For an over-verbose set up, you can read part 1 here.
Last time I discussed what Han Solo’s arc and story should have been in Return of the Jedi. Now let’s look at the tougher one to crack: Luke.
Part of the challenge is that at first glance Luke does seem to gain plenty in this film. He gains the title of Jedi Knight, he gains a father, he gains a sister (he kind of gains a cult by manipulating his robot butler). All that’s fine, but it is ultimately exterior to the character. The real question is, what does Luke gain that is internal to him.
Again the original Star Wars has Luke’s change and development as pretty obvious and one might tempted to boil it down to “knowledge.” In the original movie he gains knowledge about the wider galaxy, then in the next one he gains knowledge about the Force and himself. The problem with that is RotJ would be a success then because we can point to things like him gaining knowledge about his sister. Heck you could have Mark Hamill on screen quietly reading an encyclopedia for two hours and still claim he gains knowledge – but nobody would want watch that movie. I think a better description would be that Luke Skywalker gains wisdom and understanding in the original 2 films. He doesn’t just become aware of the Empire’s tyranny in episode 4, but understands the need for courage to step up and face it. In episode 5, he doesn’t just learn about the Force, but gains a deeper knowledge of the way it really is and an understanding about Truth, even if it is unpleasant like the dark side of the Force and who his father really is. So in RotJ, what wisdom or understanding does Luke gain by the end? If anything he gains vindication. He is the one who declares that there is still good within his father even to the face of his wiser, elder mentors Yoda and Kenobi.
As for the conflict Luke has with Vader and the Emperor…
So what should be Luke’s journey for the third film?
It is no secret that Star Wars is inspired by and a tribute of the old movie serials that George Lucas loved growing up. Yet of all the original trilogy, it is RotJ that is most like them. Think about how you could divide the movie in half and make two shorter films. Let’s call them, e6.1 (“Jabba’s Palace”) and e6.2 (“The Final Battle”). If you were to come into the story at episode 6.2, would you have really missed much? Can’t everything you need to know about e6.1 be summed up in a short recap?
To bring it all around, what if Luke’s journey in the third film was to wisdom and understanding of power – especially political power? RedLetterMedia in their commentary for RotJ made a joke about why didn’t the rebels just take Han Solo from Jabba by force? “Hand over the smuggler or we do a bombing run with our x-wings” kind of thing. So what if we answered that question with, they couldn’t? Whether because of supplies, or because Jabba is powerful enough to have his own counter-air force (or both), the rebel army can’t just “take” their friend back.
So what if the rescue of Solo from Jabba’s palace gives Luke a new perspective on things and gets him to start asking questions. Does it make a difference for the rebel army to win if it permits petty tyrants like Jabba to thrive anyway? Is it better for the Empire to exist so it can put a stop to thugs like Jabba?
Apparently in an earlier draft of RotJ, Luke himself would assume control and become the new emperor of the galaxy after defeating Vader and Palpatine. What if we leaned into that more? To better tie the entire movie together AND give Luke a more proper arc through the movie, that after his experience with Jabba, Luke realizes that the reality of establishing law and order in a society are far more complicated than he assumed. That to preserve peace and freedom for everyone is tricky for even the wisest of Jedi.
After a movie where he gains wisdom about courage, then gaining wisdom about truth, the trilogy would conclude with Luke gaining wisdom about justice and be offered the throne of the empire itself. What does he do with it?
We’ll discuss that next time…
5 thoughts on “How would you do Return of the Jedi? (part 2)”
I loved the original trilogy, but the thing which struck me as odd about Han’s rescue was the sheer recklessness of risking both Luke and Leia falling into the hands of the Empire to do so. It also detracted from the importance of the mission to restore order and freedom from oppression in their universe.
While the personal motivation of saving a friend and the ethos of no man left behind were important, was the timing right? It seemed with hindsight ( and wisdom of age😉) ill thought through and a task that could have been accomplished later. Han was in no immediate danger of anything other than carbon sickness ( not terminal) and humiliation ( also not terminal)
Leia and Luke had everything they needed in place to do what they needed to do without Han ( although I am glad he was restored because he’s the most layered, chaotic, interesting character for me)
On Han’s sudden conversion to acceptance of the Jedi situation there’s no satisfactory in verse explanation, but I head canon that being encased in Carbon didn’t prevent him from dreaming or thinking, given there seems to be a smallish time jump finding him, I guess Han time to mull it over and digest all the sacrifices made, thus he could embrace and have respect for the bravery and sense of justice Jedi culture has, no questions asked.
Well… I didn’t want to reply just yet until I published the 3rd part. 😉
As you’ll probably see, I ended up agreeing with you a lot.
Hehe, just about to read part 3!