BY JACOB LAURITZEN
So I did it. I finished watching the last of the canonical Star Wars movies last night. I joked before I started that I was going on a journey that I hadn’t been on for a very long time. It was long overdue.
Return of the Jedi picks up very shortly after the events of The Empire Strikes Back. The plot to begin with is a little wonky though. Han Solo is being kept as an abstract art piece on the wall of Jabba the Hutt’s palace and naturally Luke and Leia want to save him, but how they do it just weird. We were talking about this as we watched it. First, Lando goes in undercover and becomes a guard for Jabba. Then, C-3PO and R2D2 show up as gifts with a message from Luke. Next, Leia shows up to get the bounty on Chewbacca, but she is unable to get away with Han before getting captures, so Luke shows up himself. For some reason this made more sense then going in guns and light sabers blazing. I posited that maybe this was best because it got Jabba out of his palace and onto is desert yacht, but that excuse is pretty thin.
The movie from that point on though moves pretty quickly. I was surprised in fact just how fast it got to Endor and then to blowing up the second Death Star. For a movie that is wrapping up a trilogy, this is worth noting. Think about Return of the King. That movie lasted forever. It kept fading in and out and in and out again. Don’t get me wrong. I love all of the Lord of the Rings movies, but it was just a strange and awkward way to end a trilogy. Return of the Jedi does a much better job of getting to the point.
What is the point? Luke needs to face Vader one last time to finish his training as a Jedi. Luke has taken it upon himself to try and turn his father to the Light Side, because he still feels there’s good in him. That and he doesn’t want his father to be the absolute worst person in the galaxy. Understandable. This also follows through on Padme’s final words, when she likewise says that there is still good in Anakin.
Luke lets himself be captured so that he can get some face-to-face … er … face-to-mask time with his father. Vader won’t have any of it, but he makes frequent references to Luke as his son, because he, counter to Luke, is trying to turn him towards the Dark Side.
While they butter each other up, Han and Leia and their band of commandoes make their way to Endor where they meet Ewoks and try to blow up the station creating a force field around the new Death Star. The Battle of Endor has it’s ups and downs and eventually, with the help of cute teddy bears with spears and traps, the Rebel Alliance is successful in destroying the force field.
Meanwhile, up on the Death Star, the Emperor has decided that Luke can’t be turned so he stars shocking him with lightning from his fingers. Neat trick. When Luke calls for help from Vader, Vader finally relents and throws the Emperor down a hole where he blows up into blue smoke … or something. Luke and Vader have a tender moment when Luke takes off the mask and they actually get to talk face-to-face for the first time. Luke escapes the Death Star and the Rebel Alliance blows it up. Everyone has a party with the Ewoks and the galaxy is happy.
The movie ends well, but it isn’t perfect. When Vader discovers that Luke has a twin sister, he doesn’t seem surprised. Granted, he is wearing a mask, but he also doesn’t say anything. For a man who turned to the Dark Side to save his wife, he doesn’t seem that moved by his own children. And this, perhaps, is where the argument that the first six episodes of Star Wars is about Anakin breaks down. If it were so, they would have had to of spent more time developing him as a character during Episodes IV through VI, but they didn’t. Those stories are about Anakin’s children and their galactic fight against him.
When Leia finds out that Luke is her brother and that Vader is her father, she says she says she always kind of knew … about Luke that is. She doesn’t say anything about Vader. Why? Maybe this gaping hole, not unlike the one the Emperor fell down, will be filled with the new movie. We don’t know what Luke’s role in the film is, but we know that Leia is again in the thick of things.
So what are my overall impressions of the story? There are holes in the story, which is understandable, but I can’t see why they couldn’t have been filled. There is nothing that George Lucas could have done in the prequel trilogy to fix the internal inconsistencies from the classic trilogy, but he could have done more to fix the inconsistencies between the trilogies. There are several references to Yoda training Obi Wan. He never does. They talked a bit, but the only person that we know that Yoda trains is Count Dooku.
These are the sorts of problems that they either chose to ignore or didn’t take the time to recognize. Are they significant problems? No, but they are problems that surface when the movies are watched as a whole. With society’s trend towards binge watching TV shows on Netflix and other streaming services, these sorts of inconsistencies are going to become a bigger deal. There is nothing that Disney can do, short of re-re-re-releasing the movies … again, but I don’t think that’s necessary. All they can really do is treat the next trilogy or trilogies like George Lucas should have approached the last two, like a TV show. You have to pay attention to what you’ve already said and you have to stick to it.
That being said, I really enjoyed rewatching all of the movies together. I think this past several weeks was a cultural phenomenon with many people doing the same thing. I saw others talking about it on Facebook and I’m sure there were many more who didn’t post anything about what they were doing. Knowing that Disney will be releasing Star Wars or Star Wars spin off movies every year for the next four years, this may become a new holiday tradition. I guess I know what I’ll be doing before Rogue One comes out next year. Until then … I still get to see Episode VII tonight.