Return of the Jedi (1983)
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George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan
Mark Hamill, Frank Oz, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Kenny Baker, Denis Lawson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Sebastian Shaw, Jeremy Bulloch, Warwick Davis, Toby Philpot
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Don't Go Messing With The Ewoks' Hood
Favorite Movie Quote: "So be it... Jedi."
With due respect to Lord of the Rings, I still believe that this - the original - Star Wars Trilogy stands as the greatest three-parter currently committed to celluloid. Had Two Towers been equal parts as good as Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King - if you could say that Two Towers was better as its trilogy's weakest link than Return of the Jedi was to the original Star Wars Trilogy (it isn't) - The Lord of the Rings would be king. The only other threat that I see is Chris Nolan's current Batman saga; should part three of his opus be the homerun that The Dark Knight was, I may have to consider forging a new crown.
Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) follows up The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) in much the same manner that Empire follows up the original Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope). An indeterminate amount of time has past since the events of it precursor; Luke (Mark Hamill) bailed on his Jedi training in an effort to save his friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) only to get his comeuppance by his absentee father, Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones).
As Jedi kicks off, Han is still frozen in carbonite, decorating the wall of mob-slug Jabba the Hutt's palace, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Chewbacca are missing, Luke has become a Jedi (or so he claims), the Empire has another more powerful Death Star nearing completion, and in short order it is revealed that the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) is going to be overseeing the final stages of construction. With that piece of info in their possession, the Rebel Alliance has massed what strength it has to send against the new Death Star in an attempt to cut off the head of the beast.
Being the third act of a story, Jedi is mostly about wrap-up. We pretty much known who everyone is, what's at stake, and that the good guys are going to win, what's left is how and at what cost. In a trend that continued through Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Lucas spins one more thread than the previous installment; in their finales Star Wars had one thing going on and Empire Strikes Back had two things going on. Jedi finishes on high note that, from the standpoint of climax alone, has probably never really been duplicated.
As the Rebel fleet makes its assault on the Death Star - still to date the best naval/space battle/dogfight that I've seen in film outside Sci-fi's Battlestar Galactica - Han and Leia, with the assistance of R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), some Rebel commandos, and a gaggle of bad-ass teddy bears are trying to knock out the station's energy shield, and finally Luke, who's gotten it in his head that he can save Vader rather than kill him, duels physically with his father and mentally with the Emperor.
The primary responsibility of Jedi is resolution and, while fan-boys living in their mother's basements whimper and suck their thumbs over Boba Fett being disposed of like the scrap metal he wears, it accomplishes its tasks in a relatively exciting, satisfying manner. Rumors have always abounded about there being a (needless) VII, VIII, and IX to follow Jedi (and a series of books have mucked it up), but in the end I felt, as a nine-year-old kid, the same way that I do today: Return of the Jedi was a great finish to a great saga.
Do I have criticisms? Sure, but they're minor. I thought the Ewoks were cute when I was a kid, and I think they serve as a great reminder, as a story element, that which Lord of the Rings made famous: even the smallest person can change the course of the future. The Ewoks weren't ferocious fighters and suffered from a lack of technology (ask GIs that served in Vietnam about that), but they were loyal and determined, which is all you can ask. I think they're good role models and the haters can kiss my ass.
The strength of Jedi is borrowed from the entire trilogy. One of the reasons that Darth Vader is film's number one villain is because he got to exist for three movies. In addition to that, unlike something like "the Eye", he is tangible - beatable, theoretically - and human besides. All this serves to make him a much more compelling character, in my opinion. How strong of a statement is George Lucas making by illustrating that Darth Vader is redeemable? Not that he's exempt for his past evil deeds - there are consequences - but in the end he does the most pure good deed that a human being is capable of.
All of the other requisite pieces are in place as well; the special effects were the same quality but on a scale previously unseen, the production design, costumes (good aliens), and pacing are all first class, and of course there's another appropriately epic John Williams score.
Star Wars changed the face of filmmaking, and for me personally it became an inspiration to think outside the box before society and my parents got a hold of me to let me know the dimensions of that box. Not only did it give me an appreciation of storytelling and filmmaking, fantasy and science fiction, but it served as a good beacon of morality at a time when my parents were, at best, a pair of contradicting road maps. I think it reinforced an idea that I still hold close to my heart, that doing the right thing isn't always the easiest thing.
But it's still the right thing. And regardless how you feel about more recent installments of Star Wars, it's still a great trilogy that will always be a part of who I am. To quote Barry from High Fidelity, "Is it okay to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins?"
I'd rather do the right thing.
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Jul 31, 2008 1:05 PM
|wow, nice job Thom|
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