The journey I started all those weeks ago is finally at an end. To complete my preparations for The Force Awakens, I finally watched Return of the Jedi again. When I was a kid this was easily my favorite of all the Star Wars movies, but as I got older I became one of those super serious nerds who decided this movie was lame due to the inclusion of the teddy bear-like Ewoks.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen Jedi in years, or maybe it’s because I’m still so mad about watching the prequels, or maybe it’s because The Force Awakens is the sequel to this movie, but whatever it was, I freaking loved watching this again.
To be clear, Return of the Jedi is the weakest of the original trilogy. Where A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back are two of the greatest movies ever made, Jedi is simply solid – but possibly the most fun – of all of them. Before George Lucas decided Star Wars is the story of Darth Vader, the real movies told the story of Luke Skywalker and his friends defeating the Empire and saving the galaxy.
Luke Skywalker is my boy and was the big reason I was all about this movie as a youngling. He is a total badass here, not the whiny teenager he was in the first one or the frustrated, self-doubting trainee he was in Empire. As he tells the Emperor, he is a Jedi, like his father before him. Only instead of being a little suckass, whiny, timid, crybaby, piece of shit lowlife like his father was, Luke is an ass-kicking machine and a confident warrior. His planning and ass-kicking leads to the end of Jabba the Hutt and his crew, and it is thanks to Luke that Darth Vader returns to the light side and destroys the Emperor.
When we first see Luke in Jedi, he’s pretty much a new man. His first appearance comes via a hologram projection from R2D2, where he introduces himself as a Jedi Knight. Oh. Hell. Yeah. Then he shows up at Jabba’s palace, sporting his new black garb. After he gets shot in his cybernetic hand, he starts dons a black leather glove. I’m pretty sure my affinity for black clothing and leather gloves came from the Tim Burton Batman movies and Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. He looks and acts like such a badass.
Take, for example, when Jabba declares that Luke, Han and Chewie will be thrown into the sarlacc pit. As Luke is being led off, he smiles at Jabba and says, “You should have bargained, Jabba. That’s the last mistake you’ll ever make.” While facing certain death at the pit, Luke tells Jabba he has one last chance to free them or die. From there, the execution turns into the complete decimation of Jabba and his whole crew, with Luke killing roughly a million people with his lightsaber. It is fucking sweet.
Later in the film, Luke walks right into the Emperor’s throne room and dumps all over him. He tells the Emperor he’ll never turn to the dark side, and never gives in to his hate. And he goes in there knowing he can convince his father to turn back to the light side and put an end to the Emperor’s reign. Luke sets everything in motion and has everything under control here. His rise is the most awesome thing about this movie.
The most famous – or infamous – thing about this movie, though, is Princess Leia’s bikini. While attempting to rescue Han, Leia is taken captive and becomes Jabba’s scantily clad slave. I originally had a huge section discussing this, but decided against including it. There are a lot of smart people out there who have written a whole lot of smart things about the objectification of women and the effect of Leia’s slave garb.
My feeling is this: Sure it is iconic, but it’s some silly, corny shit meant to get nerdy guys all boned up. Yes she kills Jabba with her chains, but let’s not act like this is some brilliant, high-level stuff. My belief is that it was included to distract the fanboys and get them all hot and bothered so they turn their attention away from the other most famous – or infamous – thing about the film.
Return of the Jedi marks the introduction of the Ewoks. These snuggly little teddy bear creatures help the Rebels whoop on some Stormtroopers and are essential in the final effort to defeat the Empire. Their very existence offends many nerds because, again, they are basically teddy bears. It was like George Lucas put the most childish thing imaginable in the movie to make it more family-friendly and sell more toys.
I honestly don’t have that big of an issue with the Ewoks. They are silly, but I really don’t think their presence is that egregious. Maybe it is because I didn’t mind them as a little kid and I’m carrying that mindset still, but watching Jedi as an adult with the knowledge of Jar Jar Binks and the rest of the childish and poorly written prequel trilogy, there is simply no way you’re ever going to see me say the inclusion of the Ewoks was a mistake.
They give us some good comedy with C3PO, and it isn’t like they flat out whoop the Empire. The Ewoks attack some Stormtroopers and do okay, but it isn’t until Chewbacca commandeers an AT-ST that the battle really turns. The Ewoks aren’t these invincible creatures. And frankly, the scene of Luke making it seem like 3PO has magic powers makes it all worth it. Sure, it’s all very silly, but I don’t see an issue with making this the most family-friendly of the Star Wars movies.
Return of the Jedi is a lot of fun. After seeing our heroes endure punishing defeat after punishing defeat in The Empire Strikes Back, it’s nice to see the whole gang get back together to share some laughs and put an end to the Empire once and for all. It is a nice, cheery way to wrap up the trilogy. And it introduces some of the greatest side characters of all time.
Bib Fortuna is Jabba the Hutt’s majordomo. He dives head-first into our hearts as he pops up on the screen and says, “De wanna wanga.” It is the greatest moment in the history of Star Wars. His weird slug head, his sweet voice, the dude is amazing.
Then we meet Max Rebo. He is the leader of the Max Rebo Band, the resident jam masters in Jabba’s palace. Max is some weird blue thing with a big snout who tickles the keys on the red ball organ, and he leads his band to highs no other group has ever attained. They may be superior to the band in the cantina in A New Hope. Sy Snootles brings the fire on the vocals, and Droopy McCool is out of control on the flute. They’re an incredible band. If you don’t believe me, just watch as Max kicks out the funky jams:
And then there is the real star of the show….Nien Nunb. Mr. Nunb serves as Lando’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon during the final strike on the Death Star. His laughter is infectious. He’s the most handsome member of the cast. And I love that they never show any translation of what he’s saying. That spawned one of my favorite videos:
Don’t you just want to smile as you think about this movie? It’s such a fun, greatest hits-type jaunt through the galaxy far, far away. I was loving it as I watched it again, but of course I had to think about how George Lucas bastardized this with the new special editions.
Again, I’ve never seen those versions of the original trilogy…except for the end of Return of the Jedi. Even worse than the Han-Greedo situation from A New Hope is what Lucas did to the end of Jedi. Luke convinces Vader to turn back to the good side, and then Vader dies. While celebrating with the Ewoks and his friends, Luke looks off in the distance and sees the Force ghosts of Yoda, Obi-Wan and then his father. In the original version, his father appears played by Sebastian Shaw, who also plays Vader when he’s unmasked.
In the updated versions, Shaw is replaced by the fucking walking taint of humanity that is Hayden Christensen. Anakin from the prequels, if you aren’t following along that closely. It is idiotic and makes no sense. Luke would have no idea who that is. Obi-Wan doesn’t appear as Ewan McGregor…so why would Luke’s dad appear as the prequel actor? If Obi-Wan appears as Luke knew him, so too would his father – as an old British man rather than a sniveling little shit.
The cherry on top is Christensen looking straight at the camera, despite the fact Obi-Wan and Yoda are looking off to the side at Luke. Christensen stares right into the lens as if to say, “That’s right, nerds. Cry about it. Prequels 4 Life.” It is the dumbest and most confusing of all the changes George Lucas made, and I’m furious with myself for turning on the end of Jedi on HBO once forever ago and seeing this.
That aside, sweet Christmas I really had a great time watching Return of the Jedi again. I regret the years wasted thinking this was such a weak link in the original trilogy. Sure it isn’t the type of game-changing film the other two movies are, but damn is it fun. It has everything you’d want in a Star Wars movie, and after wasting so much of my lifeforce watching the prequels I’m really appreciating the originals even more than I already did somehow.
But now the stage is set for the next chapter. Luke and his friends save the galaxy and Jedi hits you with the super happy ending, but these previews for The Force Awakens make it seem like the happiness is short-lived. The journey is over and the next chapter arrives in just a few more days. I cannot wait to see what happens.
It has to be better than the prequels…right?