One of the most beloved film franchises in world history, Star Wars has returned to record-setting critical and commercial success with The Force Awakens. When it was first announced that Disney was set to purchase Lucasfilm, and revive the series for a new trilogy (as well as spinoffs), fans were eager to see exactly what the Mouse House was going to deliver. The production company had enjoyed unprecedented success with the Marvel shared movie universe, earning a lot of geek cred in the process, but Star Wars was another challenge altogether - given that Disney didn't just have to deliver a quality film, they had to deliver a movie experience worthy of continuing the Skywalker story.
Prequels presented their own set of hurdles and problems for George Lucas to solve; however, revisiting iconic characters like Luke, Han Solo, and Leia Organa also meant potentially undermining fan nostalgia - especially if the Star Wars 7 story didn't turn out to be better than those created as part of the now sidelined Expanded Universe. With the release of The Force Awakens, fans now know how they feel about what director J.J. Abrams has delivered - and, in spite of overall positive response (read our Star Wars 7 review), Episode 7 still has plenty of detractors (with logical reasons to be critical). Similarly, while the original trilogy remains revered by fandom, Episodes 4 - 6 also had its detractors - as we were recently reminded in a vintage review-off between John Simon, Gene Siskel, and Roger Ebert back from 1983.
In the lead-up to Episode 7, fans of the Galaxy Far, Far Away had been circulating a number of retro Star Wars videos (toy commercials, interviews, and recut trailers), including footage from an ABC Nightline segment in which Siskel and Ebert debate Simon's harsh criticism of Return of the Jedi (as well as the larger Star Wars film series).
Check out the segment in full below:
Previously, we've asked the question: Are film critics right or wrong about movies? Central to that debate is Simon's argument - specifically, the assertion than an entertaining movie isn't necessarily a good movie. Even though a lot of movies manage to be both.
No doubt, Simon wasn't doing himself any favors in the Nightline segment, jumping between dismissing the Star Wars films as stupid entertainment made for kids while at the same time holding the movies to the standard of an Oscar-bait character drama or literary classic (Huck Finn). As a result, right or wrong, Simon's argument falls flat, because the critic is too busy embodying the mindset of high-brow, no fun, film reviewers that turned-off an entire generation of moviegoers - moviegoers who now believe most (if not all) critics are out of touch and do not represent the tastes or interests of regular moviegoers. Still, despite a lambasting at the hands of Siskel and Ebert, who definitely come out of the exchange looking down to earth by comparison, Simon raises an interesting question: are the Star Wars movies good or are they just very entertaining?