Thursday, May 23, 2013

Return of the Jedi-A Look Back

Time to get sentimental.

This Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Return of the Jedi, the final chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy. For fans it's a time to celebrate. For me it's time to admit I'm old.

See Return of the Jedi was the first film I ever saw in a movie theater-outside of a rerelease of Disney's The Jungle Book a week earlier-and it was to my young eyes the greatest time of my life. I knew who the characters were due to the Kenner action figures and the Marvel comic books but this was different. It was a MOVIE on a big screen! I guess that first time always sticks with you.

To the point that I don't harp on the film as badly as most do. In the 30 years since it has become fashionable to dismiss Jedi as a weak film, a disappointment after the first two films. I admit I can see why. After all Star Wars was a cool film and The Empire Strikes Back shook up viewers with its dark tone and that shocker of a finale. No film could have lived up to that and Jedi was the one that took the fall.

Yes it's easy to bag on the Ewoks, to complain about the story (another Death Star) and how some of the big plot revelations seemed-pardon the pun-forced (Princess Leia is Luke's sister. OK...). But what seems to be lost in this is how much Jedi gets right. The opening sequence with Jabba the Hutt was a feast of monsters, action and coolness, from Luke walking in to the Palace alone to Jabba himself to yes Leia in that bikini. The speeder bike chase was one of the coolest action scenes I've still ever scene (and what kid didn't love the toy that exploded when you pushed a button?). The final confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader also had an emotional undertone that you don't see in movies, an honesty that gets lost in the chaos and noise. Tell me do you think there will be as gripping a scene as Luke's near plunge to the Dark Side or Vader telling him he wants to see him with his own eyes in Fast and Furious 6? Or even Iron Man 3? Not to say it doesn't get noisy with that great big battle at the end, a big space battle that even now films can't match, but it doesn't sacrifice character or story for silly action set pieces (that would come somewhat later).

If it sounds like I am gushing, well I am. For all its faults-and there are quite a few-Return of the Jedi does what any movie or book is supposed to do: Wrap you up in the story and the characters and make you forget your troubles and have a good time. So put aside the Ewok prejudice and just enjoy it. OK?

1 comment:

pascalahad said...

Seeing the French poster on your blog surely awakened fond memories, MCR!

I too knew Star Wars before because of the comics and toys. Kudos to trans-media merchandize I knew everything about Star Wars even before I saw a single frame of it. I treasured every frame I was able to catch on tv, I utterly destroyed my Marvel Comics adaptations of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back because I read it so many times. I read every piece of information I could leading to Return of the Jedi (or was that Revenge of the Jedi? And what about that insane rumor that Diana Rigg played helmet-less Boba Fett?).

Seeing it on the big screen was awesome. I was twelve, so love stories bore me to death. I was more than happy so see that Luke and Leia were in fact siblings, which solved this stupid triangle I dreaded. I wanted to be friend with Wicket. Han Solo was funny (I saw later that it was because he was turned into the most childish character of the series!) The son redeemed the father, swell for a twelve-year old. The emperor was just perfectly creepy. And the space battles were (and still are to this day) mind-boggling. To this day I can’t walk into a forest without thinking about Return of the Jedi, and Ewoks trashing stormtroopers. I think I cried when the Ewok died.

The three “Guerre des Etoiles” were never just movies to me. I lived in there, I had one of the action figure that was my avatar in that universe (Han Solo with Bespin Outfit). In my mind I lived whole adventures there. Little did I know that Return of the Jedi would be the end of little Me appreciating anything official in the Star Wars Universe, ever. I don’t expect anything special from episode 7. I’m just curious about it, that’s pretty much it. You’re right, we’re old.

One last thing about Return of the Jedi, I never understood why Lucas made Jabba look like a giant slug when it was OFFICIALLY established in the comic book that he was just a yellowish humanoid… Somebody lied to me or what??