Monday, December 14, 2015

My Top Ten Star Wars Characters.

The Star Wars movies are filled with some of the most iconic and endearing characters ever put to film. Through their deceptively simplistic and layered personalities, their moral codes and endlessly quotable dialogue, and even their designs, they’ve captured the hearts of viewers all over the world, to the point that we see them as more than just people on a screen, but as family. They’re the kind of characters we wish were real, and every fan will always have their obligatory list of favorites.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about today, unveiling my list of my top ten favorite Star Wars characters at this moment. For this list, I’m going to be looking back through not only the main movies of Star Wars, but also the TV shows and various spin offs to form my list. Who knows how The Force Awakens will shake things up, but until then, here’s my top ten as of now…

Number 10
Lando Calrissian 
Once a professional gambler and smuggler who worked under his friend Han Solo, while Han would keep to the smuggling business, Lando was able to break away from such things, making an honest living for himself on Bespin. From the moment the two reconnect in The Empire Strikes Back, we can see how deep-rooted a history they’ve had together, and Lando makes for such a scene stealer with his inimitable charisma (thanks mainly to the suave Billy Dee Williams), and his initial moral grayness as he betrays his old friend, before allowing the group of rebels in Cloud City to go free, and joining his buddies to take down the evil Empire. Plus, he’s just the coolest guy in the galaxy… 

Number 9
Emperor Palpatine
So much was dedicated to building up the Emperor’s ultimate arrival in Return of the Jedi, and once we finally met him, he didn’t disappoint. He’s also one of the few elements the prequels always got right. By no means is he a subtle villain, but is always enjoyable to watch thanks to his demonic presence and subtle manipulation. The character is always at his best as a behind the scenes type villain, pulling strings and allowing his subjects to do his work for him, and when he does take action himself, that becomes an indication to run for your life, because if his horrid appearance doesn’t frighten you, the fact that he’s such an intoxicating being that he turns the very Force around him into lightning will.

 Number 8
General Grievous
While he was admittedly a bit undercut by his short appearance in Revenge of the Sith, Grievous would later make a better name for himself in the Clone Wars TV series. Acting as an object of foreshadowing Anakin’s eventual fate, Grievous’ ruthlessness and merciless instability made him a frightening force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. An extremely unforgiving commander who relishes in the pain that he inflicts on others, he proved not only a cunning and tactical leader of his countless pawns, but proved just as strong in direct action as he did working from the command bridge, showing deadly skills with the lightsabers that he had taken from fallen Jedi Knights. It’s always so exciting to see him up against the “Jedi scum.”

Number 7
Obi-Wan Kenobi
A spin on the wise sage archetype of most mystical fantasy, Obi-Wan’s warm and fatherly nature and knowledge quickly made him one of the more fascinating characters of the saga. Obi-Wan has always owed much of his appeal to Alec Guinness in particular, who supplied the character with much of his trademark sophistication and classiness, his spry sense of humor and subtle diversions of the weak minded, his warm and welcoming cheerfulness, willingness to sacrifice for the good of others, as well as his deep-rooted regret for his mistakes in the past. Even the prequels did a superb job of emulating this, with Ewan McGregor nailing all of the same traits to a tee, and supplying it with his own youthful eagerness and evolution.

Number 6
Ahsoka Tano
Introduced during the Clone Wars TV series, Ahsoka was initially written off in the earlier stretches before becoming one of the series’ defining characters. Much of Ahsoka’s endearment came from her over-enthusiasm and coming of age under Anakin’s teachings, and it was always a delight to see such an inexperienced and cocky young girl come into her own as a fearless and selfless warrior, and even made for a surprisingly effective mirror image of Anakin, very reminiscent of his own mistakes and cockiness, but going down a much more noble path than her master and teacher would. Her skill as a fighter and leader was always admirable to watch, and the character was so popular that she made her way into Star Wars Rebels, where she continues to be one of the standouts.

Number 5
Leia Organa
When we first meet Leia in A New Hope, we assume we have her pegged. She looks like a classic damsel in distress that our heroes are going to have to rescue every now and then. Yet beneath that pampered and fashionable exterior, we had little idea of her actual personality. Though she has to be rescued from the Death Star, Leia would make her mark in Star Wars for her subversion of the damsel archetype, often equipped with a sarcastic sense of humor (tending to make her butt heads with Han Solo), her commanding way with battle, her surprising skill with weaponry and combat, her resistance to torture, but also let us in on her vulnerabilities as a character, with her romance with Han being one of the most meaningful relationships of the series.

Number 4
Cad Bane
I considered a number of Clone Wars characters for this list, including Asajj Ventress and Captain Rex, but I don’t think any of them hit me in the way Cad Bane did. A cold, calculated and methodical bounty hunter like a gunslinger out of a spaghetti western, he made his grand entrance in the season 1 finale when holding several senators hostage, establishing all the remorseless lengths that he was willing to go to to get what he wanted, and was a powerful threat and foil to our heroes anytime he appeared afterwards. He may not have much of a back story, but he always made for such a hardcore villain, so cruel and crafty that even Boba Fett would think twice before crossing him.

Number 3
No character in Star Wars surprised quite in the same way that Yoda did. Initially looking like a comical and crazy old hermit due to his isolation, such a thing turns out to be a front testing Luke Skywalker’s patience. Yoda is a carry-over from a much older and more peaceful time, a noble warrior who values peace with the Force over violence. The mysticism of the character has fascinated viewers around the world for years, teaching Luke in tough but necessary ways, and was the perfect gateway for viewers exploring the vast reach of the Force, in that it was something much grander than we could imagine, something that would tie us together in ways we couldn’t comprehend. Plus, the puppetry of the character, and Frank Oz’s powerful performance, simply haven’t aged a day. Just pretend that the scenes in the prequels with him holding a lightsaber never happened...

Number 2
Han Solo
I know, but I couldn’t leave out everyone’s favorite stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking nerf-herder. Han Solo has always been something of a rogue, a charming bad boy through and through, who has a very obvious violent streak on his hands by how he shoots Greedo without a second’s hesitation in the cantina (Han shot first!). He’s something of a sarcastic lone wolf looking out for his own well-being first and second, and others very little, at first even joining the Rebel cause solely for the reward that returning the princess would entail. However, as he lets his guard down, we eventually get to see the growth of the character. As time in the series goes on, we can’t help but love seeing him go from being like the violent criminals seeking the bounty on his head, to opening up to his new friends along the way and learning to fight for something bigger than himself, while still retaining that smart-aleck personality that we love to see.

Number 1
Darth Vader
Should it come as a surprise? I think Vader has pretty much established himself as the greatest cinematic villain ever created, and to this day, he remains unmatched. A similar carry over from an older generation like Yoda and Obi-Wan, Vader’s history as a fallen knight who was seduced by the Dark Side has always been intriguing. Though he was a brutal and merciless commander in A New Hope, what really solidified him as an iconic villain would be his appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, where we felt the full grasp and impact of his power and ruthless means to secure his objectives, his unforgiving intolerance of failure from his soldiers that leave them sweating, and even his manipulation of Luke by revealing to him his true heritage as Vader’s son. Yet at the core of it all, there’s still a powerful internal conflict raging within him that gets examined in Return of the Jedi. Though we never forget the horrid things that this man has done under the Imperial banner, once that final film rolls along, we find ourselves rooting for the character to come back to the light, and break free of his own manipulation, hence all the satisfaction we get when we see him vanquish the Emperor. This is to say nothing of the iconic breathing sounds, and James Earl Jones’ intimidating vocal performance that has become synonymous with Darth Vader. Oh, and for anyone wondering, I consider Darth Vader and the Anakin Skywalker of the prequels to be two entirely different characters. The real Darth Vader wouldn’t be caught dead yelling “Noooo!” like a whiny brat.

And there you have it. Those are my top ten favorite Star Wars characters. At least, up to this point. So with that out of the way, I'll be back Wednesday with my top ten John Williams scores, and then on Saturday reviewing The Force Awakens... 

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