Friday, December 27, 2013

Return of the Jedi

  As the original Star Wars trilogy comes to a close, it does so rather valiantly. It may be the weakest of the original trilogy, but considering how monumental the first two were- it doesn't mean this movie is bad at all.  It's a solid sci-fi film, and one that avoids the 'third movie curse', in much the same way that Revenge of the Sith did in it's own trilogy. Return of the Jedi is a much simpler movie than either of it's predecessors. It's a war movie essentially. The battle, the climactic showdown. The total resolution of all the loose ends from the prior films.  So narratively it's not as strong as the others, but all the adventure, characters, humor and wit you loved from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, are all here. It's a return to the rich and wonderfully imaginative world that Lucas created from scratch. Nothing wrong with that at all.

  Of course everyone wants to know how Han gets freed from Jabba's grasp, and how Luke will cope learning that Darth Vader is his father? Will he still fight him? It all gets resolved in this one. There's a series of technically virtuoso scenes revolving around Jabba the Hutt's lair on Tatooine. These scenes show Luke's current status in his journey to being a Jedi, how Han gets rescued, and all that stuff. Jabba's palace is quite reminiscent of the atmospheric, and historic Mos Eisley Cantina from the first movie. Quite an interesting setting, chock full of interesting characters, not least of which is the sinister-cool Boba Fett, and the hulking blob: Jabba the Hutt. Speaking of Jabba, this is the first movie (depending on which version you watch) in which we see him. His reveal is pretty epic, and he manages to make quite the impression and wound up being a very iconic character with severely limited screentime. (which he shares with Slave Leia...)

  Luke definitely has matured by this movie. He has palpable on-screen gravitas, and a real intense presence in the film. His journey to becoming a full fledged Jedi Knight is nearly complete, as he returns to Dagobah to keep his promise and complete his training- Yoda informs him that only when he defeats Darth Vader will he truly be a Jedi. This poses an issue for Luke who doesn't want to have to kill his father. Of course, the climax resolves all this in a satisfactory way to me.  Leia and Han's feelings for each other definitely come to the surface in this movie, which is nice to see- sans stuff revolving carbonite. They make a great on screen couple. Han has definitely become a much more noble character, although if you called him that he's still liable to shoot you. He's very comfortable being a 'scoundrel'.   Princess Leia is still kicking ass in this movie, always taking charge and reminding us why she's such an iconic heroine. In fact, all the characters are back, doing what they're best at. Though we all know R2-D2 is the unsung hero of the entire franchise.

 Granted this movie is still weaker than the first two, yet it's still really not bad. It's weaker because it has less in it thematically. This doesn't mean it'd devoid of epic action scenes and set pieces. Quite a few iconic ones nonetheless, including a speeder chase on a forest moon and an emotionally charged lightsaber showdown between Luke and Vader. The swordplay is much improved in this movie, and is often downright creative. The climatic saber duel is faster, and far more intense the showdown in Empire. Still nowhere near as iconic, but it's technically proficiency is off  the charts. It's definitely fun to watch, and after all, it should be. This is the final chapter in one of the most groundbreaking trilogies of all time. It doesn't disappoint in my opinion. I know some people don't like this one as much, yet I feel it returns to it's simplistic storybook type plotting from the first movie. It seriously just boils down to good vs evil and having to blow up something to save the day. Yet we get both the space battle, and the lightsaber duel during the climax.

  It's an adventure movie to the core, it may be a pretty simple one but I can't say that's a huge detractor. It's a solid film overall, just one that's a little flawed. It's flaws are easy for me to overlook because of how damn fun it is in general. Few movies reach this level of swashbuckling action and adventure anymore. In fact, in the past decade, only John Carter comes to mind as a movie that evokes that ideal 'saturday matinee adventure' feel. There needs to be a concise term for that sort of movie, which includes the likes of Captain America: The First Avenger, The Rocketeer, and in a similar vein, the Indiana Jones movies.  Return of the Jedi in it's best moments embodies the best of adventure movies like that. Although Jedi also has a darker streak throughout. Luke is seen wearing all black, and force choking an enemy... something which only Darth Vader had been seen doing previously.

  It was seriously hinted at that Luke MAY turn to the dark side in this movie, it was increasingly plausible seeing as how the franchise has been alluding to the existence of 'another hope'. Namely Princess Leia, revealed as Luke's sister in this movie. She could've been the one to stop Luke and save the day. Which, while it would've worked, it would've felt like a betrayal. Thankfully the movie sticks with Luke and lets him save the day. I never caught on to a lot of those allusions as a kid, but as I became older they were pretty obvious. What most recently strikes me as interesting is the conversation which Luke has with Vader when he turns himself in towards the end. As a kid I always took it at face value that Vader was trying to convince Luke to turn evil. However with closer examination, it almost looks like Vader is a sympathetic being, warning his son that the path of evil is one of no return... regardless of what's in your heart.

  It's interesting to think that Vader might not be truly evil, and just a good man tortured by his past, locked in on the path of evil that he strayed to.  Of course that is what the prequel trilogy tried to accomplish and only got it half in the bag. It will never be more compelling than it is in the scenes between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi. That says alot too, considering how Jedi is a weaker film than the other two in the original trilogy. It speaks volumes about the quality of these movies overall and how good they really are, that even the weakest in it's trilogy, is still a damn good movie in it's own right. The sort of movie they don't make that often anymore. Return of the Jedi may not be one of my favorites, but it's hard for me to separate these movies as they truly feel like parts of one cohesive story in a way that the prequel trilogy still doesn't.

  It was truly a fun experience marathoning all the movies in chronological order over this holiday season, I recommend this entire franchise to pretty much everyone. I have years of fond memories surrounding these movies, and that's a gift I fully intend to pass on in any way possible. May the force be with you all.

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