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Monday, November 30, 2020

Star Wars VI Through Non-Fan Eyes

In my quest to watch or rewatch the Star Wars movies and give them more attention and a second chance, I had already decided the so-called machete order was off the table, since it’s not just a reordering but an editing, removing one movie because true fans didn’t like it. But since I’ve never been an actual fan, it would be a pre-judgment on my part to accept what fans say about the quality of that movie, and thus goes completely against the spirit of what I’m doing here.

But I almost (almost!) went with watching the prequel trilogy before moving on to Return of the Jedi, on the same theory I had for watching Solo before continuing with The Empire Strikes Back: it might fill in more backstory for a couple characters. I decided against it, planning to keep the order simple: Jedi first, then the prequel trilogy.

Full explanation of my ranking system is here. Summary: C is average, A/B is recommended, D is badly made, F is something to avoid.

Return of the Jedi

Rating: B-

The third movie in the original trilogy starts out at a reasonable pace, with the exception of a musical number that not only interrupts the flow but also feels jarring compared to the tone of Empire or even A New Hope. But again, things sag at about a third of the way into the film. That gets me wondering about some things, but I’ll put that out of mind for now and deal with it later.

Since I’ve commented more than once about not liking many of the alien designs in the movies, especially when they are very cutesy or muppet-y, you’d imagine that I’d have strong opinions about the Ewoks. But just like the previous alien designs, I ignored my dislike for the way the Ewoks look and tried to think about whether they serve a purpose. They seem to represent a contrast to Luke, their message being: You don’t have to be a Jedi or a phenomenal bad-ass to stand against tyranny, because look at these little guys with primitive technology, they fight, too, and even make a difference. I’m not entirely convinced this was presented effectively. But again, I’ll reserve judgment until later.

As for the climax of the story: Not only does the whole “blow up the Death Star again, just like the first movie” seem like lazy writing, but the whole thing Just. Goes. On. Forever. Lots of nameless people dying in space and then finally stuff blows up. And small things, like Han and Lando having a pointed exchange about not getting the Millennium Falcon damaged, never actually matter later. There must be some principle equivalent to “Chekov’s Gun” for trivial dialogue that seems to set up a later scene, and whatever that’s called, this movie violates it.

So on the whole, I think this is still a B-tier movie, but it has more flaws than Empire and is clearly not as good.

Next Up: Time to go back again…

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  1. The musical number varies between editions. If what you saw looked like a music video, with the one alien playing directly to the (virtual) camera, that's not what we saw in the theaters in 1983. It was much shorter and more subdued, limited by how the puppets were able to be manipulated. And let me emphasize the "shorter" part, which made it much less insufferable and dull.

    1. I can imagine that a shorter version might seem less of a drag on the plot, but I think I would still find it jarring in tone.

    2. Happily, you can give it a watch. It's a little over a minute in length. One way that it doesn't drag, too, is that it spends a lot of the camera time introducing the viewer to the layout of Jabba's palace and the characters that will be important in later scenes involving Jabba. Personally, I think that it's almost (but not quite) as well integrated into the background as the cantina band in the first movie.