In a Galaxy Far Far Away – Return of the Jedi

Another trilogy ends! This one’s a super good one. We’ve got a bunch of feels and some awesome action sequences, and we’ve got Jabba the Hutt who’s pretty fantastic…and gross…but fantastic.

But mostly we get a bunch of Anakin closure. I know Luke’s great and whatever, but this whole wacky sextet of original films is Anakin’s story, and this one, of course, is his redemption after going Full Evil in the last one.

Plus, we’ve got Luke attaining Full Jedi status, which is a HUGE improvement from Mr. Whiney McToyspaceships in ANH. AND! We get Lando redeeming himself and becoming the hero we all knew he always was.

I really like this movie, you guys!

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Episode Number: 6 — Released: 1983 — Production Number: 3

The End of the Beginning

I know, since the Sequel Trilogy became a thing, the series is, for all intents and purposes, “unfinished,” but this is the most satisfying ending ever. We’ve got Luke figuring stuff out and putting on his big-kid outfit and ending up the first of a new class of Jedi, which is fun. Though, the sad thing is that he doesn’t know that double-bladed lightsabers are a thing . . .

Anyway.

But it also is a finale to the first six films, redeeming Vader who finally embraces his destiny as the Chosen One and is all sorts of awesome and selfless and cool. He ends his life as Anakin Skywalker, not Darth Vader (which is simultaneously amazing and sad because Vader is pretty sweet). It ties up the loose ends and returns the story back to the beginning.

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Now, obviously there’s more to say, of course. Will Leia rebuild the Republic? Will Luke spread the teachings of the Jedi to new students? Will Han man up and ask Leia to marry him? Will Lando continue to be AMAZING?

But it’s all a part of that sort of foggy “happily ever after” stuff that readers REALLY WANT TO SEE but stories never address (which is why fan fiction exists!)

We did get a bunch of amazing (and some not-so-amazing) books that continued the story, and some of it was awesome. Han and Leia got married. They had three kids (one died and one became a Sith, but…you know…they had some good stuff before that!) Luke opened a new Jedi Academy and recruited some amazing talent like Corran Horn (who’s completely fictional and never even showed up in any TV shows or anything and yet I totally have a crush on him) and dealt with an ENDLESS parade of superweapons. Leia became Chief of State for the New Republic and then thought, “UGH, politics suck,” and started studying the Jedi ways. There was a bunch of invasions, most notably the Yuuzhan Vong who just messed everything up.

But if we’re talking about the movies, this is no longer The End because now we jump ahead a bunch and see that things really didn’t go well after RotJ and now there’s a whole bunch of new stuff that our heroes have to deal with.

But we’ll get to the new trilogy as it progresses.

Let’s talk about Jedi.

Like My Father Before Me

Luke grows up a BUNCH between Empire and this one, but you get the feeling it’s not a very healthy sort of growing up. The guy’s become so inward and serious that he’s almost emotionless, especially at the beginning. The confrontation with Vader on Bespin REALLY messed him up and he’s clearly not coping well. Sure, he’s more reserved and stuff, but he is so INWARD that, at times, you just want to give him a hug and ask if he’s OK. Now, part of that might be the director. I know that Han is a lot more reserved in this one, too, compared to Empire, but still.

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Someone give Luke a hug. I guess it’s safe to say that Luke is the same age that Anakin was when he fell to the dark side. Anakin had a lot more personality. He was more conflicted, less stable, and the victim of Palpatine’s CONSTANT manipulation. Luke only meets Palpatine at the end, and though he knows how to push Luke’s buttons, Luke is a much LESS malleable person at this point than Anakin was. Luke is clammed up tight and terrified of letting his guard down again (whereas, after Anakin’s disastrous fight with Dooku, he was desperate for a chance to get more powerful and meet Dooku again).

So, while I do find Luke to be a bit cold here, it totally fits the character, and it’s nice to see him open up to Leia at the end and sort of find some stability in knowing that she’s his sister, and they’re sort of a matched pair trying to make sense of what it means to be the children of the most feared man in the galaxy.

You Don’t Know the Power of the Dark Side

And then we get a very different Vader, too. This is the main reason why I love this one so much. In Empire, Vader is TERRIFYING. He is this immovable wall of scary that Luke goes running into, and he nearly kills Han Leia and Chewie in his desperation to get Luke to join him in taking over the Empire. This is Vader at Peak Evil. he wants to rule the Empire, and he wants to use Luke to make that happen.

In this one, he’s still imposing, but there’s this teeeeeeeeeeny tiny part of him that’s started feeling remorse for literally everything he’s done. AND he’s finally able to see that the Emperor isn’t just an obstacle to be defeated in his mad scramble for power; the Emperor is the warden who has Vader chained to him. Vader isn’t REALLY a free agent. He’s a slave. Even though he rose up OUT of slavery as a kid, he’s found himself right back where he started, enslaved to a corrupt power that robs him of his right to be in charge of his own destiny.

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In Empire, he says, “You don’t know the power” in the sense that he’s saying, “IT’S SO AWESOME! IF ONLY YOU KNEW!” But in this one, he says it to basically mean, “You don’t know how impossible it is to escape,” and it’s SO SAD because you can tell he isn’t even sure if Luke can defeat the Emperor, but all he has left at this point is to use Luke to free himself from the Emperor’s influence.

He’s sort of lost a bit of his mojo because he realizes (again or for the first time) that the Emperor did this to him. He kept him from being able to realize his full Force potential by using him to rise to power.

And that makes Vader in this one SUPER complex and interesting.

I just love it.

Vile Gangster

Can we talk about Jabba? Please? I promise I’ll be fast.

But I love Jabba, not really as a role model, but as a character.

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Not only do we get a reminder of Anakin’s slavery beginnings (since the Hutts are the ones who control the slave trade on Tatooine) in the movie where he is redeemed, but we really get to see some proper “scum and villainy.” Obi-Wan made Mos-Eisley out to be this horrific den of thieves, and we got a bustling spaceport with some crumbly areas. But with Jabba (whose palace is a monastery for these freaky monks who want to be disembodied brains) we get a wonderfully gooey, dusty look at what makes Tatooine such a scary place.

And for a foam puppet, Jabba is still one of Star Wars’ weirdest and most memorable villains. And he literally doesn’t move. He just reclines. And then he reclines on his sail barge. But then Leia kills him so all is good. But he’s a great villain, completely different from all the other villains we’ve met. When you see him in TPM, he’s kind of sleepy and spaced out. And then you see him in ANH and he’s the slimy businessman, and then you see him here and he’s just literal corruption personified.

Plus he’s got a pet rancor who’s the best monster ever.

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I love the rancor. Again, an example of what REALLY GOOD puppetry is like. And I know Lucas was sort of disappointed that they weren’t able to get a really dynamic performance out of the rancor puppet and would have preferred a computer generated character, but like the rancor works so well because it possesses a tangible quality that CGI just can’t replicate. Maybe it could have worked if it was a few years later and folks had taken the Jurassic Park approach, blending puppets and really good CGI, but I’m totally happy with the rancor is all its terrifying awesomeness as is.

I want a pet rancor.

Conclusion

I know I haven’t spoken much of anyone else, but this is really a Vader/Luke story. Han and Leia finally get together as a legit couple, but we knew that was going to happen. Lando blows up the second Death Star and becomes a hero of the Rebellion. Chewie continues to be amazing. The droids continue to be amazing. Everyone else has sort of figured themselves out and figured out how they fit into the galaxy. There’s no regrets or doubts with them. Obviously Leia is going to take some time to come to terms with the fact that Vader was her dad, but for the most part, they all make sense. Luke was the only one who sort of bounced about the edges trying to figure himself out. And then we’ve got Vader who, when the Emperor visits, is suddenly reminded of just how weak he really is.

And then Luke and Vader meet and end up “fixing” one another, which I think is just marvelous.

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In terms of the future, I really want the next TV series to focus on Han and Leia rebuilding the New Republic with Luke resurrecting the Jedi. It can fill in the gaps of what happened with Leia’s son and it has LOTS of time to mess around with in the space between RotJ and TFA. Mostly I just really want Han and Leia’s wedding, Luke being a wise teacher with imposter syndrome, and Lando getting bored with being a hero and getting into fun adventurous shenanigans on the side.

*shoots Lucasfilm a knowing look*

But we’ll just have to see how things play out.

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So now we’re moving on to the new trilogy!

See you next week with The Force Awakens!

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