How Every Star Wars Holds Up During A 24 Hour Marathon

Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

A long time ago, in a pre-social media world, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released in theaters.

The return of Star Wars to the big screen brought reinvigoration and six additional films to the Sky Walker Saga.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, Disney hosted a 9-film Star Wars movie marathon in 13 select theaters. This marathon gave us a great chance to revisit these films. And see how well they hold up now that the Skywalker Saga is ostensibly complete.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The marathon started promptly at 8 P.M. at my local Regal Cinema. The theater erupted in rapturous applause when the iconic opening scrawl began over John Williams’ classic score. All 220 people who dared to brave the all-night and day festival were ecstatic to revisit these films on the big screen.

The Phantom Menace tells the story of Anakin Skywalker, a slave boy from Tatooine who was freed by Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and trained to be a Jedi Knight. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith outlines his rise and eventual fall to the dark side. As we all know, the galaxy would soon be under the control of the evil empire led by Darth Vader, Anakins dark side moniker, and the Emporer.

Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Attack of the Clones shows the beginning of the Clone Wars. The war eventually leads to Palpatine turning Anakin Skywalker and taking control of the galaxy. Episode 2 succeeds in portraying the war but fails at making us believe in Padme and Anakin’s romance.

The prequel trilogy, released in 1999, 2002, and 2005 respectively, hold up surprisingly well. There are some goofy moments. Particularly Jar Jar Binks and uncomfortably stilted dialogue in Episode 2, but the whole of the trilogy is concise. We see Anakin succumb to fear, anger, hate, and eventually bring suffering to the galaxy.

Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Revenge of the Sith culminates in Anakins’ demise, ultimately turning from light to dark and taking on the persona of Darth Vader. The script in this one is leaps and bounds better than the first two, and the darker tone is welcomed, given the theme of the dark side overcoming the light.

For all its flaws, the prequel trilogy retains the magic of the Star Wars universe. Galactic war, Sith schemes, and the ultimate battle between good and evil. Light vs Dark. But in the prequel trilogy, darkness wins, leaving the only hope for the galaxy in the hands of two small children: Luke and Leia, the secret offspring of Anakin Skywalker.

Star Wars: A New Hope

Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

Episode 4, A New Hope, started at approximately 4:30 A.M. Even though the audience felt the effects of eight hours in a theater, the excitement was palpable. The cheers were louder, and the films were better.

The original trilogy remains a masterclass in storytelling and world-building. From the explosion of the Death Star to the betrayal by Lando Calrissian, each moment hits strong. The most surprising part is how effective it all feels after binging the entirety of the prequel trilogy.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

The highlight of the original trilogy remains The Empire Strikes Back. After A New Hope’s hopeful and bombastic ending, Empire’s dire ending raises the stakes and puts our heroes in a precarious situation.

Empire also has the tightest script and expands on the mythology in meaningful ways. The film is a strong standalone film, a harrowing adventure, and rich with Star Wars lore.

Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi

Return of the Jedi (1983)
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

A wise man once said, “There’s only one return, and it ain’t of the king. It’s of the Jedi.” Return of the Jedi provides a satisfying conclusion to the six films that canonically precede it. It may be the weakest of the original trilogy, but it is still an amazing film and a satisfying finale to Anakin and Luke’s story.

The three original Star Wars films were fine on their own. But adding the prequel trilogy, even with its flaws, adds so much to the lore and mythology of the trilogy that preceded it. Knowing Anakin’s story, his turn to the dark side, and how he hurt Obi-Wan makes every moment in the original trilogy hit that much harder. The first six films tell a cohesive story in a magical world. They build off each other and end in a satisfying conclusion. It’s no wonder these films have spawned such an immense fandom and have been beloved for so long.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures.

Next up, we get to The Force Awakens. The sequel trilogy begins with Episode Seven, which is essentially just a remake of A New Hope. It was a movie that was in no way in need of a remake, but sure. It’s fine on its own, but it’s also painfully clear how unneeded these three films were.

The sequel trilogy started at around noon the following day, a full sixteen hours after the beginning of the marathon. The excitement in the theater was still there but was quite stifled. Around half of the film-going patrons had already left, and the numbers would continue to dwindle throughout the last three films. The rapturous applause breaks for the Death Star explosion or the reveal of Darth Vader now had turned to little more than a smattering.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures.

The Last Jedi may be the most controversial piece of media in the entire Star Wars canon. Featuring a dejected Luke Skywalker, a casino trip that goes nowhere, and awkward force Skype calls between Rey and Kylo Ren, The Last Jedi is a film most Star Wars fans would like to forget.

As a film, The Last Jedi is masterfully shot. It has some of the best action sequences and Lightsaber battles in the entire series. However, as a part of the saga, it feels widely out of place, especially when viewed right before The Rise of Skywalker, a film that immediately walks back on every significant plot point made in The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

Rise of Skywalker
Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

By the time the credits rolled on Rise of the Skywalker, the ninth and final chapter, the audience had dwindled from two hundred plus to less than fifty. Some of this was no doubt due to the marathon nature of twenty-four hours in a theater, but credit must also go to the lack of cohesion in the last three films.

Marathoning all nine numbered Star Wars films was a fun experience. No doubt, it is one I would do again if given the opportunity. But in doing so, the cracks in Disney’s trilogy become painfully clear. None of the films are bad, but they do not add anything meaningful to the Skywalker Saga. The original trilogy gives us good defeating evil against all odds. The prequel trilogy shows us the genesis of Darth Vader and the fall of the Republic. But the sequel trilogy just negates Return of the Jedi and rehashes old scenarios with new characters.

The Star Wars films will always have a special place in my heart. I wish the sequel trilogy acted as a way to bring a new generation into the fandom. But alas, when watching each film back to back in a movie theater, it’s painfully clear how out of place Disney’s trilogy feels in the Star Wars universe.


  • Joe Moore

    Joe Moore is a freelance writer at bosslevelgamer. He can usually be found listening to pop-punk, playing story-driven games, eating chipotle, or all three at once.

Written by Joe Moore

Joe Moore is a freelance writer at bosslevelgamer. He can usually be found listening to pop-punk, playing story-driven games, eating chipotle, or all three at once.

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