March Madness: Star Wars-Edition – Special Features #20

I know, I know — people get super excited about college basketball in America, but, here’s the thing, one, I can’t watch the games and, two, I don’t really care about the March Madness NCAA tournament, to be perfectly honest with you.

But, hey, I like the whole bracketology obsession that March Madness has fostered, so I want to do my own thing here. Each and every year going forward, at the end of March, I want to do my own form of March Madness where I answer a pop culture, filmmaking, fanboy question or the like via the whole bracket format. This year, I want to figure out which Star Wars character is the best of all-time. 

Okay, so, the tournament format this year is pretty simple. There are thirty-two different characters on the tournament bracket below — 8 from the animated shows, and 8 from each of the three trilogies. Sure, we’ve only seen The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in the sequel trilogy, but, at this point in time, it seems fairly likely that we can figure out who the eight best characters in the, as of yet, unfinished trilogy are. But I digress, let’s have a look at the tournament bracket below.

I’m sure I’ve broken some hearts already with this list, but, here’s the thing, this thing isn’t easy. Picking only eight original trilogy characters is really hard, but that’s just how it works this year. Boba Fett and C-3PO could’ve been on the list, but they just fell short. Also, before I forget, I should mention that I did make some ground rules for this tournament bracket and the first one is that no character could appear twice.

What that means is that I couldn’t have both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor on the tournament bracket, and Luke, Han, and Leia could only appear once each. On top of that, I should say that I randomized the characters of each section of the bracket to get to these match-ups. I, obviously, couldn’t seed them as I will ultimately be the guy deciding which character wins it all. With the rules out of the way, let’s talk about each section of the bracket and knock out some characters.


THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY

And here we go! In Round One, Luke went up against his small, green Jedi master, Yoda. For me, Luke absolutely does take out Yoda here, but it isn’t that bad, Yoda. As you’ve said, “we are what they grow beyond, that is the true burden of all masters.” Meanwhile, R2-D2 was up against Chewie, and, even though I do love Chewie, this is an easy one for me. R2-D2 has character, he is absolutely one of the most important characters in the trilogy. So, Artoo advanced to take on Luke Skywalker. This was another heartbreaker, but it wasn’t all that difficult to make the ultimate decision. Luke goes on to take on his father — Darth Vader.

But his way to this point was much harder than Luke’s. For many people, Vader is the first thing people think about when they think of this franchise (it isn’t the thing that I think about first, but I’ll get to that later). Vader went up against Han Solo and Leia — two of the three central heroes. But it had to end this way. Darth Vader versus Luke Skywalker for the title of ‘Best Star Wars character in the original trilogy.’

When I was deciding the ultimate winner of the original trilogy, I really had a hard time making a decision. Really, it is a toss-up. It’s too close to call. So I went with my gut and picked the hero of the story who stands tall at the end of arguably the greatest trilogy of all-time.


THE PREQUEL TRILOGY

And now we take a look at the other George Lucas trilogy — the prequel trilogy. This one had some really fun match-ups as a result of the randomized seeding. Dooku ran into Qui-Gon Jinn in the first round, but had an early exit. Qui-Gon doesn’t get enough praise. Now that is an underrated Star Wars character.

I still remember how my sister — mind you, we were both kids when we first saw it — cried when Qui-Gon died, even though she wasn’t really a fan of the original trilogy. She has since become a fan of the Disney-era Star Wars films, which is nice.

But I digress, Qui-Gon was, in the bracket, knocked out by Palpatine, who is probably the most intriguing character in the prequel trilogy. But that isn’t necessarily what this bracket is about, which is why he ends up being taken out by McGregor’s version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, whose performances, I think, are easily the best things about these prequel films. On his way to winning the prequel section of the bracket tournament, Kenobi took out Darth Maul, which is, of course, a character that he has taken out in both the first prequel film and in one of the animated shows.


THE SEQUEL TRILOGY

So, sure, this trilogy isn’t finished yet. We’ve got Episode IX to look forward to. But here’s the thing, we should be able to say what characters in the sequel trilogy are important and noteworthy already after two films. After a pretty easy round one with all of the choices being pretty easy to make, round two was a real heartbreaker for me. Ben Solo (I’m not calling him Kylo Ren) is such a good character, and when I first saw him in The Force Awakens I knew what they were going for.

Ben is well-designed and thought out, and I think he is a much more interesting character than Rey at this point in time. But, man oh man, that other round two match-up broke me. Finn and Poe’s friendship is one of my favorite things about the sequel trilogy, and I love both John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. But my ultimate decision here was made when I thought of their involvement in the two films.

I think Finn’s development in The Last Jedi resembles his character development in The Force Awakens a bit too much, whereas the Poe Dameron character actually does change and becomes more important. This is a character who is set up to be the new leader of the Resistance, but whose decision-making skills were challenged in The Last Jedi. So even though Poe was originally supposed to die in The Force Awakens, I ended up picking him over Finn in round two. But Poe Dameron versus Ben Solo is not really a tough match-up, and Ben took this corner of the bracket tournament fairly easily.


ANIMATED SHOWS

I think this corner of the bracket definitely shows how I much prefer Rebels to Clone Wars. Sorry, but that’s just how I feel. When I think of the animated Star Wars shows, I think of Kanan, Hera, and the character who ended up winning this corner of the bracket — Ahsoka Tano. Ahsoka is such a great character, who went from being someone fans really disliked to being someone fans were begging to see again. It was only really close between Kanan and Ahsoka, but it just had to be Ahsoka, didn’t it?


THE SEMI-FINALS

Let’s be honest here, even though Ewan McGregor’s version of Obi-Wan is absolutely fantastic, he doesn’t hold a candle to Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker — the prototypical blockbuster movie hero. So that decision was pretty easy to make. Now, the tougher call was to decide whether to go with the beloved animated character or the somewhat controversial new villain in the saga films. I ultimately went with Ben Solo because of what Adam Driver brings to the table as an actor, and the way his character’s decisions in The Last Jedi were so believable.


THE BEST STAR WARS CHARACTER OF ALL-TIME

Nothing — and I mean nothing — will make me lose faith in Luke Skywalker. His journey as a hero is so important to me that it tops every other hero’s journey out there. When I think of Star Wars, I think of the “Like my father before me,” line — and I think about the green lightsaber that I was obsessed with when I was a kid. And, look, I know that it is tough for some fans in this Star Wars fandom civil war to look at the sequel trilogy as a part of the universe and the actual next step for our heroes, but I even really like what they do to Luke there. Is it as phenomenal an ending to Luke’s story as I had thought it would be when I started to imagine how he would go out? No, it isn’t. But it is a triumphant ending for Luke as he decides to lean into his role as the bringer of a new hope, pun intended, for the galaxy far, far away.


And there you have it folks! The inaugural I’m Jeffrey Rex film-centric March Madness is in the books and Luke Skywalker has been chosen as the best Star Wars character ever shown in the films or the animated shows. Although, who knows, maybe I will have to revisit this bracket in a decade when Disney has probably made Star Wars into a different creature altogether. And, hey, you probably disagree with me, don’t you? I can sense your hatred, your anger — I can feel the controversy. Give in. Leave a comment below and tell me exactly what I messed up.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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