Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (No Baggage Review)

tn_rotjnobaggageMan, 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!

mp_rotjLike 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.

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21 Responses to “Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (No Baggage Review)”

  1. The Original Paul

    June 3rd, 2014 at 5:04 am

    I would just like to point out that moment where Luke’s standing above the sarlac pit, totally defenceless, surrounded by dozens of Jabba’s goons, stating: “This is your last chance to survive”. Like HE’S giving THEM their last warning. And when they ignore him, he somersaults back, grabs his lightsaber in midair, and takes out EVERYBODY. That is some badass shit right there. (Seems like killing only counts as “the dark side” if it’s somebody important and/or recognisable human. Movie logic!)

    I don’t think this film holds up as a “whole”. They gimp Han Solo a little too much for my tastes (his insecurity over Luke and Leia’s relationship takes up a little too much screen time, and kinda comes off as though it was what they put in because they couldn’t find anything else for him to do). Normally I’d tear the film a new asshole for its inconsistent tone, but in this case there are so many moments that are just freaking awesome that I’m happy to give it a “pass” overall. And that scene between Luke, the Emperor and Vader at the end… just superb. Actually the whole finale is superb.

    My biggest complaint would be with the second act. Yes, I know I’m pro-Ewok, but there’s no denying that there’s a large mid-section of the film that kinda drags. I would like to have seen more of the rebels gearing up for battle, with all the emotions that come with that; and less of what we actually do get.

    That said… there are enough awesome moments in this film that I’d recommend it despite its flaws. It’s no “Empire” overall but it has some of my favorite moments in the franchise. For all of you who haven’t seen it (and honestly, who has?) I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

    Bonus: you get to see the Yoda die. Although not as horribly as he deserves. Seriously, fuck that condescending little snotball. Actually, come to think of it, he’s got a whole “Moses leading the people out of Israel” thing going on – he gets to see the promised land, but not actually visit it, etc – which is kinda bizarre since he’s done absolutely nothing to help the rebel cause the entire time. Oh well.

  2. This being Star Wars, an elaborate back story for Jabba’s band was created. From Wookieepedia:

    Evar Orbus and His Galactic Jizz-Wailers came to Tatooine expecting to preform in Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina. However, on their way to the cantina, they are attacked by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes. Orbus is killed in the fight allowing Max Rebo to take over the band. After the cantina job busted, the new Max Rebo Band is desperate for a job. Rebo soon accepts a lifetime contract to play in Jabba’s Palace. To the dismay of fellow band member, Sy Snootles, the only payment for the job is simply unlimited food.

  3. Jizz-Wailers? Eeew.

  4. Jareth Cutestory

    June 3rd, 2014 at 7:11 am

    It’s tough out there for a blue brother.

  5. One small correction: It’s spelled “Nien Nunb,” not “9-Numb.” Other than that, this has been a really wonderful experiment, Vern…good stuff! I have to admit, I’m cautiously optimistic about the new movies: the cast is spot-on, it’s being shot on film and they’re using practical effects (did you see those leaked TMZ pictures? Half-built Millenium Falcon, Pig-Dewback, etc.)! Might actually be kinda great.

    Oh yeah, I never really considered it before, but I think Jabba the Hutt probably is the most impressive creature from all of the flicks.

  6. insert name here

    June 3rd, 2014 at 8:51 am

    It would have made sense for the Emperor to have given Luke more of a reason to join up with him, other than all of that creepy “its your destiny” shit. Like maybe if he killed Vader, he would have access to the controls and could turn the Death Star against the imperial ships or something. I mean Anakin was trying to save his wife and kids, what does the Emperor really have on Luke?

    Also, its too bad that they couldn’t get the DP from Empire back for this. The visuals were so much richer in that film, and I think he had a lot to do with it.

  7. I have read most of the reviews on this websight. This is one of the five funniest ones I have ever read. I am at work but still kept laughing and laughing. Thank you Vern.

  8. Very disappointed that this review does not mention the true hero of the battle of the Second Death Star: Admiral Ackbar, who correctly noted that the rebel forces had flown into a trap.

  9. I love the intro to this one, where it kinda drops you into things without explaining what the plan is and trusts you to figure out what’s going on. I mean, I still don’t exactly know how this plan was supposed to work, but it doesn’t matter, it makes for a really engaging, mysterious opening. Good build, lots of fun sequences. The reveal of what Leia has been up to is genuinely unexpected. Love her bluff with the thermal detonator.

    The end of the movie is a little harder to parse out. Yoda says Luke needs more training, but then he doesn’t; he says if he attaches himself to the world (universe) and saves his friends the dark side will “forever dominate [his] destiny.” But then he turns out to be wrong about everything, almost as if he didn’t really learn anything from the debacle with Anakin. And what about the whole “balance to the force” thing? I can’t help but feel like Anakin finally did achieve that — he killed 100% of the Jedi AND 100% of the Sith, leaving only one person –Luke– who’s trained to be a Jedi but seems to have some pretty seriously disagreements with the Jedi establishment.

  10. grimgrinningchris

    June 3rd, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Someone in the Empire talkbacks said they had an easy explanation for Yoda’s weird roundabouts on “you’re not done with your training, you can’t face Vader yet”… “I’M BACK TO FINISH MY TRAINING”… “All you have to do now is face Vader” nonsense (which I am glad Vern brought up too).

    I would LOVE a viable explanation for this as it has driven me nuts and is my main (and probably only) real beef with the OT and I’m sick of thinking about it and sicker of getting blank stares from people when I try to explain why it makes no sense and why it bothers me.

  11. insert name here

    June 3rd, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Maybe Yoda knew he was dying and so nobody could train Luke anyway, so he basically gave him a pep talk and reminded him a few times to watch out for that dark side thing and hoped for the best. Though why ghost Kenobi or ghost Yoda couldn’t have gone on training him, I don’t know. Maybe its really hard to stay in contact with the living for extended periods or something.

  12. grimgrinningchris

    June 3rd, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    What if GhostYoda and GhostObiWan were all wobbly like GhostDad in Evil Dead II, looking like the intro to a Wayne’s World dream sequence.

  13. Grimgrinningchris – I think that by actually fighting Vader, and surviving but getting his butt kicked as well as (prematurely?) finding out the truth about Vader, he learned things the hard way that otherwise he would have gone through in his training. So Yoda is basically saying “Well, since you went through all that, I guess we can skip to the final exam.”

    I marathoned all 6 when in this manner back when Episode III came out on DVD, and found it rewarding to see them all again in this way with a fuller grasp of how the story (as it is now) all fits together. But whereas all the other films now felt richer as a result, Jedi retroactively felt like the biggest letdown.

    Speaking as a fan of Episode III, it’s frustrating to me that the Episode VI-era Palpatine is much more one-dimensional, with no clever plan of seduction other than “Join me! I’m evil! Bwahaha!” I also find the movie much more slow, simplistic, and childish. There are no interesting twists or revelations that aren’t telegraphed in advance (at least when watching the series in numerical order). For the series to end on this note made me feel foolish for spending several hours of my adult life re-experiencing this journey.

    To me, Return of the Jedi is more satisfying WITH baggage – as a bittersweet farewell to one’s 1980s childhood – than as the climax to a much more complex and ambitious series overall. I’m glad, however, that for Vern it fit together in a more satisfying way.

    So Vern, any chance of a “final thoughts” wrap-up post like you did with your RoboCop series? Or does the No-Baggage ride end here?

  14. I always thought that Luke missed out not on actual physical training but mental training. The way I read Empire and Return is that Yoda is afraid that Luke will turn to the darkside after he confronts Vader and without the proper understanding of his family’s history. This is obviously what the foreshadowing in the cave is about. But he needs Luke to come to this understanding on his own.

    When Luke returns to Yoda in Episode III, Yoda sees that he has confronted Vader, but that he was not tempted to join forces with him. One of the aspects that I really love about Return is that Luke has a better understanding of his father than either Yoda or ghost Kenobi. They want Luke to kill Vader, take one more bit of evil out of the galaxy. But Luke understands that there is still some good in his father. It’s one of those moments where the student succeeds his masters.

    Anyway, that’s how I always viewed the missing training.

  15. I like how much of an asshole Palpatine is in this one, with his mock concern saying “Oh, I’m afraid this space station is QUITE OP-ER-A-TION-AL!”
    Kinda weird how they so casually reveal that Leia knows she’s adopted. Well, I suppose she’d have to, what with her adopted dad being hispanic and her mother being…I believe west Asian?

  16. This is just great. I have neither snark nor substantive analysis to add to this discussion, other than to demand everybody watch this movie [again]. I’m rewatching RETURN OF THE JEDI right now, and I could post screengrabs of compositions & close-ups from every few seconds of footage to display what a brilliant film and what a brilliant piece of realized imagination this is, but it’s better that you all simply watch the thing in all its glory.

    Like seriously, just the first few minutes of STAR WARS 3: STAR WARS 6: PORT OF CALL ENDOR kicks 99.99% of all other films’ asses, it’s out of control. This movie makes me want to be a better person.

    With regards to Big Daddy Kane, your movie is a butter knife; RETURN OF THE JEDI is a machete.

  17. I just got off the phone with a buddy of mine who – coincidentally – just marathoned all 6 movies in numerical order himself, and really liked Return of the Jedi.

    It’s funny, this movie used to be considered the weak link of the series. So I’m glad to see it getting some love here, and not just on the familiar “we had no idea the prequels would be worse” grounds.

    I rewatched it on its own a month or two ago, and enjoyed it a lot more than I did when watching it as part of the whole series. It’s a solidly entertaining movie on its own – I just think the others have more narrative complexity.

    Also, like Vern I’m pro-Ewok. Never understood the hate. They’re a bit inexpressive and fake-looking compared to some of the other Star Wars critters, but that’s all I got.

  18. Mr. Subtlety – “And what about the whole “balance to the force” thing? I can’t help but feel like Anakin finally did achieve that — he killed 100% of the Jedi AND 100% of the Sith, leaving only one person –Luke– who’s trained to be a Jedi but seems to have some pretty seriously disagreements with the Jedi establishment.”

    That Qui-Gon Jinn was right all along after all.

    Man I really dug this one. Talk about a great example of how to bring closure to a story. Seriously if this was the last Star Wars ever I’d be completely satisfied. Sadly I see people eventually hounding Lucasfilm for another one for years on end though.

  19. Sorry I have to be the voice of Franchise Fred here, but how long do you think this galactic peace can last before some evil motherfuckers show up and have to be dealt with? Luke, the last Jedi, will have many more adventures. They should probably do one every two or three years to make sure they tell all the stories that will surely involve him after RETURN OF THE JEDI.

  20. I’m not sure making an Episode VII makes a lot of sense. These six films pretty much fulfilled the major story arc that began in Episode I. I think there’s a lot of interesting implications about redemption and generations in these movies, and I’m not sure how much there is to add.

    However, if they do go ahead and make Episdoe VII, I hope they come up with an interesting villain to war against. We’ve already seen the Empire and the proto-Empire in the first six films. I would be interested in learning more about the Sith, since they’re lightly sketched in these films.

  21. As usual I am a day late and a dollar short, but I finished watching this latter trilogy recently. No baggage. Well, a little, let me say this:

    When I was a kid, I ranked them 3-1-2. I loved the fuckin’ Ewoks. I still have my kindergarten Ewoks’ lunch box somewhere at my mom’s house.
    When I was a little older, and maybe a little more discerning, or more of a poser, I ranked them 2-1-3.

    Today I would rank them 3-2-1. Man, STAR WARS hasn’t aged as well. The fights are stiff, the acting is stiff, and the first two thirds of the movie are really slow. EMPIRE is excellent, there aren’t too many people who are going to disagree there. But JEDI, man, there’s nothing else in the series as good as that throne room scene. And the pacing is excellent. The Ewoks don’t really bother me anymore, and that reveal of Vader is genuinely affecting.

    Watching these again (I hadn’t seen them since ’96, I think, when they were re-released in the special editions) reminded me why I liked those movies so much in the first place. Has there been a thread about Rian Johnson directing 8 and 9 here? That seems REALLY promising. BROTHERS BLOOM didn’t work for me, although it was a pleasant enough movie, but I loved LOOPER.

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