I decided to re-watch Rogue One, then Episode IV: A New Hope immediately after. I have never done this before! Rogue One is a 2016 film, but a prequel to 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope. I know the original Star Wars film like the back of my hand, but I wonder, how will the experience change after having just watched its prequel? Rogue One ends with Princess Leia having just escaped the Imperials and Darth Vader, with the plans to the Death Star. Star Wars began with Princess Leia storing those plans in a certain little R2 unit, before being captured by Darth Vader.
Will it feel natural? Rogue One is the story of the individuals, rebels, who just battled and sacrificed their lives to accomplish getting those Death Star weapon plans. It also explains, in a satisfactory way, why this huge battle station has a critical security flaw that farmboy Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance will later exploit. Rogue One was created nearly 40 years later, thus it likely has much more believable special effects and production values. Right?
Watching Rogue One ....
From Rogue One's first moments, I enjoyed the fresh direction and mood that is set. There is no verbiage screen crawl here, instead the film starts quickly with a great-looking scene of an Imperial shuttle descending past a planet's rings and down to its surface. RO avoids the 2000's-era CGI look of the prequel films and feels very different from them. I don't dislike the prequel films, but they do seem to exist in their own bubble, with a very different in feel from the Original Trilogy or any other Star Wars films. Rogue One seems to fit naturally with the feel of ANH. Care must have been taken to purposely do this.
Having just watched EpIII: Revenge of the Sith, I enjoyed seeing Jimmy Smits appear in Rogue One as Bail Organa, appearing without notice from the shadows at the Rebel base. Unfortunately, he informs Mon Mothma that he is heading back to Alderaan ... and we all know what is going to happen to Alderaan soon.
Now ... rewatching the OT films.
Over the weekend I watched the DVD special editions of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I just didn't have the patience to dig out my VHS versions and watch them in crappy resolution, so I tolerated a few of the extra S.E. goodies... more on those later on. I need to hunt down the de-Specialized versions.
First of all, I did feel that Rogue One led naturally to Ep4 A New Hope, not much else to say. Good job RO people!
Watching ANH, I was reminded what a great film that is. It doesn't waste a moment. Many scenes are not hurried and are left to breathe a bit, but even so the film is tightly edited and never lost my attention. TESB was also a fantastic and complex story line of course. TESB was the first Star Wars film I watched back in the day - around 6th grade I think - since I had not been taken to see the original Star Wars in '77. So, I will always be partial to TESB as a film, yet I still can't find any reasons to disagree about TESB geing the absolute best of all the Star Wars shows. It was even more fantastic BITD when we learned that Vader is Luke's father, and Yoda says "there is another" hope. Well, we wondered for 3 years, who is it? And was Vader lying? You cant trust a thing that a Sith says, and that seems to make Obi-Wan into a big fibber. Which we learned later, is true. From a certain point of view.
I feel like a hypocrite after complaining about forced C-3PO humor in Attack of the Clones, because there are a TON of 3PO "funny quips" in TESB too. One quip that I really did enjoy was when 3PO didn't quite get through the Hoth rebel base door following after Solo and Leia; it closes on him, and 3PO turns away and mutters "typical!". I laughed. Then Han opens the door again and pulls 3PO into safety.
Watching ROTJ, I found myself feeling impatient with Jabba's palace scenes for some reason. The Special Edition "improvements" are at their most intrusive here, with CGI alien singers and extra music that was not needed. If this is the first time a person watched it, I guess it is fine, but to me, these extras are intrusive. You have to remember, this film introduced Jabba the Hut (mentioned but not shown in the prior films, before the Special Editions added him to one ANH scene at Mos Eisley). He was introduced and he is magnificent here - gross, slimy, shrewd, cruel. A real gangster. The puppet work on Jabba is fantastic - his eyes narrlow pupils focus and you can read his emotions when he laughs or is angered; and his tail and hands are moving independently in a natural way. Jabba is deservedly strangled to death by Leia in a gruesome tail-twitching scene.
After seeing a CGI Yoda in the prequel trilogy films, I was reminded at just how well the puppet Yoda (TESB/ ROTJ) works! Such an expressive little character. When he died in ROTJ from extreme old age (when 900 years you reach, look as good you will not!), it is a heart wrenching scene. Slow-motion is used both in TESB's Dark Side cave and in ROTJ when Yoda vanishes after dying, his cloth clothing slowly folding in its own emptiness. Love that stuff.
I really enjoyed the OT films again and I think I may rewatch them all again before Episode IX! They are far and away still the best of Star Wars. ROTJ is the lesser of the 3 OT films to me, despite it having absolutely fantastic and iconic scenes and a satisfying ending - there is a little bit of 'seen this all before' with the Death Star, and personally I get impatient watching some of Jabba's palace and the Ewok village scenes.
My rankings of the films I've seen so far on this watch (man this is hard, ranking them) is: Ep5 > Ep4 > Ep6 > Ep3 > Ep1 > Ep2.
I'm not sure where the side-stories of Solo and Rogue One fit in. But to me, RO > Solo. It seems wrong to put them ahead of any of George Lucas' work, like comparing apples to oranges. I'll think about it and rank them all after I've also rewatched Ep7 and Ep8.