The finale of the original trilogy has always been a bit of an issue for me. There are some parts of the film I really enjoy, while there are others I cannot bear to watch.
As usual I will get the bad stuff out of the way early.
- I have made it clear on a number of occasions, almost whenever I get a chance in fact, that I hate the Ewoks. The Ewoks are clearly aimed at kids, and the idea behind them is to primarily sell toys, but they were also meant to show how a less technologically advanced culture can defeat a more advanced society. This is all well and good, provided it is believable, and a bunch of 3-foot-tall teddy bears killing Stormtroopers with arrows and stones is about as far away from believable as you can get.
If the downtrodden Wookies were used rather than the Ewoks it would make the fight much more believable, this would mean you could cut the shitty acceptance into the tribe segment for something far more interesting. It would also give us a proper look at Chewbacca’s home world rather than our heroes walking through a random forest. We should have known that Jar Jar was on the way when Lucas gave us the Ewoks.
As a far as I am concerned the only good thing about the Ewoks is that you get so see some of them die.
- As I said in my review of A New Hope, I dislike most of the changes George Lucas has made to the original trilogy, but there is one that is head and shoulders above the rest. It is the insertion of Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi’s closing celebration scene. Christensen replaces Sebastian Shaw who plays Anakin in his dying moments, and I have no idea why this was done. When the ghosts of Obi-Wan and Yoda appear they look the same as they did when they died. Why does the Anakin character look like he did in the prequels?
I did some digging with regard to why Hayden Christensen was added, and this was listed on a forum-
‘First, Lucas was trying to establish a “familiar face” to the character that would link the OT and the prequels together. If he had stopped there most “old school” fans would have still not liked it but would have let it slide … BUT … his second reason is asinine. He said that a Jedi’s “Force Ghost” is the image the Jedi had of themselves when they died and that Anakin died when he became Darth Vader.’
I can accept the idea of the force ghost being an image of the Jedi, but Anakin turned back from the dark side, saving his son and killing the Emperor. It is this action which allowed him to become a force ghost, so surely the Sebastian Shaw version of Anakin should be used? Anyway, even if we ignore the mythos, how does Luke know who this random younger guy hanging out with Obi-Wan and Yoda even is?
- Return of the Jedi isn’t a bad film, but it is filled with reminders of its two better predecessors. There is an awful lot of exposition linking Hope, Empire and Return together. “Look! Captain Solo. And he’s still frozen in carbonite.” Firstly it isn’t needed. We know who he is and what has happened, and secondly, it just reminds us of the better films that came before, and I end up wanting to go and watch them instead. Throughout the film there are scenes that are just characters talking to other characters in order to explain and emphasise previous events that have already been covered. Seriously, we should have known what was coming in the prequels after what happened in this film.
- If you remember my Attack of the Clones review, I said that Jango was more of a badass that Boba, and this film is the one that proves it. There was an opportunity for Lucas to show us how cool Boba Fett could be, but it was wasted completely. If the number of generic bad guys was reduced, a longer Luke/Boba Fett fight could happen which, as I suggested with a longer Windu/Jango fight, would be far more interesting. Instead, we get an unworthy death for a character that deserved a lot more.
- The 5th spot on the bad list was tough, not because there wasn’t anything left, but because there are two things that could make the list; the Death Star 2.0 or the computer effects. I am going with the computer generated effects… I know Star Wars was a game changer, and I know Return is 30 years old, so I am not comparing it to modern day films, but I am comparing it to its predecessors and in all honesty the blue screen effects don’t hold up when compared to the two earlier Star Wars films. The shots of Luke looking up at the blue screen stop-motion Rancor, the blue screen Tatooine background, and the speeder bike back drop are particular offenders that spring to mind.
A quick dishonourable mention goes to another terrible addition George Lucas has made since the film’s release. As Darth Vader contemplates saving his son from the Emperor, instead of standing there in silence, debating his morality, he cries-
In a sentence reminiscent of that moment in Revenge of the Sith, that silent deliberation is ruined forever. People LAUGHED in the cinema when it happened in Revenge of the Sith, so what drove these morons to put it into this scene? God I hate it so much- Lewis, with the blessing of Ben.
- The Luke we see in Return of the Jedi is a badass. He isn’t the whingy, moany teenager we seen in A New Hope. He isn’t the cocky guy who thought he could take on Vader without completing his training. No, in Return of the Jedi, Luke is almost a fully-trained Jedi, and has no time to take any shit from anyone. From the moment we see him force choke the Gamorrean guards blocking his path, and then successfully use a Jedi mind trick on one of Jabba’s minions before calmly confronting the Hut gangster, the audience knows that this older Luke is now ready to take down the Empire. These events are followed by the massacre at the Sarlaac pit, where Luke cuts through almost every one of Jabba’s henchmen. This is how you develop a character arc over a series of films. (If you are wondering where the Luke/Vader duel is, don’t worry it is on the way).
- I really enjoy two thirds of the last hour of Return of the Jedi, so they make up the next two points on my list. Firstly, the battle outside the Death Star to destroy the space station. This sequence is probably my second favourite of the 4 major space battles in the franchise (closely beaten by the Death Star sequence in A New Hope, then followed by the opening sequence from Revenge of the Sith and finally the one from Phantom Menace, if you were interested). I think this battle is brilliantly finished, and while we might not be as emotionally involved in essentially what is the 3rd part of the last act of the film. The ship to ship action flows smoothly across the screen, and still retains a high level of tension as we realise that the Death Star is actually operational, and see the outmatched Rebels struggle to survive long enough to get an opportunity to blow up the space station. This is a highly underrated segment of the film.
- Right, now the Luke versus Vader duel. It may not be as iconic as the fight in Cloud City, but the duel between Luke and his father in the second Death Star really shows how the tables have turned. Luke now has the ability to kill his father but is desperate not to do so, desperate to save his father from himself. That is until the scene called ‘A Jedi’s Fury’. in this powerful scene there is an explosion of emotion as Luke bests his father in order to defend his sister, only to stop short of killing the Sith Lord after realising that this is what the Emperor wants. Only now does Luke understand himself what it is to be a Jedi outside of the instruction of Obi-Wan and Yoda. The sequence has some fantastic imagery, such as Luke’s face cast half in shadow and half in light, showing his internal conflict and conveying powerful emotions. A really brilliant sequence.
- There tends to be one or two changes in the special editions that I don’t mind, and the one in Return of the Jedi is the removal of ‘Yub Nub’. The scenes where we travel around the galaxy are ok (except the trip to Naboo where we hear the Gungans, that bit can spend eternity in cinematic hell), but I honestly feel the music is an improvement. While still being celebratory, there’s a slightly sad note to the theme, almost as a commemoration to everyone who died in the fight for freedom. This might just be me, but I like the new music. Any time spent away from the Ewoks is an improvement in my eyes.
- I debated putting the Yoda scene as my 5th point on the list, but I think it is a bit rushed. So instead, I am making another mention of the puppeteers and the creations they control. I mean how much more believable does the puppet Jabba look compared to the pile of CGI shit we see in A New Hope? (Damn you, George. Why do you have to keep going back and making pointless additions?) Also, how much more brilliant and inspiring is the puppet Yoda compared to the CGI one? Infinitely more so. The close up shots of the stop-motion Rancor show how impressive it actually is, but again, it is tarnished by the poor use of the blue screen. I also recently found out that Admiral Ackbar is a puppet, not an actor in a costume, which goes to prove how incredible the creations really are.
So that brings our journey through the Prequel and Original Trilogies to an end. Hopefully you have found it mildly entertaining and at least a bit informative. If you disagree with anything we have said or think we have missed anything please do shout at us, and if you agree with anything, please shout at us about that too.
It’s now only a few more Hours until the midnight release of The Force Awakens, and we’re too excited for words. Look out for our reviews of the film; we’ll be releasing a short, completely non-spoiler version tomorrow to give you our opinion, and then a more in-depth version later in the week.
It will be amazing.
God I hope it is good.
But what if it isn’t?
No, no. In JJ we trust.