Fun with Franchises: Final Thoughts on Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
All right… we’ve watched the film, talked about it, had fun with it, and then we went and listed our favorite images from the film yesterday. Now all that’s left is to finish up with what we actually thought about the film as a whole.
This is our space to go over what we liked and didn’t like about each film we watch for Fun with Franchises. We talk about specific things as we get to them during the articles, and we’ll mention our general thoughts during them, but we don’t really ever get to sit and do broad strokes during the articles. So this is why we do these Final Thoughts. We get to take a step back and talk about the films as a whole, rather than discussing specific scenes or images. We’ll talk about how we felt about the film, how we liked it as a film, how we liked it as a member of its franchise, and where we think it falls within that franchise.
Again, it’s not very complicated, but it is a place to find out what we actually thought about certain movies, since, while we’re having fun with them in the articles, it may get difficult to tell sometimes. Because we’ll just rip things to shreds for fun, even if we love them.
So here are our final thoughts on Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi:
This film really demonstrates all the things that George learned over the years…about the profitability of merchandising. In comparison with the previous two films, this one is chock full of individual elements just waiting to be made into toys. I think of the other two as movies, but this one is a hunk of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene wrapped in high-density polyethylene – it’s the action figure movie.
It makes perfect sense to me now why this was always my favorite movie growing up. It’s a lot faster-paced than the rest of the original trilogy, and we’re given plenty of different actions sequences to follow. But now that I look at it again, isn’t it a bit too action heavy? It’s not like it’s any better looking than Empire was (not nearly as good looking, as far as I’m concerned) and they neutered any chance it had at being a solid story movie. There were no big reveals; the only one that should have been a big one (the sibling thing) was actually pretty yawn-inducing.
In case you weren’t able to glean from the articles that I hate the Ewoks with every fiber of my being — now you know. I resent the idea that Lucas claims he was making a statement with their inclusion in the war. He insists that he wanted the fate of the galaxy to be decided by a primitive group; that guerrilla warfare should beat out superior but conventional power. Other than the fact that this could easily be construed as a thinly-veiled glorification of the Viet Cong, I have trouble understanding what purpose this element could serve in the context of the film. Even you make a stretch and suppose it was an attempt at the Western trope of “getting down with the natives,” there’s nothing binding the Ewoks to our group except their misconception that C-3PO is a deity. Lets also consider for a second that the Ewoks are strangely advanced in their “primitive” warfare. Ignoring why they would have siege weapons that seem ideally suited to fighting Imperial Walkers, they have a lot of weapons and technology that would be more for fighting than for hunting. Why are they such good warriors? I bet they just finished massacring a bunch of other tribes. Maybe this little chieftain guy is actually the Hitler of Endor. I hate that these things are shoved down our throats like this. If you removed them and replaced them with something halfway decent, we’d have a pretty good movie that would at least work as a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.
In spite of all the disappointments, I still make the distinction that the worst of the original is better than the best of the prequels. I’m trying to be somewhat positive about this, since it’s pretty much my last chance. There are a few big things I love about this movie. Shall I list them? Let’s list them.
1. Jabba the Hutt. He’s Star Wars character royalty. A hedonistic crime lord who laughs when you pull the pin out of a grenade. He’s got a pleasure barge that he loads up with his enormous entourage and flies out to the middle of the desert to tailgate an execution. That Twi’lek dancer he threw to the rancor was a princess where she came from. But that ain’t shit to Jabba, cause he got it like that.
2. The Emperor. Now that the Emperor is finally out in the open, we get to enjoy him for what he is – evil and loving it. This is also one of Revenge of the Sith’s redeeming qualities. I don’t know if it’s the facial expressions, the maniacal laughter, the way he puts Luke down, or simply how he makes sure you know at any given moment that whatever is happening is according to his plan, but I love this character. I just want to hang around him more often.
3. Lightsaber Duel. There’s no way they were going to top the duel from Empire, but this was still an effective and thoroughly enjoyable duel. Instead of focusing on the fight choreography, they internalized the conflict and made it about drawing out Luke’s anger. He avoids the fight at first until Vader threatens to turn Leia; then he goes wild and starts hammering Vader. And the best part? It’s over pretty quickly. It didn’t last like 45 minutes like some other duels I could mention. Oh, and let’s don’t forget that it included Vader backhanded throwing his lightsaber at Luke and taking out a catwalk. Cause that shit was awesome.
4. Space Battle. I’m a sucker for cool space battles, and this one was particularly good. In fact, in many ways, this battle was superior to the one that happens at the end of A New Hope. First of all (and much like the Spanish Inquisition), you’re not expecting it. They’re thinking they’ll show up, the shield will be down and they’ll blow up the Death Star without a hitch. But that’s not how that shit goes down at all. Not only is the Death Star’s shield still up, but the Imperial Fleet is waiting for them, the fighters rush in, and the Death Star is motherfucking OPERATIONAL. So now, the Millennium Falcon is flying around shooting bitches, entire Rebel cruisers are being vaporized, and we then charge a line of incoming Star Destroyers set up like Don Quixote’s windmills. I’m a huge fan of this whole space battle, especially because these things were all models and look real. Eat your heart out, Revenge of the Sith.
So ultimately, this movie still breaks even. It’s like a family member who annoys you more often than you’d like – the sort with whom you know you probably wouldn’t maintain a close relationship if not for preexisting ties. But in that same respect, you find upon further inspection that there are plenty of endearing qualities that you would have overlooked before dismissing it. And of course, we have to remember that you can’t really judge this movie by itself. It may have fallen a lot in my eyes since I was a little kid, but it could have been worse.
But what a shitty ending.
My Final Thoughts:
I mean — it is what it is.
The only interesting part of this movie after the first act is Luke vs. Vader and Palpatine.
And the reason the first act works is because it’s tying up loose ends from the previous movie.
Which is not totally true. There’s a lot about that first act that works. I love everyone descending upon Jabba’s palace in various disguises and through different methods to try to free Han. I love Jabba finding Leia and capturing Luke and going to dump him in the Sarlacc Pit. That’s how a gangster would operate.
I do not like how they got rid of Boba Fett. I do not like how the Sarlacc Pit burps.
Other than that — the first act pretty much works really well.
And then the movie descends into shit.
Death Star 2? That’s all you got? It’s basically George finding shit for everyone else to do while Luke has the real encounter that matters.
All the Endor shit is awful.
The entire second act of this movie is a disaster until Luke goes and gives himself up to Vader. That part is great, and I even like how the other part of the movie sounds from their end. With Palpatine being like, “I’m the one who gave them the information, and I’m walking them into a trap so I can kill them. What are you gonna do? Your friends are dying and it’s your fault.” I like that part. Unfortunately from the other angle, it’s pretty shitty.
Destroying the Death Star again — it’s just not interesting. Because they’ve done it before.
And the movie still ends with teddy bears dancing.
That’s it. That’s all I got. My views on this film are very well known. The first act is really good, and the rest of the movie is shit outside of the Luke/Vader/Palpatine encounter.
If you took the half of this film that works and the half of Revenge of the Sith that works, you might end up with one actual decent movie.
Which would still only leave us with three out of six movies that work.
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Tomorrow we start the prequels, and oh man, are you gonna enjoy the fuck out of those. Trust me.
(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)