It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!
Title: Star Wars, Episode Six, Return of the Jedi
MPAA Rating: PG
Genre: science fiction, fantasy
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Alec Guinness
Director: Richard Marquand
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas
Budget: $32.5 Million
Box Office: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A
With Han Solo encased in carbonite in Jabba the Hutt’s palace, Luke and Leia come up with a daring plan to rescue him from the vile gangster’s clutches. They must infiltrate the gangster’s stronghold and confront him and all his guards if their plan is to prevail. The Emperor has not been idle. The Empire has been building a second death star, stronger and bigger than the first. The Rebel Alliance knows that their best chance to strike is while it is still under construction. Construction that the Emperor himself is overseeing. With Han and Luke back among them, the Rebel Alliance decides to make a last desperate push to hopefully bring down the Empire and restore freedom to the Galaxy.
The Return of the Jedi or Luke Gains a Level in Badass or Han gains one point in maturity or the most Embarrassing Imperial Defeat Ever. First off, there is something insane about the idea that the Empire who already lost one of these hugely wasteful resources wise battle stations, building a second one. Because this obviously worked so well the first time and Rebels came in with a snubfighter and blew the shit out of it, that we’re going to do this again. Maybe it will take two snubfighters!
Objectively, this is one of the oddest and most insane plots ever. It looks hysterical on paper. For half the movie, we spend our time in Jabba’s palace, doing standard ‘rescue the prisoner’ things. Then for the second half of the movie, we go to a forest planet that looks a lot like California redwoods and with the help of some fuzzy teddy bears lead by a big walking carpet, a bunch of rocks and a few fallen logs defeat some of the most sophisticated troops (supposedly) in the galaxy.
“Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise…” My ass.
The Ewoks are less technologically advanced than the Gungans. The Ewoks who if they get their hands on a blaster are more likely to hit you over the head with it, if they can reach, than shoot you with it. There is no way in a logical universe that they should have been anything more than a mosquito sized distraction. (Seriously, if they’d left the AT-STs in the dock and gone out on foot, there probably would have been no contest. Talk about using a canon to kill a mosquito here.) There is a certain amount of audacity to this plot line. It makes me wonder if they sat around going “Do you think they’ll really let us get away with this? Can we bullshit through this plot?” And then they did it anyways and holy shit they succeeded. I mean, that sort of deserves a cookie right there!
Putting hilarity to the side for the moment, this plot actually works. In the very first Star Wars, A New Hope, our heroes were put into immediate danger, made a daring escape and had a very clear goal, defeat the Death Star. If A New Hope hadn’t been a huge success, the viewer would have been left with a very complete film, the conflict had been resolved and there was hope in the galaxy. It was a huge success so they moved on to the next film realizing they had something of a phenomena here. The Empire Strikes Back repeatedly put our heroes into conflict and peril, one right after the other, bam, bam, bam and left us on an uncertain almost cliffhanger ending. What will happen to Han?
The Return of the Jedi stuck to the previous two formula, it resolved the Empire Strikes Back about Han’s fate (which could have been a whole movie in itself) and once again gave our heroes a clear goal and put them into certain peril and then once again, resolved all the conflicts leaving the viewer with a feeling once again of hope. Now, if you’re into any of the Expanded Universe you’ll know the story was far from over and the hard work was just beginning, but if you just watch the movies and that is enough for you, then, the movies are at a very good place to end.
So, despite the details being rather hysterical if you want to view them objectively. The emotional payout is there. That is why this movie works and is considered by some to be the second best in the franchise. One cookie.
Plus, there were at least two totally unnecessary explosions. I mean, Jabba was gone. Blowing up his sail barge wasn’t strictly needed! Plus watching the Executor fall point first into the Death Star despite only its bridge being taken out wasn’t necessary either. Fun, but not necessary. Another Cookie.
The fights, oh my, the fights. The lightsaber fights were really something else. There was a great deal of tension in the last fight between Luke and Darth Vader where the fight expressed how close to the brink Luke was to actually turning to the Dark Side himself. The fight on Endor was just amusing. It was entertaining to say the least to watch fuzzy teddy bears take out Stormtroopers using rocks and log falls and bolas. One Cookie.
I’ve always liked Princess Leia as a character, despite the fact for two movies she doesn’t really do much other than be spunky. I think it was Return of the Jedi that really cemented my liking of Leia, because this movie is the movie where Leia actually does something. A lot of the previous two movies, Leia doesn’t show a lot of agency. Once she was kidnapped by Vader and Tarkin in Episode 1 for secretly trying to get the Death Star plans and General Kenobi from Tattooine to Alderaan, Leia has been being tugged around sort of like ship without a rudder. What we are shown in the movies leaves Leia at the mercy of the men around her. In Return, Leia impersonates an Ubese bounty hunter, almost rescues Han by herself, manages to take advantage of a fight and kill Jabba the Hutt with her own chain and then volunteers to be part of the Endor mission. She almost manages an Alliance with the Ewoks by herself despite not knowing the language and then takes part in the battle. Finally we get to see the type of person Leia is when she’s not being kidnapped or escaping from the Empire in a ship with a defunct hyperspace drive. She knows diplomacy, keeps her head in a crisis and isn’t a bad shot. Though she can be just as reckless as Luke. I think “Leia!” is going to one of Luke’s go to phrases for quite some time as they catch up on their sibling bonding. Sure, maybe she doesn’t blow up the Death Star or turn Darth Vader, but she had her own part to play that involved her making her own choices. Finally. One Cookie.
I’ve spent the last five reviews praising the world building of the Star Wars Universe. This review isn’t going to be any different. I want to talk a little bit about the progression of technology of the last three movies. When you watch them close together in order, it is very interesting to see the advancements that were made in how futuristic technology would look from A New Hope to Return of the Jedi, better screens, better graphics, better ‘holoprojections’ all while remaining essentially the same technology. It was obvious that the technology of Return of the Jedi was used as the base of the technology for the Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith. Which makes the walk backwards in A New Hope a bit jarring, but that is what it gets for being filmed out of order. I admire Lucas’ restraint that when he went back and ‘fixed’ everything, he didn’t try to ‘fix’ the technology to make it more ‘advanced.’
The second point I want to make about Return of the Jedi is that we finally get to see that the Rebel Alliance is more than just humans from across the galaxy but has a large following of alien races as well. The Mon Calamari space ships are beautiful and as opposed from the Imperial ships as they can be. Lando’s Sullustan co-pilot is almost a relief to see after two movies of wondering where all the aliens are. It’s sad we never get to see what a Bothan actually looks like, despite having them sacrifice so many lives to get the Death Star Mark 2’s Information. One cookie.
The Return of Jedi’s plot structure and emotional pay off makes this a well done movie and the final act’s silliness is just the antidote needed against the constant grim peril our heroes have been in for the last two movies. While I personally think that the Empire Strikes Back’s story is better, it is the utilization of Princess Leia with her own agency and character that really pushes Return of the Jedi into better movie territory for me. Five Gingersnaps.