Part IV: The Return of the Jedi
I snagged the ultimate in VHS entertainment: the original Star Wars
trilogy box set. Unfortunately, the first movie was missing. I
reasoned that it’s not like everyone alive doesn’t know how that movie
goes, so if we ever wanted to do a marathon viewing, there could just
be a dramatic recounting of that one.
I saw Star Wars as a kid – all three movies in a row – and because I
was a kid that early impression of the trio still stands in my memory
as a monolithic classic of film, important and perfect. This even
though every time I go back and watch the movies I notice more
instances of slapstick, lame attempts at humor, and overreliance on
muppetry. Especially in Return of the Jedi.
It’s as if a children’s movie and a grown up movie are running
simultaneously. As a kid viewer, I loved these movies because I
somehow blocked out the kids’ part and became immersed in the part
with grown up heroes doing important stuff. And when I go back and
rewatch, the juvenile tonedeaf elements clash painfully with my
idealized memory version.
For instance, the ewoks. The ewoks are so lame! This movie has so
much that’s beautiful and true… I mean, in a sci-fi way. Try
watching that last scene on the new Death Star and not feeling a
little emotionally affected, I dare you. His father remembers his
humanity and saves his only son from his mentor and emperor! And
DIES! And meanwhile a bucktoothed muppet is piloting a crude hang
glider made out of sticks and vines and bonking a storm trooper on the
head with, like, a coconut. And you can tell it’s a little dude in a
fake fur onesie.
The first movie’s celebration climax is a ceremony, and the rogue
heroes’ sly grins at each other are the only crack in the joyful
gravity of the scene. And then the entire trilogy ends with a teddy
bear party. The Jedi ghosts appear, accompanied by the haunting
strains of the “Jub jub!” song. Come on.
Basically, in this movie you can see the bits of pointless humor and
juvenile character building that would grow into the likes of Jar Jar
Binks and that guy who’s basically a Jediproof bug. Why did I ever
watch the new Star Wars? Here’s a tip, kids: only watch the parts of
this franchise that appear on VHS tape.