Bikinis and Ewoks: Happy belated anniversary, Return of the Jedi

Apparently yesterday was the anniversary of Return of the Jedi’s UK release, and as I recently celebrated Star Wars Day, I figured I’d do something similar here.

Jedi gets a lot of stick in fandom; it’s considered to be the weakest of the original trilogy, and I remember film reviewer Mark Kermode calling it “A bunch of Muppets” on Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 1 show back in the day. And to be fair, it does involve a lot of muppets, although they’re infinitely preferable to the characterless CGI of the prequels.

I don’t get the dislike. Yes, it’s the weakest of the originals, partly because it retreads ground already covered by Star Wars (I refuse to call it A New Hope), but there’s still a lot to like (and I’m not necessarily talking about Leia’s bikini. When I was young, Jedi was my favourite. The stuff in Jabba’s palace is fun (including intergalactic badass Boba Fett getting taken out by a disorientated blind guy by accident!), the Speeder Bike chase is cool. And while you can’t help but wish they’d stuck with the original plan and given us the bad guys vs a planet full of Wookies, the Ewoks aren’t that bad; if you have issues with a tribal culture beating an opponent with superior technology and greater resources, well, welcome to Afghanistan.

(I’m never sure if the Endor Holocaust theories are semi-serious attempts to communicate scientific theories or fandom’s revenge fantasy…)

But where Jedi wins out is in its treatment of Vader. Some may dispute its effectiveness, but the whole Star Wars saga is the story of Darth Vader’s fall and redemption, with Jedi scoring because it links the climax of that story with the powerful theme of father/son relationships. Luke has to choose whether or not he follows in his father’s footsteps; Vader has to choose whether he supports that decision and lets Luke florish, or fights it, destroying his only son in the process. He makes the right call, and suddenly Star Wars becomes a story of redemption, not slaying the monster. At its heart, Star Wars is a fairy tale in space, but there aren’t many fairy tales committed to saving the soul of their particular dark lord.

I didn’t think twice about all this when I was a kid; I just liked the comedy robots, got upset when an Ewok mourns his slain comrade, thrilled at the revelation that “It’s a trap!” The deeper stuff passes you by when you’re seven.

And I guess if we could look at things with seven-year-old eyes, there’d be a little less Nerd Rage across the internet.

Fly casual!

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2 thoughts on “Bikinis and Ewoks: Happy belated anniversary, Return of the Jedi

  1. TWWK

    Return of the Jedi is a very good movie. I’ve never gotten the hate either. I do suspect that many view the Star Wars films looking for entirely adult fare, forgetting that the movies are magical for kids as well. Many criticisms launched toward Lucas and the films (including prequels) over the years have to do with kiddie elements – well, let’s face it, much of the movies are family fare. Return of the Jedi is the most family-friendly of the six films, and one I enjoyed most (like you) as a kid. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    *loves Ewoks*

    Reply
  2. matthewhyde Post author

    Yeah, you’re right about the kiddie elements of Star Wars being the source of much fan rage – I think the prequels got a lot of stick because people didn’t like the fact that they weren’t serious, deep, realistic, hard sci-fi like the iriginals were, back when the fans were twelve… That said, the kiddie elements of Jedi were far more successful than those in the prequels, so while nowadays Empire is probably my favourite, Jedi is the most *fun* – and in a lot of ways, that’s all that counts…

    Reply

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