Welcome to the FilmLore Journal. Not quite an article or a review, and it is most certainly not an interview unless it is one the writer has with him or herself. The FilmLore Journal is a loose text, an idea or a stream of consciousness about a particular subject. It might be written out of a passion for a topic, or it may even come from frustration. Maybe it’s just for the laughs. The point is that here, anything goes.
So with a bit of information clear, let’s talk about a subject I often get questions about, be it from friends, fellow nerds online or the media: Star Wars! And one question has been replaying around in my head for the last couple of years. I’ll get to that, but first, let me set the scene.
Oslo, 2019. I’m at a birthday party for a friend (actually the same guy I run FilmLore with). The location was Oslo’s main library, which someone has access to after-hours – a huge, old building in the middle of town. I knew only a few people there, but it was a nice night, although one filled with nerdy party games, competitions and such, stuff I rarely enjoy when relaxing with friends.
After finishing the main quiz-like competition, some of us sat outside on the huge stone balcony above the main entrance to the library. I remember talking with a friend of mine when a person I had never met before came up to me, sat down and asked: “So why do you hate The Last Jedi?” Taken aback, I figured he was a fan (of Star Wars, that is, not of me, as will become quite clear in a moment) and that someone had told him that I wrote a thesis about the Star Wars fandom at the end of my bachelor degree in marketing and brand management, which I got just a year before, to add to my degree in film production. Yes, I love communication, and most of all, I love communicating about films!
Anyway, my memory might be a bit fuzzy here, but I told him something along the lines of “I don’t hate The Last Jedi. Who gave you that idea? It is actually one of my favorite Star Wars films.” His expression was priceless. In his version of the fandom, the echo chamber of hate for Rian Johnson’s film had probably reached such a level that he couldn’t imagine anyone actually liking the film – and to love it as I do – inconceivable! And least of all, someone who had studied Star Wars academically. His temper was rising, and I could almost see his eyes flash.
In the end, my friend, whom I had been in a conversation with before the confrontation happened, came to the rescue. He wanted to get going, and I joined him.
Being a Star Wars fan with a particular interest in what drives fandom, Star Wars and otherwise, has made me replay the conversation in my head several times since that party. Here was a guy who seemed like he would get into a physical fight over his view on Star Wars if given the provocation. There was plenty of alcohol at that party and likely some other stuff, but why fight, verbally or physically, over a fandom? Any fandom?
In the years I’ve worked as a film journalist specializing in science fiction, fandom and fantasy, I have told myself never to discuss Star Wars with Star Wars fans. I have been invited to share my views on the subject here and there, including in Norwegian media, but I will never discuss my views on Star Wars vs. someone else’s views if I can help it. It’s like arguing about art or taste. You can point out certain qualities and details about what you like or appreciate, but it is useless to tell someone that they’re wrong about what they themselves feel.
One question I often get, be it from friends or even from the media, is, “So, which Star Wars film is your favorite?” For a Star Wars fan, that’s often a complicated thing to answer, and for me, it often depends on the mood and if we’re talking about only the Skywalker saga or if we’ll include the various series too.
I’ll try to answer it here, but before I do, please remember that birthday party and the guy that came up to me. If you’re a Star Wars fan, chances are that your opinions are different from mine. And that perfectly fine, excellent even. But if you disagree with me, please don’t be that guy.
If we’re strictly talking about The Skywalker Sage, meaning Episodes I-IX, my three favorite films are The Last Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith. But if we’re also counting the two “Star Wars Stories,” then Rogue One will have to be counted among the favorites somewhere.
I love The Last Jedi for its original storytelling. This is a story about meeting your heroes (and why you should think twice about it) and how even heroes can fail. The film challenges many of the established tropes in Star Wars, which in my opinion, elevates this film to the top. Yoda even says so to Luke in the film’s best scene:
“Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”-Yoda, The Last Jedi
And from this, we see Luke rise and fulfill his destiny once and for all. If that isn’t Star Wars, I don’t know what is!
When it comes to Revenge of the Sith, it all comes down to George Lucas’ storytelling. This is Star Wars in its most operatic, with powerful, even emotionally harrowing scenes crashing towards the end of the Jedi Order and the Republic, but also the birth of the Empire. The Order 66 scenes, and John Williams’ music that goes with them, are some of the best Star Wars has to offer. And the duel between the fallen Anakin and Kenobi above the lava of Mustafar, and the final shot in the binary sunset… it brings tears to my eyes just writing about it.
Many, if not most Star Wars fans, consider the Empire Strikes Back to be the best of the series. But for me, it ranks last among my favorites. It is a terrific film, to be sure, with fantastic storytelling, especially in the Dagobah with scenes with Yoda and Luke’s confrontation with Vader.
Moving away from the Skywalker Saga, Rogue One stands is also one of my favorites, and if I had to rank them, I’d put it alongside The Last Jedi. The things I like the most about Rogue One are the extremely likable characters and the expanded world-building. In many ways, this is a war movie first and a Star Wars movie second, and I love that about it.
So there it is. Oh, I forgot the series? Love them, both live and animated. But that’s something for another entry into the FilmLore Journal, maybe after Obi-wan Kenobi has run its course.
Thank you to Andreas Nor for the illustrations in this article. For more of his art, check out his website here.