Friday, 28 August 2015

BlogalongaStarWars: Episode 3:
Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

Phase One of the Star Wars Cinematic Universe comes to a close with Return Of The Jedi, a film which, by necessity, must be all payoff for the two-hour setup of The Empire Strikes Back. And pay off it does, in ruddy great space-spades: Jedi delivers on an increasingly huge scale, even as its supporting characters become increasingly smaller.

The first point of order is obviously to rescue Han Solo from his cryogenic slumber (during which he seems to have miraculously put on a few pounds), and it's to George Lucas' and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan's credit that they devote the entire first act to the heist. It's a fun, extended opener that has almost nothing to do with the rest of the story, but it needs to take up that first half hour because we were so invested in Han's sacrifice in Empire. If you've spent three years waiting to find out how he's going to get defrosted, you don't want the explanation tossed off in the first five minutes.

A quick Dagobah diversion acts as a weird aside where we're reminded of all the important stuff that needs resolving before the credits roll, and in all honesty much of it is a little baffling. We're told that Luke needs to face Vader to truly become a Jedi, but didn't he just do that at the end of Empire? I mean, fair play for raising the emotional stakes of their final father / son chit-chat, but there's a suspicion that Lucas may have put that dialogue in as a placeholder and forgotten to finish it. Then Yoda struggles to squeeze out the words "There........ is...... a................. nother ........................................... Sky............................................... walk........................................................................................ er" before wheezing his last, apparently unaware that "Leia is your sister" has fewer syllables. He's only being vague so we can get the full story from see-through Obi-wan, who gets the short straw of having to explain why everything he said in Star Wars was bullshit. The sense that Lucas is retroactively rewriting his story as he goes along is palpable, but it's a canny move to give Alec Guinness the role of Basil Exposition here; the character's wisdom and eccentricity just about allow him to carry off the bollocks he's spouting.

The team outing to Endor is where the Star Wars machine finally starts to come unstuck, thanks in no small part to a bunch of short furry twats. The Ewoks represent Lucas' wish to have the gargantuan, technologically advanced Empire defeated by a smaller, underestimated foe, forgetting that he'd already done that at the end of Star Wars, and so the pointy sticks and small rocks lobbed by dwarf children in fluffy onesies pierce the armour of Stormtroopers more used to laser bolts, and it all gets a bit silly. Frankly I began to doubt the integrity of the Ewoks as a viable narrative device the moment they provided a complete fitted outfit for the decidedly non-Ewok-shaped Princess Leia with no notice whatsoever.
Maybe it's from the plus-size range

Fortunately there's the mother of all space battles going on concurrently, as well as the apocalyptically epic climax of Luke and Vader's story, the intimacy of which feels weightier than anything going on in Teletubbyland. John Williams' accompaniment to the duel is monstrously doom-laden, and Luke's final, furious attack on Vader - prompted by the old man's threat to recruit Luke's "sissssstaaa" - is gloriously ferocious. The masterful crosscutting between the three simultaneous finales stops you getting bored of any one scene without becoming jarring, and Vader's final sacrifice is the perfect conclusion. Well done, Star Wars Trilogy, you done good.

However. Something's not quite right. Something's changed. The edge has gone. All the interesting character work that continues to set the first two films apart from almost every other sci-fi epic seems to have gone missing; the moment Han and Leia's unresolved sexual tension resolved itself, they stopped being the cool older kids and became your parents. Even Han's belief that everything he says is cool or funny reminds you of your dad. The Ewoks are cute and cuddly with the specific intention of selling toys to small children, and Vader's revealed face is more "favourite uncle" than "evil, twisted warlord". They're all small things, but they add up to a lesser film than their predecessors, which is an undeniable shame.

Still, it's the final Star Wars film, so at least they can't get any worse, right?

Darth Vader is really pointy
Notable by their absence from the prequel trilogy are any scenes in which Shmi Skywalker teaches little Ani that it's rude to point. Decades later, Darth Vader can barely get a word out without his forefinger jabbing around like a sleeping teenager's cock. Put it away, man!

The Death Star II
Once again, production design is totally on point in the Star Wars universe. Like some kind of hideously deformed Pac-Man floating in space, the semi-constructed new Death Star is another terrifically iconic work of art, regardless of the practicalities involved in its actual construction. I mean how come nobody there seems to be doing any actual building work, and why didn't they cover it up with a lifesize painting of the original Death Star, like they do when they're renovating old buildings?

C-3PO is a shit translator
For someone who bangs on incessantly about being fluent in over six million forms of communication, you'd think 3PO might put on an accent every now and again. He always just sounds like a posh Englishman abroad reading loudly from a phrasebook.

Jabba The Hutt
I love this guy. Look at his flabby, fleshy folds and just imagine what he keeps inside them. He's so spectacularly disgusting, with his roly-poly tuba theme tune and his shot-from-below, Sydney Greenstreet stylings and his amazing collection of gloopy mucus, I just want to give him a big fat hug.

Leia is a bit mean
Determined not to be all soppy and girly about being in love with Han Solo because she's an independent woman of the '80s, Leia rescues her fella from the carbonite but stands there while he falls out of it and faceplants himself firmly in the concrete floor of Jabba's palace. That woman's gonna be hard work.

What is the point of all this? I'll tell you. (short answer: no point)
Header pic by dark lord of the Sith Olly Moss

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