This is the end… My dear old friend, the end.
One of the best things about Return of the Jedi is that it addresses one of the biggest cliffhangers From The Empire Strikes Back right at the beginning of the movie and saves the other huge cliffhanger for the latter half. The entire sequence of events on Tatooine at the beginning of the movie as Luke, Leia, Chewie, and Lando break Han Solo out of Jabba’s Palace is amazing. It’s a heist movie in twenty minutes – similar to the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) two years before. Surely Lucas took a few pointers from his friend Steven Spielberg.
Return of the Jedi does a good job of keeping the fight entertaining, spreading out the main protagonists to sought out for their own means. Han Solo has come a long way since his days of smuggling when he leads a strike team down to the Moon of Endor to deactivate the second Death Star’s shield generator while Lando leads the fight in space to assault the space station. It was awesome to finally see a large scale space battle with the Rebellion squaring off against the Empire with an equal amount of fire power (if you don’t take the Death Star into consideration). Yes, the assault on the first Death Star was an awesome means of catharsis for Luke in A New Hope; but the stakes are a lot greater in this one and the scale is grand by every means of the word. Then at the center of all of this is the main conflict between Luke and Vader as Emperor Palpatine attempts to seduce Luke into following his father’s footsteps and turn to the Dark Side.
A lot of people speculate that when Luke grabs his lightsaber to strike down the Emperor, that he has indeed turned to the Dark Side and that is an act he commits that may seem like it isn’t redeemable. I actually argue the contrary, having watched this more critically. Luke’s main intentions in the Emperor’s throne room is not to destroy the Emperor – it is to reason with his father and turn him back to the Light Side of The Force. When he attempts to strike down the Emperor, I think it’s more to provoke Vader to defend his master so that Luke can try to reconcile with him. You can see it when Luke consistently turns off his lightsaber to communicate with his father – something that makes the stakes of this fight that much more essential to both Luke and Vader’s arcs (and having watched the prequels before this last film, it certainly weighs in on this). When Luke does lose it a little and severs Vader’s hand in a fit of rage when he threatens to turn his recently-found-out-to-actually-be-his-sister-despite-the-fact-that-they-kissed-in-the-last-movie, Leia, to the Dark Side. But when the Emperor tells him to kill his father and take his rightful place at his (Emperor’s) side, Luke throws away his lightsaber, explaining that he is a Jedi, like his father before him. Vader ends up saving Luke and gains back his humanity before dying – which for lack of a better term, is a heartwarming conclusion for both Luke and Vader.
What the entire Star Wars saga does is it introduces you to a galaxy that seems “used”. What I mean is the tech and culture are pre-determined in the diegesis of the movie and you can tell that when you watch these films that we are merely onlookers at a key point in a world that we can deduce has been occurring for generations. We encompass ourselves with lovable characters who develop stakes for their motivations as they grow over the course of these six films. It’s a little farfetched that the Empire would just wither away after the death of its leader and battle station; but perhaps this next film will answer those questions.
I’m happy this is something that I could do before The Force Awakens, despite my hectic finals schedule and studying (or lack thereof). Tonight I am taking my father, who has taken me to every new Star Wars movie, to Jordan’s Furniture’s IMAX theater. I have avoided spoilers and just about every piece of footage that has come out for this movie (minus the three main trailers of course). One thing I know for sure: It’s gonna be fun; it’s gonna be loud; and (hopefully) it’s gonna be heartfelt.
Next: The Force Awakens
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