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‘Star Wars,’ The Original Series (Part Nine): ‘Episode VI, Return of the Jedi’ — To Move Forward, We Must Go Backward

By Josmar16 @ReviewsByJosmar

‘Star Wars,’ The Original Series (Part Nine): ‘Episode VI, Return of the Jedi’ — To Move Forward, We Must Go BackwardPoster Art for 'Return of the Jedi' (1983)

Return of the Naïve

George Lucas found himself in a quandary: How does one tie up all the loose ends that have been introduced from The Empire Strikes Back? Young Luke's training was incomplete, so how can he face Lord Vader in the end? Is he prepared to do battle with this mighty foe, and is he ready for the trial of his life? He's not fully trained, so where does he go from here?

Back on Dagobah, sickly old Yoda is on his last legs. Still, our little green friend charges Luke with confronting Vader. But since Luke Skywalker had been away helping to rescue Han Solo from his carbonite confines, when did he find the time to train? Good point! He must have done it on the "fly." Still, young Luke must resolve the problems left hanging from the two previous films. Grumpy little Yoda hems and haws, coughs and wheezes his way around this argument.

Yes, Yoda finally confirms, Vader is indeed Luke's father. "Unfortunate, this is" that Luke's impatience to move on has left him woefully ill-equipped for the struggle ahead. But now that he's a full-fledged Jedi knight of the realm - a battle tested and battle scarred young adult - he's older and wiser, correct? Um, not so fast.

"When I am gone, the last of the Jedi you will be," Yoda admits, the very title of which will come back to haunt Master Luke, as he, too, becomes the continuation of that plot point, i.e., the literal last man standing.

‘Star Wars,’ The Original Series (Part Nine): ‘Episode VI, Return of the Jedi’ — To Move Forward, We Must Go Backward
Master Yoda on his deathbed, with Young Skywalker by his side in 'Return of the Jedi'

The sad part is, he'll have to do it alone. Or so he thinks. With Yoda's passing, Luke's fate has been sealed. But the wise old mentor leaves him with a thought: "There is another Skywalker." Oh, really? Who can it be? Surprise, surprise: It's Princess Leia. Hidden as a child from Vader's wrath, no less. We know this to be true by virtue of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin Skywalker turns away from the Force, only to embrace the Darker Side of life.

On cue, Obi-Wan Kenobi materializes in blurry, ghostly form to counsel young Skywalker on what must be done next. Luke is not amused by all the lies and deceptions the two Jedis have spun around the "Your father was killed by Vader" nonsense. His father did die and he was killed, "From a certain point of view," Obi-Wan tells him. PERIOD, FULL STOP.

Say, what? "From a certain point of view?" Luke repeats, incredulously. Since when did the Jedi split hairs over viewpoints? So, now they're prone to stretching the truth? And they speak with forked tongues? Obi-Wan Kenobi's task, at this juncture, is to bring young Luke up to speed on what's transpired. From there, Luke needs to go and do what he needs to go and do. No more questions, no more pussyfooting around the illogic. Forget about what they told him before, it's upward and onward you go!

Obi-Wan frets, so to speak, about his young charge's reluctance to pick up the Jedi mantle of revenge. And we thought the Jedi weren't into that sort of thing. Dream on! On the other hand, Master Luke is relieved to learn of the existence of his twin sister (honestly, they must be of the fraternal variety, since they look nothing alike). But Old Ben brings him back down to earth (or Dagobah) by admonishing him to guard his feelings. This dangerous bit of knowledge can be used against him, especially by the all-powerful Emperor, a master manipulator. Luke nods in acknowledgment.

Plotting and Planning

Jettison to the big council scene, the spot where the plot machinations are spelled out in advance; what George Lucas dubbed those "pointer scenes," since they serve to (literally) point the plot in the direction that he, Lucas, wants it to go. Ditto for the characters. What happens next is determined, for better or worse, by the roles each cast member plays in the story to come.

‘Star Wars,’ The Original Series (Part Nine): ‘Episode VI, Return of the Jedi’ — To Move Forward, We Must Go Backward
Lando, Chewie, Han Solo, and Princess Leia in 'Return of the Jedi'

Mon Mothma (Caroline Blakiston) is speaking. Readers may remember her, played by another actress of course, in the reasonably successful Rogue One: A Star Wars Story prequel. It's THERE that viewers learn how the plans for the inner workings of the Death Stars were downloaded and absconded with by a ragtag suicide squad of reluctant Rebel raiders (Bothans, to be exact) - all deceased. "Fully operational battle station," that's the description, and protected by a force field emanating from the nearby forest moon of Endor.

The fish-headed General Ackbar (actor Tim Rose, voiced by Erik Bouaersfield), a cross between a carp and a tuna, relays his orders to the crew. Han and Leia have a little reunion with Lando. Soon enough, Luke returns in time to greet his friends. But Leia senses something's amiss. Jedi Luke gives her a polite brush off. He's not ready to spill the beans, not yet. "I'll tell you about it sometime." Uh-huh.... In the next sequence, Lando and Han wish each other luck, with Solo expressing deep concerns about never seeing his beloved Millennium Falcon again (sigh).

Well, they're off! Next, we find Darth Vader in the Emperor's throne room. Our Galactic demon, formerly known as Lord Sidious, awaits Luke's return to pick up the fight where (yes) Lord Vader left off. Vader's not needed at the moment, so the Emperor sends him off to twiddle his gloved thumbs in anticipation of what's to come. Meanwhile, the Bogeyman gloats in glee to an ever-rising rasp and chuckle that, as any fan of bad-guy lore will tell you, will fly back in the villain's face at some point in the saga.

In the next moment, Luke and his buddies appear within range of the Imperial Command ship. Wow, that was fast! Turns out they "borrowed" one of the Empire's cruisers. Lord Vader has a momentary feeling of recognition, as does Luke. Simply put, they sense each other's presence. Not a good thing for our intrepid lads. Yet, Vader allows them safe passage to Endor. Huh, what gives? A livelier place than either the desert Tatooine, the swampy Dagobah or the ice planet Hoth, Endor is a naturally verdant paradise with giant Sequoias and plenty of lush vegetation and underbrush. The perfect hiding place for "Rebel scum," don't you think?

It's also here that our friends, specifically Leia and Luke (in Rebel battle fatigues), engage in a 120 mile-per-hour speed chase with highly expendable Imperial Stormtroopers in pursuit. The mixture of actual Redwood forests, blue screen, models with motion-capture controls, and jittery Steadicam make for impressive visuals all-around. Together, that "jumpy quality" adds realism and a feeling they're going at super-high speeds. A terrific scene that lends action and tension. Certainly, Ben Burtt's expert sound FX are especially convincing where they need to be.

Luke survives the chase, but Leia's missing. Whoops! Now what? Enter a little Ewok, Wicket (unnamed, but played by real-life short person Warwick Davis). Small and cuddly, fierce and belligerent, he and the other Ewoks resemble fuzzy Teddy bears. Originally, Wookiees were pegged to be the featured beasties in this sequence. However, Lucas and his casting directors realized the impossibility of locating and hiring 7-foot actors to embody the unreasonably tall and technologically sophisticated Wookiees. Ergo, the choice was made to go with the Little People. Davis is the main Ewok, able to convey emotion and personality through his tongue, despite the clumsy getup.

Game of Thrones

We're back to Lord Vader and the Emperor. The "trap," as it's described in the Director's Commentary, is set for Luke, Leia and Han. All are in danger. Vader knows that his son is with them, but the Emperor does not - irrefutable proof that Luke is able to shield his thoughts (as Obi-Wan had hinted earlier) as well as keep them focused and away from probing minds. Vader, however, is another matter. He and Luke are linked by familial relations which, no matter how hard Luke tries, will be penetrated by the power of the Dark Side.

The Emperor directs Vader not to be hasty but to wait for his son to come to him. "I have foreseen it," he murmurs. I bet! But he hasn't foreseen what will eventually take place, i.e., that the good guys will indeed prevail and the bad guys will fail. So much for the Dark Side's power. It might need a boost if it's to wreak the kind of havoc the Emperor of the Galactic Empire believes it will make. "And let slip the dogs of war!"

‘Star Wars,’ The Original Series (Part Nine): ‘Episode VI, Return of the Jedi’ — To Move Forward, We Must Go Backward
Lord Vader appears before the Galactic Emperor in 'Return of the Jedi'

And now, back to Endor. You will notice that Lucas enjoys having his director, Richard Marquand, cut back and forth to different story elements and character situations. For all intents and purposes, Lucas oversaw the production of Return, while Marquand acted benignly on his behalf. Chewbacca, along with Han, Luke, Threepio and Artoo, leads them all right into a waiting net trap. "Always thinking with your stomach," cries Han at his walking carpet buddy. They're 20 or more feet up a tree. Oh gee! But not for long, thanks to Artoo's trusty buzzsaw blade, which allows the prisoners to break free of the trap. Only to plunge down to the ground, just in time to be greeted by the "bloodthirsty" band furry creatures.

This is not your ordinary bunch of little people, mind you, but a feisty and hearty brood. They immediately take an aggressive stand against the invaders, much as the Vietnamese had done with American fighting men in the decades before the film was released.

It looks like our friends are being groomed for the main dinner course, when C-3PO emerges from the underbrush to complain about his sore noggin. Imagine that, a robot with a splitting headache! Before viewers get too wrapped up in this illogical construct, the Ewoks prostrate themselves and bow before our butler-bot. As it turns out, they think he's some kind of god or something. (They mutter in an obscure Northern Chinese language of primitive origin.)

With that, the Ewoks whisk the party off to their tree-dwelling abode deep in the forest, with Threepio at the head of the party seated on a throne-like chair. Good Lord! The others are carried aloft as if they were the prize catch. Overall, a good day's hunting. They announce their arrival via a blast on their little horns. (Note: In an ode to old-time epic pictures, their sound is reminiscent of the ones used by Cecil B. DeMille in The Ten Commandments.)

Oh, look! Dinner is served! Leia and Wicket come out in time and try to put out the barbecue. But nothing doing! The Ewoks want their cake and eat it, too. Luckily, Luke's Jedi mind hasn't been bound by the ropes. He's free to use it to scare the little tykes off. He manages to levitate Threepio around the village, enough to frighten them to release his friends from "bondage," as it were. Not only are the critters cute and fuzzy, they're also tough as nails. But is that sufficient enough means to defeat the Evil Empire? We shall see.

Confession is Good for the Soul

It's nighttime at the Ewok outpost. A bonfire is lit (but no vanities, thank you). Time for some scary stories to enliven the evening, and Threepio is the one to tell them. He gives a lively re-enactment of where they've been, and who and what obstacles they've encountered. His sound effects alone are priceless.

Anthony Daniels, the British-born actor who inhabits the metallic outfit, extemporaneously delivers a recap (from memory, we're told) of their adventures. Daniels should have received a special award or some recognition for his contribution. Sound FX designer Ben Burtt equally praised his pantomime tour de force, while the sound crew supplied the flyovers and other noises associated with the cast's sojourns. A nice lull in the action that fulfills an actual purpose. The end result is that our heroes are now honorary members of the tribe. Can they get their laser guns and lightsabers back, please?

From a good time and needed break in the action, we move on to a serious moment or two with the reunited couple, Luke and Leia. It's here that Master Luke, as C-3PO insists on calling him, lets the cat out of the bag that Leia and he are (wait for it) brother and sister. Moments before, Leia reminisces about a mother she barely knew.

‘Star Wars,’ The Original Series (Part Nine): ‘Episode VI, Return of the Jedi’ — To Move Forward, We Must Go Backward
C-3PO as Storyteller par excellence, as he recreates the past in 'Return of the Jedi'

Of course, she never got to know her. As any Star Wars fan will tell you, Princess Amidala died in childbirth, so there's no way Leia would remember her mommy dearest. Well, then, did Leia mean her "adopted" mother - that is, the wife of Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) in the later prequels? If not, then who the hell is she talking about? Her nursemaid, her wetnurse? Who exactly..?

This must be one of Mr. Lucas' lapses in continuity. Or were they? Well, if you must know, Richard Wagner was himself inclined to provide conflicting and oftentimes contradictory justifications for past occurrences, notably in his Ring of the Nibelung. For example, there are several explanations for Wotan's missing eye, along with a slew of non sequiturs throughout the Norse and Germanic sources. One way or another, Wagner managed to get around these inconsistencies. But the point is he never reconciled the conflicts, therefore the versions remain as they are: flawed but reflective of his characters' human frailties.

Another example is the dwarf Mime (a stand-in for Yoda) and his mumbling on about being both mother and father to young Siegfried (our Luke). Well, then, how did Mime come upon the baby Siegfried? Did his mother, Sieglinde, give the boy to him at birth? Did Mime deliver the child all by himself, or did he have help? Was Sieglinde already dead, or did Mime kill her when he found out who she was and who she was carrying? More ironically, did Mime make the story up about his having brought Siegfried up? We have no idea.

In comparison, this whole sequence about Luke and Leia's origins fits right in, believe or not, with those ancient Greek myths and their Norse variety. Each successive generation gets to embellish the tale to their exclusive ends. The same holds true for Star War mythology: We have the facts, we have the legends. But when the facts get in the way of the legends, what do we do? We print the legends, of course. (Thank you, John Ford.)

In Lucas' comments, he notes that it was hard enough for Luke to accept the fact that he's Vader's son and take it to heart. Imagine how hard it will be for Leia to believe she is Luke's sister. And that her father is also his father, the dreaded Dark Lord of the Sith. That's too much info for one person to handle, let alone the two of them. Especially when the person you've grown attached to tells you that, "You have the power, too." That "holy smoke, it's a Jedi mind trick" kind of power, the kind that lifts X-Wing fighters out of mudholes.

"The Force is strong in my family," Luke fesses up. "My father has it. I have it. And ... my sister has it." Leia's reaction, besides that incredulous stare, is stunningly forthright: "I've always known." Yes, indeed. She's always suspected it. But she remains unconvinced that Luke needs to confront dear old Dad in one-to-one combat. Intuitively, perhaps she realizes that one of them must die. If it's Papa Darth, so be it, Jedi. But if it's brother Luke, God help them all. Who can save them from the Emperor's wrath, from the vengeful Vader? Can they rely on Threepio or Artoo, or Chewie or even Han? How about Lando? If not them, who, then?

Luke's crazy idea about "saving" his father from himself falls on disbelieving ears. Leia must surely be thinking, "What's the matter with you, Luke? Do you really believe you can turn things around?" Not wanting to risk discovery, Luke takes his leave. Leia is in a bigger funk than she ever expected. And here they thought there was something to celebrate.

‘Star Wars,’ The Original Series (Part Nine): ‘Episode VI, Return of the Jedi’ — To Move Forward, We Must Go Backward
Luke tells Leia of their fraternal relationship in 'Return of the Jedi'

At that moment, who should come out to see her but the jealous Han Solo. He watches Luke take off behind them. "What's going on?" Han inquires, the same question he posed to his raffish pal, Lando Calrissian, in The Empire Strikes Back, minus the "buddy" part. The green-eyed monster is lurking about, but duty calls. We know, from past interviews and assorted making-ofs, that Harrison Ford, the face and figure behind Han Solo, wanted his character to die in either Empire or Return of the Jedi. It made no difference to him when, as long as Han got the axe.

That Han Solo should have died, or at least remained frozen as Jabba's wall-mount trophy, would have suited Ford's desire to no end. His reasoning was based, quite soundly, on the fact that Han was given nothing to do in Episode VI. Not only that, but the carbonite experience must have lowered his IQ down to Planet Hoth levels: below zero, in fact.

Solo is pictured as slow to catch on to what's happening. He's very much out of step with the character as we know him. Earlier, Solo was portrayed as smart, quick-witted, improvisational when the need arose, fast on the draw and a damn good fighter pilot. Considering the abuse he received at the hands of Imperial Forces, not to mention Vader and Jabba's minions, Han's standing in Return of the Jedi as a leader of record has been lowered to sidekick levels. Is this any way to treat a veteran?

Another reason why J.J. Abrams, after being chosen to direct Episode VII: The Force Awakens, decided to take Harrison up on his offer to have Han Solo eliminated - ironically, at the hands of his own son with Leia, the incongruously named Ben Solo, aka Kylo Ren (a deliberate reversal and reapportionment of his given moniker).

Needless to say, Han and Leia make up. "Hold me," she asks. Cue: the two cuddling. But it's also true what the late Carrie Fisher, in her DVD/Blu-ray disc commentary, had conveyed about the feisty couple's onscreen relationship: "It was better when we were fighting."

(End of Part Nine)

To be continued....

Transcript of dialogue from the original screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, and taken from the novelization by Lucas Copyright © 2021 by Josmar F. Lopes

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