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Observations on "Return of the Jedi"
I am still working my way through the first half-dozen Star Wars movies. Here are my observations on the third part of the original trilogy. When I eventually get to the prequels, I will have some criticisms but (spoiler!) I am not going to rip them to shreds. I actually like the prequels - even The Phantom Menace. They are flawed, but still enjoyable.
I was surprised by how strongly the Stormtroopers were put over when I re-watched the first two movies, but this is where they turned into laughingstocks. They were physically overpowered and beat down by a bunch of three foot tall teddy bears. The Ewoks were a marketing success but they completely buried the Stormtroopers as a legitimate threat to the heroes. Burying the Stormtroopers also buried Rebel Alliance soldiers who were completely helpless against the army that could not defeat a bunch of three foot teddy bears with crude stone weapons.
The battle on Endor would have been so much better had the natives been Wookies like originally planned. The Wookies carrying crude stone weapons while Chewbacca is proficient with modern technology could have been explained. Perhaps Chewbacca was taken prisoner by Imperial forces when they occupied Endor and either escaped or was rescued by Han Solo. Imagine the Stormtroopers getting overwhelmed by hundreds of Wookies.
And where did the Rebel soldiers go during the big fight? We had Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids, but all of the Rebel soldiers went AWOL once the fight started. Way to fight for survival guys. Princess Leia ought to be Force-choking everyone after it was all over. She is storng in the Force, after all.
There was no legitimate reason in storyline bring C-3PO to the forest moon. C-3PO is completely useless in battle and there is no reason for the Rebels to think his interpreter skills would be useful in a military raid. Jar Jar Binks would have been more helpful. Yes, he got the heroes out of the situation with the Ewoks, but it was clear they could have fought their way out of it if they wanted to. Luke alone could have cut them all down with his Lightsaber. There is no reason the heroes should have allowed themselves to be captured. Wheat if the "savage" Ewoks had just skewered the heroes after they allowed themselves to be captured? The movie is over and the Empire wins. Idiots.
In Empire, Darth Vader and Luke were evenly matched in their Lightsaber fight when Luke was using two hands and Vader was using one hand. The minute Vader puts both hands on his Lightsaber playtime is over and so is the fight. In Return of the Jedi, Vader is using both hands from the beginning and still gets beaten down. The only reason the fight lasted as long as it did is because Luke did not want to fight. This is a great way to show how much more powerful Luke was as opposed to where he was in Empire.
The evolution of Vader's character is well done too, especially the subtle change in his language. In Empire he was referring to Luke as "the son of Skywalker" but in Jedi he calls Luke "my son" several times. He even indicates he regrets becoming a Sith Lord but is trapped when he says "it is too late for me, my son." That is an indication not of someone who is dedicated to the Sith cause but someone who is going through the motions.
Ian McDiarmid is by far the best part of the movie as the Emperor. You could tell he was having a ball playing a character who is so delightfully evil. The only problem is that he is so charismatic and just plain fun to watch that it is impossible to hate the character. It weakens the movie when you are almost rooting for the villain.
As a movie, Return of the Jedi is the weakest of the original trilogy. However, that is quite a high hurdle and almost an unfair comparison. This is still a great movie and fun to watch.