Return of the Jedi

2 out of 5

Directed by: Richard Marquand

Return of the Jedi is the Michael Bay blockbuster of its day.  It’s big and dumb, with its characters – already descending into somewhat wooden archetypes from the more dimensional personalities of Star Wars to the stiffer, defined-by-their-crowd-pleasing-attributes variations in Empire– now almost exclusively spitting one-liners and prophetic sounding nonsense, and its action sequences, though admittedly thrilling, rather senseless when you’ve paused the spectacle of explosions and lasers.  Whereas the first two entries in the original SW trilogy mostly had a sense of getting from point A to B, but within the movie and within a larger story, Jedi feels wholly besides points; it feels constructed from moments that suggest something epic, and then forcing that epicness upon us in a final showdown that also doesn’t make much sense.

But it’s got Ewoks, and it’s got last minute saves and big ol’ battles.  I can’t deny smiling at some antics; marveling at the admitted coolness of Luke Skywalker’s all black suit as he wields his light saber like a Jedi badass.  That’s the blockbuster appeal: the movie is made to please, and as a popcorn-chewing time passer, it surely succeeds.  It’s just frustrating that the steps toward maturity that Empire took – though it sacrificed some character building when Lucas presumably realized how he wanted his Luke / Leia / Han triumvirate to play off of one another, it darkened and expanded on the mythos of the first film – were shaved away for something very simple and very, very toothlessly kid-friendly.  Even from an overall structure perspective, it annoys, as it swerves into things that are “fun” instead of necessarily right for the movie, giving us the ol’ winky aren’t-I-a-stinker eyebrows when it tosses more aliens and more scenery-chewing at us.  The whole opening section for rescuing Han, while obviously necessary, sets up what should be a fun heist but then delays and delays with metal bikinis and “insert action here” type fracas.  The new rebel focus is… the same as the first movie: destroy the Death Star (y’know, the new one), but it has to delay even that with toy selling cutie pies the Ewoks, and a “plan” that’s the loosest possible use of that word, both on the planet Endor (home of said Ewoks, featuring Han and Leia), and on the star cruiser where Luke decides to go solo against Vader and the Emperor.  When we finally circle back around to the space battle, surely the Death Star wouldn’t again be built around a single point of failure…

And, spoiler, DS2 destroyed, the war is fucking over, apparently, and the whole world is happy.

Return of the Jedi can be a good distraction.  Some of its compositing is dated, but they really went for it with some of the battle sequences – the walkers on Endor are cool – and the movie undeniably hits all of the beats it likely “should” have.  Distraction abilities aside, though, it’s not a great film, and it doesn’t add to or improve on what came before it.