Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

So many fans of the original Star Wars films greatly anticipated the conclusion in Return of the Jedi

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To the dismay of so many this third act was by far the weakest of the three films. The first film was a wonder of special effects and took the art of cinema in a completely new direction. Empire followed up with the addition of drama into the mix but Jedi is a bit too over commercialized and far too concerned with tying up the loose ends of the previous films. Still, this film has some very memorable moments. The problem faced with the third part of a trilogy is you have to resolve issues created in the first two while adding something original to the story. Its this fine line that can make or break any episode three. For Jedi Lucas tried his best to tread that line but too frequently did not meet the expectations.

As we all know Star Wars: Return of the Jedi opens with Hans now a frozen and used as a wall decoration, encased in carbonite for the infamous Jabba the Hutt. Originally this was the first time the audience was introduced to this slimy, vile creature but in the revised history the fun of this revelation was marred by an added scene in A New Hope. Luke has now completed his ad hoc Jedi training and decides to test out his new abilities saving his friend. In one famous exchange Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is summed up. Hans asks Luke "How are doing", Luke replies "Same as always" to which Hans notes "That bad". The problem with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is we have seen most of what will happen in the previous two Star Wars films. The novelty has worn off and while the special effects have matured little is innovative here. We even return to the first menace, a fully functional death star. Instead to pushing forward it appears that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi revisits old ground too often.

In Star Wars : Return of the Jedi, the character of Luke is pushed into the role of the wise and powerful Jedi, occupied so well in the previous Star Wars by Obi Wan and Yoda. Obi Wan brought humanity to this focal point; Yoda a strange and wonderful wisdom. Luke as played by Mark Hamill just didn’t cut it as an instant Jedi. While Empire Strikes Back and to some extent Star Wars : Return of the Jedi details some of the training needed to mature Luke there was just too large a jump from the hesitant apprentice to the full fledged Jedi Knight. There is a role reversal here. While in the first Star Wars Luke was full of youthful enthusiasm and Hans was the battle tried veteran now Luke must take the lead to save Hans.

Then there is the resolution of the romantic triangle between Luke, Hans and Leia. Now that Vader is well established as the father of Luke the triangle is too nicely resolved with the revelation that Leia is Luke’s twin sister. While this did fit nicely into the Star Wars mythology it smacked of a soap opera approach to twist endings. A little more tension between Hans and Luke would have gone a long way to enhancing the story.

The biggest deviation from the original Star Wars is the introduction of the Ewoks. This was so obviously a marketing ploy that all the realism created by the first two Star Wars films all but vanished. Ewoks, little furry creatures that seem more like teddy bears than anything else helped change the demographic of Star Wars : Return of the Jedi to the grade school set. This forced the more mature themes exploded in Hope and Empire to be watered down quite a bit. It appears that the only reason to include these creatures was to sell stuff toys the next Christmas and spin off Saturday morning cartoons. The protracted battle scene featuring the Ewoks is more comical than anything else. As the story drove to a conclusion we needed a more serious battle, instead we get Ewoks smashing trees into storm troopers.

All was not lost here; there were some moments that saved Star Wars : Return of the Jedi. An ever popular theme in film and literature is the redemption of the villain. By Luke courageously clinging to his beliefs he manages to reach the last vestige of humanity in the evil Darth Vader. Once this crack in Vader’s emotional armor is pierced Luke managers to turn his father away from the overwhelming influence of the Emperor and sacrifice his life to save his son. This moment was nicely set up in Empire Strikes Back when we see that Vader wishes to supplant the Emperor demonstrating that loyalty based on such an evil foundation is far from lasting. Unfortunately such moments that permit the audience to become emotionally invested in the characters is diminished by scenes such as C-3PO hailed as the god of the Ewoks and moved to recount the story thus far.

It is this uneven pacing that ultimately brings Star Wars : Return of the Jedi down a notch or two. The audience is forced to switch gears between a serious action movie and the cartoon like influence of the little Ewoks. Just as things heat up in the story prolonged comic sequences are inserted completely destroying the flow of Star Wars : Return of the Jedi. Just as we start to get into the exposition we get a ‘funny’ battle scene. I’m fine with the action comedy but Star Wars : Return of the Jedi demands too much with the constant flipping between serious and the comical. In a film like Star Wars : Return of the Jedi humor should offer a break not take over the characters.

One theme that is extended here is the interaction between the organic and the technological, while take to the extreme with Ewoks defeating the highly trained and armed troopers the expression of human spirit against machines is nicely done. This reaches a culmination as Luke removes Vader’s mask to allow him to die as a human being rather than a machine.

In all Star Wars : Return of the Jedi does what a third act should do, leave the audience with the answers to the questions raised in the first Star Wars. If only Lucas took Star Wars : Return of the Jedi a bit more seriously it could have reached the bar set by its predecessors. Star Wars : Return of the Jedi just couldn’t achieve what it reached for.

Movie Review of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
by Doug MacLean of

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