First of all thank you all so much supporting this series of articles. We had a great time putting them together. We’re really getting down to the wire here because today our article is on Star Wars Episode VI Return of The Jedi. I originally asked Marc Rodolfo, the author of today’s article, to just right the article for Episode VI. But I thought it was so damn good, that I asked him to write the Empire Strikes Back article, which we published last week. So this is absolutely one of my favorite articles in this series ( I feel like I say that for every piece because all of them are so damn good, I love them all!). Please enjoy!
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of The Jedi written by Marc Rodolfo
Cartoons and Carbonite: A Reflection on Return of the Jedi
I hated Return of the Jedi the first time I saw it. Strange, I know. Especially since I am now such a huge Star Wars fan. But there was a reason for my initial ignorance; Return of the Jedi was the first Star Wars movie I had ever seen. And because it was the first Star Wars movie I had ever seen, I had absolutely no fucking clue what the hell was going on.
At the behest of my mother, I was told over and over “you should watch this movie,” and my mother, bless her heart and all that, didn’t quite remember that Star Wars was a trilogy and that Jedi was the end of that trilogy. See this was the early 90’s before the word “Prequel” became so dirty, and at a time when the words “Special Edition” were still just a mere twinkling in daddy Lucas’ eyes. Star Wars had hit a lull in popularity and at the time, it wasn’t quite on my burgeoning nerd radar. Star Wars, to early 90’s me anyway, was nerd stuff. I had better things to do like watch Batman the Animated Series, or the saturday morning Spider-Man cartoon, or set-up and play out elaborate and dramatic scenes with my action figures from the aforementioned shows. Yeah, Star Wars was nerd stuff and I was, decidedly, not a nerd. Denial is a funny thing.
Anyway, I ultimately gave in to my mother’s suggestions and we went to the video store to rent a VHS copy of pre-special edition Return of the Jedi. If I had been less moody that day, maybe I would have noticed that what sat right next to Jedi on the rack were VHS copies of The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope; and yes, it was called A New Hope back then. Lucas began his artistic OCD in 81’ with Star Wars’ first re-release. But I was a little jerk back then and DID NOT want to watch some old movie with crappy special effects. Hell, I had just seen Jurassic Park. The dinosaurs looked like they were pulled right out of the past and plopped on a Hollywood soundstage. The rancor…looked like something out of a nightmare version of a christmas special. It was some cheesy claymation crap that made me cringe instead of fear for Luke’s life.
And that…is exactly where I stopped watching. Right at the rancor. I shut it off and counted the days until Jurassic Park would release on VHS. Jedi just couldn’t hold my interest. Besides having no idea what was going on, not knowing who these weird looking robots were, or why Indiana Jones was frozen like he was about to get hit by a car, or what that gross looking slug was all about, or why this guy dressed all in black was talking like some bad ass when he looked like anything but a badass, this stop animation monster was in no way as realistic as the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. I had my fingers stuck in my ears and my feet firmly planted in the ground.
It wasn’t until years later that the trailers for Episode IV dropped in all their special edition glory. “Wait a minute,” I said to myself, “how do I know these characters?” I even remember getting in a short lived tiff with my mother. Now I knew. Now I knew that you weren’t supposed to start with Jedi. How could she have done this to me? Start me off with the END of a story? It was like reading Return of the King without Fellowship, or A Storm of Swords without A Game of Thrones. A New Hope was first. Duh! THAT is why I couldn’t get into Jedi. That is why I spurned it and didn’t give it a chance. And that really was the reason I never liked the movie. Eventually, I saw A New Hope and I fell in love; the rest of the trilogy came after and I fell further into the fandom.
At the time, there not being an internet community to bitch about everything, people actually seemed excited. Star Wars was getting re-released (re-re-released?) and in the way George Lucas originally intended. The special effects were getting cleaned up, the creatures actually looked as realistic as the dinos, and all the little nuances were being perfected. It was time to embrace Star Wars. Of course, this was all in preparation for The Phantom Menace which had hyped me even further, but the excitement was real. I became a Star Wars fan and Jedi, a movie I once “hated,” became my favorite.
Why did I love it so dearly? Jedi was the redemption story for one of, if not, the greatest villains of all time (rivalled only by the Joker). The feeling of finally seeing what was under the mask of Darth Vader was indescribable; I was both alleviated that he was just another guy and saddened that he wasn’t something more.
Yet, I loved every bit of Return of the Jedi. I loved the Max Rebo band’s new song, as corny as it was. I loved the sarlacc’s beak coming out of the pit. I even loved the “Victory Celebration” song that replaced “Yub Nub.” In fact, “Yub Nub” can go screw. I even loved the damn ewoks, as crappy as they seem now. It was also when I fell in love with Leia. Yeah, sure there was the golden bikini and all, but seeing her in the army digs later in the movie during the Battle of Endor, is what really made me fall for her. This cemented my appreciation for a strong woman that wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty and kick some ass when she needed to; Linda Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver were on that list too.
Many complain about the changes of the special edition episodes today, but I was never disillusioned by them. Jedi was a perfect movie in every way. Though I will admit, that as I have grown older, Empire has replaced it as my favorite. As Dante from Clerks said, “[Empire] ends on such a down note. That’s all life is: a series of down endings.” It’s interesting that Jedi was my favorite as a kid and now, as an adult, Empire, the darker of the two, has become my favorite. If that’s not a metaphor for…something I don’t know what is. But Jedi will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a movie that taught me to give things a second chance, to not judge right away, to embrace my nerdom, to love princesses that kick as much ass as the princes, and to have an appreciation and love for old cinema.
May The Force Be With You…