Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
December 6, 2015 3:28 AM - Subscribe

After rescuing Han Solo from the palace of Jabba the Hutt, the rebels attempt to destroy the second Death Star, while Luke struggles to make Vader return from the dark side of the Force.
posted by PigheadedGnu (86 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry for the delay! Two weeks to go!
posted by PigheadedGnu at 3:28 AM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


And here, of course, is where it all goes to shit.

Lucas decided, purely for merchandising reasons, to set the movie on Endor, with Ewoks, rather than on the Wookie planet. More toys = more cash in Lucas's pocket.

Then there is all the recycling of plot points: another stay on Tatooine (with muppety creatures and a musical number), another Death Star (supposedly much bigger, though there was no way to tell the scale of it), another surprise family reveal (this time with incest!), and the mish-mosh jump-cut finale that became Lucas's signature move (let's see how much we can confuse the audience!).

Some have attributed this to the waning influence of Marcia Lucas. Some have said Lucas was simply rich and powerful enough to surround himself with yes-men. This is the harbinger of all that came after.

And yet, at the core, it wraps up Luke's emotional journey in a pretty satisfying way. The Emperor prods him to give in to hate and fear, and it's almost Luke's undoing. Vader makes an unexpected choice and the day is won, but Luke knows in his heart how dangerous the potential inside him is.

I so wish this movie had been made differently, because I can almost see how it could have been good. With all the talk in the ESB thread about how that film wrote checks this episode could never cash, I want to believe that a better filmmaker could have wrapped up the saga in a way that felt true to what came before. ROTJ does not pull that off for me. I remember being disappointed in the theater (age 11). Despite all the excitement, it felt wrong and unsatisfying.

I worry that The Force Awakens seems to have a lot of familiar notes: a sand planet (but this time a different one), a world-sized weapon (but this one is even bigger), a masked character in black with a red laser sword (shaped differently now). The best Star Wars movies made their own template, stitched together from WWII films and samurai movies and westerns. Maybe everything looks recycled now because everyone has done that now. Maybe there's no way back to the Star Wars of my childhood, that seemed so promising, open, and unending.
posted by rikschell at 5:33 AM on December 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was an excited 12 year old when this came out and it pretty much met my needs at the cinema. I hated Yoda then though and still do. Thought the Vader redemption was a bit crap then, but for me the problem wasn't the ewoks, it was always the Luke story I thought was weakest. The whole give in to your anger thing, I just wanted Luke to say, actually I am pretty chilled out about chopping you up because you are a bad 'un, just as all the people trying to blow up the death star under you are also making a rational decision to try to kill you. Just as if I was in an X-Wing.

Of course, one more thing the prequels let us know if that Luke didn't have a hope in hell of beating the Emperor. When RotJ was released we knew virtually nothing about the Emperor and his capabilities, Luke was now a trained Jedi so as far as we knew could have a proper go at him, but since RotS its been apparent that Palpatine/the Emperor can take out a bunch of experienced Jedi Masters single-handed without breaking sweat, so Luke was always on a loser, especially if he had to go though Vader as well.

Worth noting that the now trained Luke makes error after error in this film, he's arrogant at Jabba's palace, shouldn't be on Endor and his trip to the Death Star is a sideshow to blowing it up. Which is pretty much in keeping with the Jedi in the prequels - they largely suck at anything other than up close fighting, piloting and spouting juvenile philosophical one liners.
posted by biffa at 6:00 AM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Last week I downloaded the Despecialized Editions. They're very well done, and it's great to watch the films without all of the ham-handed additions.

I think I was just young enough (9) when Jedi was released that I didn't especially dislike the Ewoks. A Wookiee planet would have been way cooler, for sure, but aside from looking like teddy bears, the Ewoks aren't overly cutesy in general. I think they get more flack than is deserved.

The moment when Luke cuts off Vader's hand and then looks at his own black-gloved bionic hand is a nice bit of stopping at the precipice of the Dark Side.

The revelation of Leia as Luke's sister is really kind of unnecessary, and definitely adds some ick after the previous two movies. Luke could have been pushed to the brink without that addition to the story.

The spaceship action is fantastic, especially when you consider this was made in the early 80s using physical models.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:11 AM on December 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


biffa, I think ROTJ makes it pretty clear within the movie that Luke can't hope to win in a duel with the Emperor. But yeah, given that the Emperor is on the Death Star (why again?) and they blow up the Death Star, the duel ends up seeming kind of unnecessary. It's almost like nobody really thought through the story. In fact, it reminds me of three other movies...

Also, this is the most perceptive take-down of the ewoks I've ever seen.
posted by rikschell at 6:38 AM on December 6, 2015


It boggles my mind that by the time child-telegraph saw this movie on VHS, it was only ten years old. To me it was already such an established classic with so much cultural gravity that it might as well have been Citizen Kane.

With that said, in my house our routine was to put on ESB and watch it raptly, put on ROTJ and watch until the end of the Tatooine action and then wander away and do something else. Even as little kids we didn't really see the point of rewatching ROTJ to the end once we knew what was going to happen.
posted by telegraph at 6:46 AM on December 6, 2015


the Ewoks aren't overly cutesy in general. I think they get more flack than is deserved.

My issue with them has nothing to do with the level of cutesy. It's the fact that they somehow, with stone age technology, take out a legion of the Empire's "best troops". Not to mention the sudden creation of a series of traps in the forest that help them do that.

ROTJ suffers from a few things, I think. It's really a film in two parts: the Tatooine sequence, and the Death Star assault. There's a tonal difference between the two, with the Tatooine opening more fun and adventurous, and the second half more serious and grim. Every time I watch it, I find both sections suffer from pacing issues - a slow build up to the explosive action on the sail barge, and then an equally slow build to the fight in/around/below the Death Star. When it is on at my house because the kids have decided to watch it, I find I will only stop to join them at the two high points, and for the rest, I can ignore the movie.

Beyond that, Vader is forced into a more passive role in this film, which I've seen critiqued. Overall, I don't mind it. It makes sense in the context of the original trilogy, which is about Luke's development and arc; it is only the context of the prequels that all six films become about Vader's redemption. Luke makes the wager that he can turn his father back to the Light Side, and so he's the more active character. Plus, Vader's deference to the Emperor after what we've seen in ESB makes the Emperor seem powerful.

There is also a difficulty with the film not exploring consequences too deeply: we see some nameless pilots and Ewoks die, and massive losses on the Imperial side, but our heroes come through relatively unscathed.
posted by nubs at 7:40 AM on December 6, 2015


I really like this film, so there. Yes, it's a family film, in that it's not going to explore death too deeply, although it does take a little bit of time for the weird "Ewok sad at his friends death" scene, but it's fun, and thematically interesting. The opening sequence is awesome, Jabba, the barge: awesome! Then the three overlapping fights happening at the same times work, and while it's true that the rebellion shouldn't win, the whole arrogance overlooking primitive fighting is a nice idea (Avatar is similarly stupid, but it's just a theme filmmakers love. Blame Vietnam). And that scene with the Emperor and Luke and Darth? What's not to love. The whole thing with Luke believing in his father is just lovely.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:34 AM on December 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Return of the Jedi is not a bad movie, though I have noticed that in the last few years, its reputation has suffered diminishing positive opinions. It definitely has its problems, most of those which can be shoved into the garbage bin labeled, "Signs of the Prequels." At the same time, it still has some inventive and exciting scenes and moments.

The film has to start on Tatooine, if only because Empire ended with Han's carbonite frozen body having been shipped there. We can't have a Star Wars film without Han Solo, hence, to Tatooine. Tatooine also serves as a bookend to the trilogy, it began there, so it ends there - albeit, this argument would have been served better if the film itself concluded on Tatooine, rather than starting there. The question of Han, though, has to be answered before we can move on to any other wrapping up of the trilogy wide stories: 1) The Rebel Alliance's War against the Empire and 2) Luke's path to becoming a Jedi. Wedged into these is also the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, which came to the forefront in Empire.

Posed with the problem, how can we have a satisfying Rebel victory over the Empire? In the first film, the Rebels destroyed the battle station, but at no point was the Emperor in a place in that film to be defeated along with his forces. In Empire, he's scene only briefly in holograms which still lead a lot more to speculation about his nature than anything firm. So we have to bring the Emperor into the equation, but what would bring the Emperor out from his 'safe' place? He obviously didn't travel with the fleet during the events of the previous film, so it would need to be something very important. How about the final defeat of the pesky Rebel Alliance? How can you guarantee the Rebels will throw everything they have into one final battle? Now the introduction of another super weapon makes sense, which when viewed from the hubristic prism of the Emperor, made for an excellent viewing platform as he crushed the nuisance that has plagued the Empire for years.

In a way, we were left with very little options on deciding whether to go with or without another Death Star, and it makes sense that the Emperor would be present. It all goes back to wrapping up the major over arching theme of the first two films, the war between the Rebels and the Empire. Sure, differences could have been developed, but the end result would have been fairly similar. This then leads us to the other two story questions: Luke and his father. The answer to these were decided upon in Empire, Luke's training to become a Jedi was absolutely tied to him confronting his father. The only difference being whether Luke killed his father or if he could save him. In a way, as we know how the film ends, the real question became: Would Vader be killed by Luke or die as Anakin?

Our remaining characters, Han, Leia, Chewie, and Lando, after Han's rescue, are all subject to those noted wide ranging questions. In this case, they get shunted off into the wider story of the Rebels war against the Empire, effectively removed from Luke's and Vader's questions by those two physically removing themselves from the others. What's left is that battle, which added a land component to the space battle we had already scene in Star Wars.

The replacement of the wookies with the Ewoks is well known and quite well bemoaned, but the use of the ewoks is not something which absolutely ruins the movie. The Ewoks fight, less direct confrontation, and more in surprise attacks, where they attack and run. This accomplishes two things: 1) it provides less of an opportunity for the technologically superior Imperial forces to turn the battle to their advantage. If you can't see the ewok to shoot with your blaster rifle, you can't kill him. Likewise, an AT-ST can only be so useful in a wooded environment where your targets are small and blend into the surroundings (at least better than your stark white armor clad compatriots); 2) it allows for the Ewoks to apply simple technologies used in devastating fashion. Most of them don't require much in the way of preparation (the exception mostly being the catapults and the large logs - but we already know the Ewoks, from their homes, are adept at moving and hauling logs and timber around). Intermixed into this are also the elite troops the Rebels selected to be part of the attack force, who benefit from the distraction caused by the Ewoks to undoubtedly gain advantage against the storm troopers (now dispersed through the surrounding woods, instead of concentrated, chasing after the ewoks).

Turning back to Tatooine, it's there that we first see the hints that Lucas has changed how he approaches the Star Wars franchise: humor. There is nothing about Jabba's palace that is much different than the cantina in Mos Eisley, a motley group of aliens, some human-like, others puppet. It's alien (not to mention the spider-like monks with their brains in jars walking past in the background) and not a friendly place. There's not a large difference between the band in the Cantina and the Max Rebo band here. Of course, that's before the Special Edition, at which point Lucas manages to almost lampoon the scene as it originally was (if someone suggests using a song called " Rocks" you most likely should just say NO.). We also have the death of the dancing Twi'lek, obviously a slave, and killed to everyone's entertainment. That's dark.

Throw in Leia's introduction, pretending to be a bounty hunter, handing over Chewie, and things just look like they're going from bad to worse, with the exception of the ray of light when we realize Lando is there presumably under cover. Luke is arrogant in his behavior toward Jabba, but as a lifelong resident of Tatooine, it's understandable if he realizes that this might be the only way to deal with the Hutt. We learn from Leia's introduction, he admires strength and bombast. Luke presented himself in much the same manner. Except this time, he falls, literally, to his surprise. No need to go into the rancor fight, but it was a nice touch to have the weeping rancor master. It added a bit more weight to the moment, and it was a continuation of Lucas' habit of continuing a scene. Think of watching a snowspeeder spiral out of control and crash during the Battle of Hoth.

So far, for the most part, things are going fine in terms of enjoying the film and avoiding Lucas' worse inhibitions. Then we get to the sarlaac pit. For the first time, Lucas really injects levity for levity's sake (unlike Yoda's silly behavior when he's first introduced), and this involves Han's temporary blindness. Example one, the ridiculous death of Boba Fett. The guy shown as gutsy enough to talk back to Darth Vader and who outsmarts Han Solo, gets to be hit by accident in the jet pack, flown out of control into the side of the sand barge, and then falls into the pit. It's completely comical and completely inappropriate. The lesser example involves Han shooting the tentacle to save Lando, and it's a bit more appropriate, though, still a gag in a serious moment. The levity goes against the shocking scene of Leia strangling Jabba to death with her chain, a moment that is pretty graphic and obscene in Jabba's death throes. Was that the purpose for its existence? Don't know. But it's the growing flaw of the film and is the beginning of Lucas' decision going into Jar-Jar Binks approximately 20 years later.

In answer to Luke's path to becoming a Jedi (after all, it's what the movie is titled after), we return to Dagobah, where Yoda is no longer the spring chicken he was in Empire. Instead, his movements are slower and appear to require more strain to them. Why the sudden fall in Yoda's health? It might well be for the dramatic tension of making Luke the last Jedi, but the visit also happens so we can receive an answer on Luke's training. When we last saw him, he hadn't completed his training and we saw the result of his impulsive decision to do without it. Now, we can rest back and know that the only thing between him and truly being a Jedi is his father. Then Yoda dies, and in Obi-Wan fashion, disappears, but not before touching on the other familial hint from Empire, the yet to be spoken, Luke's sister. This is answered almost immediately as Obi-Wan appears to explain away problematic plot points from the last film, such as Vader being Luke's father and Leia's feeling on where to find Luke hanging from under Bespin. Any time someone answers a question with "a certain point of view," you know there's some spinning going on. But from here, Dagobah disappears into the background for the last time, and Luke leaves the last of the Jedi.

In the duration, we get to meet the Emperor for the first time and learn of his desire to have Luke brought to him. It begins a sense of the Emperor's power, he's conceiving of things well before they happen. Elsewhere, we have our battle meeting in space where we get the big answer to the Rebels vs. Empire started, learning about Bothan spies, but also, seeing the leader of the Rebellion is a woman (or at least one of their leaders), named Mon Mothma. Then we're down to the forest moon of Endor to push Luke into his confrontation with Vader and solve the bigger rebel question.

The speeder chase is fun, imaginative back to the original Trench Run in terms of speed, and inexplicably separates Leia from everyone else. Under intense scrutiny, there's nothing that happens later in the film, which still wouldn't happen, if Leia had simply been part of the main group caught in the trap like Han, Chewie and so on. Indeed, despite Leia having been met and gifted new clothes, considered a friend, they're ready to serve up her friends until Luke's inteference with C-3PO! This is Lucas injecting 'cute/fun' into the film, the entire interaction between Leia and Wicket (kudos to young Warwick Davis, regardless!). It serves no other purpose, unless one wants to introduce the ewoks in a less hostile manner. Had the ewoks been completely introduced as the pygmy bear-like hunters who capture the group and are ready to eat them, they might have retained a certain level of fierceness to counteract their cuddly exterior (thus cleverly playing against that appearance).

Our friends become the friends of the Ewoks after the Force creates a god in C-3PO, who then spins the tale of the saga up to that point. This leads to the attack on the backdoor of the shield generator and Luke leaving to meet Vader. Vader confirms that Luke has pretty much completed his training with the building of his lightsaber, and then despite Luke's argument that Vader is still good and won't turn him over, his pop does just that. Here we get to appreciate the thrall over Vader the Emperor commands. Who's scarier? The guy who has been hunting our heroes from the beginning or the guy who completely dominates and controls that fellow?

As noted above, the film at this point diverges into its three storylines: 1) The battle on the forest moon, 2) the battle in space, and 3) the 'battle' in the Emperor's throne room. Over repeated viewings, I've never found the events hard to follow. The divergence is inescapable given the existence of the Death Star. If it's complete, then they logically would have fixed the problem from before, so therefore, it has to be attacked under construction. However, the Empire isn't stupid, and they know given what they're throwing into its construction, they have to keep it safe, hence a force field to protect until its complete. The force field has to come from somewhere other than the Death Star because for a certain period of time, there simply won't be the infrastructure or energy source needed to create a force field at the construction site. Thus, two locations: the Death Star/Space and the Forest Moon.

I've kind of gone over the forest battle, but probably most problematic is the static place it locks our characters in. Han, Leia, and Chewie, they really don't have an opportunity to simply be there. Is that terrible? No, not in the least. It's fun watching our heroes handle the situation and to see Leia dropping a storm trooper with a head shot (she's deadly!). But, it also explains why Harrison Ford had reputably desired Han to die in the film, to give him something to do. It doesn't ruin the movie, the movie is still fine, but it misses the opportunity. Arguably Leia's knowledge of relationship to Luke provides her with some development, but that's about it. That same problematic humor also returns, mostly centered around Wicket. Again, one must wonder if it was meant to balance off the kind of sad scene when an ewok is killed and its friend mourns over its body. Perhaps if more ewoks were shown killed, the world wouldn't have been so tough on them. In space, it's mostly razzle dazzle. It's the heart beating excitement of watching space fighters fly and multi-colored lasers fill up the screen. But, for the purpose of the film, it serves as eye candy between the moment that Lando (and Wedge) fire the killing shots inside the Death Star, and everything else going on in the film.

This leaves the Throne Room scenes. Ian McDiarmid's performance as the Emperor adds significantly to the quality of these scenes, as the Emperor slips between cocky, almost glee filled at times, and not to mention, sarcastic, at the state of the battle going on outside, and also going on inside for Luke's soul. He's a creature that believes himself to be in complete control, and in the end, when his plan to replace Vader with his son fails to work, he without hesitation acts to kill the last Jedi. Vader remains muted for most, but it makes sense with the presence of the Emperor. We have to understand and appreciate how terrible the Emperor is by how much he controls Vader. Vader is in total obedience, and this adds gravitas and weight to his decision to save his son and kill the Emperor. His betrayal of the Emperor has to mean something.

What's great about these scenes is that Luke, our hero, ends up giving in and doing exactly what the Emperor wants, to try and strike him down. This moves him into a fight with and kill Vader, whom the Emperor wants Luke to replace. Incredibly, remember, this is actually just what Yoda told Luke he had to do to complete his training. The difference being how Luke does it, with the Light Side or the Dark Side. And at this moment, Luke is doing it the wrong way. Since he's our hero, he ultimately overcomes the lure of the Dark Side. The peak of the Vader/Luke duel, culminating with Luke cutting off his father's right hand in a direct mirror to the last film, is one of the best parts of the film - aided considerably by John Williams' score. There's not a lot of need to go into the depth of Luke's realization that he is on the path to becoming his father, and it also mirrors Empire by recalling Luke's experience in the cave on Dagobah. Luke refuses to become his enemy, Vader, but to become his father, Anakin. The Emperor reveals his greater power, mocking his admission to Luke that he was 'unarmed' and begins to electrocute Luke with Force lightning. Then, Vader acts, seizing his master and tossing him over the railing to his death.

If there's really only a few things I detest about Lucas' decisions to keep messing with the original trilogy. The injection of "NooooooOOOOoooo!" into this scene is in the Top 3 of those beefs. Before, Vader's decision is made in silence, captured entirely in his gaze turning from Luke to the Emperor and back again, in the flashes of light reflecting off his helmet. We know his turmoil from this alone, and we don't need an audio cue which needlessly connects it back to Revenge of the Sith when he learns about the death of Padme. It cheapens the scene, even more because it was altered after the fact.

But Anakin is saved, the Death Star gets destroyed, and in a way, Luke confronted and destroys Vader (by saving his father). Luke is finally a Jedi, answering that question, the war is 'won' by the Rebellion, solving the other major question. And as a cherry on top, Anakin is redeemed. We have the Ewok celebration (yub nub 4EVER!) and the picture perfect ending of everyone together for their cinematic portrait. It's a happy ending and for the end of the story, not bad.

Return of the Jedi is the conclusion of the trilogy. Despite the fact that it's burdened by the very things which will go on to help undermine the Prequels, it's still a darn fun film to watch, and full of scenes which are both entertaining and well shot. When I was younger, I preferred Jedi to Empire, and perhaps that's indicative of the shift taking place. As I got older, watched the films more and more times, Empire moved into my favorite slot. Nonetheless, I think a lot of the disappointment with this film rests more in its potential than its flaws, which are not big enough to weigh the film down or ruin it beyond enjoyment. They're their, but they don't harm the movie as the flaws of the Prequel films do significantly more damage. Yub nub, you know?

posted by Atreides at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


Watching the late 90s rerelease of this movie was the first time I cried in a movie theater in my whole life. Specifically I just lost it when I saw Vader's force ghost (had it been edited to Hayden Christensen by then? I don't even remember when that occurred. In any case I was not crying because I was offended by Lucas' eternal meddling, just too overwhelmed with Vader Feels). I had seen the movie before but for some reason in the theater it hit me hard.

I feel like this probably says something really deep about my personality, and I don't really think I want to know what.
posted by town of cats at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Atreides said everything I wanted to say (and much more) better than I could have said, so this is going to be short.

I loved ROTJ watching it in theatre as a kid, and I love it as an adult. I never had a problem with the ewoks, though I admit they are cuter than they need to be. Going against common wisdom a bit, I think that Endor was a better choice than Kashyyyk.

We know that the Wookies, though naturalistic, are familiar with Galactic technology and active members of the Republic, which would have dramatically changed the nature of the battle of Endor. I like the idea of the cute-on-the-outside/deadly-on-the-inside primitive culture much better. That said, I would have loved to have seen a lot fewer punches pulled when it came to the ewoks. The ewok buddy death scene was good, but I would have liked to have seen them dying en masse. I would have like to have seen an ewok gratuitously continuing to bash in the skull of an already dead stormtrooper. Basically, I would have loved to see them treated as a formidable warrior tribe through and through, letting their exterior cuteness do the work rather than adding additional cuteness unnecessarily.

The thing that makes this movie though is Mark Hamill's performance. ESB is the admittedly the better movie overall, but that is no thanks to Hamill, who turns in a pretty hammy performance throughout. In RotJ however, he sells Jedi Luke (who knows more than he wants to) perfectly. In fact, Jedi Luke is that much more powerful because of how intolerable Luke was in the first two movies.

It is impossible to hate this movie without denying the pure awesomeness of that first glimpse of Jedi Luke. And who can do that?
posted by 256 at 3:31 PM on December 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


One of my favorite scenes is Luke tossing his lightsaber aside and saying approximately, "You have failed your highness, I am a Jedi, like my father before me." That, followed by the almost spitting spiteful response, "So be it, Jedi!" Wooot!


Confession: I find myself quoting that line kinda on a monthly basis to no one in particular. I mean, I don't really know someone who's trying to corrupt me into becoming a Sith Lord, so, you know, vacuum.
posted by Atreides at 4:40 PM on December 6, 2015


Wait, what? Isn't an Ewok a baby Wookie?
posted by sammyo at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah the whole thing where Luke can't destroy the Emperor without succumbing to the dark side is nonsense. How many storm troopers have we seen Luke kill? How many people did he kill when he blew up the Death Star? How 'bout "I don't need anger or hate to destroy you. In fact I could happily kill you and not feel a thing. It's not personal. You're like rabid gundark let loose on the galaxy that needs to be put down. Suck it up you old crone."
posted by wabbittwax at 5:28 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or

Luke enters the Emperor's Throne Room

Emperor: Welcome young Skywalker. I've been expecting you.

Luke: ... (To Vader) this is the guy you're so afraid of? It's like the Attack of the Crones up in here. (To the Emperor) what is up with your face? I've seen 900 year-old toads that looked better than you.

Emperor: Silence, impudent young fool. Everything that has happened has been by my design.

Luke: You foresaw this?

Emperor: Yes, and so much more. I know that soon you will become my new apprentice and your rebel friends are doomed.

Luke: you're wrong. Soon we will all be dead.

Emperor: you refer to your friends on the sanctuary moon...

Luke: No I refer to the thermal detonator in the base of my lightsaber that's about to blow all three of us into orbit. Did you foresee that?

The entire throne room is engulfed in a massive fireball.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:47 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Saw this when I was about eight years old, a few months after I saw SW and ESB, which I loved, of course. But I loved Return of the Jedi so much, for awhile I would choose it as the movie I got to rent almost every weekend. To eight year old me, the ewoks were awesome, seeing Luke with a green lightsaber kicking ass on Tatooine was exciting as hell, and the final sequence between Luke, Vader and the Emperor felt emotionally powerful.

So maybe ESB is a better movie (although honestly even at that age I thought the idea of randomly landing on an asteroid and ending up inside of a giant space lizard pretty weak). But I'll still always love ROTJ way more. I imagine if I had been 10 years older when I saw it I'd agree with the consensus though.
posted by skewed at 6:42 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like many, I don't think ROTJ is a bad movie, though I do think it is the worst of the original trilogy. It is telling how frequently you hear people say they really like the opening, but kinda lose interest after that -- not because the concept of what's going on Endor is intrinsically bad, but simply that there's pretty big tonal shifts between the two, and I think that how Endor is handled in practice didn't really manage that gap.

I have a lot of thoughts to put together, and I'll probably return to this and do so, but I think it's worth mentioning a couple possible discussion points:

First, it is really worth pointing out that the destruction of the Death Star was originally Lucas' vision for the end of the trilogy (just the one Death Star total). He moved it up into Ep IV because he had no idea if he'd ever be allowed to make a sequel (let alone two). While that's understandable, it left him in a bind when it came to what the end of Ep VI should be.

I feel like if he'd been more plugged into the story at this point (vs. merchandising) maybe he would have found a better solution, but there it is: repeat Death Star. Bigger, but 95% of people don't realize it because what's there to give it scale? (Reportedly, at one point there were going to be like 3 Death Stars that all had to be destroyed simultaneously -- a prospect that sounds ... well, like it was probably never going to work well cinematically)

The second thing I wanted to point out is, they didn't know if Harrison Ford was going to return until practically when shooting started. Not only did he think Han should die in ROTJ, he actually thought he should just die in the carbonite (and expressed little desire to return whatsoever). I think this is the major cause of how bad a lot of the Endor stuff is (outside of the Ewoks).

On the one hand, yeah, Han coming back gives us a reason for the opening scenes on Tatooine, and parts of that are fun (even if the plot itself is totally nonsensical; was it Luke's plan to send his droids, then have Leia get caught, then get caught, then finally escape? WTF?). But, by the time the writers knew Han was back, all they could really do is stick him with the Endor crew. He sleepwalks through the whole thing, and never does anything particularly interesting. Harrison Ford is almost palpably Not Giving A Shit through it all -- and can you blame him?

In my opinion, Han, Chewie, C3P0, and R2D2 are totally wasted on Endor (Golden God thing notwithstanding). Han and Chewie should have been flying the Falcon (I'm guessing by the time Han was in, they'd already planned for Lando on the Falcon and for whatever reason couldn't change that). C3P0 and R2D2 ... I honestly don't know, but them being on Endor makes zero sense. I think that fundamentally, Endor should have been Leia's place to shine (with her saving Han's ass by bringing down the deflector shields so he could fly the Falcon in and complete his mission). Instead it was like the gang in the Mystery Machine wandering through northern California.

That's not even close to everything about this movie for me, but for now, I'll leave it at that. Not a bad movie, not a great movie. Really messed up with how Han was included.
posted by tocts at 6:54 PM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really like this film, so there.

To be clear, I don't dislike ROTJ - I think the Vader/Luke/Emperor scenes are riveting, and the assault on the Death Star itself is great. But overall, it's a film I'm pretty meh about. Miles better than the prequels, not as good as ANH or ESB, plenty watchable, good but not great maybe catches it the best.
posted by nubs at 7:16 PM on December 6, 2015


Let's adjust the baseline against which we're comparing RotJ. Instead of Eps IV and V, let's compare it to the final movies of other action/adventure/fantasy/sci-fi trilogies, which are also typically weak.

Matrix: Revolutions - Do we even have to bother? (though I did recently watch Revolutions for the first time in a while, and it was better with time than it was on first viewing)

Return of the King - I actually do not enjoy RotK. It always feels like it's racing to the end and needs to check all the boxes. In that, it feels a lot like Revenge of the Sith. Far too cumbersome.

By contrast, while I agree with all the flaws with Jedi that have already been spelled out, this movie actually feels like it takes time to build tension, sit in that tension, and has its own arc. Whereas most trilogy finales are hobbled by their own weight, Jedi is mostly hobbled by the quality of the movie that precedes it.

Also, epic stories commonly feature of a parallel between an armageddon type battle being waged by the masses going on at the same time as the sole protagonist fights the main bad guy:

Frodo tries to defeat Sauron while the Battle of Minas Tirith rages (granted, Frodo never directly fights Sauron)
Neo fights Smith while the Battle of Zion rages
Harry Potter fights Voldemort while the Battle of Hogwarts rages (not a trilogy obviously, but the parallel holds)

For my money, Luke fighting Vader and the Emperor set against the (space) Battle of Endor is the best of the bunch, mostly because it's not over the top. The stuff on Endor is definitely unnecessary, but for me, that doesn't take away from the other two prongs of the fight.
posted by dry white toast at 8:18 PM on December 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Han and Chewie should have been flying the Falcon (I'm guessing by the time Han was in, they'd already planned for Lando on the Falcon and for whatever reason couldn't change that).

By keeping Han in they also left Lando without much purpose in the movie - without Han the movie would have a natural place for Lando to have an arc about his redemption and lots of interesting friction with Leia and Chewie since he'd have failed at keeping his promise to get Han back after betraying everyone.

Though Billy Dee Williams is way better at being energetic and entertaining without having much of anything to do in this movie than Harrison Ford is, it always seems like Ford really needs to have a driving desire to be in a thing to keep his usual cool detachment from reading as "I'd rather be literally anywhere else right now". Whereas Billy Dee seems like he's having a goddamn blast bouncing around in a cockpit set with a puppet.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:21 PM on December 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ford really needs to have a driving desire to be in a thing to keep his usual cool detachment from reading as "I'd rather be literally anywhere else right now"

Ford is a ceaselessly interesting actor to me. He's a ball of contradictions -- when he's disengaged from a role, he seems really pointedly so, like he wishes he could care but absolutely 100% can't. And he made his reputation on broad, old-school action roles, but he's good at those roles because he also conveys a subtle anxiety underneath men who say things like "Look, your worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight!" Like, Han Solo has always seemed really uncomfortable in his own skin to me, and I think it's totally conscious on Ford's part.

He's not a lot of fun to watch in Jedi, but I always feel like he makes things a little more interesting even if he doesn't seem to be enjoying his performance any more than I am.
posted by thesmallmachine at 11:43 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Totally agree about the Emperor's unconvincing "seduction" of Luke. It should have gone like this:

EMPEROR: You want thiiiiss. I am defenseless. Reach out, take your Jedi weapon and strike me down with all of your anger.
LUKE: Not for anger, Your Highness, or for hatred, but for justice. snap-hiss
posted by The Tensor at 12:38 AM on December 7, 2015


OK, now to drop a weightier critique in here (keeping in mind that for real, I do love this movie):

Luke and Leia being revealed as siblings is one of the very few things in the original trilogy that I would love to see retconned into nonexistence. I think it is a major mistake, both in terms of how it is executed, and also the underlying rationale for it being done in the first place.

In terms of execution, it is a complete waste of screen time. When Yoda says, "there is another", that is a really powerful and chilling statement, full of possibility for the future. Unfortunately, that ball gets completely dropped. There's someone other than Luke who could step up to see things through, but don't worry, we won't need her. Why even bother establishing that, if it's never going to matter?

However, much more problematic to me is the screenwriting question of why Leia is made Luke's sister. To be blunt, after a lot of thought about it over the years, I think the reasons are ultimately gross and sexist.

In Ep IV and Ep V, the writers play with the tension between the main characters, creating a love triangle between Luke, Leia, and Han. However, at the end of Ep V, that triangle collapses, because Leia (who let us remember is a grown ass woman capable of making her own decisions) chooses Han. This is one of the best moments in the trilogy, and it is super powerful (and well loved by fans). That's great, right?

Well, it's not great if you're assuming that because Luke is the protagonist of this adventure serial, he's supposed to get the girl. In fact, this is actually a big problem, because there's no way you can just arbitrarily break up Leia and Han, but you also can't bear the thought of Luke somehow "losing" in this way. She's the only woman among the main characters. Luke has to win her.

If you're a screenwriter, how do you solve this problem? I mean, you could kill Han, and then have Luke and Leia get involved afterwards, but there's a bunch of problems therein (not the least of which being, you'd like Han to be in the final movie). You could somehow break up Leia and Han, but that would undermine the ending of ESB, which just established that no seriously, these two people love each other madly.

And then it hits you: if Luke and Leia are siblings, the problem is suddenly solved. Luke didn't lose, because Leia was never actually a possibility for him in the first place. Han can be allowed to be the one to win Leia.

This, to me, is the gross underlying assumption of Luke and Leia being brother and sister. It reduces Leia, previously a strong and motivated woman who can make her own damn choices thank you very much, into the status of a trophy that has to be negotiated between the two male main characters by the screenwriters. The "positive" side of it affects barely a handful of scenes, and not even that much really .

If I could magically make it disappear, I would do it in a heartbeat.
posted by tocts at 5:01 AM on December 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's the fact that they somehow, with stone age technology, take out a legion of the Empire's "best troops".

It's a classic guerilla insurgency, fought by numerous camouflaged insurgents utilising Improvised Log Devices vs highly-visible, outnumbered troops who're unfamiliar with the terrain and who, frankly, are given terrible orders (advance into the forest to pursue the rebels?! They should maintain a perimeter around the highly-important shield control bunker!).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:50 AM on December 7, 2015


I think your argument is strengthened by the fact that removing the sibling connection changes almost nothing, especially if you leave Leia as just simply being Force sensitive, as well.
posted by Atreides at 7:50 AM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Meh, Luke and Leah being siblings gives us a lot of spots to make commentary and bad jokes when watching with friends. So there's that. Was this sibling connection not decided until episode vi? I assumed they put that in the movie just to begin setting up as possible episode vii.

Watching these from start to finish for the first time in years, it's crazy to see how much they retconned for the prequels. Also, C3P0 is terribly annoying.

The ewoks aren't as terrible as people make them to be. They're not there simply for the cuteness factor, and the cuteness is barely played upon. Also, I assume all the traps they used during the battle were not hastily setup overnight, but that the ewoks already had them prepared for tribal battles and enemies, much like the net everyone was caught in.
posted by 2ht at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2015


Other random thoughts:

Every freaking addition that Lucas made in the re-re-re-released versions is awful and unnecessary. From the CGI special effects that look bad on blu-ray, to the random shots of various planets celebrating the defeat of the Empire (did we even know these planets hated the Empire? were they helping the rebellion? or were they just random planets from the prequels), to changing the Anakin apparition's actor.

Presumably what is left of Anakin's body disappeared underneath the Vader costume and we just didn't see it?

The Force apparently translates through attached machinery. It looked all mechanical, but maybe it was more bio-mechanical than it appeared? Or maybe the hand motions are unnecessary and just there for show?

I've had it in my head since I was a kid that the Death Star here was the remnants of the same one from A New Hope. I remember thinking that because... who builds a sphere the way they were building this one?
posted by 2ht at 8:10 AM on December 7, 2015


Leia just being Force-sensitive definitely would be an improvement over the sibling thing. But it still leaves the issue of "the other" being one of our existing characters.

As has been remarked elsewhere, for a galaxy of uncounted trillions, the Star Wars universe feels very, very small. Everyone of consequence is related (sometimes literally).
posted by Chrysostom at 8:37 AM on December 7, 2015


Also, C3P0 is terribly annoying.

That's kind of his bag, being fussy and annoying.

Every freaking addition that Lucas made in the re-re-re-released versions is awful and unnecessary.

I must reiterate, Harmy's Despecialized Editions are very much worth downloading. They're in 720p, but look really good on my TV. They have been exhaustively worked on, including the audio.

did we even know these planets hated the Empire? were they helping the rebellion? or were they just random planets from the prequels

I referred to this site to remind me which locations were in the montage.

The end montage includes scenes from various locations in all of the movies, in order: Cloud City (Ep V), Mos Eisley, Tatooine (EP IV), Naboo (Ep 1), Coruscant (All three prequels). Although your question does make sense. Tatooine and Cloud City were both supposed remote "outer rim" locations that probably wouldn't have much Imperial interference. Lando specifically mentions the lack of Imperial presence in his dialogue when welcoming Han, Leia and others. Celebration on Coruscant could be believed, if you carry forward the notion that the Emperor and Empire rule with an iron fist. Naboo... eh, I dunno.

Presumably what is left of Anakin's body disappeared underneath the Vader costume and we just didn't see it?

This is one of the items gruesomly shown at the end of Ep III. Vader lost both legs from the knee down, and both hands/forearms in his fight with Obi-Wan.

The Force apparently translates through attached machinery. It looked all mechanical, but maybe it was more bio-mechanical than it appeared? Or maybe the hand motions are unnecessary and just there for show?

I think the hand gesture is just there for the audience. Luke does it too when entering Jabba's palace, even though his right hand is also artificial.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:04 AM on December 7, 2015


This is one of the items gruesomly shown at the end of Ep III. Vader lost both legs from the knee down, and both hands/forearms in his fight with Obi-Wan.

Sorry, I meant disappeared as in Obi-Wan and Yoda disappearing when they die. He's able to do this presumably because he converts back to the light side, and he had whatever training Yoda and Obi-Wan had to become force ghosts.

Going to have to sit down and watch the despecialized editions now...

Thanks for the link!
posted by 2ht at 9:14 AM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Watching these from start to finish for the first time in years, it's crazy to see how much they retconned for the prequels. Also, C3P0 is terribly annoying.

In Jedi, this causes Leia to look like an idiot when she answers Luke's question about their mother. Since Padme dies in childbirth, who heck is she remembering then? Bail Organa's wife? The replacement of Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen was also egregious, as following the logic of that replacement should have resulted in McGregor replacing Guiness.

Incidentally, in Star Wars: Aftermath, a novel set right after Jedi, the crowd cheering on Coruscant is almost immediately crushed by Imperial forces. Naboo, it's revealed in a short comic book run, Shattered Empire, also taking place after this movie, has been under the heel of the Empire due to being the home planet of the Emperor.

Going to have to sit down and watch the despecialized editions now...

Yes, these are essential to really enjoying the trilogy anymore. At least for those who remember what was before the Lucas Revisioning.
posted by Atreides at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2015


Sorry, I meant disappeared as in Obi-Wan and Yoda disappearing when they die. He's able to do this presumably because he converts back to the light side, and he had whatever training Yoda and Obi-Wan had to become force ghosts.

Oh, I see. Maybe the funerary pyre converted his body into a smoky force ghost?
posted by Fleebnork at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2015


I seem to recall reading somewhere a while back that the original plan included a new character revealed as Luke's lost sister, rather than Leia, but that this was changed to streamline the movie.


Since Padme dies in childbirth, who heck is she remembering then?



I always assumed she had vague memories through the Force; Leia's brief exposure to Amidala during birth would be nothing that you or I would be able to recall, but maybe just enough for someone force-sensitive to form some basic, impressionistic memories.
posted by DiscountDeity at 9:26 AM on December 7, 2015


Beyond the sibling issues I mentioned, Leia being the "other" that Yoda references creates problems in ESB and ROTJ. Specifically:

If Leia is the only other force sensitive person who might be able to defeat Vader and the Emperor, why is Yoda so cavalier about how Luke shouldn't leave his training to go help her? How can she both be the galaxy's secondary hope (if Luke fails) but not worth Luke going and saving from Vader?

Also, how is it at all useful that there's another person who could take Luke's place if she both doesn't know it, and also is on the same collision course with Vader as Luke? To make an analogy, Yoda (with his prescience, even if it is clouded) viewing Leia as a viable "other" is like a sysadmin saying a system is protected because he has a redundant backup system ... that is hosted in the same data center, on the same network, in the same rack, using the same power source as the primary system. If one goes down, they both go down.

This doesn't even get into the story implications of the not-very-thought-out sibling stuff. Hey Luke, did you even consider that maybe your sister, despite the terrible relationship she had with her newly discovered father, may have wanted to be at the pyre when you burned his body? Or at the very least, would have liked to have been asked (even if she said 'no')?
posted by tocts at 9:52 AM on December 7, 2015


David Prowse: Darth Farmer
posted by nubs at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2015


What's Luke burning on the funeral pyre? Just the Darth Vader armor? Yoda and Obi-wan vanished when they died and appeared as ghosts. Since Anakin Skywalker appeared as a ghost, shouldn't his body have vanished when he died?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:02 AM on December 7, 2015


If Leia is the only other force sensitive person who might be able to defeat Vader and the Emperor, why is Yoda so cavalier about how Luke shouldn't leave his training to go help her? How can she both be the galaxy's secondary hope (if Luke fails) but not worth Luke going and saving from Vader?

I think Yoda's logic there is that Luke going to rescue them will have no impact on their fate. Because if you think about it, Luke's intervention at the end of The Empire Strikes Back doesn't change anything for Leia et al. They get out on their own with Lando's help. So Luke puts himself in harm's way for nothing. Presumably Yoda knows this.
posted by wabbittwax at 10:41 AM on December 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Difficult to say. Always in motion is the future.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just watched this with my kids last Friday (unspecialized version, of course). I was 11 when this came out, and saw it in the theatre and when the Ewoks showed up I was completely annoyed and disappointed with the movie. Stupid cutesy fuzzy teddy bear creatures. It was such a let-down for me back then.

Another thing that always bugged me about this move, and that even my kids (6 and 8) noticed was Yoda's death. One minute he's walking around, cooking supper, yabbering away and poking the fire, next thing you know he just lies down and drops dead without even being able to finish his sentence. Completely unbelievable even to a 6-year old (for the record, his take on this was "What? What? What?!?!? He just died like that?!?!? Why did Yoda die for no reason?! He was just walking and eating!") Not as bad as Padme dropping dead of a broken heart, but on the Continuum of Stupid Star Wars Deaths, it is down there.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2015


Difficult to say. Always in motion is the future.

I always heard this as "always emotion is the future," which makes a certain sort of sense given how Luke is so worried about his friends being tortured.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:29 PM on December 7, 2015


I suppose that makes sense...from a certain point of view.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:44 PM on December 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


The ewoks aren't as terrible as people make them to be. They're not there simply for the cuteness factor, and the cuteness is barely played upon. Also, I assume all the traps they used during the battle were not hastily setup overnight, but that the ewoks already had them prepared for tribal battles and enemies, much like the net everyone was caught in.

Even when I saw the film for the first time, my assumption (I think I was twelve?) when the giant tree trunks smash up the AT-ST was that the Ewoks had been setting up increasingly intricate death traps and picking off the garrison. They didn't strike me as neutral before the arrival of the Alliance, just unable to assault the generator all-out.

I remember years back reading one of the Expanded Universe novels or handbooks or something in a Star Wars art book - it was the last transmitted record of the first Imperial mission to Endor, and it basically played out from a "well, we've arrived, the natives are unimpressive" beginning through growing terror and panic as the stormtroopers and scientists are picked off one by one, with the last few whispering into their transmitter as they squat huddled around the base of a big tree, watched by numberless unseen eyes as the last of their powerpacks' energy dwindles away.

RotJ was always the weakest of the three for me, but that's at least partly because I was never as invested in Luke and Vader as Han and Leia and Chewbacca, and they're far more sidelined here than in Empire Strikes Back.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:51 PM on December 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah I think the Ewoks are more vicious than they're given credit for. Remember, when they first meet the Rebels (not including Leia) they immediately decide to EAT them, only stopped at the last second by C-3PO's magicks. They've clearly been trapping and eating Imperial troops for months.

I never really saw the weak points in ROTJ that other people did. There are a few niggles (Boba Fett's ignominious death) but over all - Jabba's Palace, the space battle, Yoda's end, the final lightsabre duel - I always enjoyed it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:41 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another thing that always bugged me about this move, and that even my kids (6 and 8) noticed was Yoda's death. One minute he's walking around, cooking supper, yabbering away and poking the fire, next thing you know he just lies down and drops dead without even being able to finish his sentence.

People die like that all the time in real life -- going about their business one moment and then quietly passing away the next. It's possible that Yoda simply had prescient awareness of the precise moment of his own demise, and with that knowledge he chose to live in the moment rather than spending days or weeks on a deathbed.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:04 AM on December 8, 2015


I think Yoda's logic there is that Luke going to rescue them will have no impact on their fate. Because if you think about it, Luke's intervention at the end of The Empire Strikes Back doesn't change anything for Leia et al. They get out on their own with Lando's help. So Luke puts himself in harm's way for nothing. Presumably Yoda knows this.

What's more, Leia actually has to save him. All Luke really accomplishes is stirring up a bunch of family drama and losing a hand in the process.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:09 AM on December 8, 2015


Well, yeah, but that's kinda my point. Yoda can't have it both ways -- either he can see this future perfectly, and thus should be able to explain to Luke exactly why he shouldn't go (thus saving Luke a bunch of trouble and a hand in the process), or he can't see what's going to happen (all that cloudiness) in which case it is nuts that he has zero inclination to tell Luke anything about Leia.

This is why, like many things Star Wars, I don't think how things turned out in ROTJ have any bearing on whatever the plan was when they filmed "there is another" in ESB, and I think the choice of Leia for this was a much later decision. Similarly, I don't think Luke/Leia as siblings was even on the radar at the time of ESB's filming (because seriously, Lucas is a weirdo, but the amping up of the love triangle complete with later-retconned-as-sister kissing is just wtf).

As is so often the case, while there's a lot of ways you can try to explain various continuity issues, it all ends up being a bit dodgy since you're trying to read subtextual intent after the fact that the filmmakers didn't actually have in mind at the time of filming.
posted by tocts at 7:17 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I tend to agree with tocts; there's subtext to things as created and then there's the subtext we, as fans, tend to read into things in order to explain them or give them internal consistency. Sometimes that works, but it often just opens up a rabbit hole of post hoc explanations and justifications. They aren't bad for ROTJ, but they get horribly bad in the prequels (and the prequels introduce more of them).

Luke's intervention at the end of The Empire Strikes Back doesn't change anything for Leia et al.

It doesn't, and maybe this should be in the ESB thread, but I always wondered what the hell Boba Fett's plan was. I mean, sure, he's got an escort to his ship, but once he takes off, he's got a pissed off Wookie and a seething Princess on his hands. And what does he want with them anyways? I guess he could sell Chewie back into slavery, but Leia's value is in her role as one of the leaders of the Rebellion, which you'd think Vader would view as of interest.
posted by nubs at 12:09 PM on December 8, 2015


I mean, sure, he's got an escort to his ship, but once he takes off, he's got a pissed off Wookie and a seething Princess on his hands.

I think you're misunderstanding things. Vader's stated plan for Chewbacca and Leia in ESB is that they stay in Cloud City forever (he says as much to Lando). So, frozen Han was en route to Boba Fett's ship (Slave 1), while Leia and Chewie were being escorted to a prison or something similar. That's why, when Lando lets them go (and Chewie starts choking him to death), Lando has to specifically tell them that there's still time to save Han -- they're not with Han, nor were they destined to the ship Han is going to, so as far as they know it's too late.

Oh, and just to double down on my own earlier comment:

I think your argument is strengthened by the fact that removing the sibling connection changes almost nothing...

In fact, just about the only thing it does change is that it acts as the lead-in to the most cringeworthy scene in probably the whole of the original trilogy.

The end of ESB confirms, without a shadow of a doubt, that Han and Leia love one another. There is literally no reason to doubt this. So, in ROTJ, they're finally reunited, and the day is won, and in that moment Han, the most self-assured character in the series, the one who basically faced down death by finally baring his soul and admitting his requited love to Leia ... thinks Leia actually wants to be romantically involved with Luke instead of him. Why? Why?

There is absolutely no goddamn reason for Han to think this. Leia made her choice, and she was very clear about it. Why is this scene even taking place, for the love of god?

And to make matters worse, Leia, the strong-willed and self-assured veteran of the rebellion, who faced torture and death sentences and god knows what else, responds not by saying: "what are you talking about, I told you I love you, and I meant it!". No, the only explanation she can give is: "he's my brother". As if her own feelings aren't the reason, and there needed to be an external validation for why she doesn't want to bone Luke.

Repeating myself, but goddamn do I hate that.
posted by tocts at 12:50 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you're misunderstanding things. Vader's stated plan for Chewbacca and Leia in ESB is that they stay in Cloud City forever (he says as much to Lando). So, frozen Han was en route to Boba Fett's ship (Slave 1), while Leia and Chewie were being escorted to a prison or something similar.

Yeah, my memory flaked out. Just checked the script:

VADER
Good. See to it that he finds
his way here. Calrissian, take
the princess and the Wookiee to
my ship.

LANDO
You said they'd be left in the
city under my supervision.

VADER
I am altering the deal. Pray I
don't alter it any further.


So, yeah, brain fart. I blame a Force user using his influence over the weak-minded.
posted by nubs at 1:00 PM on December 8, 2015


Though, as we learned in ROTJ, there was apparently a bounty on Chewie. That's how I understood the scene when Leia brings Chewie in and demands $50000 SPACE BUCKS.

There is absolutely no goddamn reason for Han to think this. Leia made her choice, and she was very clear about it. Why is this scene even taking place, for the love of god?

Well, Luke DID save her from the barge, a la another rope swing. But seriously, you're absolutely right. There was never a hint at any time that Han should have worried about Leia's feelings, with the sole exception being that Han is extremely insecure in his love life - given his angry reaction to Leia not wanting to talk about the info bomb from Luke concerning their relationship and Vader. ("You could tell Luke?!")
posted by Atreides at 1:05 PM on December 8, 2015


There was never a hint at any time that Han should have worried about Leia's feelings, with the sole exception being that Han is extremely insecure in his love life

To be fair to Han, when he bows out in Empire, he and Leia are prisoners of the Empire. Han took his shots at Vader, failed, and got frozen. When he wakes up, Leia, Lando and Chewie managed to free themselves, Luke is pretty much a Jedi, has already faced off with Vader and come out of it alive, and is engineering the rescue of everyone. So Luke has gone from crazy kid with some skills to guy who can kick some serious ass, everyone else probably also gained a level or two of badass, and Han has been on ice for all of that.

But, yeah, there is never really anything that should cause Han any worries in terms of the actual substance of what is happening between him and Leia, though there's never really anything that happens that would bolster his confidence either.
posted by nubs at 1:20 PM on December 8, 2015




though there's never really anything that happens that would bolster his confidence either.

Outside of Leia's big lip-plant after he comes out of freezing that is.

I'm doing nothing but proving that I've been through a memory wipe with my comments here today, so I think I'll just stop now.
posted by nubs at 2:52 PM on December 8, 2015


Actually, I always found the Ewoks kind of terrifying.
posted by lharmon at 4:12 PM on December 8, 2015


Outside of Leia's big lip-plant after he comes out of freezing that is.

Eh, he saw her do that with Luke not very long before he went into the Freeze. Maybe that's just how Alderaan girls express how happy they are to see you!
posted by Atreides at 7:29 AM on December 9, 2015


there is another

Makes more sense if he's referring to Anakin. He is the eponymous Jedi that returns for his own redemption.

The revelation of Leia as Luke's sister is really kind of unnecessary

Who mentions Leia? Ben only tells of a twin sister and mentions no names. Luke thinks about the only three women he's ever met: one is his dead aunt, the other is his boss who is too old to be his twin... so he naturally jumps to the conclusion that his sister is Leia.
posted by popcassady at 7:44 AM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who mentions Leia?

Heh. To again give props to Star Wars Minute, they have a lot of running jokes that form almost their own personal canon to the movies, and this is in fact one of them. They have semi-jokingly theorized that Ben just says Luke has a sister, and Luke is like "Leia?" and Ben, knowing that Luke is enough of a screwup that he doesn't want to give him any real important information, is just like "... sure, why not.".
posted by tocts at 8:03 AM on December 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Makes more sense if he's referring to Anakin. He is the eponymous Jedi that returns for his own redemption.

I don't really think that's plausible, though.
Kenobi: "That boy is our last hope."
Yoda: "No...there is another..."
Ben is well aware of Anakin's existence already. And it seems pretty weird to be like, "No, no, we're fine, as long as our number one enemy suddenly switches sides." It seems much more plausible to read it as, "Actually, we have a hidden ally you don't know about."
posted by Chrysostom at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2015


Kenobi: "That boy is our last hope."
Yoda: "No...there is another..."


Yoda's hanging onto the belief that the last grain of goodness left in Anakin may overcome his dark side.

Of course, that's what actually happened. Luke's suffering at the hands of the Emperor was the glass of cold water in Vader's face that snapped him back from the dark side of the force.
posted by popcassady at 8:33 AM on December 9, 2015


Yoda: "No...there is another..."

Ahsoka!
posted by drezdn at 9:45 AM on December 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


What I never understood about Fett's death: did he not get paid for bringing Han back to Jabba? If so, what the hell is he still doing there hanging out with him? Shouldn't he be off hunting other bounties?

It's amazing how many of Lucas's bad decisions result from fetishizing Bobba Fett. And fans aren't blameless in that either. I truly never understood the pre-occupation with the character.
posted by dry white toast at 3:07 PM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fett started as a badass - he's the only bounty hunter to get a line in with Vader, and that one is a somewhat snide sounding "As you wish" to Vader's commands. Then, he's the one who figures out where Han was hiding the whole time, and follows him. Plus he has cool looking armour and you never see his face. All of this combine to make him a very interesting figure in ESB. In Jedi, I always figured he was hanging out because (a) Jabba invites his bounty hunters to hang out and (b) the guy is a major crime lord, and who knows what other opportunities might come your way if you hang around for a bit, build some relationships?

It's amazing how many of Lucas's bad decisions result from fetishizing ___________ ____________

This is really a fill-in-the-blank sort of statement, actually.
posted by nubs at 3:19 PM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


What I never understood about Fett's death: did he not get paid for bringing Han back to Jabba? If so, what the hell is he still doing there hanging out with him?

Apparently flirting with dancers, as seen in the scene George put in the Special Edition. Which is yet another weird George misstep with Boba Fett... he seems to waver between not understanding why the character was popular and actively undermining the character.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's not Lucas's issue with *Boba Fett*, it is his issue with *everything Star Wars*.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:27 PM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


AdamCSnider: “They didn't strike me as neutral before the arrival of the Alliance, just unable to assault the generator all-out.”
They were afraid of the Imperials, as illustrated by Wicket's reaction to sensing the ambush at the fallen log. Still, they didn't have a reason to attack them as long as they were left alone. Then they heard the story of the rebellion, charmingly told by "not much of a storyteller" C-3PO, and decided that they had to fight the evil Empire. That's what I always liked about the Ewoks. They did their bit against the all-powerful and technologically superior Empire even though they only had slings and spears.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:30 PM on December 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


did he not get paid for bringing Han back to Jabba? If so, what the hell is he still doing there hanging out with him? Shouldn't he be off hunting other bounties?

a) Jabba would keep bounty hunters on a retainer - I imagine with the Rebellion big cheeses as prisoner, he wanted some top guys on security in case they tried to escape.
b) Jabba is one of his main clients, so it makes sense he'd hang around a bit after a big payoff to see if Jabba (or someone else in his palace) has any more work for him.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:14 AM on December 10, 2015


I truly never understood the pre-occupation with the character.

Characters who get to reprimand Vader and not get choked:
Tarkin - technically (IIRC) Vader's superior. Gets to order Vader around.
Boba Fett - an external contractor, not in the Imperial Navy, who gets to complain to Vader and survive. He's clearly disobeyed Vader's requests in the past, and is still called back in. He is a badass.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:24 AM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is true that Boba Fett gets a lot of his street cred from apparently being someone whose shit Vader will put up with.

That being said, Vader has an interesting arc as far as authority goes. In Ep IV, he is clearly Tarkin's subservient -- powerful, yes, but nonetheless dutifully following orders. In Ep V, with Tarkin dead he basically goes off the leash, seizing authority and murdering imperial officers left and right if they fail him. By the time we get to Ep VI, it's almost treated like this is always how it's been, even though clearly that's not the case.

In the context of ROTJ, it's interesting in that it could have been much different. Earlier drafts of the script had Moff Jerjerrod (the lead imperial officer heading up construction of the 2nd Death Star) with a much bigger role. It basically depicted Jerjerrod as being in a power struggle with Vader, with the two of them trying to consolidate power as the Emperor's 2nd in command. Remember, up until ROTJ, the Emperor isn't established as a force user (for all we know, he could just be a freaky alien with charisma and power), so there's quite a lot of ways it could have gone.

Prior to shooting, though, most of that ended up being cut. I think that's too bad, because Vader could've used that foil on the imperial side, even if he ultimately still won. They still get in some snide jabs at each other, but not much.

Vader as defiant imperial operative assuming more authority than he should versus the non-force using but politically powerful senior officer would be a nice bit of tension, and would also bring some sanity to the apparently insane command structure of the empire.
posted by tocts at 5:12 AM on December 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I truly never understood the pre-occupation with the character.

To be a bit meta about it, it's partly because Lucasfilm heavily promoted Fett as part of the marketing lead-in to Episode V. They were screening test shots of his outfit in '78, two years before Empire was released; he makes a highly-touted appearance in the Christmas Special; he was singled out in promotional material in '78-'79 as a sort of replacement/successor to Vader, in terms of menace, trying to drum up a sense of mystery about who he really is:
In the summer of 1979, members of the Official Star Wars Fan Club got a glimpse of Boba Fett on the back page of the club's newsletter, Bantha Tracks. Describing Fett as a bounty hunter who "wears part of the uniform of the Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time," the seeds were sown to breed rampant speculation about the origin and identity of the mysterious mercenary.

Continuing the momentum of pre-Empire publicity for the character, Kenner launched the Boba Fett action figure as part of their second series for 1979. The figure had famously lost its much-publicized spring-loaded rocket-firing feature before release, due to fears of a choking hazard found in a similar toy line. A 13-inch version of Fett was released around the same time, and, like the final costume, underwent slight modifications to its paint scheme before going into production.

By the time Empire rolled out of theaters in May, 1980, fans were well-aware that Fett would be making an appearance in the hotly-anticipated sequel. They may have been surprised, however, by the small amount of screen time given to a personality which had been trumped up by Lucasfilm for nearly two years. Though Fett's character suffered cutbacks in script rewrites, the ultimately short amount of time he spent on screen probably helped bolster the mythos which surrounds him. With so little revealed about the "galaxy's best bounty hunter," fans were allowed to fill in the details, making for a much more evocative and intriguing character.
He was, as tocts notes about Jerjerrod, originally going to have more scenes in the film, so some of the promotion was coming out of an expectation of him being a more central character than he, in fact, was. They actually filmed some of the Jerjerrod scenes, as you can see here (or anywhere else that has deleted/cut scenes from RotJ) -- I think the decision to cut him came later than the Fett re-writes?

Separately, from the deleted scenes, they filmed a slightly longer opening scene with Luke building a lightsaber and sending the droids on their way that establishes his presence on Tatooine prior to theirs. Kind of neat, but it undercuts his reveal later on and dispels some of the initial mystery of what, exactly, is going on.
posted by cjelli at 7:34 AM on December 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Whole movie is made worthwhile by the Emperor saying "Ohh, I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive."
posted by ignignokt at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh, also, when the lights come on in Jabba's basement and everyone's there, and they all laugh at Leia. That's so good that I'm willing ignore the logistical impossibility of getting the entire (rather undisciplined) entourage hidden and silent. I laugh along every time I see it and would love to be part of such a hero-thwarting prank someday.
posted by ignignokt at 7:43 AM on December 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sleepover at Jabba's Palace is pretty awesome.
posted by tocts at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I was a Bantha Tracks subscriber! I wish I had kept one or two. I think I remember they were printed in brown ink?

ignignokt: "Whole movie is made worthwhile by the Emperor saying "Ohh, I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive.""

The Emperor's dialogue is top-notch. Legitimate criticism has been made that he doesn't really *tempt* Luke very well, but he just has so much fun with chewing the scenery.
Luke: Your overconfidence is your weakness.

Emperor: Your faith in your friends is yours. 
posted by Chrysostom at 8:56 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Emperor's dialogue is top-notch. Legitimate criticism has been made that he doesn't really *tempt* Luke very well

His goal is to get Luke to the Dark Side. He's doing that by feeding into Luke's fears for his friends and his cause (fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, this is the path to the Dark Side, so sayeth the Yoda). The Emperor is not *tempting* Luke, he's *taunting* Luke into a fight where Luke starts from a position of fear and anger.

Whatever happens in that fight, the Emperor wins. If Luke gives into his fear and anger - which he does, momentarily, when Vader brings up his sister (another taunt designed to draw out Luke's fear) - he has taken a huge step towards the Dark Side. If Vader falls in that fight, then Luke is the new apprentice. If Luke doesn't give in, Vader kills him and the threat of a new Jedi is eliminated.

The Emperor doesn't count on the fact that Vader is the one being tempted back to the Light by Luke's example, so his overconfidence is in fact his weakness.
posted by nubs at 9:18 AM on December 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


If Luke doesn't give in, Vader kills him and the threat of a new Jedi is eliminated.

See, this is what bugs me. Vader was (canonically, I believe) significantly hampered by his horrible wounds and suit, so the Emperor knows he's not in top form. What's more, Luke has (mysteriously, since they don't know about blue glowies) shown a dramatic increase in power and maturity each time they've encountered him. This is a huge hole in Palpy's plan: what if you bring the last remaining Jedi into your throne room, you're unable to simply >taunt him evil, then your cyborg bodyguard turns out not to be up to the task of defending you? Are you certain your Force lightning is enough to defeat him, given that it hasn't been at least twice in the past (Windu and Yoda)? What if he throws you down a well (which you had installed in your own throne room)?

The Emperor's overconfidence is, indeed, his weakness.
posted by The Tensor at 10:48 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you certain your Force lightning is enough to defeat him, given that it hasn't been at least twice in the past (Windu and Yoda)?

The plot of the prequels essentially is driven by the fact that Palpy is playing a gigantic Xanatos gambit. He is encouraging and steering the actions of both sides, driving them into conflict, with the play being that no matter who wins in the end, Palpy takes all the chips. The throne room scene in Jedi reads to me the same way - no matter who wins the fight between Darth and Luke, he is the winner. And if Darth is too weak to beat Luke but Luke won't turn, together the Emperor and Darth can finish him.

So I suspect that his moment with Windu is the same; if Anakin turns, Palpy wins. If Anakin doesn't turn, the Emperor turns his Force Lightning up a few notches and kills them both - or, he submits to arrest, while a different scheme unfolds that paints the Jedi as launching a coup, resulting in his rescue (or exoneration at trial) and more credibility, influence and power.

As for the Force Lightning and Yoda, I refer you to Count Dooku's execrable line about knowledge of the Force and lightsabers.
posted by nubs at 11:05 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


together the Emperor and Darth can finish him

That would be a safer plan, but it's not what Palpatine does: he holds back until Vader has been defeated, then takes on Luke alone. What if Luke is the real deal? What if somebody has taught him that "catch the lightning and squeeze it into a ball" trick? Come to think of it, why didn't Yoda teach Luke that trick, or even mention Force Lightning, before sending Luke to confront the Emperor? He could have been a little more specific than "do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor", you know? Like maybe "wear a Faraday cage" or something?

As for the Emperor's fight with Windu fight, I'm pretty sure Mace had him dead to rights.
posted by The Tensor at 11:34 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always wondered if Palpatine is actually thinking bigger picture, beyond himself. His strategic choices suggest that he actually wants Luke to replace himself, not Vader.

He knows the Rebels could win. And if they succeed in their assault, the Emperor is dead, and with him basically The Dark Side. But if Luke turns, even if Palpatine and Vader die, not only does The Dark Side endure, but the Rebellion could be even more screwed with Luke as their enemy. This is why I give some credence to the theory that Luke actually did turn to The Dark Side.

Also, we're told Luke has the power to destroy the Emperor. So even as his apprentice, Luke would be a huge threat to Palpatine.

If both Skywalkers die, who does that leave for Palpatine to apprentice/use as his vessel for exerting power? Leia? Palpatine's strength has always been his ability to see five moves ahead. He knew his power was waning, no matter the outcome of the Battle of Endor, and he was focused on turning Luke into the new Sith Lord.
posted by dry white toast at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]




“No Matter If You Love or Hate Return of the Jedi, You're Right,” Germain Lussier, io9, 15 December 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 6:08 PM on December 15, 2015


I watched this last weekend but I'll spare you the massive list of notes/comments I wrote down except for the following:

It is really impossible to overstate how awesome Ian McDiarmid is as the Emperor. I mean, c'mon:

Luke: "Your overconfidence is your weakness."
Palps: "Your faith in your friends in yours." [turns and walks away as his his leitmotif surges]

and

Palps: [leaning forward with an expression of mock sorrow] "Oh, I'm afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive."

Other things I love about RotJ:
* Vader's opening scene, especially the line "I hope so, Commander, for your sake; the Emperor is not as forgiving as I am."
* The swashbuckling at the Pit of Carkoon
* Moff Jerjerrod's expression as he tails behind Vader and the Emperor in the hanger. It's essentially"ohgodohgodohgodohgod."
* Basically all of the dialogue and swordplay in the Throne Room scene.
* All of the space VFX are still freaking gorgeous beyond belief.
* That one little Ewok who is like "Bitch, I will fucking *cut* you" when Han pulls his blaster after they're trapped.
* The scene between Luke and Vader at the Endor base.
* The way the stormtrooper gives a doubletake at Luke as they enter the lift, like: "Did Vader just call this guy 'son?'"
* The way the Force Theme surges, cutting off the Emperor's Theme as Anakin returns to the light.
* The unmasking scene. Still tears, every time.
* The final mournful reprise of Vader's theme on the harp as Anakin Skywalker dies.
* The funeral pyre.

Problems I have:
* The lighting in this movie is the worst in OT and the framing is mostly uninspired, especially in comparison to ESB.
* Pacing on Tattooine at the beginning.
* Jabba's palace is much more muppety than the cantina.
* Pacing on Endor.
* Various overly-nerdy nitpicks.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:13 AM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, I was re-watching this last night (despecialized edition) prior to Ep VII, having not done so in full for some time. Doing so, I became convinced of one thing:

In the original (storyboard or script) version of this plot, the opening scenes on Tatooine must have been intended to be shown in a different order.

It has long been pointed out how the "plan" seems so insane. I mean, it basically reads like:

* First, send Lando in disguise
* Next, send 2 droids, one of whom has Luke's lightsaber
* Next, send Leia/Boushh with Chewbacca as a fake prisoner, so she can get into the palace
* Leia is going to get Han out and then ... ??? Leave the droids and lightsaber behind?
* But oh, Leia got captured! Time for Luke to go. Good thing those droids with his lightsaber are there ...

Anyways, the evidence of how this was originally planned is right there in the dialogue as C3P0 and R2D2 are headed to Jabba's palace. C3P0 is impressing upon R2D2 the danger of the place they're going, and to make the point he mentions that both Lando and Chewbacca went to the palace and never returned. But, in the theatrical cut, while Lando may be present already, Chewbacca has not gone to the palace yet.

I would bet good money that the script at some point had this all reversed -- Lando in place, then Leia goes in, Leia gets captured, Luke sends the droids, Luke shows up, etc. By the time they filmed, of course, they switched it around (because otherwise they wouldn't have filmed, for example, the Leia/Boushh intro scene to involve C3P0), but it otherwise makes the whole thing make a lot more sense.
posted by tocts at 3:45 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]






> Specifically I just lost it when I saw Vader's force ghost (had it been edited to Hayden Christensen by then? I don't even remember when that occurred.

Not until after Christensen had been cast, surely. When the Special Editions came out in 1997, he was fifteen. He wouldn't be announced as playing Anakin for another three years. (And as I have said before, for all I know he may have been in the theatre with me when I saw the special editions and/or Episode I -- we were both Torontonians at the time.)

> Han and Chewie should have been flying the Falcon (I'm guessing by the time Han was in, they'd already planned for Lando on the Falcon and for whatever reason couldn't change that).

I rewatched it again a couple of years ago and realized with a start that we do not see Han and Chewie on the Falcon in this movie. In the just-released The Force Awakens, when Han delivers the trailer-friendly line, "Chewie -- we're home," the last time that audiences saw these two characters in this setting is more than thirty-five years ago (landing at Bespin, fwiw).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:41 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Christensen was added for the blu-ray released.
posted by Atreides at 9:06 AM on January 1, 2016


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