Episodic Order Reviews #6: Return of the Jedi

It’s Friday once again and time for the last of my Episodic Order Reviews of Star Wars. Next week, I guess I will do my best to review The Force Awakens. I can’t believe it’s less than a week away! This is just feels unreal. It just seems like yesterday I was happy that it hit 100 days away.

Many of you may be wondering why I did these reviews in episodic order. Basically, because this is the way that I think I’ve heard George Lucas had said to watch them. I know the twists already, so I don’t need to preserve anything, but if I was introducing Star Wars to someone that had never seen it before, I might suggest Modified Machete. Maybe I’d explain both to them and let them choose. You still get to see Luke’s reaction to the surprise revelation of his familial history.

Image credit: Lucasfilm

I’m told that GL wanted the kind of surreal experience of seeing a sort of rock music number in the middle of a Star Wars movie. I typically find the scene frustrating because it’s such a departure from the rest of the saga, or at least from the rest of the OT. When I watched it tonight, I kind of felt like, you know, this is the kind of stuff that makes Star Wars great. The range. It can go from completely goofy to very sinister to heroic, to whatever. It can be anything. Maybe it’s also because I just watched the prequels. If you like the ring theory, and I’ve posted some stuff on that in the past, then you know that TPM is meant to mirror RotJ. So in a way, the Jedi Rocks scene is meant to mirror something equally goofy in The Phantom Menace. Maybe parts of the Podrace perhaps? I can think of a lot of scenes that are equally as goofy as Jedi Rocks. The more I think about it, watching RotJ tonight feels like much of the tone is similar to TPM in its levity, and goofy characters. Salacious crumb, Jedi Rocks, the ewoks, the burp jokes, some of Jabba’s wacky menagerie of characters. It all mirrors portions of TPM in tone and style. At the same time, like TPM it has some more serious moments. I won’t go into the Ring Theory any more in this review, but just wanted to put in words how I felt about the tone of the beginning of RotJ.

Image credit: Lucasfilm

The deleted scene of Luke is a bit of a shame. I would have taken out the part where Vader is telepathically communicating with Luke, and just show him building his saber and hiding it in R2D2.

The High Points

That laugh. The cackle laugh when we first see the Emperor in person in the OT. Man, it is so creepy and awesome. Ian McDiarmid strikes again with his amazing talent.

I’ve always loved the scene when Luke says “So I am a Jedi” and Yoda says “OOoooh?”. Seeing the prequels did change how I see Yoda. I felt that his passing was in a way sadder having known what he did during the Clone Wars and before. Definitely harder to see the little guy go. He has become part of the connective tissue for the whole saga. That’s part of why I want to see him in the Sequel Trilogy. I have wondered before if he will be in TFA somehow, but I’m starting to think it is pretty unlikely. I think a more likely scenario is that we’ll see Yoda’s Force ghost in Episode VIII. I don’t have any inside info or anything, but it feels right. It would parallel the OT in a way because Yoda is introduced in the second act.

Hearing Obi Wan say that Luke’s sister “remains safely anonymous” kind of clears up a complaint that I had about RotS, and the believability of Leia hiding with an important senator, and he does remind us that she has a completely different name and maybe could have never left Alderaan until she was 13 or something, when the idea of Anakin’s offspring was long gone. That said, Sidious and Vader are pretty powerful and I’m still surprised that she was never sensed by the Sith.

Image credit: Lucasfilm

I’m so glad that C3P0 finally puts to use his translation skills in this movie. Come to think of it, and correct me if I’m wrong, but does he do any other translating in the rest of the saga? At any rate, the droid proves his use in this movie.

The Space Battles. When those trumpets kick in and you see the Rebel fleet start to organize and assume attack coordinates. At this point, the movie really kicks in. Before the introduction of the Rebel Fleet and those trumpets, the movie feels a bit slow at times. After this, for me tonight at least, it feels like it picks up speed. Who knows, it’s like the 100th time I’ve seen this movie, it might feel like the first half is a little slow because I’ve seen it so many times. At any rate, the Space Battles of RotJ are some of the best of the ENTIRE saga. yeah, I said it. I think I like the Space Battle of RotJ better than RotS. That’s saying someting. I mean the opening shot of RotS may be the best single shot in the whole saga, but I feel that hands down, RotJ takes the cake with the Space battle and gives some of the best choreographed, and for that matter some of the most real special effects of any space battle in the saga. The music is excellent too. John Williams work during the space battles in this movie is some of the best of the saga. I’m saying this a lot, but I feel like the Space battles (and the saber fights/exchanges with Vader/Luke/Emperor, see below) are what MAKES this movie beyond just “good”. These scenes are spectacular even today.

Of course Lando and Nien Nunb are awesome and the whole blowing up the Death Star. The whole scene where Lando figures out that the shields are still up, all that stuff is gold. Lando is an excellent character in this one! He is sort of a minor role, but ends up doing some good stuff. This totally makes up for Lando falling off the floating barge thing on Tatooine.

Love the speeder chase. Wicket redeems himself and proves his awesomeness! I assume that’s wicket at least. Anyway, the way that little furball grabs that vine and escapes is pretty awesome.

You got to love the exchanges between Vader and Luke. All of this stuff works, and is really one of the high points of the whole saga. The dialogue, the saber battles, the Emperor, and the balance of the Force. All awesome, and a great conclusion to the saga.

The Low Points

I’m going to have to say the saliva in that guy’s mouth during the Jedi Rocks scene (I’m watching the blue-ray version) and just other parts of that scene. I mean, this just gets a little over the top for me. I’m not sure it was that much better before, and maybe the movie did need some sort of humor and fun at this moment. I’m not sure how it could be done better, but maybe just toned down a bit. Maybe the fact that it goes over the top shows the audience that this movie is not to be taken 100% serious. It’s for fun too.

Image Credit: Lucasfilm

OK, maybe this will be very controversial, but somehow the exchange between Luke and Leia in the Ewok Village, when Luke asks about Leia’s mother, seems a little off to me at the beginning. At first I thought it was going to be good, but it seems a bit off to me tonight. I think Luke is going through some serious stuff at this point, and is kind of overwhelmed. Luke kind of has a wild look in his eyes that comes across a little off, but maybe he is just going through some really difficult times, which he certainly is.

Beyond that, I don’t have much of a problem with anything. I actually don’t mind the ewoks. I tried to look for the blinking thing, but I barely even notice it. As far as I’m concerned, it looks pretty good and adds more life to them. In fact, I wish Wicket’s mouth moved a little more. So if anything, I don’t object to cute furry characters, but I would have actually preferred it if they were a little more dynamic. Wicket is the true mirror of Jar Jar. It’s cool to see this when he leads Leia to the Ewok Village.  With that said, some of the early scenes in the Ewok village seem a little slow at times.

In Conclusion

All things considered it’s pretty good. The movie feels a bit slow these days compared to contemporary movies, but has it’s moments.

Very Good 4 out of 5 stars

That brings me to my ranking. Having watched them all again over the past six weeks, here’s what I’m thinking:

Empire Strikes Back

A New Hope

Revenge of the Sith

Return of the Jedi

The Phantom Menace

Attack of the Clones

Stay tuned next week for my review of The Force Awakens!

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