Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

swrotjWatching this one again felt like wrapping myself up in a warm blanket. It’s got such a feeling of nostalgia, even though it only came out six years after Episode IV. I guess that feeling is augmented by being the sixth film in the series now.

The rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt seems probably more involved than it needs to be, but it’s fun, even if Boba Fett is killed for laughs. [sigh] I even enjoyed C-3PO for much of this sequence.

Luke’s visit to Yoda reminds me how sucky the Yoda puppet was in TPM, and how good it was in this film and ESB. Another thing I like about this film is how methodically it handles the biggest reveal: that Leia is Luke’s sister. You get to watch Luke respond to it here, you get to watch Leia respond to it later in the Ewok city, Vader respond to it during his battle with Luke, and finally Han at the end of the film. They made as much dramatic hay out of that plot twist as they could. Kudos.

The preparations for the attack on Death Star 2.0 come so early in the film, it’s a little surprising. They’ve structured the movie so that the entire back half feels like a finale. Which I kind of like.

There’s a lot of Ewok hate out there. Stuff it. The Ewoks are cute, and they’re funny, and they give the film a “human” component that the other films don’t have. There are normal folks helping out. And while there are a few laughable moments during the battle when Ewoks “win” when they shouldn’t, there are plenty of moments as well when Ewoks are doing things which are ineffective. I realized, watching it this time, the Ewoks aren’t there to defeat the Empire. They’re there to distract them long enough for Han Solo to destroy the field generator. And in that way, it works. (I could really have done without the Tarzan yell, though.)

The second action sequence, with Lando flying the Falcon into the Death Star flirts with the whole idea of “this is impossible.” I suppose someone programmed the Falcon with a route to take that wouldn’t fly them into a dead end, but they play it like this is all Lando. And I don’t buy it, even though it does look cool.

The best of the three sequences is, without a doubt, the confrontation between the Emperor (an enjoyable “reprise” of his role by Ian McDiarmid), Vader and Luke. There’s a lot to love in these scenes, but the moment that resonates for me (particularly in the hours before I go to see The Force Awakens) is that moment when Vader threatens Leia and Luke attacks him. I’m watching that and hearing Yoda’s words: “If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” So, is that Luke starting down the dark path? Does it forever dominate his destiny? Will that come into play in Episode VII?

Anyway, the good guys win, and unlike in TPM, they do it themselves. (With a little help from Ewoks, and a big surprise assist from Anakin Skywalker.) It’s not clear to me, after Vader removes his helmet, why Anakin developed an English accent in the last two decades, but I suppose hanging out with Grand Moff Tarkin for most of that time had something to do with it.

As you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t take these posts as an opportunity to gripe about the Special Edition changes to the films. That’s not the point of this, since these changes, arguably, make episodes IV, V and VI fit more organically into the first three films canon. But I have to ask, even on a putative first viewing, why the ghost version of Anakin looks like Hayden Christensen? Is that because that’s his most handsome self? In that case, why doesn’t Obi-Wan look like Ewan MacGregor? I think having Sebastian Shaw as the ghost makes more sense, since that was form when he redeemed himself through self-sacrifice, much as Obi-Wan did in ANH.

But, this is a minor gripe. It’s hard to argue that this wasn’t a worthy capper to the series. Here’s hoping J.J. Abrams can continue it.


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