Return of the Jedi

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Title: Return of the Jedi
Creator: George Lucas
Date(s): 1983
Medium: film
Fandom: Star Wars
Language:
External Links:

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Return of the Jedi is the third film in the original Star Wars trilogy. Among its other crimes against fandom, it is the movie that retroactively made many fanworks into twincest.

Some 1983 Excerpts from Professional Critics

Okay, so we had to wait three years to find out how Han Solo escapes the carbon ice cube In which he was trapped by Jabba the Hutt. We had to stew that long over the revelation-- whether it be true or false that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father. And what of the budding romance between Han/Princess Leia? All these questions and more are ^ answered in JEDI and plenty of bizarre and wonderfully inventive new characters are introduced in the process, making this the most fascinating of all the SW offerings so far, and worth the wait.... Hamill's performance is strangely flat and lackluster in JEDI and he's obviously getting a bit long'in the tooth for the role. Ford is much more enjoyable as the flip, devil-may-care Han Solo, and Fisher has become more alluring and wise in the role of Leia.... Characters and acting seem to take a backseat to story and visuals but nobody will really notice...

This is a gee-whiz movie-making at its best. [1]
Lucas has surrounded himself with legions of technical wizards, but he has forgotten how to weave a compelling yard; he has forgotten how to infuse the non-stop derring-do with any real suspense or jeopardy or emotion. JEDI is but a cavalcade of more and more elaborate "Oh, wow!" effects... Lucas is working too hard to one-up his very popular alien bar sequence (in SW)...with tons of grotesque, dumpling-lumpy critters...Lucas has tried to outc-ute himself with the furry Ewoks...Lucas drops new revelations about his swashbuckling trio with all the finesse of a mischievous 3-year-old dropping water balloons from a high-rise window. It didn't matter that Hamill, Ford, and Fisher were ham-bone actors when they were trading smart-alecky quips. But now that they're passing weightier pronouncements like, "I just want to be alone for a little while," and "Luke, tell me, what's troubling you?" they seem less Saturday-matinee corny than just plain stupid. Ford, who has had more exposure elsewhere than his co-stars is now especially unconvincing, even in broad comic-book terms... In short, RETURN is more of the same only bigger and louder and more expensive. [2]

There's been a lot of nitpicking about THE RETURN OF THE JEDI. Critics who don't like the film have complained the dialogue is wooden, the plot predictable, the characters hollow and the ending which seems more like a cast party than a climax. George Lucas has even moved some writers to complain that the Ewoks are too cute- designed more for toy store shelves than the 70mm sweep of the movie screen. OK. Except for the Ewoks, whom I found adorable and funny, I agree that none of the actors could challenge Dustin Hoffman or Ben Kingsley. The script is more of a high-tech blueprint than a literary delight, and the characters are as one-dimensional as Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo. That's all true, but the film still deserves its four stars....

Instead of letting the story end, we continue it with our own little moral tales changing the details of Lucas' wooden dialog and predictable plot]]. [3]

Fan Reactions and Reviews

In 2001, Maggie Nowakowska wrote of fan reaction in the letterzine Jundland Wastes:
The negative aspects specifically mentioned outnumber the positive mentioned by nearly three to one. If this seems overwhelming, it may be simply because those fans who disliked ROTJ most strenuously also wrote the longest, most detailed letters. [IMO: I remembered the reactions as being very negative, but when rereading this issue, I realized that positive individual reactions did indeed outnumber the nay-sayers. Perhaps, it seemed that way because those who had complaints wrote more vehemently than those who liked the movie. And, also, maybe because many fans who liked the movie also had criticisms of it.]

On the whole, ROTJ is considered a good but flawed movie. ANH remains the ultimate SW adventure, while TESM is seen as a better film from a technical and creative standpoint.

Four aspects of ROTJ appeal to the most people:

  • that Leia is truly active in this movie, not just someone to be rescued or fallen in love with
  • that Luke reaches maturity with his good will and his ability to love whole and paramount over his ability to make wary
  • that Vader’s death/Anakin’s reappearance and rebirth allowed growth out of disaster
  • the movie’s overwhelming theme of love.

[IMO. Wow. Rereading the item about Leia stuns me. In the years to follow, one of the biggest complaints that I remember about ROTJ is that Leia was too passive and had nothing to do. And, regarding Luke' maturity, there developed a long argument — which became a significant part of the Han Vs. Luke business — that Luke had fallen in ROTJ and had lost his status as hero. Memories of those later discussions/reactions apparently buried my memory of these initial reactions.]

Individual pleasures in ROTJ range widely. That ROTJ is more faithful to fairy tales than TESB pleases many fans who do not mind the repetition of themes and images, seeing such as necessary to the motif. The triumph of ingenuity over superior technology, and the theme that the heart is, in the end, more important than the head are messages many fans happily accept.

Luke’s “torture” scene as played is well received, and there is much speculation about the Emperor as someone far more evil than Vader.

Many people mention the novelization of ROTJ and like it immensely.

On the negative side . . .

I’ll start with the most often repeated complaints, those that appear among LoCs both pro and con.

The most common objection is that ROTJ does not offer enough characterization. LoCs complain that character development is sacrificed to plot and special effects. There isn't enough dialogue, nor enough banter between the characters. The end result, for these viewers, is a movie with less emotional impact than the previous films:

  • Han and Luke's reunion on Taooine is flat
  • Yoda’s death is too quick and easy
  • Leia’s reaction to the news that she is Luke’s sister and Vader’s daughter is disappointing in its lack of drama.

The other loud complaint is about the Ewoks. These cute aliens are not considered believable by many fans and are called a waste of time, a throw away, a merchandising ploy. In fact, the Ewoks are considered to be more offensive than Jabba’s cohorts, which are tolerated as adolescent indulgence on the part of Lucas and his SFX friends.

The films ending scene does not impress many people either. Too pat, too cute, too unsatisfying on a mythic level. The presence of fireworks is specifically criticized, and the “cast call” appearance of all principal characters is not popular.

Complaints about specific characterizations, unbelievable plot developments, and film techniques are much more individual — The presentation of Han and Vader in ROTJ draws particularly bitter fire: Solo’s role is “insignificant, too small,” and he appears “brain-dead” through most the movie. Vader has turned into a “wimp;” his redemption is too easy; the revelation of his appearance sans helmet is disappointing — he is too old, too unlike Luke or Leia; and his spiritual “conversion” is unacceptable.

Overall, the plot does not answer enough of the questions that had developed in fans’ minds over the years (for one, it still does not explain just who the Jedi were), and what it does reveal is unbelievable for many.

More points of contention are:

  • The illogic and darkside aspects of Luke’ s rescue plan on Tatooine
  • Jabba’s lack of physical believability and threat
  • The idea that Luke and Leia are siblings, let alone twins
  • The ease with which the Alliance creates generals
  • The Emperor’s mistake in gloating so soon over Luke’s final willingness to beat Vader into the ground

As for production values, the movie is considered unevenly paced. Overall, the direction is disliked; the movie has “too much Marquand” touch and not enough Lucas and Kurtz influence. The repetition of themes and images annoys fans, as does the SFX that are less than successful, such as the sand sequences.

Finally, Lando’s continued mispronunciation of Han’s name draws fire, and in contrast to the general letters, there are indeed complaints about the novelization.[4]

Fan Comments in "Jundland Wastes": 1983

In Jundland Wastes, a Star Wars letterzine, fans were quite vocal with their opinions.

A fan wrote that it was not the movie she was wishing for, that it was full of technical errors, felt somewhat empty, and there was too much emphasis on special effects, which she thought "looked fake too often".

Another fan wrote that she loved the movie even though it wasn't the best of the trilogy; it was at least good SFX.

Another fan said he didn't like the movie poster and was perplexed at why the soundtrack album was only one record.

And another fan wrote that she hated Han thanking Luke over the comlink[5], hated the rescue scene, hated how Lando mispronounced Han's name every time he said it, hated that it didn't really matter (not even to Luke) who "the Other was, she hated how everyone was a general except Wedge, she hated that Han was made out to be bumbling idiot, and she mostly hated that George Lucas couldn't write meaningful emotion or dialogue.[6]

Other comments:

I have to laugh at the way Lucas had many of us chase a wild goose in wondering what part the "other" was going to play in the downfall of the Emperor and his Empire. The "other" played a significant role, of course, but not as the "other." If that character had not been told of its relationship to the Force, it would have made no difference in the way the character proceeded. That is, the actions of that character proceeded unchanged just as if the character had never known it was the "other." What mattered was the task of trying to keep the "other" a secret. When Luke was ready to give up, the burden of this secret spurred him on to do what had to be done? [7]
Okay, you want comments on Return! You got 'em. Not sure exactly where to start. A list of some of the things I liked: Jabba the Hutt; Leia's slave-girl costume; Luke's green lightsaber; Salacious Crumb; Leia's slave-girl costume; the speeder bikes; the unfinished Death Star as seen from the surface of Endor; the forest of Endor; Leia's slave-girl costume... [8]
If I see one more cute alien, I think I'm going to throw up. [9]
I always felt Leia was the Other. I can't base this feeling on anything definite. Carrie looked terrific in her harem outfit and has grown into a beautiful and mature woman. I liked the idea that Luke and Leia related as brother-sister and was happy to see Han and Leia finally express their true feelings for each other. Luke and Leia have a nice relationship. I never thought that Luke and Leia could be anything but good friends." She adds: "I liked several scenes in Jedi. One of my favorites is the hover-bike chase through the forest of Endor. Very breathtaking and exciting. I also like the scenes with the Ewoks, the walking teddy bears or little Wookiees. Ewoks were the hit of the movie and have some of the funniest and cutest scenes. I liked the battle and space scenes. Very exhilarating. [10]
About ROTJ? Despite terrible dialogue and worse characterization, I love it! [11]
I resent the brain-dead Han Solo of Jedi. My only explanation is the brain is the last thing to thaw from carbon-freeze. Solo served only as comic relief in Jedi. I frankly think he's too good a to rate this treatment. He ends up being the only character whose development does not follow naturally from film to film, and frankly, I think it stinks. If the idea behind this was to make Luke look better, it wasn't necessary. Luke looks great, even without running Han down. [12]
I've always hated stories where the bad repents in the final five minutes. I expected Darth to buy the farm in this one, but I had hoped George would let him go out, if not in a blaze of Darkside glory, at least with dignity. To have him seduced by the Light Side and turned into a weak, sniveling, breast-beating repentant sinner who (gag me with a spoon!) thanks Luke for saving him from himself is enough to make me feel a severe desire to throw up, quickly followed by outrage at debased form of character assassination. It's downright embarrassing to watch. I hate it! Nearly as bad are the damned Ewoks, who plumb new depths of cute. [13]
The solution was exceedingly tidy and businesslike, and I found it intellectually satisfying, but my emotions died on the vine. I just didn't give a damn. [14]
Well, George, you captured our hearts with Star Wars, fired our minds with The Empire Strikes Back, but did you have to kick us in the stomach with Jedi?... Jedi is a fair film if you look at it as a single film, but as part of the Star Wars Saga, it stinks! The visuals, composition, and most of the special effects are beautiful and believable but would it kill you, George, if you sacrifice some of the cowboy-style action for some character development? It' really a shame that this film, which should be the culmination of Lucas' work with the Star Wars universe, turned out to be such a clinker. [15]
I didn't hate the film, but I did find it irritating. If there had been only a few bad spots, maybe I could have overlooked them, but there are so many! And most of them would be so easy to fix! Gods! A pair of scissors and splicing tape could help this flick! It's so close to being a fabulous movie that you wonder if George Lucas ever saw the film before releasing it. He must have seen the inadequacies. Why didn't he fix them? One gets the impression that the makers didn't care about this film as they did the others. Maybe they're getting tired of the whole mess? They've got every right to be by now. After all, it's been a long nine years. But George, if you're planning to making another one of these films sometime in the future, be sure to put your heart into it like you used to, not just your wallet. [16]
I think I could overlook most the cons if the whole feel of the film had been as warm and involving as the first two, and if the various sections, some of them superb in themselves, had held together better. This one felt detached, distant. [17]

Fan Comments from "Rogue's Gallery": 1983

From Rogue's Gallery:

[issue 12]:

I'm one of those people who love disregarding as much as 1 can all the flaws that I know about. I try to see it as George Lucas' baby who goes about his destiny with his pop-pop's upper hand. Although I'm a big fan of Han's in this movie I found myself more involved with Luke <- possibly because most of the plot centers around him. I like him especially in Darth Vader's Death scene, I get choked up by it. I also think that he and Leia are very interesting in the scene where they learn they are twin? brother and sister. Although as Leia I for one would not have treated my lover and best friend the way she did Han in that scene. He should have known before the destruction of the new DEATH STAR that they were related. And its too bad that their final scene together before the big EWOK celebration wasn't drawn out more. Another thing a little too excessive for me was Jabba. I think Jabba would have been a little more ominous if he was more human looking. The slug/frog idea was only good for disgusting - but he wasn't really offensive unless you considered his belching abhorrent. But the movie fulfills what its supposed to do. I think it was a very humane touch with Luke putting Vader/Anakin on the funeral pyre. Now how come Leia didn't participate in this funeral ceremony?

I would have loved to hear the conversation at the end of the film. Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are talking about something and its not fair you can only see their mouths moving. One of my friends told me it was about the Ewok dancing! Oh, we</ref>

[issue 12]:

Love JEDI all eight times I saw it during the two and a half weeks I was in LA. I saw it once at a 20th Century Fox special screening organised by Maureen Garrett, twice at the Avco in Westwood, twice at the Egyptian in Hollywood, at a couple of suburban cinemas, and once in Yuma, Arizona, of all places.
[issue 12]:

What's my reaction to JEDI? I really don't know; I was disappointed the first time (there was no way it could fulfill all my expectations) but there were some scenes I wanted that weren't there, and I'm still peeved about that. However, there were other scenes I didn't expect that were there, so it's almost balanced out. One of my friends who is an extreme Hanatic is so furious she refuses to go see it again. I'm sorry Han has been relegated to the Eve Arden/Thelma Ritter wise-cracking side kick role, but you have to admit HF did it well. If he doesn't get a romantic or screwball comedy out of this, there is not justice in Hollywood at all.

Several reviewers have commented that HF, as well as Mark Hamill, are too old, seem bored, or overwhelmed by the special effects, but I think the acting is superb, and agree with the letter in PEOPLE that no one else is thinkable in the roles.

[issue 12]:

It was a mad house in Chicago. Tickets are $5.50 - $4.50. It was a sellout. They had the wooden horses out to control the lines. Advance ticket sales only guaranteed a single seat - not a good one! People began lining up for the 12:01 a.m. show at 7.p.m. - 7 p.m.! I'd never do that, not even for himself. Saw a lot of interesting costumes, and really weird fans. Know where the word "fanatic" comes from, now, I'll tell yo
[issue 12]:

We really liked the movie,,it was an experience. That's experience and I liked Ford, Had heard from a couple of gals that he was awful, wasted, a clown, one lined it all the way thru. I found that hard to believe and having seen Jedi twice, they were wrong, unless they had totally expected something else. I especially liked Han coming out of the carbon freeze. Thought HF did that very well. The Ewok Village scenes, all of them blowing out the torches was a gem, and the net routine and the chats with C3P0, Guess the scene where Leia says no, he's my brother and the look on Solo's face is a classic. Well, I thought he did wonderfully and what 1 expected, he was in the whole movie.

If anyone was wasted it was Billy Dee Wi11iams.

[issue 12]:

The score for Jedi seems rather flat this time-no brilliant new pieces like the theme for Han and the Princess in Empire. Maybe there are too many plot elements and too many themes from the first 2 films. Luke's theme is still the major musical element (and the best for excitement). Still, the interlude between Luke and Leia is nicely done. Vader's theme almost blasts you out of your seat, but otherwise the music in Jedi takes a backseat to the action for a change. (If you don't think Wi11iams' music is manipulative listen to the E.T. sound track without the movie—you'll still reach for the kleenex.)
[issue 12]:

How do I feel about "Jedi" now? Pretty much the same. I love it, with reservations. I think it's my favorite of the three. I love the resolution-unreservedly! But there are scenes in this one that I actively dislike, which isn't true of the others. I like Marquand, but I have to. admit I hate all the contributions he made that George really didn't care for. I read George didn't want Yoda in it at all and I think he was right. I enjoyed the scene, but it just didn't belong there. After all, why did Luke have to go back to finish his training when he could advance so rapidly on his own? The little advance he made from the end of SW to the beginning of TESB was quite logical to me. That whopping advance from the end of TESB to the court of Jabba wasn't.

But what all that pointed up to me was a scene 1 really hate Obi-Wan's explanation to Luke. I HATE IT! Yoda's explanation was fine. They should've let Ben say it. As it was, he looked like a total fool. I wanted Luke to sock him one. But that ending—ah, I love it. Luke winning through his refusal to fight was just wonderful.

[issue 12]:

JEDI was very well made. I thought Jabba was a lot like the caterpillar in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. So were the fish-like creatures (Ackbar) like the frog and fish guards at the Duchess's palace in ALICE. (I have read ALICE almost as many times as I have seen any Harrison Ford movie.) I think Salacious Crumb is too muppetish. There is nothing wrong with the Muppets, but they are the wrong kind of fantasy for the SW movies. Muppets are kind of cartoonish, where SW is more reality...I found the attitudes of the characters to be perfect... persuaded regularly for the past year and a half, how else could their attitude be but tired, cynical...They hold firmly to the belief that they will win with the help of their friends and cleverness.

[issue 13]:

Jedi is an emotionless film really. Apart from all the action, it has no empathy. I cried during the carbon-freeze scene and I didn't cry when Anakin died. And let me tell, I cry easily. Of course, the prime responsibility as to why all those possibly charged emotional scenes fell flat, must rest with the director and Lucas, not with the actors. I think all knew that neither Lucas or Marquand really cared for them, for their acting, at least in the way that Kershner did. And it showed in the final product. Many people have compared Yoda's death scene with ET's. Both are not human, just muppets or whatever, yet look at the difference.

[issue 13]:

Lord, can that man act! You don't often find actors who get into their roles as much as he does. I'm amazed at how much different he seems from movie to movie. And as far as I'm concerned, he was the one that carried JEDI. Without his wit, the movie would have fallen flat on it's face. And when you think about it, Harrison didn't exactly have a whole heck of a lot to DO in it. He was just sort of there through the whole thing. What a waste of talent. By the way, did anyone else notice the strange smile on his face in the very last scene of JEDI, like he was saying, "George, this is really corny?"

[issue 13]:

If JEDI is any indication of what we can expect in future SF films, I think I will go back to reading SF instead of watching it. A film is good only when the characters hold my interest. My interest was there during most of EMPIRE, but JEDI lost those people as individuals and lost my interest. Toward the film's end, they had become little more than images moving on a screen between special effects.

References

  1. ^ by Gene Triplett, The Sunday Oklahoman (May 24, 1983)
  2. ^ Glenn Lovell, San Jose Mercury News (May 25, 1983)
  3. ^ by Michael Blowen, Boston Globe (July 14, 1983)
  4. ^ from The Incomparable Jundland Wastes (2001)
  5. ^ She probably didn't know about Han/Luke Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (deleted scene)
  6. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  7. ^ from Jundland Wastes #15/16
  8. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  9. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  10. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  11. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  12. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  13. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  14. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  15. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  16. ^ from Jundland Wastes #15/16
  17. ^ from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16