Skip to main content

MMYIF: Return Of The Jedi

My Misspent Youth In Films...

Return Of The Jedi
Directed by: Richard Marquand
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Released: May 25, 1983

After a daring mission to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels dispatch to Endor to destroy the second Death Star. Meanwhile, Luke struggles to help Darth Vader back from the dark side without falling into the Emperor's trap.

What I Thought Then

OKAY OKAY OKAY, this is kind of standing in for the entire trilogy. Kind of.

This was the first Star Wars movie I saw, when I was like four, an age in which having seen it somehow did not spoil the twist in Empire that Vader is Luke's father. This was my favorite Star Wars film for most of my life, mostly because it had the best (read: biggest) ending. Just to be clear, I loved the entire trilogy, but if I had to pick one, it was this one.

What I Think Now

I still like it. It's long on spectacle, and it really mines a lot of drama out of Luke's attempt to reconcile with his father without succumbing to evil. That opening heist is so weird. That final battle is super exciting. I'm a guy who likes stories with strong endings, and this film delivered for me. The closing shots of celebration and catharsis still resonate. A lot of this movie still works really well.

But, yeah, it's definitely the weakest of the original trilogy. And I hate to pin it all on the Ewoks, but that's where it starts to come apart. They're an interesting idea, but every time the scene cuts to them during that final battle, you can't help laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I get that Lukas was trying to create a contrast between technology and naturalism, but... it gets a little squicky. The Ewoks play into some uncomfortable stereotypes about primitivism, and it doesn't help that almost all of the stuff in the Ewok camp is shot with this weird soft focus glow.

And speaking of things that feel uncomfortable now, let's talk about Slave Leia. Or... or we could just not talk about it, because what really is there to say that hasn't already been said?

The effects are overall pretty good, despite their age. The costumes and puppetry and phenomenal, with the minor exception of Sy Snootles looking a little janky. The rancor in that early sequence is pretty great looking, although when he interacts with Luke you can see the matte lines. There's an interesting contrast between the creature design here, where creatures are mostly large and bulbous so you can fit a person inside--think of the green pig guards that Jabba The Hut has borrowed from a Zelda game. Whereas a couple decades later in The Phantom Menace, the new creatures are small, and often thin and reedy.

Where the movie really succeeds is where it leans into its own finality. This is the end of a trilogy, so it's really about gathering strength and tying off loose ends while heading into the climactic battle. The bits like Yoda's death or Han giving the Falcon to Lando, those moments carry some weight, because we know that this story is heading towards closure. And yeah, they're just blowing up the Death Star again, instead of doing something original, but it manages all that with a sense of gravitas.

Recommendation?

Of freaking course I recommend it. It's Star Wars. I also recommend tracking down the original version, none of this Special Edition garbage with its edits and lost scenes and half-baked CGI "improvements". We've got the un-messed-with versions of the trilogy as a special features on early DVD releases of the Special Edition movies.

Tune in next week to find out whether or not there is, in fact, a Dana.

In My Misspent Youth In Films, Kurt is going through his the movies he grew up on. Read the explainer or see more posts.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Alexandra Rowland And Bad Faith Accusations

This morning, writing twitter was blown up by a post from Alexandra Rowland accusing Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear of some nasty manipulative behavior. I have reason to believe that Rowland is acting in bad faith. Seven or eight years ago, Rowland and I were in the same writing group. I didn't know them well, but we became Facebook friends because that's what you do. At some point after we fell out of contact with each other, they made a post about an affair with an influential older male who had lied about being in an open marriage and proceeded to manipulate and gaslight and emotionally abuse them. I didn't know any of the people involved other than Rowland, but I was affected enough by Rowland’s post that I can still recall reading it all these years later. So when I saw Rowland's blog this morning, I assumed it was the same situation... except the dates weren't right. The Bear/Lynch events took place in 2016, but the post I remembered was older than that. So I

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Ramin Djawadi Title:   Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack Released:  2013 Genre:  DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld  has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned  catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above. While all of the soundtracks for GoT  are very listenable, this is m

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it. I get it now. I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat bet