Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Return of the Jedi. I remember the weeks (and maybe even the months) of hype leading up to this film. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat (honestly? it was a couch. you get the idea though) in the Living Room in our old house on Iroquois, watching Entertainment Tonight’s feature about the filming of the speeder bike scene. I could.not.wait. I was caught up in Jedi fever, like the rest of the country (be sure to note the price of the scalped tickets in that link. I’d be pretty happy with those prices today!).
While I didn’t camp out in the ticket line or attend any midnight showings, I was the first of my friends to go see it. I was pretty proud of that fact.
I still remember seeing that vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt, on the big screen for the first time. I still remember holding my breath during the final duel. I still remember the magic of the final chapter of the Original Trilogy. And because of this experience alone, Return of the Jedi will always be a favorite movie of mine. But that’s not the only reason.
I know. Many people think the Ewoks are the Original Trilogy’s equivalent of Jar Jar Binks. It’s become the cool thing to say.You can say that if you want. It’s OK for you to be wrong.
I argue that Ewoks are a crucial part of the story. The Rebellion is a ragtag group up against the arrogant, evil, well-oiled Imperial machine. The involvement of prehistoric Ewoks in the war against a new technological terror is merely an extension of the theme that has been evident since the beginning of the Star Wars saga – don’t count out the little guy. Love and friendship conquer all.
Once you realize the entire Star Wars saga is the story of Anakin Skywalker turned Darth Vader turned Anakin Skywalker*, you view Jedi through an entirely different lens. Watching the redemption of Darth Vader at the end of the film brings a tear to my eye. It gives me chills. In fact, I have goosebumps right now just because I’m writing about it.
The Good Guys Win!
The entire saga ties together in one dramatic climax. The Emperor is gone. The Empire is defeated. The friends are wiser, stronger, and closer to each other than they had ever been before. There’s dancing and singing and everyone is celebrating the love (not “lord,” as a teacher once insisted in high school) – but only in the original version. That’s one of the reasons I strongly dislike the Special Edition, by the way. Order has been restored. Evil has been destroyed. Good has won. All is right with the galaxy. Just like it should be.
Does Jedi work as a stand-alone movie? Probably not. But as a conclusion to an epic Trilogy? Absolutely! Sure, there are some faults. Each episode has them. But Jedi has a special place in my heart. And for that reason, it’s my favorite.
Which installment of Star Wars is your favorite? Why?
*I’m sorry if this is a spoiler, but…come on….it’s been 30 years. If this is a spoiler for you, then what are you waiting for? Pretend you didn’t read this, go borrow someone’s copy of Return of the Jedi and watch it tonight!