I’ve always loved The Empire Strikes Back the best even when I watched the trilogy for the first time as a kid.
I saw the first movie on TV back around 1997 without really knowing it was a trilogy. This was around the time of the SE theatrical release in January '97. I think WPIX 11 was taking advantage of the new SE version by playing the original version on a weeknight. I’d already seen some pop cultural references to Star Wars so I was a bit disappointed by what I saw. I was confused by the Episode 4 crawl. Was I missing Episodes 1-3? It was kind of long but also didn’t really go anywhere, and I’d thought I’d seen stills from scenes that wasn’t in it. I thought Darth Vader was supposed to have a bigger role. And wasn’t there supposed to be more lightsaber stuff? And to be honest, it felt a little stuffy and slow-paced for an 8-year-old kid in 1997.
I didn’t get to the see the other two until later that year. By this point, I must’ve seen the commercials for the other two movies so I convinced my parents to buy me that gold Special Edition VHS set in August. I loved The Empire Strikes Back. It was more like what I was expecting from the first film. It was more adventurous, more planets and spaceships, there was the fun and snappy dialogue and pacing, a nice and clean aesthetic, all the Force spirituality/mythology stuff with Yoda, Darth Vader being a badass, and a cool lightsaber fight at the end. And it’s the only one I thought Luke seemed like a traditional hero.
Return of the Jedi was fine, but I really didn’t like all the icky Jabba’s palace creatures. I had a strange aversion to slimey creatures and makeup effects at this time (I think I somehow saw Phantom of the Paradise on TV when I was really young and was freaked out by the makeup). And adding some erotic slave girl Leia stuff was perhaps a bit weird for me (now aged 9). Equally aroused and disgusted at the same time. Otherwise, Ewoks were cute. I didn’t like the Palpatine makeup. He reminded my too much of the witch from Snow White, who always scared me as a kid. I didn’t like Luke in this. The bad haircut, black outfit, and emo attitude didn’t work for me. But the space battle and final Luke vs Vader fight were cool.
Oh, and I remember really liking the CGI in the special editions. Really refreshed these old movies and made it feel new and and appealing for kids my age. Lol.
I still feel much the same way. I’m not as opposed the makeup and creature effects. I love the first movie now, much more than I did the first time around. Empire is still the best. I’m mostly bored with ROTJ now. Sail barge, the space battle and the Luke/Vader/Palpatine confrontation are great. But everything else is pretty dull and the other actors/characters are sleepwalking through it. ROTJ also looks so bland visually. Nowadays, I don’t mind the CGI changes so much. Some of them are really needless and I wish they’d at least re-do the terrible 1997 graphics.