And now, we come to the end.
Yes, it’s Return of the Jedi.
Tom: When I was a kid, this was my favorite movie.
It’s not my favorite movie anymore. That would be Roshomon. That was directed by Akira Kurosawa, one of George Lucas’ biggest influences for this series.
It’s not even my favorite Star Wars movie. That would be Empire Strikes Back. I covered that yesterday. I’d say it’s a bit more mature than Return of the Jedi. I didn’t appreciate it the right way for a long time.
But this one was my favorite as a kid. I loved the whole thing. I even loved the Ewoks. Heck, I’ll admit I still like those guys. At least they can win a fight. That’s more than you can say for the Gungans. Someone pointed out to me that the Gungans were even dumber than we thought compared to the Ewoks. The Ewoks use the natural terrain of Endor to build traps and pull a lot of hit and runs against an enemy that would cream them one-on-one. The semi-aquatic Gungans meet the droid army on an open plain and don’t even try to fight in or near water.
Something else: you’ll see some Ewoks die. I had to watch closely to even see a dead Gungan, and what killed him was a mystery.
But as an adult, while I still enjoy this movie quite a bit, I will concede it has a few problems. Mark Hamill looks almost stoned in some shots. Carrie Fisher’s done better work. And Harrison Ford didn’t even want to be there. Luke and Leia’s talk in the Ewok village was…well, so-so at best. At least even a half-hearted Ford still has oodles of charm to fall back on.
But let’s talk about what I liked…you know, besides the speeder bike chase. Who didn’t want a speeder bike as a kid?
The opening rescue of Han actually works as a nice mini-movie. No sign of the Empire anywhere. Just Luke getting the whole band back together. Never mind that his plan doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If just one of the people who went in ahead of Luke had succeeded, what would he have done? Exchange the droids to get Solo back, and he’s still out the droids, plus his new lightsaber. If Leia had snuck Han out, then Jabba still had Chewbacca. And apparently, the only way to sneak Chewbacca into anywhere is to have him pose as someone else’s prisoner. Lando presumably could have just snuck out if one of the others had gotten Han out, but we’ll never know. Besides, blind Han took out more bad guys during the rescue over the Sarlaac pit than Lando did. I’ll give Lando a half-kill since it was a blast hitting the skiff from the sail barge that knocked both him and the guy he was grappling with overboard.
But Lando comes in handy later.
You know who really does something this time around? Chewbacca. I love Chewy, but repeated viewings of these movies show Chewy doesn’t really do a whole hell of a lot. Swat the occasional bad guy here and there, maybe pick off a stormtrooper, but Chewy mostly stands behind Han and growls. He couldn’t fix either the Falcon or 3PO in the previous movie. R2 had to do both. He doesn’t shoot down any TIE fighters while escaping the first Death Star. Really, he’s just a big dog…literally, since he was inspired by Lucas’ dog Indiana…that sounds familiar somehow…
This movie? Chewy saves the day by stealing that walker thing with two Ewoks. Without the walker, Han couldn’t get that back door open. Then the shield stays up and the Empire wins. Give Chewy a damn medal this time!
I also want to mention the Emperor. Palpatine hams it up quite a bit in the prequels, what with shouting stuff like, “UNLIMITED POWER!” but this time around, while Ian McDiarmid (only 38 when this movie came out, and he wasn’t the Emperor in Empire Strikes Back) was still doing a bit of scene chewing, he’s a much more insidious presence here instead of the bombastic guy hurling the senate at Yoda. He seems more like a real tempting devil sort. I find I almost want Luke to shish kabob the guy. He seems to have it coming more this time around, and he didn’t even send Vader to kill any children in this movie.
Well, everything’s wrapped up. Time for The Force Awakens. My ticket is for Saturday night. I. Can’t. Wait.
Final Notes: You know, Anakin did fulfill the prophecy to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. He just didn’t do it on the expected timeline Obi-Wan was hoping for. And I’ll say this for Boba Fett. He doesn’t say a damn thing this movie, but he does seem to be the most competent guy in Jabba’s palace. That may not be saying much, but he’s keeping an eye on things, hanging out in the background, and not acting like a jolly, drunk clown like the rest of Jabba’s crew. And why does Jabba feel such lust for females that are clearly not the same species as himself?
RYAN: Tom and I are alike in that this was our favorite movie as a kid. This was actually the first movie I ever asked for as a birthday present and I still remember getting in in its VHS form. I watched that tape so much it finally broke. Good times.
Here’s where we differ: this is still my favorite Star Wars movie. Wah waah Empire! I know–I’ve heard it all before. DON’T CARE! I’m a sucker for good endings and this is more than a good ending. This is a PERFECT ENDING. Everything about it works, both from the movie perspective and wrapping up the trilogy. It has the big moments, like the speeder chase and the Jabba opening and the Death Star II attack. But even some of the small moments are fantastic. The scene when Luke surrenders himself to Darth Vader captivated me as a child–still does today.
And can we give it up for the third movie, yet again, surprising and delighting us?! Think of modern sci-fi trilogies–they can build on the story but do they really surprise us? I loved The Matrix and enjoyed the second movie but not the third–but even the second that I enjoyed didn’t give us much new. It gave us a human rave-city and a fight with a lot of CGI opponents but that seemed incremental to the first movie. Empire gave us Hoth and Cloud City and Yoda. Return of the Jedi gave us Jabba and a new Death Star and Endor and Ewoks. All new, all awesome.
There are probably some very valid reasons, from a movie criticism perspective, why Return of the Jedi is flawed or isn’t as good as Empire. All I can say to that is the moment Luke Skywalker triggered a green lightsaber. IT WAS A GREEN LIGHTSABER!