A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 71 – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi – May 10th, 2010

Well, can you believe we’re finally here? Episode VI. We’re not done, of course, as we have two Ewok movies to watch, then we’re finishing up with Spaceballs. But we’re at the end of the movies most people know. The bulk of the story. I’ve got some comments to make about the story, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

This is definitely the weakest movie in the trilogy, but seeing as the other two are so good, that’s not really much of a criticism. It slows down in a few places and if I’m being brutally honest, the dialogue and delivery in the scene where everyone’s talking about the upcoming mission? Post-Jabba? The “Count me in!” stuff? Eh. It feels a little too much like forced joviality to me. The pacing’s off a bit in places and the updated version of the movie has what I consider the worst of Lucas’s additions: The totally unnecessary lengthened musical number in Jabba’s palace. And then there’s the whole Ewok thing. And don’t get me wrong, I have a certain fondness for the Ewoks, but you can’t deny they add a “cute” element to the movie that pairs very oddly indeed with the very heavy and dark thread of Luke and Vader and the Emperor. The whole time they’re maneuvering up in space, there’s a teddy bear tea party going on in the woods down below. It’s like having a nice balsamic glazed steak and then topping it with hot fudge.

But, hey, when I was a kid? I ate this shit up, and I think I’ve seen hot fudge on steak on Iron Chef America, so screw it. Bring on the Ewoks, I say. The battle’s certainly lively enough. Those Ewoks certainly pack a good punch, and they bring the unexpected. The Empire’s used to dealing with technologically advanced societies and rebel forces. I can run with that. No problem. And besides, this movie has some fantastic things. Completely aside from yet another Wilhelm scream, it’s also the source of the Admiral Akbar “It’s a trap!” internet meme. It’s got some fantastic lines from Han, and Leia gets to kick more ass.

And holy crap, I don’t think I’ve mentioned Wedge yet. Wedge Antilles is my favorite minor character in these movies. Sure, he’s only got a handful of lines and no in-film character development, but think about this: He’s the only X-Wing pilot who shows up in all three movies. He’s moved up in rank since we first saw him in Episode IV. He’s clearly good at what he does or he’d have gotten himself killed like Porkins ages ago. Wedge is a bad ass. He’s also played by Denis Lawson, who, on top of appearing in another movie we own, is Ewan MacGregor’s uncle. That’s a nice little connection there. Or it would be, if Ewan MacGregor had anything to do with Star Wars. Really, it’s such a shame those movies he was supposed to be in never got made.

Now, let’s talk about the actual plot and arc of the movie and the trilogy and really, okay, fine, the whole damn series. The climax in this movie, with Luke and Vader fighting, and the Emperor cackling (got to watch out – you know you’re in trouble when you start cackling) in the background, while larger battles rage all around them, is fantastically well-orchestrated. In addition, it’s a great bit of character arc for both Luke and Vader. Those scenes, the duel and their conversation and Luke’s insistence that his father is still in there somewhere, that there’s still something to be salvaged, those are the basis for what could have been an amazing origin story. Think about the parallels here. Luke losing his hand like Anakin does in the fight with Dooku, the Emperor giving Luke a quickening several million volts of evil like he did to Mace Windu. There’s some potent stuff here and it’s obvious that attempts were made to draw on it in the prequels. Wouldn’t it have been fantastic if it had worked? Wouldn’t it have been amazing to have it have a real emotional impact that drew upon six movies’ worth of story for Anakin?

If I squint really hard and put my hands over my eyes and peek through my fingers, it sort of works. Knowing the bare bones of Anakin’s backstory and how Darth Vader came to be and his betrayal of the Jedi and Obi Wan and all, it does do something. It doesn’t have the impact it should have, but I’m a sucker for backstory, so I’m forcing it to work in my head, so long as I don’t go back and watch the prequels again and ruin it. And watching the end, even with the new Ewok music that is totally never going to be what I expect to hear, that’s good enough. The original trilogy is still fantastic. Can’t take that away from me. Suck on that, Lucas.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments

Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi

May 10, 2010

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

I have long had a theory regarding the musical number in Jaba’s palace near the beginning of this movie. My theory was that Lucas and Spielberg has some form of bet as to which of them could incorporate a musical number into their next action film better. So we have this little alien pop number (which is much expanded in the extended cut we’re watching) and you have the “Anything Goes” number in Temple of Doom. Its the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

I’ve always wondered who it was in Henson’s Creature Shop that was a big fan of D&D. Maybe it’s just that at the time I first saw this movie I has just gotten my first set of AD&D books, but it always seemed to me that the Gamorean Guards look an awful lot like Orcs. Then there’s the random Mindflayer in the background in Jabba’s palace. Of course D&D and Star Wars are a natural match. Certainly the fans of one seem to be fans of the other. At least in the circles I travel in. I vividly remember at one game of D&D I was playing one of the other players swearing up and down that when Leia operates the big turret gun on Jaba’s barge you can see right up her loincloth! (I doubted it very much, but he was so instant.) Yeah that’s the kind of conversation a bunch of eleven year old nerds have over a game of D&D. I don’t think that has changed much in the years since this movie came out.

I want to mention one other eleven-year-old misunderstanding of what was going on in the movie. When Luke cuts off Vader’s hand he looks down in reflection on his own mechanical hand from the last movie. In my young mind though it was a magical transformation. I had forgotten that he had a mechanical hand and thought that what was happening was he was literally BECOMING Vader. (It tied in well to the dream sequence from the second movie too.) I figured that if he went on to chop off, say, a leg, he would then instantly have Vader’s leg. If he chopped off Vader’s head he’d suddenly have the helmet. And if he killed Vader he would fully become him. It made sense to me that this was the Emperor’s plan. Heck, even knowing that I was wrong I think today that this would have been kind of cool.

You know I never understood all the hatred directed by fans at the Ewoks. Sure, it’s implausible that a bunch of furry aboriginal teddy-bears can take down and entire legion of the Emperor’s best troops, but that’s why their battle is so thrilling. I mean, it’s already well established that storm troopers can’t hit ANYTHING they shoot at, so its not much of a stretch to imagine that their high-tech armor is easily defeated with bows and bolos.

Indeed I quite like the entire third act of this movie. You’ve got three battles running simultaneously (the Ewoks on the moon of Endor, the space battle overhead and the light-saber dual on the Death Star.) All inter-cut and somewhat interdependent. It’s a difficult feat to keep them all running simultaneously and not become confusing to the audience or lose their focus. It works really well and it does feel like a truly epic conclusion to the series.

That’s what was great about the original trilogy. It was full of plot holes and it was cheesy, but it was high fantasy space opera. None of that mucking about with phantom menaces or whatever – it was a big epic fun tale of good versus evil, and it will always be a joy to watch on those terms. I miss the old ending Ewok song though. Yub, nub.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments