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Star Wars, Through the Years
Reviews and Commentaries on Three Decades of the Force

Star Wars, Episode IV -- A New Hope
Original movie poster for Star Wars (renamed Episode IV: A New Hope)
Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Listen May 25, 1977 review of Star Wars

NPR's Tom Shales calls the first Star Wars movie "U.F.O. -- Ultra Far Out." Shales says George Lucas' sci-fi thriller is the best kids' movie for adults since The Wizard of Oz.

"It is unquestionably splendibulous," Shales said. "It's the kind of movie for which movies were invented. Star Wars is casually profound... (and) a movie newcomer named Harrison Ford is especially impressive."

Star Wars, Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back
Original movie poster for The Empire Strikes Back
Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Listen May 15, 1980 review of The Empire Strikes Back

NPR's Tom Shales revisits the soon-to-be-trilogy, and says the second picture in the series is "a major lark... If anything, the effects are more spectacular than the first time."

Shales wraps up with a guarded endorsement: "The film can only be recommended to all human life forms existing in the universe."

Star Wars, Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi
Original movie poster for Return of the Jedi
Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Listen May 25, 1983 review of Return of the Jedi

NPR's Tom Shales wraps up his reviews of the first three Star Wars films by saying Return of the Jedi "works completely."

"This is one of those movies... where children leave the adults way behind," he tells Morning Edition host Bob Edwards. "It's probably the best-made of all the Star Wars movies -- it's the happiest of happy endings," Shales says.

Star Wars, Episode I -- The Phantom Menace
Original movie poster for The Phantom Menace
Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Listen May 18, 1999 review of The Phantom Menace

Jar-Jar Binks is just the start. "Perhaps Lucas was thinking that special effects would carry the day," says NPR film critic Bob Mondello, "and for many viewers, no doubt they will. They're certainly as eye-popping as the ethnic stereotypes are jaw-dropping -- but effects can't substitute for great storytelling."

"Call it a myth for 9-year-olds of all ages," Mondello concludes.

Star Wars, Episode II -- Attack of the Clones
Original movie poster for Attack of the Clones
Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Listen May 15, 2002 review of Attack of the Clones

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan has seen the new Star Wars movie Attack of the Clones -- but he wishes he hadn't. He says some things are better the first time around. "Star Wars, like first love, is never coming back, no matter how much we want it to."

Turan says Attack of the Clones "has more menace, better battles... but it doesn't have much of a heart. Creating emotion is beyond this film's power."

More NPR stories on the Star Wars series and George Lucas

Listen May 25, 1983: Interview with Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand
Marquand talks with Morning Edition host Bob Edwards about the challenges of creating a "satisfying tying of a loose end" to complete the original trilogy.

Listen Feb. 21, 1997: Star Wars Special Edition
NPR film critic Tom Shales uses the occasion of the 1997 reissue of the first Star Wars trilogy, which added new scenes and effects to the original films, to rethink his positive evaluation of the series. "Wait a minute -- who was that nincompoop?" says Shales of himself two decades before.

Listen May 18, 1999: Review of The Phantom Menace
An alternate take, by 17-year-old NPR contributor Susannah Rosenblatt, film critic for TJ Today, the newspaper for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: "It was better the first three times... but at least it's neat to look at," she says.

Listen May 15, 2002: Lucas Education Foundation
NPR's Alex Chadwick talks with filmmaker George Lucas about his efforts to merge the most current technology with teaching and movie making at the George Lucas Education Foundation.

Other Resources

• Official Star Wars Web site.

• Star Wars fan site