So, I have now watched all 6 Star Wars movies in chronological order (chronological in terms of the story, not the making of the films). Watching them this way definitely took away a lot of the shock of the revelations that emerge in the last few episodes.
I am not usually a person who judges or even particularly notices the quality of the acting in a movie. I tend to either like the story and how it was executed overall or not. Of course, I don’t watch many movies, so maybe I mostly only see the ones with good acting. But as I watched the various episodes of Star Wars, I was very much struck by a few actors who were really bad—so bad that it took effort to stay with the story through their parts. I was also quite aware of how much less “epic” the movies felt to me than their reputations would lead me to believe.
I saw the first Star Wars movie when it first came out in 1980. I remember having a profound conversation in the car on the way home about the symbolism and meaning of the movie. I also watched The Empire Strikes Back when it first came out. Interestingly, in neither case, did the story feel “unfinished” at the end, though now seeing all the movies, each one feels very much unfinished—even the final episode The Return of the Jedi.
The biggest weakness of the films is that the “star” is the worst actor on the screen. Actually, in the first movie, I thought the young boy who played Aniken was pretty good, if too young for the part. But the guy who played the grown up Aniken? He was bad. I was really disappointed when he showed up in the third movie again. Given the quality of the other actors, he really stood out like a sore thumb. And then, of course, we have Mark Hamill. Eegads. Though I have to say, his poor acting by contrast showed me that Carrie Fisher was actually a pretty good actress and Harrison Ford got better and better with each episode. (He also got considerably better looking!)
At any rate, my overall rating? Revenge of the Sith was definitely the best, followed by Return of the Jedi. It is a good story, though it is very easy to just take the story on the surface (a classic “good vs. evil” story) and it takes thought and analysis to actually understand the deeper meaning of it. The most profound message for me, this time around at least, was in Luke’s triumph at the end. Not a triumph of good over evil or any of that, but more meaningfully, his triumph over his destiny. (Or at least the Emporer’s interpretation of his destiny.) That he did not turn out to be what “the powers” were sure he was meant to be, by the force of his own will and his own decision, was not an easy thing—this is not an easy thing in life.
And, OMG, I want an Ewok! A tribe of brave, inventive, loving teddy bears—how could you not love them to death???