minutes



The Star Wars Saga - Ranked
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


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