With the news of the forthcoming Star Wars movie by Disney and a couple of recent cartoon versions, I thought that I would put forth some of my thoughts regarding the franchise, as someone who was almost a teen when A New Hope came out--a fan of Star I am, but not a fanboy.
I was 12 when the original Star Wars movie came out. I thought it was okay, but not great. I thought that The Empire Strikes Back was much better, but despised the Ewoks with a passion. They flat out ruined Return of the Jedi. I find the prequels, with the exception of Jar Jar, and the necessary adding of useless characters like the female Yoda, to be far superior. Jar Jar disappears as the prequels go on which shows that the creative talents could spot a loser when they wrote one. They also ignored the execrable Ewoks and featured more of R2D2, rather than C3PO. The creative talent explored more about the Sith and their origins, and also introduced Darth Maul, a truly great character, but unfortunately we see too little of him. Christopher Lee's character (except for his silly name) was a far more interesting character than Yoda, who is stolen from Zen Buddhism and whose silliness becomes off-putting at times. Mr. Miyagi was a far better and far more interesting version of this Buddhist archetype than Yoda ever was, although the differences between the characters are not great.
The prequels are darker, much more well written and far more complex. The prequels make clear that it is Obi-won, and no one else that the six movies are ultimately about.
What? Obi-won is barely in episodes five and six, but like Moses, who never made it to the promised land, Obi-won remains the focus rather than Josuha, who finally led the Children from the wilderness.
The unacknowledged secret (to many) about the Star Wars Universe is that it is the Dark Horse Comics which reign supreme. The Dark Horse stories (and their accompanying old time radio versions) are far more interesting, far more nuanced and far more creative than the simplistic dualistic universe of the movies.
Nevertheless, Revenge of the Sith was a singular achievement in terms of complexity. Even though Obi-won is the hero at first glance, a closer look shows that there is a quite convincing argument that Anakin was right and the Jedi were wrong in the film, at least in terms of Republican political theory. This makes Anakin a tragic character, rather than just a humongous jerk.
The Jedi appear to lack all legal authority for their actions at the end of Revenge of the Sith and attempt what can only be called an illegal coup. Palpatine's actions, although evil, appear to be entirely constitutional, while those of Yoda and Mace Windu appear well-meaning but violently illegal. This is what makes a story interesting, not Ewoks and mindless witty reparte.
Find me any scene from any action film ever that compares with the final battle between Anakin and his mentor, who loves him dearly, in terms of excitement and pathos, not to mention that the dialogue during the battle is incisive and full of double entendres.
Going forward, however, I am not sure what the future holds. Why Lucas and Disney ignore the far superior Dark Horse version of the Star Was Universe is unclear. I have seen two recent cartoons dealing with the Star Wars Universe. One was a Lego version which had a verve and humor much like Star Wars 4 at its best. The second is called Star Wars Rebels and is simply not good at all. I have four children who love all 6 Star Wars movies and who sort of enjoyed the Clone Wars who have told me to cancel the season's pass for Star Wars Rebels. The animation is terrible. The characters are hackneyed and appear to be drawn to resemble other Disney characters with a bit of anime thrown in.
Anyone interested more in what is possible going forward, should check out the audio versions of the Dark Horse Comics which deal with the return of the Emperor, Luke's loss of innocence and origin of the Sith Order. These stories are far better than anything that I have seen in the 7 movies which have come out so far.