How would you do Return of the Jedi? (part 1)

Believe it or not, Return of the Jed is the first movie I can remember seeing. Oh I was 2 or 3 years old at the time, but certain scenes and images from the film would stick in my brain ever since.

So I’ll admit, I have a huge soft-spot for RotJ and it’s impossible for me to really hate it. To me, when I think of Luke Skywalker I always think of his green lightsaber, not his blue one.

Still I must also admit that it is not perfect and it is the moment where you can see that the Brand(tm) of Star Wars started to overwhelm the Story of Star Wars.

I was listening to SFDebris who recently posted to his patrons “musings on Empire Strikes Back” which repeats a lot of stuff he’s talked about in his review of the film, as well as in his video essays on the making of the sequels:

Though something he said this time got me thinking. The original first two films work so well because they are ultimately a culmination of Luke’s journeys through the films. Star Wars is quite obvious (the farm boy blows up the megaweapon to save the day) while Empire Strikes Back is a little more subtle, but obvious upon reflection (his journey to discover the Force leads him to Vader and uncovering the truth). As I pointed out awhile back when discussing character flaws, a character should lack something at the start of the story, which they will gain by the end of it. Luke’s experiences are well represented by his father’s lightsaber. Gaining it and a goal in the first movie, losing it and his innocence in the second. Yet it is not only Luke who under goes a journey and gains something from the stories, but Han Solo as well. Although it is a bit different and more truncated, Han Solo goes through his own Hero’s Journey in Star Wars gaining friendship & purpose by the end. His journey through ESB again mirrors Luke’s as well, only Solo loses his freedom (though he at least gains romance).

I bring all that up because when one looks back at Return of the Jedi, it becomes clear that one of the reasons it is the odd one out of the original trilogy is that Luke and Han gain nothing by the end that they didn’t have at the start.

Ok, I know Luke is the more debatable one in that statement, so let’s look at the easiest example: Han Solo. In the movie, when Chewbacca is first reunited with Han Solo in Jabba’s dungeon, he’s catching Han up on all that he’s missed and during their conversation Han exclaims with excitement, “[Luke is] a Jedi Knight?!” Yet look at things from Han’s perspective: Last he saw Luke, he had just saved the kid from freezing to death in the Hoth night before the two of them fought against the Empire to give their comrades a chance to escape. After that, Han is frozen (after being tortured) before Luke arrives in Cloud City. Now unless something happened between ANH and ESB, the last we saw Han’s opinion on Jedi and the Force is that it’s all bullcrap and hocus pocus. He’s a skeptic – an atheist in that world. His reaction to the news about Luke should be about the same reaction as Richard Dawkins learning one of his best friends has become a knight’s templar. Han Solo underwent a character change OFF screen (and while frozen). By the end of the movie, has anything about his character really changed from that moment he’s first returned to life? He still loves Leia, he’s still friends with Luke. Again contrast this the original film, where Han by the end is so very different from the man we first met in that bar. In ESB it’s more subtle but there’s a change there too you can notice in the man between the start and end of the film and his relationship with Leia.

It strikes me as obvious that with the first film being about Han gaining friendship, and the second film being about him gaining love, that the third film should have been about Han Solo gaining faith. That he should have been dismissive about Luke’s efforts to become a Jedi at first, but then a convert to believing in the Force by the end. No he doesn’t need to have become a Jedi himself, just a man who gained a bit of hope that there is a driving force for good in the universe.

Hm. This is turning out longer than I thought, so I’m going to break this post up into multiple parts.

3 thoughts on “How would you do Return of the Jedi? (part 1)

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