The original Star Wars trilogy is fondly remembered by those who saw the films upon their original release in theaters, and by many people who’ve seen them since. But not everyone (read: film critics) was initially captivated by the Skywalker saga, the Force, the galaxy far, far away.
George Lucas’ 1977 Star Wars film (later renamed Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) famously opened to fewer than 32 theaters across the United States. But the film’s overwhelming popularity forced 20th Century Fox to expand its distribution nationwide – and that was the moment the Star Wars phenomenon ignited… and has never fizzled. Irvin Kershner’s 1980 film, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, took the saga to new heights (and worlds) and followed A New Hope‘s footsteps in quickly becoming an astounding critical and commercial success. For its efforts, The Empire Strikes Back is widely recognized as the franchise’s best installment to-date. Richard Marquand’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, on the other hand, wasn’t as well received as its predecessor. The 1983 film marked the concluding chapter in Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy, bringing the Galactic Civil War to an end with the destruction of the Empire, but it also floundered a bit with critics.
Looking back on the original Star Wars trilogy, a number of notable film critics expressed enthusiasm for the series, but a group of other critics also made their disdain for Lucas’ films known. With Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi hitting theaters, we thought it was time to take a look back at the original Star Wars trilogy and see what the worst things critics thought of those movies at the time.
This Page: A New Hope
A New Hope
There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus … It’s an epic without a dream. But it’s probably the absence of wonder that accounts for the film’s special, huge success. The excitement of those who call it the film of the year goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood. – The New Yorker
Strip ‘Star Wars’ of its often striking images and its highfalutin scientific jargon, and you get a story, characters, and dialogue of overwhelming banality, without even a “future” cast to them. Human beings, anthropoids, or robots, you could probably find them all, more or less like, that, in downtown Los Angeles today… O dull new world! – New York Magazine
The only way that ‘Star Wars’ could have been interesting was through its visual imagination and special effects. Both are unexceptional. … I kept looking for an ‘edge,’ to peer around the corny, solemn comic-book strophes; he was facing them frontally and full. This picture was made for those (particularly males) who carry a portable shrine within them of their adolescence, a chalice of a Self that was Better Then, before the world’s affairs or – in any complex way – sex intruded. – The New Republic
“Star Wars” is somewhat grounded by a malfunctioning script and hopelessly infantile dialogue… Surrounded by these fascinating creatures, the actors barely hold their own. To be sure, Mark Hamill has a bland-faced innocence as Skywalker, and Carrie Fisher is comically plucky as the distressed Princess Leia, but Harrison Ford hams it up terribly as Han Solo, a cynical space pirate who has “flown from one side of this galaxy to another and seen a lot of stuff.” – New York Daily News
The consensus amongst the negative crowd seems to be that George Lucas’ Star Wars failed to deliver anything worthy of its box office success. Take away the special effects, they say, and the movie is left without a message and nowhere to go. Critics felt the movie, though intriguing in some aspects, was overall unoriginal and relied too much on its look rather than its story and characters.
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