Star Wars became a phenomenon back in 1977 and when the first film came out I was three. My twin brother and I were maniacs for anything Star Wars. We wore C-3PO costumes for Halloween that year- the kind with the mask and then a plastic bag that had a picture of C-3PO head and all on it… damn that never made any sense. Many Star Was products were sold out.
A friend of my parents purchased a Millennium Falcon before Christmas 1978(?) while on a business trip in Cleveland.This was to be my Falcon… ok my brothers Falcon as well.
There were many advantages to being a twin, the most obvious- your best friend is always around. The second, well at least at that point in time, was that we received some awesome gifts because they were purchased for two children at once.
We woke up on Christmas morning to an assembled Death Star with scenes playing out. It was amazing. The trash compactor was full of pieces of foam as well as a rubber “beast”, the one that pulled Luke under. It was fun to play out the scenes from the movie, though the grappling hook to cross the bridge was not as functional as the commercial made it out to be. I know, I am shocked too.
The point of that preamble is to illustrate I was serious about my Star Wars from an early age. In 1999 George Lucas (from here on out referred to as The Beard) started to whittle away sense and narrative structure from his tale. That is of course, personal opinion and while I ended up disliking the new films I didn’t give up on them until May 19th 2005. But this is supposed to be about the enjoyment of Star Wars, not my dislikes. I will save that post for another day.
So without further rambling, my top
seven five back to seven* favorite Star Wars characters-
7 – Wedge Antilles
Wedge was someone both my brother and I looked for in both Empire and Jedi. Sure, he didn’t have an action figure (part of a complex rating system for how much I liked or disliked characters- this system was never written down it was all by feel) but he was always part of epic moments in Star Wars history.
Unlike Jek Porkins or Dak Ralter he made it through these battles. He was the sort of everyman that is needed in conflicts. My brother Rob purchased a Porkins figure for me a few years ago. I am sure Wedge made his way there. Sure, having a figure might have some weight in the Star Wars scale of coolness, but not enough to knock Wedge from my list.
6. Lando Calrissian
There are plenty of things to hate Lando for, especially in Empire. He leads our heroes into a Final Supper. He supplies some bizarre torture device for Vader to use on Han. His Ugnaughts tried to feed 3-PO to a furnace. Sure, he had a grudge with Han, losing the Millenium Falcon to Han in a sabacc game, but hey it is the same way Lando won it.
Lando showed how fluid friendship is for scoundrels, making Han’s actions at the end of Star Wars feel that much more heroic to me.
Of course, Lando is involved in redemption- first in the rescue of Han from Jabba and company and then as a General of the Republic leading the attack to destroy the Death Star. Yeah, I believe good old Wedge was on that run as well.
I do have to mention Lando almost gets disqualified for consideration due to his pronunciation of Han. It is Hahn not Haen, you OK with that buddy?
5. Vader (OT)
Darth Vader is one of my favorite villains of all time, if you only consider him through the lens of the OT. Honestly, before 2005 he probably would have rated top 2. The image of him screaming ‘NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” at the end of that *cough*
film cash grab knocks him to the outer reaches of this list, spinning through space as he did in Star Wars.
Vader was a beast. Choking people out, torturing Leia and Han alike, dropping the paternity bomb on Luke on a day where he already lost his best friend and his hand. Is there no end to your cruelty, huh Lord Vader?
His redemption in Jedi was as moving a redemption as I have enjoyed in a movie. I can’t believe The Beard has the audacity to play with it further… I know, it is his, but it is ours too. You have to admit though, playing with the Original Trilogy is rather Sithy behavior.
One of my favorite moments in Jedi is right after he receives the surrendering Luke. I jumped out of my seat when he lit the lightsaber in that scene. The tension in that scene was well crafted.
The reason the creatures of Star Wars stand up fairly well to time is because the actors/puppeteers involved gave soul and heart to their performance. Sure, with Chewbacca the vocals added a lot to any sequence involving emotion, but his movements evoked emotion as well.
In Jedi when he is put in the cell with Han at Jabba’s palace the affection shown was believable. I remember watching it for the first time and having that happy glow that two friends were back together. Of course I was 9 at the time and was already very invested in the characters, but to this day I think of how I felt first viewing.
Chewbacca is essential Star Wars to me.
2T. Obi Wan Kenobi
OK, so he played a minor role in 2/3rds of the OT, but he is in a tug of war with another Jedi for my favorite. I enjoyed some portions of Ewan McGregor’s performance. It isn’t his fault. That script was awful compared to what was afforded the troupe from the first three.
His duel with Vader was fairly light on impressive sword play, but packed with story and tone.
I loved Old Ben though. He was used to great effect in The Empire Strikes Back to get Luke to Yoda. Of course, you can’t be number 1 on a list of favorites when your dialogue is stage directions from Revenge of the Sith
“It’s over Anakin. I have the high ground”… seriously, I better stop now before the tie ends and I wish that someone had the high ground on Ben Kenobi.
2T. Yoda (Old)
I will admit I didn’t fully appreciate how awesome Yoda was the first time I watched Empire- of course, I was six. At the point this movie was made Yoda certainly didn’t come off as a possible Jedi from the start, let alone a Master Jedi. With the prequels in mind it isn’t hard to understand why Yoda had so little faith in the son of Anakin. What is really odd, and seemingly difficult to explain is why Yoda had to tell Obi Wan that there is another if Obi Wan helped separate Luke and Leia as children. Crap, moving into logic… moving right along…
Yoda fighting Dooku is one of my favorite moments of the prequels, but as it seems with most if not all of the cross over characters it was as if he were hollowing out the characters and not really exploring them further. That my friends deserves a Gordon Ramseyish “What a damn shame”.
I prefer puppet Yoda to CGI Yoda any day as well. I remember when my Dad came home from work with Yoda figures for my brother and I. I am betting that has something to do with being tied for 2nd.
1. Han Solo
He was a cool customer. He owned a ship. He was his own man who was quick witted and a quick shot. What was not to love? I won’t go into any depth on this point and will leave it to you to Google search if you want more, but know this- Han shot first… and yes, that is important.
His shooting of the control panel and saying, “boring conversation anyway” had me smirking into viewings for years to come. He was well crafted and well acted and was excellent in Star Wars.
But Empire, yes, Empire was where he shined. His rescue of Luke on Hoth “Then I’ll see you in hell!” From pulling his gun on Vader at the Final Supper on Bespin to acting cocky even when torture was being threatened Mr. Solo was a guy to emulate. Of course, the scene that says Han Solo is right—- here.
Man that Han. What a bad ass.
Of course he had his share of solid scenes in Jedi. But if you ask me Han earned his number one slot in Empire.
I have a style shirt I own that I refer to as “my Han Solo Shirt”. It looks nothing like anything Han wore in any of the movies. That doesn’t matter. It makes me feel like Han. That is what matters.
Star Wars shaped me early and in positive ways. It is a lot to hang on an intellectual property and I certainly do not mean to suggest it was wholly responsible for who I am today, however considering it is a story, a drama and it had the effect it has, well let’s say I am happy I didn’t end up feeling this strongly about, say the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
* When I started writing this I thought I had seven. When I was thinking about characters I started to look too closely at the issue and not what I enjoyed. While there is still a large measure of that I ended up back at 7.