Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Re-review
When last we left our heroes, Luke was licking his wounds after losing a battle (and a hand) to the dark lord who turned out to be his father!
The space pirate Captain Han Solo was imprisoned in a block of carbonite, send to the clutches of the evil crime boss Jabba the Hutt.
Princess Leia and the Rebel Alliance. Having been defeated and driven from their base on Hoth, have scattered to the stars.
Every bit of the cliffhanger that we were left with at the end of The Empire Strikes Back seems aimed to capture the spirit of the Adventure and Sci-fi movie serials that George Lucas took as inspiration in his Star Wars saga. Even the 1983 trailer for Return of the Jedi tells us, “Return for the climactic clash between the forces of good and evil.”
And return is exactly what moviegoers did for what, for 32 years, has been the final installment of the movie series. Until now.
When we pick back up with the Star Wars universe, things are actually quite familiar. Darth Vader arrives at a new Death Star to apply much-needed pressure to get the space station operational, intimidating Imperial officers, as is his wont. Meanwhile the ever-bickering droid duo of C-3PO and R2D2 (with an updated set of ringtones) are back on Tatooine – this time at least with a purpose and a destination: Jabba’s palace.
So much of Jedi seems to hint at Lucas’ later tinkering with the series. There are many echoes of A New Hope that reveal what Lucas might have wanted to do the first time around – starting with Jabba’s palace. The weird collection of aliens, droids and creatures that we first meet in the cantina scene in A New Hope are blown away by the roster of unsavory characters in Jabba’s crib, from our first twi’lek, Bib Fortuna, to sadistic droid EV-9D9, not to mention those seriously creepy spider droids.
Jedi needlessly catches a lot of flak from fans, which is the understandable product of 30 years of scrutiny, but for everything that Jedi gets kind of wrong, there’s a lot they get right.
First on that list is Boushh. When the bounty hunter gets an audience with Jabba, Boushh echoes every bit, the same sort of mysterious coolness of a Boba Fett. The voice, the self-assuredness and recklessness. I’d kind of want to read more about the adventures of Boushh; and, no, you totally did not know it was Leia in there. Stop lying.
Leia pays for her failed attempt to rescue Han, by being forced to wear a bikini made of the worst kind of material to make a bikini out of. And a cultural phenomenon was born. Then one by one, the roster of our heroes end up either infiltrating or imprisoned by Jabba. Then Luke arrives. Another thing they got right. Before Lucas decided that all Jedi used the same tailor as Obi-Wan Tan Robes, the appearance of a grim Luke in all black, represented the image of a fully trained Jedi – one who had been through some shit! If only he was better at detecting trap doors.
The rescue of Han Solo that follows was every bit of the fast-action, fast-dialogue, funny, edge of the seat coolness that Star wars is all about, from the first Death Star escape, to the Asteroid Field chase in Empire. And then Boba Fett gets dropped in a giant sand mouth. And I am fine with it. Because, before he was “Boba Freaking Fett” to fanboys, he was just that cool looking bounty hunter; and sometimes bounty hunters end up falling into pits.
Luke runs back to Dagobah to find his ailing master, Yoda has finally reached the terminal stage of … being 900 years old. Ben Kenobi tap dances around the retcon of Anakin being Darth and Leia being …not a romantic option.
Meanwhile the “where the hell were these two awesome characters before now” duo of Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar brief the rebel fleet that it’s time to go kick some ass. Han gives Lando the keys to the Falcon in one of way too many awkward exchanges between major characters in this movie (Luke and Leia’s suspension bridge conversation being the pinnacle of these moments). And the rebels head to the forest moon of … Not-Kashyyyk. And they meet some teddy bears. Or pint sized wookiees if you prefer.
(At this point, I think it is best that I take a short break and let my wife explain the appeal of the Ewoks:
“Are you kidding me?! The Ewoks built an advanced civilization up in the trees. They crafted this entire village, fashioned weapons and mastered flight. Plus they ate humans! They were at the top of the fucking food chain. Did you see at the end of the movie, they made a xylophone out of the stormtroopers’ helmets. They didn’t just pull those things off of them. They ate their heads!
Plus, are you going to tell me you didn’t cry when that one died.” )
Using the most advances stone age techniques ever, the Ewoks help the rebels shut down the Death Star’s shield generator, and the rebel fleet shows up to blow that space station to hell. Another echo of the first film. Except. Except “it’s a trap!” The rebel ships bide their time engaging the Empire in a space battle that needed no Special edition changes because even though it was made in 1982, it was just that good.
Luke, taken by Vader to see the Emperor aboard the Death Star. Another thing Jedi gets right is the gleeful, sarcastic, yet somehow still completely menacing figure that is the Emperor. He is equal parts mad and calculating. Luke is tested and tempted to the Dark Side, but the power of the green lightsaber and badass backflips proves too strong, and though he is tortured by the Emperor’s force lightning, he will not turn. After what seems like an hour of watching Luke fry, Vader steps up, redeems himself, tosses the emperor into a pit (see, it happens all the time!) and promptly dies, expressing his gratitude.
Luke, Lando, Wedge and the other named action figures escape the Death Star (again) before it explodes. And then George Lucas makes us look at Hayden Christensen’s ghost.
Return of the Jedi is fun, eye popping and triumphant. It’s far lighter fare, and more inconsistent than the other films. But it fits the lore. It’s all Star Wars.
3.5 yub nubs (and one yub) out of 5.