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?