“You Were Right About Me”: Re-Watching Return Of The Jedi

All good things must come to an end…until Disney buys it out and extends it out anyway. It’s fast becoming tradition at my house to watch these with large groups, but that’s Star Wars for you.

The main topic I wanted to focus on this time around was the film’s conclusion. To an extent, Jedi is struggling in its final act, with the childish hijinks of the Ewoks difficult to reconcile with, firstly, the brutal war they find themselves in and, secondly, the really dark fate of the Force stuff occurring with Luke, Vader and the Emperor. Jedi is certainly a film that is trying to have its cake and eat it too, and it doesn’t work as well as the people behind it might have hoped.

But let’s just look at the critical moment, when Palpatine is subjecting Luke to a slow painful death by Force lightning, and Vader is left with the choice: to continue to serve the man he calls Master, or to save his son’s life. You can find a lot of perspectives on this scene – some are elaborated below – but every time I have seen this scene since 2005, it’s Revenge Of The Sith that’s on my mind.

Because, very deliberately I would imagine, that other concluding part of a trilogy also included a scene where Anakin Skywalker surveyed Palpatine subjecting a Jedi to Force lighting, and had to choose between helping his friend or saving the Jedi.

And I think that if the prequels have done nothing else, they have made the climax of Jedi a little bit better, at least in my opinion. There is something of a great scope in imagining that, as Vader looks at his screaming son and the cackling Emperor, he is thinking back to that fateful moment in the Chancellor’s Office, when he made the wrong choice. The road not travelled must yawn out before him: a life with Padme, his children, where the Sith and not the Jedi fell, all lost because he put the entirety of his self in the hands of Sidious.

Young Anakin Skywalker made all the wrong choices, and seemed beyond redemption. The death of Windu must have burned in his mind, the irreconcilable flashpoint on the road to being a Lord of the Sith. And now, in this room, he looks on the same scene. 20+ years of Sith tyranny have passed, and Vader has been at the heart of it, without the woman or children he started down the path for. His son denies Satan in a way he was unable to. Vader thinks back to that terrible night when the Jedi and the Republic fell, because of him, and knows he must make a different choice this time, even if it costs him his life. The words of Obi-Wan might ring in his ears too: “You were the Chosen One. You were supposed to destroy the Sith, not join them. You were supposed to bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness.”

I think that this moment in Sith thus adds something very important to Jedi, in a way so many other moments in the prequels don’t. But what did others think?

He still takes too bloody long to make up his mind. It’s like he’s watching a tennis match.

 I personally think his decision stems mainly from watching Luke reject the dark side. A similar decision probably also shook him at the end of TESB – Luke plunging to his possible death in Cloud City rather than join Vader. He realises that his son, who has very little training, is much more stronger than him at standing up to Palpatine. Possibly Luke’s stance reminded him of Padme too.

That last one is something to ponder. You’re so focused on Vader in that moment that you forget Luke and what he has just accomplished in rejecting Palpatine, and what that might mean for Vader.

Other thoughts:

-Oof that band scene in Jabba’s Palace. What was George Lucas thinking?

-On that topic, weirdly grateful that Lucas refrained from making Jabba CGI in this one. He works so much better as this grotesque puppet.

-Something that I couldn’t stop thinking about after a while: the first act is a non-stop “Who’s arriving at Jabba’s door now?” The droids, Leia and Chewbacca, then Luke, with Lando already there. You’d half-expect Vader and the Emperor to drop in after a while.

-And you’re a General! And you’re a General! And everyone’s a General! Not you Chewbacca.

-Alien species overload in this one, primarily in the first act, but also at other moments. A nice step-up from the more recognisable types that filled Empire.

-Fett’s end: so not awesome for that character. It’s a miracle he remained a fan favourite after that. I assume the upcoming movie will open with him exploding out of the Sarlaac.

– Kinda wish we had seen a bit more of Mon Mothma in the saga. It’s like they just came up with her to be a counter-point to the Emperor, and there seems no reason why Leia couldn’t play her role.

-Everyone loves Ackbar, and rightfully so. Still moments when his design sucks me out of the film, like when his flipper hands are moved in any way. Very fake looking.

-Never forget that the Ewoks were happy to cook the heroes alive and eat them to appease a God they just encountered.

-You gotta love Dark Luke early on, with his black clothes, Force choking and mind control. And he goes kill-crazy with that saber in the escape from Jabba’s barge. While you never really fear Luke will fall to the Dark side, the groundwork is done on presenting a man who isn’t purer than pure, and might just be his fathers son.

-There are no lines given to the Emperor in this that aren’t amazing. That delivery is fantastic. Even when things are turning against him he sounds utterly captivating, spitting out the name of his hated rivals like it tastes bad: “So be it. Jedi”.

-The film is evidence that they were running out of ideas. Hard to believe they couldn’t think up anything better than “another Death Star”, complete with a run at its reactor core. Why not just have the Alliance attack an Imperial Fleet massing near Endor or something?

-Those Ewoks go to town on the Stormtroopers. They literally bludgeon some of them to death with rocks.

-When I was a kid watching this for the first time, I thought they had killed off R2D2 when he gets shot and fried trying to open the doors. I was gobsmacked for a moment, and was childishly delighted to see he was OK later. Really he should have toast when Vader shot him in Hope.

– Oh, how I adore that reactor run. Plenty of recreations of that scene in my childhood.

–Some amazing lines near the climax but also loved Vader’s gloating/goading tone for “If you will not be turned, then perhaps she will…” and, of course, Luke’s final renunciation of the Dark Side, and Palpatine’s final defeat. “You’ve failed your highness. I am Jedi, like my father before me.”

-I think it makes perfect sense for Force Ghost Anakin to be Hayden Christiansen. After all, if you’re coming back as a Force Ghost, surely you want to look like you did when you were young, and not what your older burned self might have looked like if you were never burned…the problem is that Christiansen acts it weird, not looking in the right direction and with a smile that’s too goofy. I really wonder if the footage used for that moment might not have been some screen-test for the actor, that they recycled.

-Upbeat ending are under-rated, especially for things like this. Forget the EU and the nitpicks over Imperial fleets: just lets our heroes win the day and save the galaxy. Until, of course, the Force awakens.

So that’s it. Now let’s see what JJ Abrams’ got to show us.

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One Response to “You Were Right About Me”: Re-Watching Return Of The Jedi

  1. Pingback: Review – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens | Never Felt Better

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