Man, I don’t want them to make a chump out of me and do STAR WARS: A NEW BEGINNING or GEORGE LUCAS’S NEW STAR WARS, but let me just say that this part 6 really seems like the end to the whole saga. SPOILERS: Anakin is unmasked and apologetic, he finally gets the sense to throw fuckin Ted Palpatine into a bottomless pit, he dies, Yoda dies, Luke becomes a Jedi, the Empire is defeated, the people celebrate on multiple planets, they knock over a statue, they even blow up the Death Star again just to be sure. Or to pump up the crowd.
I feel like they’ve wrapped up pretty much all of the loose threads, other than the thing in part 5 where Yoda says “No. There is another hope.” I thought he meant Leia, but then it never became relevant. So either there could be some other potential Jedi out there for a part 7 or it would just be about Leia carrying Luke around in a backpack and doing flips. Either way it would be a terrible idea. Don’t do it, Mr. Lucas!
Like in part 5, Lucas is just producer and co-writer (with Lawrence Kasdan). The directorial authorship belongs to Mr. Richard Marquand, who of course you know from, uh, JAGGED EDGE and some TV episodes and stuff. And he goes for broke on this one. Not as much computery stuff as the early chapters, but more puppets. The story begins with Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, D2 and C3 meeting at “the rendezvous point” discussed at the end of part 5, some of them in disguise. It’s a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE special or an OCEAN’S 11 type caper to rescue Frozen Hans Olo from Jabba (Larry Ward), the Tatooinian “vile gangster” previously seen in parts 1 and 4.
They kinda changed Jabba’s characterization this time, or maybe this is just what he’s like when he’s high. He just lays lazily on a platform surrounded by pets and sex slaves (including Leia – tough break, girl), eating star lobster, smoking star opium, making threats, laughing, watching his monster eat people, looking like he’s about to fall asleep the whole time.
They went all out on the FX this time, making a giant puppet. Jabba has got to be the best creature in all the Star Warses, and one of the best in any movie. Only Yoda and the Alien Queen give him much competition.
Before resorting to violence Luke tries the ol’ “talk to him nice in a hologram and give him the droids as a gift” routine. Doesn’t work. In retrospect he probly shoulda brought him a couple boxes of donuts. That might’ve worked better. But then again nothing was gonna make him give up his prize possession peacefully. He has kind of a Scarface complex, and Hans hanging on the wall of his mansion is like his “The World is Yours” fountain.
You know, I don’t want to spoil anything but Jabba gets strangled and his whole hangout ship gets blown up. I’m sure the deaths of Jabba and pretty much his entire organization sent shockwaves through Tatooine’s criminal and podracing communities, but what really freaks me out is his house band. I’m sure plenty of jazz musicians back in the day performed for gangsters, just as today’s pop stars get flown around the world to do private gigs for dictators and war criminals. It’s pretty shitty and unethical but you don’t know what another man or blue elephant guy has been through until you’ve walked in his shoes. There are worse crimes to go down for. I feel sorry for these guys. That keyboard player is so cuddly I can’t imagine he’s any more dangerous than Paul Shaffer or somebody. I hope these talented individuals took on a Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain type of rock n roll martyr status after they died. If they ever make another one I hope to see a Tupac style graffiti memorial.
Luke does a flip when he’s fighting Jabba’s guards. Yoda taught him that shit! He would be so proud. Speaking of which, after a night and day at Jabba’s – enough tim for the scuffle and for D2 to get some wait staff experience – Luke goes back to Yoda’s place to finish that training he said was so important last time. The training he skipped out on even though Yoda said he had to have it before he could face Vader. Get this, now Yoda says there isn’t more training except for him to confront Vader! And then when he finds out Luke already confronted Vader he says it’s unfortunate. Speak English, Yoda! I honestly don’t know if this is a Jedi riddle or a senior moment.
Anyway Luke says “I can’t kill my own father,” but luckily he figures out the loophole that Yoda only said “confront” Vader, not cut his head off and bring it to him or anything like that. So he could theoretically just do a Sally Jesse Raphael or Maury Povich type of confrontation and that would be a way to become a Jedi.
Now, the fuckin Empire is up to their old tricks again, they’re building a new Death Star. It’s behind schedule and they’re rushing it to completion like Aegis-1 in ON DEADLY GROUND. Who knows, maybe the real threat is not them finishing it and blowing up more planets but maybe it’s just poorly made and it’s gonna blow up and alot of people are gonna get hurt.
At first I wondered why they were able to build that thing so much faster than the first one, but then I realized they already did all the groundwork before, they had done all the fabrication and everything. They probly had all the parts 3D mapped in a computer already instead of having to sit and sculpt new ones.
This time Luke does meet up with his friends. They go to The Forest Moon of Endor to try to blow up a little shack that powers the shields on Death Star 2.0. They bump into some Empirical stormtroopers with those hoverbikes like Anakin used to drive, which leads to an excellent high speed chase through tall trees. Then all but Leia get trapped by “Ewoks,” little rat bears about up to your waist. They live in treehouses, wear hoods and use spears and nets, but they don’t seem to have lasers or space travel. (They do have flight, but just hang gliders). Anyway, they’re gonna eat ’em. They got Hans on a spit. Ewoks love barbecue you know. Man, if that guy isn’t getting frozen he’s getting cooked. Maybe he shouldn’t be allowed to go on these adventures anymore.
Fortunately these Ewoks must also worship some golden god from the sky, because they bow to C3. He can speak their dialect and they treat him like a god, but they still won’t let our boys go even when it turns out Leia is there and already made friends with one of them (Warwick Davis, RAY). Such a social butterfly. So Luke has to use some of the hands free lifting techniques he learned at swamp camp.
Leia turns into kind of a forest nymph hippie chick with braids in her hair and everything. I was worried she might be shacking up with one of these Ewoks, but luckily she still digs Han, and they’ve passed the bickering stage thank star-Christ. Earlier in the movie though she does get a couple kick ass things to do including going undercover as a bounty hunter and riding the go fast bike. I guess more notably she finally finds out she’s Luke’s twin sister. They talk about Padme, who Leia claims to remember “images really, feelings” of but either she’s fooling herself or she’s got a higher midichlorian count than Luke and really shoulda got her dad’s light saber.
Lando and Wedge (Denis Lawson, HOLOCAUST 2000) (a regular human guy too bland to be mentioned in the other reviews) take part in the star war to destroy this new Death Star. This is the most elaborate star war in a Star Wars besides Episode 3. It’s like a remake of the original Death Star battle but with like five to seven times as many little space fuckers shootin around. And instead of Hans flying the Millennium Falcon with his furry alien co-pilot Chewbacca it’s Lando flying the Millennium Falcon with his non-furry alien co-pilot 9-Numb, which is totally new and fresh and different.
Luke goes to have words with Vader and Palpatine, but everybody else stays for the ground war on the moon of Endor. Or the moon that is Endor. So it’s Rebels/Ewoks v Empire. Ewoks aren’t hobbits – they’re vicious and they’re brave – but the fact is they’re inferior in size and technology. No problem. The Empire learn what the French learned in Algeria, the Russians learned in Afghanistan, and we learned in Vietnam: it’s hard to defeat guerillas on their own turf.
So this forest star war really elaborates on the themes of the series. A goofy slave boy and an old policy wonk from Naboo ended thousands of years of Jedis, conquered the galaxy(ies?) and built an all powerful technological empire. Then a humble farm boy overcame their biggest and most deadly weapon without even using most of his crude equipment, just his mind (and a laser). Now all the little people crushed under the white plastic heel of the Empire’s boot – or at least the furry little bastards of this unincorporated moon – rise up to pelt their mighty conquerors with rocks and logs.
You know what’s kinda nice, early in the movie Vader bows to Palpatine and the Emperor says “Rise, my friend.” This is as close as that old creep is gonna get to “My friends,you bow to no one” from LORD OF THE RINGS PART 3. I mean, it’s kinda sweet that after all these years he considers him a friend. Even a total bastard like that can be semi-friendly once every 50 years.
Anyway, while the star wars are happening we also have the climax of the whole damn saga. Our three leads – Darth Vader nee Anakin Skywalker, former Senator Theodore “Sidious” Palpatine of Naboo, and Vader’s one-named son – are alone in the throne room to either recruit each other or kill each other.
Posibilities that have been discussed:
1. Father and son join forces, kill the Emperor and rule the galaxy together. Man, Anakin’s always talkin hair-brianed schemes like this. Remember when he proposed basically the same thing to Padme? She didn’t bite and now he’s making the same play all these years later. Trying to turn the Empire into the family business. (And what about Leia? Would she be allowed in on this?)
2. The Emperor says they can all three rule the galaxy. But we know from earlier chapters that that’s bullshit and bad news for Ani. Siths are extremely elitist, there can only be two existing at a time. I’m sure Ani figured out in retrospect that Palpatine pressured him into killing Count Dooku partly so there’d be a job opening.
3. Luke wants his dad to turn back into a good guy. We know nothing of Luke’s love life, but he must date alot of crazy gals he thinks he can save. Pick them up and swing to safety on a rope. (P.S. he literally does that with Leia again. Nice callback to part 4. That would be cool though if she carried him on the rope.)
They settle on a compromise: Vader and Palpatine kill each other and leave the galaxy-ruling for some other chump to figure out. But it’s real nice to see Anakin back to being a good guy, taking his mask off and having a minute of father and son bonding in a non-evil capacity. Man, he got real old, Tatooine style (he’s now played by Sebastian Shaw, a Shakespearean actor who was in the original 1935 version of BREWSTER’S MILLIONS). The burns on his face healed up nicely though. That’s the real irony, he was probly about to the point where his doctor would let him stop wearing that mask. Just carry an inhaler or something.
Anyway, he’s hardly recognizable but this is the closest he’s been in many years to the dashing young spacebuckler who went down the wrong path, killed younglings, got volcanoed for it. He says the name Anakin “no longer has meaning for me,” but who is he fooling? When he becomes a Jedi ghost he chooses the REVENGE OF THE SITH long-haired Anakin body. But no scar, I think. Not sure if he has the robot hand.
RETURN OF THE JEDI is a cool title. At first it seems like a rehash of REVENGE OF THE SITH, but I like that it has multiple meanings. First of all, Luke is returning as a Jedi to the planet where he grew up as a nobody (and also to the planet where this all started when his pops was a little street racer slave kid). Second, it’s the return of Anakin Skywalker, he turned into a fuckin Sith but now he’s back as a Jedi and he’s a ghost but he’s smiling. He got away with it. And thirdly it’s a return of the actual concept of the Jedi. The fuckin Sith and the Empire thought they snuffed ’em all out with Order 66, the only survivors being two old cowards hiding out in shacks. But here is a new Jedi willing to come in and face Vader and the Emperor, and perhaps destined with training a new generation that could lead to more Jedi dynasties measured in millenniums.
There’s so much cool stuff that happens in this one, so many new creatures and action sequences and stuff. I could do without the part where Chewbacca does a weird synthesized Tarzan scream, but there have been worse parts in Star Warses I suppose. All that fun combined with the emotional payoff of the conclusion of the Anakin Skywalker story makes for a hell of a star wars. I loved this one. Good job Richard Marquand. Auteur theory.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.