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Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

Star Wars Episode VI:
Return of the Jedi
Sci-Fi Fantasy Adventure / English / 1983

For the Action Movie Countdown.

I never got around to it the first time.

Whatever poor animal they butchered to hang up in a tree.

Return of the Jedi is popularly the weakest the original trilogy, but why?

Unilaterally, the answer given is "the Ewoks", but I'm not quite sure what the issue is with them. I suspect some people, perhaps the same people with a Jar Jar Binks complex, have extremely little tolerance for gimmicky characters... even though Star Wars is loaded with gimmicky characters.

More convincingly it could be argued that the Ewoks felt like a marketing tool, pandering to little kids to sell toys. Thing is, Star Wars was already the world's biggest slut for commercial licenses as it was, I never took the franchise to be that cynical. So they're cute, that actually helps the movie you know?

When it comes to the Battle of Endor and we see the Ewoks versus Stormtroopers we have a prime visual analogy for the Rebellion itself. The Empire is sterile and uniform, but the Ewoks are diverse. They don't depend on conventional means of battle, they're resourceful, and the fact that they're shorter than the Stormtroopers only emphasizes the classic underdog scenario at play here. When they die, it's not an anonymous soldier with a political motivation, it's a fuzzy ragamuffin helping his friends. They help to play on the audiences emotions.

And emotions seems to be a bigger focus this time around as well, if arguably so. The world-building is firmly split between Tatooine and Endor with the majority spent on Endor so sadly the movie doesn't feel quite as fresh and varied with regard to it's locations. In fact the movie feels a little rushed, clipping briefly between events often abstracting out major transitional sequences.

It's all in the name of wrapping up it's story, but it manages to do so, I think, satisfactorily thanks to honoring the best conventions of the Hero's Journey, to which Star Wars owes the majority of it's story. The Emperor is finally revealed and he easily produces the most enjoyably throaty quotes in a series that includes James Earl Jones, Han's "I know." moment from Empire is stolen for Leia in a pleasing moment of self-awareness, and the entire movie seeks to redeem it's central antagonist, Vader, through gesture and mild dialog which I think works for the most part.

Yeah, I think I can sympathize with Vader a little bit. I think that's only possible though given that the entire trilogy has rested the nature of villainy on the notion of imperial government and bad guys who kill their own minions when they don't get what they want. It's rather transparent and cartoony, not like the sort of **** Kylo Ren pulls in Force Awakens, we never saw straight up EXECUTIONS, it's a lot harder to forgive the crimes we can see, especially when they're perpetrated against favored characters.

I think the movie does struggle against a lull though and I think it's that lull that proves to be the movie's greatest weakness. The opening sequence lags behind Empire in pace and scale even if it does raise the personal stakes of the characters and it shortly devolves into a sight-seeing trip into Endor that strains memorability if not interest.

Some excellent sequences remain such as Jabba's palace, the speeder bike chase, the Battle for Endor itself, and even the climactic lightsaber duel, but it's the kind of movie that feels like it never quite reaches it's third act, it's second act just keeps going.

Some oddities here and there also stick out, in particular the whole Luke and Leia thing. What exactly was there to gain with this whole subplot anyway? Yoda foreshadows it with the "there is another" line from Empire, but what are we saying here? Luke was too old to begin the training despite his familiarity, but they could rely on Leia to roll in with her noob shirt and her noob boots and her noob buns and get **** done?

I'm not saying it's not possible, but how much time passed between Empire and Jedi anyway? Empire ends with Luke saying he'll go to Tatooine to find Han, then we open on Tatooine. Are we to assume that he went to Tatooine, turned around, went back to Dagobah, ****ed around in the swamp long enough to Yoda to crust away, and then returned to Tatooine? If Luke fell into the Sarlacc today would Slave Leia be next in line to defeat the Emperor?

Even if we were to grant that, it pretty churlishly flies in the face of Luke's hero arc which concludes at this point too.

In the first movie he's a farmboy,
in the second movie he's an apprentice,
in the third movie he's sending veiled threats of violence to criminal organizations... which he can deliver on.

Leia's revelation as his sister in this movie is no great twist and if anything it only serves to reinforce her already obvious shipping with Han through extremely vague incestophobia.

Altogether, I think it's a fun movie and a solid close to one of the greatest trilogies of all time. By my bet, yeah, I'd agree it's the weakest of the three, but it shouldn't be ignored, it has too much good going for it.

My personal commendations to a series that typifies a worn out story and shows what makes it great without forsaking creativity.

As a final note I'd like to add that while I have no particular dislike for remasterings or digital improvements, some of which can be excellent additions, I do value the originals and recognize changes such as those present in Jedi can be detrimental. That anyone thought dubbing Vader's "NO" from Revenge of the Sith over the climax of Jedi is baffling.

This isn't some technical or budgetary aspect of the movie that couldn't have been achieved in the 80s, this is meddling with the most important moment in the biggest, most successful, most influential sci-fi franchise of all time. **** OFF.

Final Verdict:
[Pretty Good]