Ten great things about Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Wars franchise, including the prequels, original trilogy, and sequels.

Happy Star Wars Day! Today is the 4th of May – or as they say in America, May the 4th. So May the 4th be with you! Today is a day for positivity in the Star Wars fan community, so I thought it could be fun to take a look at a few of my favourite things from The Last Jedi. It goes without saying that The Last Jedi was a divisive film among Star Wars fans. However, it was one I generally enjoyed. It wasn’t “perfect,” and I don’t think it hit all of the high notes that it was aiming for, but I found it to be enjoyable.

This article isn’t an attack on anyone else’s position or opinion! If you don’t like The Last Jedi or some of the things we’re going to discuss, that’s totally okay. Practically everything in cinema is subjective, not objective, and there’s a range of opinions on practically every film. Because today is about celebrating Star Wars, I wanted to pick out some of the things that I liked from the film and talk about why they worked well for me. If you want to see how critical I can be of Star Wars… check out my reviews of The Rise of Skywalker or The Mandalorian Season 2!

Yoda in The Last Jedi.

With all of that out of the way, a brief introduction is in order, I think! Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was released theatrically in the UK on the 14th of December 2017 – but I didn’t see it until a few months later in the Spring of 2018. My health is poor, and things like trips to the cinema are no longer practical for me, unfortunately. By the time I got around to seeing the film I’d already heard the outcry from some in the Star Wars fandom, and I set my expectations pretty low for what seemed to be a divisive film. Suffice to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that I enjoyed a lot more than I’d been expecting.

After The Force Awakens had played it very safe two years earlier, The Last Jedi attempted to take Star Wars in a very different direction. Rather than repeating what the original trilogy had done, the film took its characters to completely different thematic places, introduced new sub-plots, and potentially set up the sequel trilogy for a radically different ending. The Rise of Skywalker tried to undo some of the most significant points from The Last Jedi, which was a real shame, but taken on their own merit many of these points succeed. For me, The Last Jedi is the high-water mark of the sequel trilogy, and it’s a film that I firmly believe will be considered much more favourably in years to come. Just look at how a new generation of fans has come to celebrate the once-panned prequel trilogy; The Last Jedi’s best days may lie ahead.

So let’s get started on my list! I’ve picked ten things that I admire about The Last Jedi or feel that the film did well. They’re listed below in no particular order.

Number 1:
A subtle and unexpected Rogue One connection.

Jyn Erso in Rogue One.

How was the First Order able to track the Resistance’s fleet while they were in hyperspace? This was a story point that some fans who weren’t paying very close attention didn’t like – but it was actually something that had been set up a year earlier. Rogue One, which was released in 2016, saw Jyn Erso and a rag-tag crew steal the plans to the Death Star in the days immediately prior to A New Hope. Part of their mission saw them travel to the planet of Scarif, where the plans were kept at an Imperial facility.

While looking for the Death Star plans in amongst other Imperial data tapes, Jyn found a record of the Empire’s research into hyperspace tracking. The scene was very brief, with the data tape quickly being discarded in the rush to secure the Death Star plans – but it was a great moment of connection between two disparate parts of the Star Wars franchise!

Jyn and Cassian with the Death Star plans.

Considering that Rogue One and The Last Jedi were set decades apart, these moments of connection are incredibly helpful to bind modern Star Wars together. Far from being just a throwaway line, the scene in Rogue One established that hyperspace tracking technology was something being actively researched by the Empire – while the destruction of the Imperial facility on Scarif provides a convenient narrative excuse for why it wasn’t successfully rolled out during the era of the original films.

It can be an incredibly difficult task to thread the needle like this; to insert a story element in between the pieces of the story that we already know. But Rogue One and The Last Jedi did this perfectly. If only other story beats in the sequel trilogy had this much forethought and this much setup!

Number 2:
Rey is related to nobody.

Rey learned a harsh truth.

For two years leading up to The Last Jedi, speculation was rife in the Star Wars fan community about who Rey was. Many fans concocted elaborate theories suggesting that she was the daughter or granddaughter of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine, and other Force-wielding characters. But when it was revealed in The Last Jedi that none of those things were true, it was a perfectly-executed twist.

Rey being “no one” isn’t just great because it’s a subversion or because it ignores some pretty mediocre fan theories – it works because it has something important to say. The Force can manifest in anyone, and just because that person comes from a humble background it doesn’t mean that they can’t be important. This is the story that the original Star Wars film tried to tell: Luke was the farm boy from an unimportant backwater world who went on to save the galaxy. That story was muddied by the decision to create a connection to Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, and completely erased by the time talk of prophecy and “chosen ones” entered the equation.

Kylo explained to Rey that her parents were “no one.”

In that sense, Rey’s parents being no one important and no one familiar took Star Wars back to a narrative space that it hadn’t occupied since 1977. It established that its hero truly could be anybody, that destiny and ancestry don’t matter half as much as we might’ve thought. I found that message to be incredibly uplifting and inspiring, and the idea that anyone could be a hero or do great things without needing to be related to someone important is a message that resonated. In a franchise that has been so thoroughly dominated by a handful of individuals and a single family, it was a narrative worth including.

It also presented Rey in stark contrast to Kylo Ren. Both characters were defined by their family, but in different ways. Rey waited for her parents believing they’d come back for her, only to learn that they didn’t care about her at all – they sold her at the first opportunity. Kylo was both proud of his relationship to Darth Vader and ashamed of the role that his parents played in the Rebellion. Kylo came from Rebel royalty as the son of Han and Leia, but had succumbed to the temptation of the Dark Side and wanted to dominate the galaxy. In contrast, Rey came from nowhere and wanted to save it.

Rey using the Force at the film’s climax.

Rey’s struggle wasn’t to live up to some legacy from Luke or Obi-Wan, nor to rebel against a darker ancestor like Palpatine, but to chart her own path – a new path for herself, for the Resistance, for the Jedi, and for the Star Wars franchise. Rey represented the new against the old, the people against the aristocratic elite, and an unexpected journey for the protagonist of the latest chapter of the long-running saga.

I adored this about Rey. It took her on an unpredictable and open-ended journey, threw out of the window outdated notions of legacy and destiny, but at the same time it returned Star Wars to a familiar place; a place it hadn’t been since Darth Vader and Luke were retconned to be father and son. Had this aspect of Rey’s character been retained, I think the sequel trilogy as a whole could’ve been far more interesting.

Number 3:
Hyperspace ramming.

The aftermath of hyperspace ramming.

In the very first Star Wars film, Han Solo gave us a decent explanation for why travelling through hyperspace was so dangerous. “Without precise calculations,” he told Luke, “we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova.” Hyperspace, at least according to Han Solo, did not somehow transport ships to another dimension; they could still interact with the rest of the galaxy – with potentially deadly consequences!

This was elaborated on by the old Expanded Universe which explained that charting new hyperspace routes was incredibly dangerous for precisely the same reason: it’s very easy to crash into a star, a planet, or even another starship. So hyperspace ramming has always been possible in Star Wars – even if no one thought of it before Admiral Holdo!

Admiral Holdo.

Hyperspace ramming is the kind of desperate, last-ditch manoeuvre that no one would dare to try unless there weren’t any other options. Here in the real world, aircraft had been around for decades before anyone thought of inventing the kamikaze suicide attack, so I can absolutely believe that hyperspace ramming was either totally new in the Star Wars universe or hadn’t been attempted in hundreds or thousands of years. Nothing about it “broke” continuity, and as stated it was perfectly in line with what Han Solo had told us about travelling through hyperspace all the way back at the beginning of the franchise!

The criticisms of hyperspace ramming felt very nitpicky to me, and I think it’s something that came about because of how other aspects of the film landed for some fans. If hyperspace ramming had made its debut in The Mandalorian, for example, where most fans seem to have been having a good time, I think it would’ve generated a lot less anger!

Holdo accelerates her ship to hyperspeed.

I’m always a sucker for the “doomed last stand” concept in fiction, and the entire hyperspace ramming sequence was executed incredibly well. Admiral Holdo managed to be stoic and brave in the face of death, making the ultimate sacrifice to allow her friends to escape and to give the Resistance a fighting chance.

The cinematography and visual effects used to bring it to life were outstanding, too, and the hyperspace ramming sequence has to be one of the absolute best in all of Star Wars for me. The use of silence at the moment of impact was so incredibly poignant – in part because silence is used so sparingly across the franchise. The CGI animation used to bring to life the crash and its aftermath was likewise fantastic.

Number 4:
Kylo Ren seizes power.

Kylo Ren at the moment of his coup.

The Force Awakens seemed to be setting up Kylo Ren as the “new Darth Vader” – an evil but ultimately redeemable villain. The Last Jedi chose to avoid recycling that character trope and set Kylo on his own path, a path that would lead him to become the Supreme Leader of the First Order. By embracing the darkness within him and extinguishing the pull to the light that he’d been feeling, Kylo Ren cemented his position as the primary antagonist of the sequel trilogy.

After being bullied and belittled by Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo’s hatred for his master had been building. Blamed unfairly for the loss of Starkiller Base and Rey’s escape, Kylo nursed a grudge against Snoke for practically the whole film, culminating in him killing him in one of the film’s most shocking sequences.

The death of Snoke.

Kylo killing Snoke was not an empty subversion, designed for shock value and nothing else. It was a masterstroke of writing, one that sought to take Star Wars and the film’s main characters to entirely different thematic places than either the prequels or original trilogy had. In the span of a few minutes it seemed that Rey had been able to get through to Kylo, convincing him to betray the First Order… but then that idea was pulled away as Kylo saw his chance to seize power.

Turning the idea of “reaching out” on its head, it was Kylo who asked Rey to join him, to rule the galaxy at his side. Rather than returning to the light, Kylo had taken a massive leap further into the dark – going so far, surely, as to never be able to come back. With Snoke out of the picture, only Kylo and Hux would remain as major antagonists going into the final act of the trilogy, so it seemed like the idea of “Darth Vader 2.0” was well and truly gone.

Rey and Kylo prepare to battle Snoke’s guards.

Again, this was a moment with a message. Part of that message was epitomised by Luke’s line: “this is not going to go the way you think!” and that’s kind of built into the film’s entire philosophy. But beyond that, the concept that someone like Kylo Ren could be irredeemable has merit. There are some people – some fascist leaders, which is what Kylo Ren is at this point – who go “full Dark Side.” There’s no way back for some people, and we shouldn’t want to see a redemption arc for people who have done unspeakably evil things.

It’s also connected to the point above about destiny and ancestry. Kylo came from Rebel royalty as the son of Han Solo and Leia, but instead of using that legacy and power in a positive way he became corrupted, trying to rule the galaxy instead of fighting for freedom. The lure of power can corrupt even the most well-meaning of individuals, and Kylo’s arrogance, elitism, and belief in his own special place led him down a dark path.

Number 5:
The presentation of Luke Skywalker.

Luke with the famous blue milk.

This is a point I’ve tackled before in a standalone essay, but I found what The Last Jedi did with Luke to be absolutely incredible. It was a powerful and relatable mental health story, one that showed how anyone – even heroes – can fall into melancholy and depression. Maybe that story isn’t what some viewers wanted, but I firmly believe it’s a story that was needed – and worth telling.

Not only that, but Luke’s story was a sympathetic and realistic portrayal of mental health; one of the better depictions of depression that I’ve seen in fiction in recent years. Having tried to rebuild the Jedi Order, Luke ultimately failed – and failed in such a catastrophic way that he got people killed. He allowed that failure to fester and turn into depression, ultimately secluding himself and merely waiting around to die, totally uninterested in the galaxy around him.

Luke’s failure and depression was a major focus of the story.

Anyone who’s suffered from depression – regardless of whether there was a cause – can relate to that. The idea of cutting oneself off from everything and everyone, of being unable to face the world outside a small bubble of safety – these are things that people suffering from mental health issues can recognise. And the fact that it happened to someone as powerful, virtuous, and heroic as Luke Skywalker has an incredibly powerful point to make: this is something that can happen to anyone.

As mental health issues – particularly in men – continue to be ignored and stigmatised, this is something that people need to see and hear. The depiction of one of the main protagonists in one of the biggest cinematic franchises around suffering from depression in a realistic and relatable way has done so much to raise awareness of the problem. To me, this is sci-fi at its best: using a fantasy setting to consider real-world issues.

Luke’s death at the end of the film.

As always in these kinds of stories, how Luke was feeling at the beginning is not as important as where he ended up, and the arc he goes through in The Last Jedi provides a genuine feeling of hope. Thanks to Rey’s intervention, Luke found a way to believe in a cause again, and found a way to become a symbol of hope for the entire galaxy. Luke being depressed at the beginning was incredibly important for people to see, but what was just as important is how he found a pathway out of it.

Depression isn’t something easily cured. Luke couldn’t just “snap out of it,” but he came to realise that, despite his failings, despite his flaws, and despite the way he’d been feeling, there was still something he could do to contribute. He could still be a Jedi – and thanks to his intervention, not the titular Last Jedi!

Number 6:
Recognising the massive failings of the old Jedi Order.

The Jedi Temple during the prequel era.

The prequel trilogy touched on the idea that the Jedi Order had grown arrogant and complacent over centuries of peace and after being unchallenged by the Sith and the Dark Side in a major way. But at the same time, characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Mace Windu were presented as the heroes – the paragons of virtue who we were rooting for. The Last Jedi takes a much more critical lens to its examination of the Jedi Order, particularly in the prequel era.

Luke explained to Rey that the hubris of the Jedi is what allowed Palpatine to rise to power in the first place, and that the Jedi Order failed not only at keeping the peace but at preserving the Republic itself. Though this wasn’t something that the film spent a huge amount of time on, I think it was an important acknowledgement to recognise that the Jedi Order – by the time of the prequel films, at least – was not the irreproachable organisation that some considered it to be.

Luke explained how the Jedi Order failed.

This is also something that could inform Star Wars’ future. We don’t know what will become of the Jedi in the aftermath of the sequel trilogy, but it seems to me that one of the lessons Rey learned from Luke is that simply trying to reconstruct the Jedi Order exactly as it was before the Empire is not only impossible, but undesirable as well. What comes next for the Light Side of the Force has to be different – it has to be better.

This potentially opens up the future of Star Wars to go in some very different storytelling directions. Rather than simply a return to the pre-Empire status quo, in which the era of the Galactic Civil War may end up looking like little more than a blip in the grand scale of galactic history, what happened to Luke and Rey could be a turning point for the Light Side of the Force, with a new organisation bound by different rules rising in the Jedi’s stead. Perhaps the name “Jedi” will survive (it’s an integral part of Star Wars, after all), but maybe what comes next will be significantly different from the prequel-era Jedi Order, setting the stage for some genuinely different and unpredictable stories in the years ahead.

Number 7:
Timely social commentary.

The casino on Canto Bight.

How often have we felt that, no matter what we do, the rich always manage to get richer while we stay poor? The Last Jedi took Finn and Rose to one of the meeting places of the galactic elite, showing us how the mega-rich of the galaxy gamble and play both sides in the conflict. To them, who wins the war isn’t important – because they know that either way, they’re going to come out on top.

This isn’t just about the arms dealers who were selling weapons to both sides – although that was a very in-your-face analogy – but really the entire gaggle of the super-rich that Finn and Rose encountered on Canto Bight. Just like the 1% here in the real world, the problems of the galaxy don’t affect them at all. It was, in a sense, a glimpse behind a curtain that we rarely get to see – and the fact that the people of Canto Bight were laughing, joking, gambling, and greedily stuffing their faces seemed to spit in the face of our heroes and their war effort.

Outside the casino.

This was a side of the Star Wars galaxy that we’d never really seen. We’d been introduced to bounty hunters in shady cantinas before, as well as seeing the corrupt decadence of Coruscant’s politicians in the prequels, but it makes sense that a society as complex as the Star Wars galaxy would have these kinds of places inhabited by these kinds of people. They’re the Wall Street gamblers, the bankers, the financiers who survived the Republic, the Empire, the New Republic, and the First Order all by owning and controlling the vast majority of the galaxy’s money.

One of the themes that I took from this side-story is that, in a sense, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses in the struggle for power. Either a new Republic or the First Order will eventually have to cut deals with these people; they’re the real powerbrokers in the galaxy. Their money can shift the tide of the war – it can literally see states rise or fall.

Rose and Finn at Canto Bight.

Perhaps Canto Bight hit too close to home for some folks, or perhaps this look behind the curtain was a little too bleak! But there was something powerful about it nonetheless, particularly in the aftermath of some turbulent political times here in the western world. As above, when sci-fi turns a spotlight on real-world issues, what results can be powerful storytelling if it’s done right.

From an in-universe point of view, Star Wars stories have generally focused on underdogs – scrappy groups of rebels fighting against the powers that be. Even the prequels didn’t explore much of this side of the galaxy – so it was something new, something interesting, and something that could be ripe for further exploration one day.

Number 8:
Porgs!

A small group of porgs.

The Last Jedi introduced us to porgs – beakless bird-like critters that inhabited Luke’s island on the isolated Jedi planet of Ahch-To. Porgs are adorable and they made an excellent addition to the Star Wars galaxy. Was their pretty sizeable appearance in the film purely a merchandising ploy that did nothing whatsoever to service the plot? Well, probably. But Star Wars has always been about the merch!

I had the porg variant of the film’s poster on display for a long time and I also bought a porg plushie, so I guess I’m a sucker for cute merchandise. Paul the porg is now a permanent fixture in my living room, and I have The Last Jedi to thank for that!

Number 9:
General Leia’s leadership.

General Leia speaking with Poe.

The film’s release was bittersweet due to the death of Carrie Fisher a year earlier, making her posthumous role in The Last Jedi all the more poignant. Having had limited screen time in The Force Awakens, which focused more on Han Solo, The Last Jedi became a strong film for Leia’s character, showing her leadership skills and expanding on her role in the aftermath of the events of the original films.

There was a clash between the “hot-headed” Poe Dameron and the cooler, calmer Leia and Holdo at the head of the Resistance. Unfortunately Leia was sidelined for part of that, but her return just in time to stop Poe from sabotaging a carefully-laid out plan was one of the film’s strongest moments – and one that showed Leia’s no-nonsense attitude!

Luke with Leia near the end of the film.

Leia also got a sweet moment with Luke shortly before his last stand against the First Order’s forces, and considering that the sequel trilogy didn’t have many moments where it put the original characters back together, this was all the more significant. Fans needed to see Luke and Leia back together one final time – it was certainly one of the things I wanted from the sequels.

Even in the original trilogy, Leia was no “damsel in distress.” She helped Luke and Han escape from the Death Star, saved Luke’s life on Cloud City, killed Jabba the Hutt, and led the mission to take down the second Death Star’s shield! Seeing her continuing the fight against evil – even when it meant standing against her own son – was incredibly powerful.

Number 10:
Taking Star Wars to new thematic places.

Kylo Ren in his mask.

I talked about this above when discussing Kylo and Rey in particular, but The Last Jedi did more than any film in the franchise before or since to try to take Star Wars to different thematic and narrative places. That’s incredibly important, because without changing with the times and adapting, Star Wars as a whole will remain stuck in place.

Star Wars hasn’t yet been able to successfully move on from the one story that has been told. Palpatine, Anakin, Luke, Leia, Kylo, Rey, and the other main characters have come to utterly dominate Star Wars in every cinematic and television adaptation so far, even appearing in the likes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. The Last Jedi, as a sequel, obviously had to include many of those same characters, but the way it framed them was as close as Star Wars has got so far to going to different places.

Rey on Ahch-To.

If the franchise is to survive long-term, it will have to find a way to leave Luke, Leia, Anakin, and the others behind; to branch out into different eras with wholly different casts of characters to whom names like “Skywalker” or “Palpatine” mean nothing. There’s a limit to how many different ways the same few characters can save the galaxy over the span of a few short years, and by making massive decisions such as killing off Luke Skywalker, The Last Jedi tried to guide the franchise to a new destination.

The board at the Walt Disney Company is now pushing back hard against that, and we’ve seen the results not only in The Rise of Skywalker, but also through decisions to include characters like Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian or to bring back Obi-Wan Kenobi for his own miniseries. Partly that’s corporate cowardice – Disney wants to retreat to what it sees as safe, comfortable ground. But that ground is getting overtrodden, and there’s a danger that Star Wars could get bogged down. The Last Jedi, for whatever faults you may think it has, tried to do something genuinely different – and trying new things is how a franchise grows and comes to learn what works.

“Broom boy” at the end of the film.

As the dust settles and the film’s divisiveness abates, I think we’ll start to see a reevaluation of this aspect of The Last Jedi in particular. It may not have succeeded at taking the sequel trilogy to a very different end point, but it stands as a piece of the franchise’s cinematic canon that wasn’t afraid to try different things with its characters and storylines. Perhaps, in time, fans will come to appreciate that – particularly if Star Wars continues to double-down on recycling characters and shining spotlights on increasingly irrelevant chapters of its only real story.

Killing off its main villain early in the story, setting his apprentice on a dark path instead of the path to redemption, tearing down the arrogance of the old Jedi Order, reflecting real-world issues like mental health and the gilded indifference of the super-rich… these are all things that Star Wars had never even considered. The Last Jedi tried them for the first time. Did it all work perfectly? Probably not. But in a franchise that is in serious danger of becoming stale and fixated on its own past, trying new things, exploring new themes, dealing with new character types, and making an effort to stay grounded and relatable are all deserving of praise in my view.

So that’s it!

Luke Skywalker standing against the First Order.

Those are ten things that I think are pretty great about The Last Jedi. Despite the controversy the film generated, there are signs that the Star Wars fan community is coming back together. Shows like The Mandalorian have gone a long way to bringing back into the fold fans who’d been ready to give up on modern Star Wars. And just like the prequels – which are being revisited by a new generation of fans who were kids when they were released – in a few years’ time I think we’ll see a similar reappraisal of The Last Jedi by newer and younger fans who first came to Star Wars during the sequel era.

Although The Rise of Skywalker did what it could to overwrite or ignore some of what I consider to be The Last Jedi’s highlights, I still find it an enjoyable experience to go back and re-watch it. In a way, it’s a time capsule of where the franchise was in 2017 – or a window into an alternate timeline where Star Wars continued on this trajectory instead of panicking and trying to course-correct.

As we celebrate Star Wars day, don’t forget The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is available to stream now on Disney+ and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Wars franchise – including The Last Jedi and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of The Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Wars Biomes is a cute and clever way to spend twenty minutes

Released to mark Star Wars day, Star Wars Biomes is a short film that’s simultaneously something different yet very nostalgic. A silent tour over several locations from the original trilogy, prequel era, sequels, and even The Mandalorian, Star Wars Biomes was not the sort of thing I was expecting from the franchise. It’s “slow TV” – something to watch for relaxation or to have on in the background while doing something else, and it’s unusual for a major franchise to produce something like that.

In other ways – and you probably know what I’m going to say if you’ve read some of my recent critiques of the overall direction of the Star Wars franchise – this was Star Wars once again retreating to largely safe, well-trodden ground. The short film only visited planets we’ve previously seen in other iterations of the franchise, and made no attempt to branch out and look at anywhere new. But you know what? On this occasion, with this unusual short film, I think that’s okay.

The Millennium Falcon departs Ahch-To in Star Wars Biomes.

A work like this is 100% about the visuals. And on that front, Star Wars Biomes largely delivered. The animation and CGI work was streets ahead of many high-budget television shows of recent times, and far beyond anything the prequel trilogy or special edition edits of the original trilogy were capable of. For example, I would say that Star Wars Biomes showed off the single best representation of Tatooine’s twin suns that has ever been put to screen.

There were a couple of moments in the eighteen-minute broadcast where I felt the CGI strayed into looking a little unrealistic and video-gamey, but generally speaking the animators did a good job. The vistas – or I suppose we should really be calling them “biomes!” – looked fantastic, even stunning in places, and that’s exactly what a short film of this nature aimed to deliver.

I don’t think Tatooine’s twin suns have ever looked this good!

When I first heard the name “Star Wars Biomes,” I wondered if we were going to get something akin to a nature documentary, looking at some of the wildlife or flora of the visited locations. But it was clear from the start that that’s not what the objective was! That’s fine, and it’s not the purpose of a review to say “well I wish it had been a totally different kind of film,” so I’m happy with what was put to screen. That being said, a pseudo-documentary looking at galactic flora and fauna would be an interesting project – as I said when I proposed something similar for Star Trek a little while ago!

Of the locations visited in Star Wars Biomes, I would suggest that the salt-crusted surface of Crait was perhaps the boldest choice. There were only six planets that Star Wars Biomes took us to, and considering the incredibly controversial nature of The Last Jedi, picking one that was featured prominently in that film was very daring on the part of whoever was making that decision! I think we even saw the crashed ski-speeders of Finn and Rose, which was a plot point that was not popular with many fans. Perhaps that’s Star Wars sticking up a cheeky middle finger as if to say “The Last Jedi is still canon!” But perhaps I’m reading too much into it. I still think it was a bold choice, regardless of the behind-the-scenes reasoning!

The crashed ski-speeders on Crait.

Hoth looked beautiful in all of its snow-capped glory. I do love wintery, snowy scenes, and Star Wars Biomes rendered the snow on Hoth perfectly. Moving like a helicopter (or drone, I suppose) the camera panned across the snowy landscape, and spotted a probe droid – which made the familiar, slightly menacing whirring noise it made in The Empire Strikes Back. We also saw AT-AT walkers, and I think it was the first time seeing them from so high up or at such an angle. Both the droid and walkers contributed to a sense of nostalgia, but at the same time it felt new.

As Star Wars Biomes wrapped up its time on Hoth, we got the first of several typical Star Wars “wipes” – the transitions from one scene to another that the Star Wars franchise has always done with a particular flair! This was new in the ’70s, but modern films have largely left this style of wipe behind, with the result being that it feels unique to Star Wars – even though you can find similar transitions in other films of the original trilogy era.

AT-AT walkers seen on Hoth.

Tatooine is up next, and as already mentioned, its twin suns look amazing. Rendered to look similar to our own sun, the shot at the end as the camera panned up was really stunning. Sand, like snow, is more or less a single colour and texture, so perhaps the Tatooine section of Star Wars Biomes relies more on other visual elements – droids, skeletons, Jawas, and a landspeeder – in order to retain visual interest. It was a well-done segment, though.

After Tatooine, Star Wars Biomes heads to Sorgan – a planet whose name I had to Google! This is the planet with the rustic village that was visited in The Mandalorian, and we saw the Razor Crest flying in as the camera panned overhead. Sorgan was the first point in Star Wars Biomes where I felt the CGI – in this case used for some of the huts in the village – strayed from being 100% realistic into video game territory, at least toward the end as the camera zoomed in and got closer. It wasn’t bad by any means, but as we got closer to the village it was possible to tell it was CGI.

The village on Sorgan.

Crait, as mentioned, was the boldest choice in my opinion. The camera angle used here was odd, looking down at a 90-degree angle the entire time. I kept waiting for the camera to pan, showing us more of the surface of Crait, but it never did. The way the vehicles depicted left red trails in the salty surface of Crait was neat, though, and very well done – even if a couple of the large walkers depicted looked a tad video gamey!

Mustafar came next, and was probably my favourite segment. The lava fields were rendered beautifully, and Darth Vader’s castle looked suitably menacing, dominating the scene. Mustafar is, of course, the planet from Revenge of the Sith where Vader was badly injured. A shuttle and a couple of TIE fighters were seen during this segment, too, and they were done well.

Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar.

Finally we came to Ahch-To, the planet Luke travelled to to hide away, as seen in all three sequel films. We saw a couple of porgs in flight – but not up close – and at Luke’s island, the Millennium Falcon taking off which was neat to see. The island looked like it might’ve been a real shot taken from the Ahch-To filming location off the coast of Ireland, but it could just be very well-made CGI – at this point it isn’t always easy to tell! One CGI misfire during this segment came with a sea monster – the way it breached the surface then sank back beneath the waves didn’t make the right movements on the surface of the water. I know that’s a nitpick!

So that was Star Wars Biomes. Whether you sit and watch it intently – as I did – or put it on in the background as a screensaver, I think it’s worth a look. It’s a bit of fun, and a cute and clever way to celebrate Star Wars without going all-out on a movie marathon! Generally I think it was well-made, with just a couple of moments where the CGI was imperfect. It’s the kind of short film you can put on while you relax and unwind, and its short runtime means it doesn’t feel like a huge commitment.

I had fun with Star Wars Biomes, and I daresay I’ll come back to it again at some point to take another look and see if I can spot anything I missed! It’s the kind of thing I can see myself putting on in the background on a loop while I’m doing something, or even if I have people over (once coronavirus is over and done with). If you decide to check it out, I hope you enjoy Star Wars Biomes as much as I did.

Star Wars Biomes is available to stream now on Disney+. The Star Wars franchise – including all properties and titles mentioned above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and The Walt Disney Company. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten things that the Star Wars prequels got right

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Wars prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith). In addition, spoilers are present for the sequel trilogy, including The Rise of Skywalker, and for Knights of the Old Republic.

Happy Star Wars Day! In celebration of today’s event, I thought we could take a look back at the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Though this isn’t my favourite part of the franchise by any means, today is a day for positivity within the Star Wars fandom, and despite my overall feelings, the prequels did get some things right. It’s easy to criticise and complain, but no film is 100% awful. Not even The Rise of Skywalker.

I became a Star Wars fan in the early ’90s, having watched the original trilogy at the prompting of a friend. It was thus a very exciting time when the prequel trilogy was announced, and even though I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the first two films in particular, Revenge of the Sith managed to churn out an adequate end to the trilogy and set up the original films.

Trekking with Dennis talking positively about the Star Wars prequels?!
“A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one!”

For a decade after the prequels concluded, Star Wars was said to be complete. Six films, and that’s it. Of course we now have sequels and spin-offs, with many more in the works, and it looks like the Star Wars franchise will continue to roll on and bring in money for parent company Disney. Though no major plans are afoot to revisit the prequel era right now, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series will bring back at least two prominent characters from the trilogy and serve as a continuation of sorts.

As always, this list is just my personal opinion. The prequel trilogy is going through somewhat of a renaissance in the minds of some Star Wars fans – particularly those who grew up with the films. If you adore the prequels, that’s okay. We all have preferences; things we like and dislike, even within a single fandom. There’s no need for discussions about Star Wars to descend into arguments!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into my list of things the prequels got right.

Number 1: Showing the Jedi Order at full strength.

Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Qui-Gon Jinn meeting with the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace.

At the time The Phantom Menace premiered, Star Wars’ cinematic canon had only ever shown five Force users – only one of whom could reasonably be said to still be “a Jedi” when he appeared on screen. Though Luke Skywalker appeared to take on the mantle of Jedi Master by the end of Return of the Jedi, we were still curious to see how the Order appeared in its original form.

All three films spent a decent amount of time with the Jedi Order, showing the organisation if not at its peak then certainly in far better shape than we’d ever seen it before. The Jedi maintained a huge temple as their headquarters and base of operations, and hundreds of Jedi Knights and Jedi Masters were seen on screen, taking on various roles across the three films.

Young Jedi train while Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi observe.

Prior to this, all we really had to go on was hearsay. Ben Kenobi and Yoda had told Luke Skywalker a little about the former Jedi Order across the original films, but there’s a big difference between hearing a character explain something and actually seeing it firsthand. The legend of the Jedi Order made it to screen in a big way, and told us a lot about the history of the Star Wars galaxy as well.

We also got to know several key members of the Jedi Order in this era, and see the Jedi take on leadership roles to try to bring about peace and stave off the separatists. We arguably learned more about the minutiae of the Jedi in the prequel trilogy than in the originals, sequels, and spin-offs combined, and while it wasn’t all perfect – the Jedi robes being just one example of that – the prequels undeniably expanded the lore of Star Wars in this regard.

Number 2: Starship designs.

A Republic starship during the Battle over Coruscant.

Many of the starship designs used during the prequel trilogy were cleverly designed with the original trilogy in mind. It’s not an easy task to take an existing design and try to work backwards from it, creating a new design that’s supposed to look like a realistic predecessor to something that was supposedly built later. But the prequel trilogy does a creditable job in this regard, especially insofar as starships are concerned.

There were two issues that the prequels faced: on the production side, technology had changed a lot regarding how special effects were made, meaning some of the original films’ starships looked very much “of their time.” And secondly, the Imperial ships seen in the original trilogy were designed to look villainous and menacing as the Empire was the antagonist faction in those films. Thus the designers had to create something that looked like a reasonable precursor to the Empire without looking too “evil” and also without looking like it came straight from the 1970s!

Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jedi starfighter has elements of both X-Wings and TIE Fighters in its design.

This is a design challenge unlike many others in cinema, and the prequels got it largely right. The Republic’s ships, both large capital ships and smaller starfighters, retained enough design elements from the original trilogy to look like plausible ancestors of things like TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers, but the brighter colours and softened edges made them look at least a little friendlier.

In any fantasy film, things like design and aesthetic world-building are easy to overlook, but they’re absolutely essential to the sense of immersion that viewers need. The best films work hard to ensure their designs are iconic, and while perhaps very few things in the prequels are as iconic as designs from the original trilogy, the designs blend together well. Nothing was outright copied, and nothing was overwritten.

Number 3: The musical score.

The prequel trilogy had a great soundtrack.

John Williams, who had composed and conducted the music for the original trilogy, returned to Star Wars for the prequels, and his music has to be considered one of the high points of all three films by anyone’s standards. Pieces like Duel of the Fates have become iconic and emblematic of the whole franchise, and it’s impossible to imagine Star Wars without Williams’ compositions.

Considering the budget and creative freedom George Lucas had when making the prequels, he could’ve chosen to approach any composer to create the film’s score. He didn’t have to go back to John Williams if he felt he wanted someone else, but he did. And the films are undeniably better for the inclusion of Williams’ compositions.

Number 4: Palpatine’s scheming.

The story of Palpatine’s rise was interesting.

Though I have argued that seeing the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker was ultimately unnecessary to explain anything from the original films, one thing that absolutely was interesting was seeing how Palpatine schemed and manipulated events to allow himself to rise to the position of Supreme Chancellor – and ultimately Emperor.

I’m having a hard time, in light of The Rise of Skywalker, truly appreciating this aspect of the prequels, because Palpatine’s clumsy insertion into that film has done a heck of a lot to detract from his characterisation. But if we set that aside as best we can for a moment, one of the prequel trilogy’s themes – and best-executed narrative elements – was Palpatine’s rise. Though he was treated as a secondary character when compared to the likes of Anakin and Obi-Wan, I would suggest that his story was actually handled better than almost everyone else’s.

Palpatine meeting with Count Dooku, the separatist leader. He played both sides during the Clone Wars, having planned everything to allow a smooth rise to power.

Say what you will about George Lucas and his storytelling, but when it came to Palpatine in the prequels, there was a meticulous and detailed plan from day one – and it actually made sense. Taking inspiration from the rise of Julius Caesar, who transformed Rome from a Republic into a dictatorial Empire, Palpatine’s scheme was cleverly written, with just enough shown on screen to leave an air of mystery – that the character knew more than he was letting on.

Considering that the prequels overall, and The Phantom Menace in particular, had a kid-friendly tone and plenty of action going on, this kind of political manipulation is a very adult theme, and in other films or series, the juxtaposition of politicking and scheming with space wizards and magic would have fallen completely flat. It succeeded here, in part due to being set up well and planned from the beginning, and in part thanks to Ian McDiarmid’s stellar performance.

Number 5: The Knights of the Old Republic games.

Promo art for Knights of the Old Republic II.

This one is a bit of a cheat since the games were not related to the films, but they were released around the same time (2003-04) and made use of a number of aesthetic elements and settings that had been established in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. I’ve said before on a number of occasions that the Knights of the Old Republic games aren’t just among my favourite video games, they’re two of the best stories ever told in the Star Wars universe.

Though distinct from the prequels, it’s hard to imagine either game being made were it not for the renewed interest in Star Wars that the prequel films generated. The use of things like Jedi robes and a Jedi Council were borrowed from the prequel trilogy as well, and Knights of the Old Republic leaned into the notion of the Jedi Order remaining a constant part of the galaxy, barely changing over millennia. This was a big part of the mythos of Star Wars at the time – the idea that the Republic had existed for thousands of years until the Empire overtook it.

The Knights of the Old Republic games were fantastic.

The big twist in the first Knights of the Old Republic was one of the few moments where I was genuinely blown away by a storyline in a video game, and I remember sitting there with the control pad in my hands just in shock! It was a fantastically-executed narrative point, and while it isn’t really taken from the prequels, it mirrors in some respects the idea of Anakin Skywalker being a Jedi, then falling to the dark side, before ultimately being redeemed – which was, of course, a major theme in the prequel trilogy.

A third Knights of the Old Republic title was rumoured to be in production earlier in the year, so perhaps we’ll finally get a sequel! Even if that isn’t the case, or turns out to be unconnected to the original duology, they’re two of the best games I’ve ever played.

Number 6: Better lightsaber fights.

Obi-Wan Kenobi duelling Count Dooku.

The original trilogy had a couple of solid lightsaber duels, both between Luke and Darth Vader. But the prequel trilogy in general has more exciting lightsaber combat. Not only the duels between Sith and Jedi, but also seeing Jedi in combat against non-Jedi opponents was generally done better – in my subjective opinion, at least – in the prequel films.

In terms of specific lightsaber duels, I’d point to the fight between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan against Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, and Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Yoda duelling Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones as two of the better ones put to screen in the franchise.

The moment Darth Maul ignited his lightsaber’s second blade was jaw-dropping for many fans in 1999!

The prequels changed the way we imagine lightsaber combat, expanding the idea of duelling to encompass different styles and “forms” of wielding the weapon. This has been picked up in video games, films, and television shows produced in the wake of the prequel trilogy, and has gone on to be a defining part of the way lightsaber combat looks on screen.

We also got to see different designs of lightsaber hilt, and a new purple colour for Mace Windu. All of these things made a difference to the way the franchise as a whole handles its signature weapon, and a good deal of what we know about lightsabers and lightsaber duelling comes from the prequel trilogy.

Number 7: Solid acting performances.

Natalie Portman as Padmé and Hayden Christensen as Anakin in Attack of the Clones.

One area of criticism of the prequel films that I fundamentally do not agree with is that the acting performances were somehow stilted or poor quality. Practically every actor involved did the best with the material they had, and some of the harshest criticism levelled at people like Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) or Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks) should really be aimed at George Lucas for his writing and direction.

Not only would I say that much of the criticism of the acting is unfair and overly harsh on the performers, but there are some genuinely outstanding performances in the prequel films. Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine, as we noted above, is stellar, but I’d also point to Ewan McGregor’s stint as Obi-Wan Kenobi, in particular the incredibly pained emotional moments he shares with Anakin on Mustafar.

Number 8: A planned story.

The prequel films had a narrative that was planned from day one.

This is one which has come into sharper focus given the complete lack of overall direction afforded to the sequel trilogy. As I’ve said before, the sequel trilogy having its own narrative issues does not magically make the prequels any better, but it is worth acknowledging that the prequels had a planned story from the beginning.

Not only that, but the prequel trilogy does a creditable job of executing that story in an understandable manner. There aren’t many moments where viewers are left thinking “who’s that character?” or “what’s going on?” The narrative runs as smoothly as possible from point to point, and main characters like Anakin, Palpatine, and Obi-Wan had their arcs pre-planned.

The prequel trilogy had a story planned from the ground up to reach this moment.

Partly, it has to be said, this is because the films are prequels – they have a definite end point that they absolutely must reach. But there were many different ways to tell the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, Palpatine’s ascent to the Imperial throne, and so on. There is no denying that Lucas and others planned the story, knew where they wanted it to go, and put that to screen about as well as possible.

Whatever you may think of the story itself, this is the way filmmaking – and any storytelling, come to that – is supposed to work. If you’re going to create a trilogy of films with a view to focusing on the adventures of a few characters, planning out where the narrative and character arcs are going to go is essential.

Number 9: Tense and exciting action sequences.

There were some well-executed moments of action in the prequel trilogy.

Though not every action set piece worked perfectly, the Star Wars prequels do have several exciting and tense sequences. The starship crash-landing early in Revenge of the Sith is a great example of a sequence that didn’t drag on too long and kept the excitement going practically the whole time.

Parts of the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones – though a CGI mess at points – managed to be stirring and exciting too, with the last-minute arrival of a Jedi “Strike Team” to save Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Padmé achieving at least some of the feelings it was going for. Star Wars can do battles and action very well, and the prequels have some sequences that demonstrate that.

Number 10: Reinvigorated Star Wars for a new generation of fans.

A lot of kids who saw the prequels are big Star Wars fans today – and big defenders of those films!

I’m not surprised to see many Star Wars fans in their teens and twenties defending the prequels with such vigour. These films are theirs – perhaps the first Star Wars films they ever saw, and they’re films which, for many younger fans, started a lifelong love of a galaxy far, far away. Without the prequel trilogy, it’s likely Star Wars would be nowhere near as big as it is today. It would be a well-remembered trilogy of films from the late ’70s with a bunch of spin-off fan-fiction.

The prequels proved that there was more to Star Wars than just the original films, even though they relied heavily on those films in large part. From a business point of view, all three films were massively profitable, with the films themselves and, crucially, their merchandise bringing in literally billions of dollars. The Walt Disney Company would never have been interested in Star Wars and Lucasfilm had the prequels not demonstrated beyond any doubt that the Star Wars franchise could be more than its original trilogy.

Moments of humour, comical characters, and fun designs in the prequels all appealed to kids.

Whatever you may think of the films Disney has made over the last few years, there’s more to come from Star Wars. I personally loved Rogue One, and I’m interested to see what some of the upcoming television series have to offer. Without the prequels, we’d never have seen Rogue One, the sequel trilogy, or The Mandalorian – or at least, they’d have taken a very different form.

Any successful franchise builds on the accomplishments of its earlier iterations, and we can see attempts for Star Wars to do so too. Those attempts aren’t always successful, but the legacy of the prequel trilogy is that Star Wars still exists and is expanding to become bigger than anyone expected it could be twenty years ago. The success of current and future projects is, to a greater or lesser extent, built on what the prequel trilogy achieved. Though I may not be wild about these three films on their own merits, the prequels’ biggest achievement may be in rejuvenating Star Wars for a new generation of fans, pushing the franchise forward.

So that’s it. I wanted to try something positive for Star Wars to mark today, and I thought revisiting the prequel trilogy would be a good place to start.

Anakin Skywalker – a.k.a. Darth Vader.

Star Wars is in a strange place right now, in some ways. The sequel trilogy has wrapped up, but it ended in a pretty ambiguous way, and we’re still not sure exactly what will happen to the galaxy after the “final” defeat of Palpatine. Disney has shifted its focus back to the original trilogy era with most of its upcoming projects, and depending on the success of shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi, perhaps a more serious attempt will be made soon to revisit the prequel era. Time will tell!

Regardless, having watched The Phantom Menace a few days ago I thought I’d also go back and re-watch Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith to complete the set, and that led to this article in celebration of Star Wars day. It’s possible that Disney (or other companies affiliated with Star Wars, like EA) might use today to make announcements of upcoming projects, so if there’s significant news I hope you’ll check back as I daresay I’ll try to break it down.

Now, where’s my review of The Mandalorian Season 2? It’s been six months… better get cracking on that!

The Star Wars franchise – including The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and all other titles mentioned above – is the copyright of The Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm. The prequel trilogy can be streamed now on Disney+ and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Happy (day after) Star Wars Day!

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for various Star Wars films, games, and other media.

Over the last few months, I’ve taken a few shots at the Star Wars franchise. Much of this was motivated by my intense dislike of The Rise of Skywalker, which is second only to The Phantom Menace in terms of how I’d rank the worst entries in the series. But it’s Star Wars Day today (well, it’s actually the day after… oops) so I thought it would be a great time to take a look at some of the franchise’s high points from my perspective. This will be a personal take on Star Wars, looking at my own history with the franchise and the things I’ve most enjoyed, and I’ll set aside most of the controversies and dislikes so we can just focus on the good stuff!

Yep… should’ve posted this yesterday.

So let’s start at the beginning. In the mid-1970s, a man called George Lucas… oh wait, that’s too far back. Let’s start at my beginning as a Star Wars fan. By the early ’90s I was a big Trekkie. Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air, and I’d fallen in love with the world the series created, which spurred an interest in both science fiction in general and outer space in particular. I was dimly aware of the Star Wars franchise’s existence, but I’d never seen the trilogy of films. One of my schoolfriends at the time was a huge Star Wars fan, though, and for his birthday one year he received the three films on VHS. He invited me over and we watched all three over a weekend. The division that existed between Star Trek and Star Wars fans was prominent, however, and I remember thinking that “my” fandom of Star Trek was superior, even as I sat down to watch the films for the first time.

I don’t want to say that I was completely blown away by Star Wars the first time I saw it. It was exciting, sure, but at the time I was still comparing it in my head to Star Trek, and Star Wars’ action-heavy story compared to the often peaceful exploration seen in Star Trek, as well as Star Wars’ fantasy elements like the Force compared to Star Trek’s supposedly “real future” were drawbacks. This was really just tribalism, though, and I can recognise looking back that, with part of my young identity being tied to being a “Trekkie”, I was less keen on Star Wars than I should’ve been!

Subsequent viewings of the trilogy in the months and years after definitely improved my opinion of the franchise, and I began to collect a small number of Star Wars toys, books, and model kits (I was a big model-builder in my youth). My friend and I grew up in a small community, and him and his dad were the only two Star Wars fans I knew at that point. I borrowed those video tapes and re-watched them more times than I can remember, finding something new to appreciate with almost every viewing.

Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia became the archetypal heroes for me going forward. Their steadfast loyalty to their cause – even when it seemed like everything was going wrong in The Empire Strikes Back – was inspirational, and I’ve never forgotten that aspect of the films.

It was in the mid-90s that I got to play some Star Wars video games for the first time. On the SNES, which was the first home console I owned, I got the Super Star Wars trilogy of games – 2D action-platformers which were made for that console. They were difficult (and still are, if you’re tempted to track down copies today) but great fun nevertheless. After upgrading to a Nintendo 64 in 1998 I picked up a further two Star Wars games: Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron, both of which are absolutely fantastic, if somewhat dated by today’s standards. By this point in the late ’90s, helped in no small part by the video games I’d played as I was a big gamer at the time, I had definitely become a Star Wars fan – just in time for the prequel trilogy to kick off with The Phantom Menace in 1999.

Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was released on the SNES in 1993.

While I wasn’t impressed by The Phantom Menace itself, it did generate a lot of buzz around the franchise, as well as churn out a couple of surprisingly good games. I first played the Nintendo 64 version of Star Wars Episode I: Racer, which I enjoyed. That title is still celebrated by fans of both Star Wars and the racing genre today as being good fun, and despite the podracing sequence in the film not being my favourite, the game surprised me by being great fun, especially with friends. The second title I greatly enjoyed that shared The Phantom Menace’s setting was Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles, which I picked up on the Dreamcast. This action-fighting title was another great one to play with friends, and both of these games went some way to redeeming The Phantom Menace and helping me get over the disappointment I felt at the film itself.

Up next in the prequel trilogy came Attack of the Clones, which, despite what many people at the time and since have said, was scarcely any better than The Phantom Menace had been three years earlier. Once again, however, the aftermath of the film led to three great games – which I’d still hold up as being among my all-time favourites. First was 2003’s Knights of the Old Republic, which I picked up on the original Xbox. The Dreamcast had died by this point, and with no new games on the horizon I traded it in for an Xbox. The second game was the original Battlefront, which was absolutely amazing, especially with another player. And finally, there was Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords.

The two Knights of the Old Republic games must be my favourite entries in the Star Wars franchise – far exceeding several of the films in terms of creating an exciting and engaging story. These two titles are basically the only part of Star Wars’ former Expanded Universe that I’d consider worth reviving – the story of Darth Revan and the Jedi Exile are outstanding, and showed off what story-driven, cinematic role-playing games of the time were capable of. Fully voice-acted with a great art style and genuine player choice that affected the way the games unfolded, they stand up even today as being better than many of the current generation’s offerings. The twist in the first game that the player was Darth Revan was stunning – at least on a par with the revelation of Darth Vader being Luke’s father in The Empire Strikes Back. At that moment I put down the control pad and just sat for a moment in awe.

2003’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remains one of my favourite video games to this day.

Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005 and was the high-water mark of the prequel trilogy. While it was still an imperfect film, and as I’ve previously written I feel that we didn’t need to see Anakin Skywalker’s fall play out in such detail, because the original trilogy told us everything we needed to know, it was an alright film nevertheless. I might even be convinced to say it was a good film.

I read in an article or review some time ago (it may even have been in 2005 when the film was released) that Revenge of the Sith could – and perhaps should – have been the whole trilogy; that there was enough material in the final part to spin out into three parts, and that it was the only part of the story worth telling. I’m not sure I agree on that last part, because as I said I don’t necessarily feel that anything in the prequels was a “necessary” story, but on the first part I agree. Revenge of the Sith thus laid the groundwork for the original films, and the prequel trilogy was complete.

After picking up Battlefront II in 2005, which was far better than the original game and another great title to play with friends, the only other games I picked up were 2007’s Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Empire at War, a Star Wars strategy game for PC that I couldn’t coax my ageing machine to run correctly at the time! Lego Star Wars was amazing though, and incredibly funny. It’s a great title to play on the couch with a friend, and it has a great sense of humour. A new Lego Star Wars game is coming out in the near future, and I’m sure I’ll give that one a try too!

Lego Star Wars is a ton of fun.

The Star Wars series seemed complete after the prequels were released. I even bought a DVD box-set called something like “the complete saga”, so it seemed for years that Star Wars was done and dusted: two amazing films, two okay films, and two crap ones, with a bunch of video games and toys to go along with them. So when rumours began swirling in 2012 that Disney was planning to purchase Lucasfilm, and with it the rights to Star Wars… suffice to say it piqued my interest!

JJ Abrams had led 2009’s Star Trek reboot, and Star Trek Into Darkness was due to be released. While Star Trek was different in many respects to what had come before, and I knew several Trekkie friends at the time who refused to watch it (some still haven’t, as far as I know), I felt that Abrams had done what he set out to. The franchise had been rebooted, and the film had succeeded in bringing new people to Star Trek for the first time in a long time – something that was necessary if we were ever to see anything more. So there was great optimism on my part that he could do something similar for Star Wars, optimism which peaked after Star Trek Into Darkness came out and was much better than the first film. George Lucas had been given too much free rein with the prequels, in my opinion, thanks to his legendary status as the franchise’s creator. With someone tried and tested at the helm in JJ Abrams, and with a big studio behind him to keep things in line, the sequel trilogy was lining up to be amazing.

The Force Awakens is the last Star Wars film I was able to see at the cinema. Despite being in pain and finding the experience difficult, I did manage to get there despite my worsening health – I couldn’t see myself waiting another six months! I’d do something similar for Star Trek Beyond in 2016, but after that I finally had to call it quits on going to the cinema in person, sadly. But to get back on topic, The Force Awakens was amazing. After the disappointment of the prequels a decade earlier, JJ Abrams put together a film which re-told Star Wars’ greatest hits for a new generation of fans. I was in love with Finn, Rey, and Poe – they felt different to the characters we’d seen before, but similar in some ways too. And Kylo Ren was an amazing villain, not despite his somewhat whiny and childish behaviour, but because of it. On display with Kylo was an aspect of the dark side we’d never really seen – Vader and especially Palpatine were so composed, and that was intimidating. But Kylo was conflicted and his emotions were right at the surface. Adam Driver played the role perfectly.

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi.

2016 brought us Rogue One, which I didn’t get to see until a little later. I would go on to name it as my favourite film of the 2010s when I wrote a list back in December, and with good reason. For the first time, Star Wars stepped away from the Skywalkers and largely left the Force alone. While I’d argue the scenes with Darth Vader were unnecessary and perhaps a little too much fan-service, the rest of the film was astonishingly good. Sticking with a single story – the race to capture the Death Star plans before the station could be unleashed – basically the whole cast are killed by the end, which was a major change in direction for a Star Wars title.

Jyn Erso is such a well-written protagonist, as is Cassian Andor – who will be the lead in a new series coming to Disney+ in the future. Jyn’s arc, from the jaded, apathetic criminal to the inspiring leader of a suicidal mission was beautiful to witness, and the death of each of the film’s heroes was tragic, with all of them given their own moment of heroism. Rogue One is a great reminder that every war leaves behind scores of dead heroes, and that the amazing deeds of the survivors are never the only stories worth remembering. The sacrifice of the crew of Rogue One paved the way for Luke being able to destroy the Death Star – setting up the fall of the Empire.

A Star Destroyer hangs over Jedha City in Rogue One.

I know that The Last Jedi was controversial, and that controversy didn’t feel great heading into 2018. Many Star Wars fans had come to detest the franchise, and some would even start making money cashing in that hate for advertising revenue on social media platforms like YouTube. I had low expectations for The Last Jedi as a result of all the controversy, and again this was a film I didn’t get to see until months after its release. I knew the outline of the story heading in, and because so many people had been so vocal and genuinely angry about the way the film played out I lowered my expectations – and came out pleasantly surprised.

What I admire most in The Last Jedi is the way the story explains what happened to Luke. This single storyline shows how anyone – even someone we want to put on a pedestal as a hero – can fall into depression. Mental health is incredibly complicated, as anyone who deals with it or cares for someone dealing with it can attest. Luke made a mistake – again, something which can happen to anyone – and as a result of his one mistake he fell into a deep depression that left him “waiting to die” on Ahch-To. To me this was a powerful message, one that I related to. To anyone who says “but my hero could never ever become depressed!”, I will always say that mental health can affect even those we think should be the strongest, and that mistakes, flaws, and failures are all part of being human. Anyone who can’t understand that has been very lucky in life to never have to deal with mental health or see a loved one go through it, and perhaps that’s why they had a hard time with the concept.

The characterisation of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi may have been controversial, but it resonated with me.

The Last Jedi also threw a curveball in how Rey’s lineage unfolded. By saying she had no connection to Star Wars’ “great families”, the film showed how heroes truly can come from anywhere. Any of the young girls watching the film could be as great and powerful as Rey – again, that was a powerful message, one which finally steered the franchise away from the concept of inherited power, chosen ones, and destiny.

In 2018, I picked up the most recent Star Wars game I’ve played – the much-maligned Battlefront II. I got the title on sale at a deep discount, and as someone who isn’t much of a multiplayer gamer, I just played through the campaign. I enjoyed my time with the single-player story, and felt that for the discounted price, Battlefront II was worth it. However, the controversy surrounding the game’s incredibly poor in-game monetisation is legitimate, even if Electronic Arts has since restructured some aspects of that.

I also had the opportunity to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story in late 2018, and I found it to be an enjoyable heist-crime film with some Star Wars trappings. It doesn’t fundamentally “ruin” Han Solo’s character, but nor does it really add much to his story. I saw the Mandalorian in November/December last year – it was actually the first subject I wrote about here on the website – and finally, of course, I have recently watched The Rise of Skywalker.

So that recaps my personal history with Star Wars – but already there’s more on the horizon. A couple of weeks ago I picked up Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on PC, and I’m going to be playing that very soon (assuming my PC can handle it!) There are of course more projects in the pipeline for Disney+, including the aforementioned Cassian Andor series, as well as an Obi-Wan Kenobi series which will see Ewan McGreogor reprise his role. It’s definitely a great time to be a Star Wars fan right now, with so much going on and the franchise very much alive.

Star Wars began with a story about this trio, but grew to be much bigger than any of them.

When I think back to what Star Wars was when I first encountered it – a geeky trilogy of films that you’d be bullied at school for being associated with – and compare it to where it is today, the change is astonishing. Star Wars has fully entered the mainstream in a way science fiction and fantasy stories usually don’t. Along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films and Game of Thrones, Star Wars has not just crossed over successfully, it’s been a trailblazer for many other sci fi and fantasy projects to become a success. More than that, it’s popularised both genres in a way that they never had been, and transformed what was once a fairly small niche into something that big companies are happy to invest vast sums of money in. The entire world of sci fi and fantasy owes a lot to Star Wars’ success, and it’s hard to envision how many great shows, films, and games we’d have missed out on were it not for the franchise.

Star Wars also has an aesthetic all its own, inspired by earlier science fiction in some regards, but putting its own spin on them. The ships, weapons, and even costumes of the Star Wars galaxy are instantly recognisable. A Star Destroyer or a lightsaber couldn’t possibly come from any other franchise, and this visual style has carried through every iteration to date.

Speaking for myself, Star Wars has had hits and misses, but there were definitely more of the former than the latter. I’ll always be excited to see what the franchise has to offer next, and I’ll always be ready to tune in to the latest film or series or try the latest game if at all possible. The setting Star Wars created, with Sith and Jedi and the Force, and with hyperspace, blasters, and droids, remains a genuinely fascinating and enthralling fictional galaxy to escape to, and I’m happy to go back and re-watch my favourite films and re-play my favourite games time and again.

May the fourth (or fifth) be with you!

The Star Wars franchise – including all films, series, and games mentioned above – is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.