Since Star Wars came out in 1977, all of the successive sequels and prequels that follows have skewed more or less towards a younger market; even The Empire Strikes Back has cheesy puppets and romantic elements which drop the ball, and from return of the Jedi onwards, it’s strictly for kids. Rogue One reverses the trend; it’s a dark, gritty, downbeat epic that tells the story of how the rebels captured the plans for the Death Star, a kind of Guns of Navarone in space. As well as addressing a number of plot holes in the original film, Rogue One feels more like a war film than a family-friendly blockbuster; parents with kids under ten should be warned that the good guys get their asses kicked here. But the formula of the original films is well-adhered to in Gareth Edwards’s one-off adventure; robot sidekick K2-S0 generates some good comedy touches, which are much needed because the storyline and characters are deliberately bleak. The introduction of a CGI Peter Cushing is regrettable, looking more like a video-game character and never resembling the original actor for a moment. But as the narrative builds to a massive multi-layed battle and a brilliant bit of business with a stuck door, Rogue One is the best entry in the series since, well, the original Star Wars itself.
Something of a period piece now, made before George Lucas tarnished his own legacy with the second Star Wars trilogy, Joe Nussbaum’s eight minute short is a delightful take on the creation of the popular film franchise. Played by Martin Hynes, George Lucas is presented much like William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love; dotting around film school campus, he’s on the verge of creating his masterpiece, and the short takes glee in presenting the raw materials we now recognise as pop culture icons, from his backwards talking tutor (Yoda), the local mechanic and his hairy, guttural pal (Han Solo and Chewbacca) and the oddly-coiffured girlfriend who inspires him to create and agricultural sci-fi fantasy. Made at a time when Lucas was seen as a legend rather than a villain, George Lucas in Love is a refreshing valentine to one of cinema’s most loved and hated creative forces.
From the fertile imagination of George Lucas comes this made for television special, set in the crummier end of the Star Wars universe. Long before the expanded universe was deemed a financial goldmine, oddities like this as the notorious Star Wars holiday special cheapened the much-loved ideas to hilarious effect. A touch-stone in so-bad-its –good cinema, John Korty’s film is populated by the inexpressive teddy-bears of Endor, and fails to wring many different emotions from characters that barely worked as comic relief. As they battle to help children who need to be reunited with their parents, the Ewok costumes prove somewhat cumbersome for expressions of domestic angst, grief, romance and just about anything. Add in in some fairly cheap-looking effects and a dull narrative, and Korty’s film is a muddy footbath compared to the massive swimming pool of the Star Wars saga.