Retro Review: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

12405693 The biggest Holiday event in geekdom this year will undoubtedly be Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which almost every commercial this season has guaranteed will result in plastic lightsabers and action figures under every tree this year. And with J.J.'s personal crusade to bring back practical effects and a sense of movie magic to the Star Wars universe, there's a lot more than turkey and pie to be thankful for this holiday season. Assuming J.J.'s vision will be just as magical and inventive as Episodes IV-VI, Feeling warm and fuzzy with nostalgia yet? Good, because I'm about to ruin all those lovely Star Wars memories and VII hype with a review of one of the worst TV specials of all time. Yes. THAT One.

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Let me be 100% honest here and say it like it really is. This movie is weapons-grade awful, but that doesn’t mean it’s the worst thing ever invented by a human being, though it certainly tries at times. Yes, listening to what seems like an eternity of mangled Wookie-speak may feel like running your brain through an industrial cheese-grater, but off the top of my head, I can name about one or two films I’ve seen that were definitely worse. One was Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which was essentially a full hour of mindless, inspid bullsh*t and like, one decent sword fight, and Highlander II, which is basically the same thing minus the one cool sword fight and a plot that’s at least seventy-five times worse than all of Sephiroth’s Hot Topic monologues. So while the Holiday Special was pretty bad, at least it didn’t completely ruin the lore like Highlander II. Or Phantom Menace, for that matter.

lumpy

That said, this film is still A-tier bad, and not in the fun, “Manos: The Hands of Fate” sort of way, where you can pop in some Rifftrax and have a chuckle at the stupid over a bucket of popcorn. The Holiday Special is a weird, dull little trip through Lucas’ weird side, and though it has its moments of cringey unintentional humor, the end result is an uncomfortable mess of Wookies watching porn on Oculus Rift and weird, dancing holochess pieces. There’s barely any plot to speak of, though what little there is essentially amounts to Han Solo Saves Christmas, which sounds friggin’ awesome until you realize the “Christmas” in this film is a generic called “Life Day,” which somehow manages to be even worse than it sounds. Being a TV special, there really isn’t any action to speak of either, with Stormtroopers and Imperial Agents spending a good chunk of the special dicking about and looking at random objects in the room they’re in. That and a load of other random segments awkwardly punctuating the paper-thin excuse for a story, which somehow managed to fit in Bea Arthur, bizarre animated commercials, and Boba Fett’s first appearance.

“But wait,” I hear some of you typing away below, “That’s the one cool part where Boba Fett shows up before Empire! That’s at least sort of neat, right?”

First off, I know I’m gonna get frozen in carbonite for even daring to say this, but Boba Fett’s the most needlessly overrated character in Star Wars, and every real fan knows Jar Jar is a superior villain. Second, the animated short looked like a 4kids version of Aeon Flux, and Boba Fett’s personality in it was utterly unbearable. I guarantee that if Boba Fett called everyone he met in Empire and Jedi “friend” like he did in the cartoon, nobody would’ve thought he was cool or mysterious. Just annoying, repetitive, and disappointingly one-note, much like everything else in the special.

Beyond that, there’s really not much else to talk about, as in the end, the special managed to somehow make Star Wars boring before the tedious politicking of the prequel films. And when all’s said and done, it’s the tedium and lack of any real effort that’s the major problem here. For example, Chewbacca’s relatives in this special have names like “Lumpy” and “Itchy,” which sound more like something from the Simpsons than an actual piece of official Star Wars media (inset bent Wookie joke here).

So that’s the Star Wars holiday special in a nutshell. If you like Wookies (like, a LOT), then maybe you’ll enjoy this film. But chances are, you’ll probably want to singe your own ears off with a lightsaber fifteen minutes into this painfully 70’s travesty of a special. It has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, Thanksgiving, Festivus, or any other holiday celebrated on this planet, and somehow managed to torpedo the franchise into pure, liquid stupid before the CGI bantha poodoo hit the fan in the prequels.

But hey, at least it’s not Advent Children.

Alex Moya
About Alex Moya (11 Articles)
Horror and Fantasy writer, blogger and chef-in-training, Alex Moya writes about pop culture, pulp fiction, and heavy metal, as well as novels and short stories. Check out his latest projects at www.stonebalrog.wordpress.com
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