Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you will know that the world of cinema is on the verge of something big.
A pop culture phenomenon beloved by millions and cherished as a key memory from people’s childhood, Star Wars returns to cinemas on Tuesday December 15 with its seventh instalment, The Force Awakens.
The first film to be released since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, The Force Awakens has been heavily anticipated for over a year, with critics and analysts predicting it could become one of the biggest films of all time.
To celebrate the return to a galaxy far, far way, MM revisits the saga and picks out 5 of the most memorable moments.
Naturally, if you haven’t seen any of the original or prequel trilogies, this article contains many spoilers.
5. Darth Maul’s full reveal – Episode I: The Phantom Menace
It has to be acknowledged that The Phantom Menace has flaws.
The horribly mundane dialogue, the lifeless performances, a story stemming from the taxation of trade routes, borderline racial stereotypes from the likes of Jar-Jar Binks, no heart or soul.
However, the film has two redeeming features that nearly recaptured the wonder of what Star Wars always stood for: the pod race, and Darth Maul.
Ironically the most interesting character despite only having about two lines, Maul was menacing, mysterious, and demonstrated great potential for expansion – if he had survived.
When he faces down Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, lowering his hood to reveal his horns and presenting his double-ended lightsaber for the first time, that moment contains more raw emotion than the rest of the film combined.
The following three-way duel is undeniably beautiful, frantic, energetic and driven, and when it begins, you always think: “Now this is good, where has this been for the last two hours?”
4. Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Anakin Skywalker – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
The second and last moment from the prequel trilogy, the climatic duel between master and apprentice as Anakin finally succumbs to the dark side of the force is a powerful scene.
Revenge of the Sith, whilst still suffering from George Lucas’ poor writing, stilted acting, favouring extravagant CGI over practicality, was the best of the prequels by a distance.
The darker tone, breadth of the destruction and the tying together of both trilogies was something to admire, not to mention Anakin’s final transformation into Darth Vader.
Before that though, we’re treated to a sweeping one-on-one duel through volcanic landscapes, between the betrayed master and the corrupted, emotionally unstable pawn of a tyrannical Sith lord.
George Lucas shows that despite his weaknesses as a storyteller, he can still pull off some hefty visual panache.
When the moment finally comes that Anakin is struck down and left to be hideously burnt, Ewan McGregor desperately tries to inject some passion into his lines.
The words aren’t as strong as anything from the original trilogy, but it’s a valiant effort, and the scene carries considerable power.
3. The very first scene – Episode IV: A New Hope
The scene that wowed the world, and the introduction into what would become the biggest film in history.
It’s 1977, the crowds have gathered, the introductory words have just rolled up into space, and we’re left staring at the stars.
Next, the camera pans down to a segment of a planet. In comes a small spaceship, firing against a pursuer.
And then it arrives. The roar of the engines kicks in, and a gigantic, triangular Star Destroyer flies over our heads, growing and growing, firing green lasers at the small one.
It was a spectacle like no one had ever seen before; it was captivating, awe-inspiring and left viewers spellbound.
The sprawling extent of Luca’s far away galaxy was shown from the opening shot, and allowed everyone to soak up the enriching spectacle that would develop.
2. ‘I am your father’ – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The biggest plot twist in cinematic history.
Following a ferocious and visceral battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, the former is visibly broken and severely outmatched by the ruthless tyrant.
Vader has pushed Skywalker to the edge of a walkway, below which is nothing but cavernous darkness.
At the end of his strength, Vader takes his advantage and slices off Luke’s hand.
As Luke desperately tries to scramble away, Vader insists that the power of the dark side is unparalelled, before dropping the big reveal.
“I am your father.”
In four words, Luke’s world is destroyed. His mentor lied to him, his image of his long-lost father is shattered, and he breaks down.
And so do the audience.
The level of secrecy surrounding this reveal was like an iron fist.
Only Lucas, Mark Hamil, the director, and James Earl Jones (Vader’s voice actor) knew before the film premiered.
It rocked the world.
1. Vader’s final sacrifice – Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The culmination of three film’s worth of story and spectacle, the character ark of Anakin Skywalker was finally brought to a close.
Luke has just unleashed his rage against his father after he threatens to turn his twin sister to the dark side.
Now more experienced and powerful, Luke overpowers his father, cutting away one of his robotic hands until he stops himself.
The Emperor, cackling in the background, spurs Luke on the finish the job and take Vader’s place as his Sith apprentice.
But Luke throws his weapon away and claims he will never turn.
Furious, the Emperor unleashes lightening on Luke, who begs his father to intervene.
Vader stands there, swaying with pain, looking from one party to the other. John Williams’ incredible score racks up the tension, and the nail-biting uncertainty becomes unbearable.
But then an unconscious feeling surfaces within Vader, and he refuses to let his son die at the hands of the Sith who manipulated him.
Without a word, he grabs the Emperor, lifts him high and throws him into the reactor to his death.
Before the blu-ray re-master provided the awful addition of Vader shouting in this moment, it is a brilliantly executed scene.
The strength of feelings within family overcome lust for power and dominance, and it tugs right at the heart strings.
When Anakin, finally at peace, passes away in his son’s arms, there’s a feeling of wholeness, satisfaction, and resolution. His story has been told, the force is in balance, and the galaxy is at peace.
At least until December 17, when JJ Abrams brings us the continuation of the beloved saga, taking us back to that galaxy once again.
If it’s done right, all of these moments, plus many others that couldn’t be mentioned, will be matched with new ones.
All eyes will be on Disney and the new film this week. May the force be with them.
All images courtesy of LucasFilm and 20th Century Fox, with thanks