Confessions of a STAR WARS Virgin: Allison Watches EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI for the First Time

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Our daily series where Allison Keene watches the Star Wars movies for the first time. Read her intro/explanation here, and here’s her reviews of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Before the scroll started (and by the way, what a great thing that scroll is — such a simple way to convey backstory exposition, yet you never see it used elsewhere) there should have been a line that said “… and now for something completely different!”

I want to say upfront that I really enjoyed Return of the Jedi, even though for the first time it felt like a movie in a clearly family-oriented franchise, and not one just for the fanboys (and girls).  It had a more direct story trajectory than Empire Strikes Back, but still found time for side-bar narratives, like bringing back Lando in a redemptive arc and introducing Ewoks (which I loved, series infantilization aside). It also had a number of great small victories that all lead up to that final standoff between Luke and Darth Vader.  Hit the jump for more of my take on Jedi and its turn to the Dark Side (family franchise here we come!).

star-wars-episode-vi-return-of-the-jedi-leiaAs I mentioned in my write-up of Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars refreshingly injects a lot of humor into its proceedings, but walks a fine line of not getting too silly.  Return of the Jedi had quite a bit more silliness than the previous two films, and it seemed to be primarily for the benefit of broader appeal.  And, again, the tampering with the special edition to include a number of new CGI scenes was unfortunate, because they didn’t add anything.   In particular, a dance sequence during Jabba’s first scenes was clearly and distractingly meant to appeal to a young audience.

Back to the actual story, Return of the Jedi felt even more episodic than Empire, and even though it quickly re-established or had reminders about the relationships among the characters, I’m not sure it would make much sense at all as a stand-alone film.  But why should it?  It does exactly what it needs to do as the finale of the original trilogy.  It was also the first time in all three films that I felt the stakes were actually quite high.  Knowing this was the final movie, it was conceivable than anyone’s death could be in play (and I was relieved to see that all of our heroes stayed out of harm’s way, even though I worried about R2 for a minute near the end).

star-wars-return-of-the-jediI also want to mention yet again how surprised and pleased I am by Leia, who is not a typical damsel in distress type, but a feisty, intelligent, strong and well-written female character (her slave costume aside).  I particularly like that it was Leia who killed her oppressor Jabba, and didn’t need anyone to save her.  Well done.

Jedi had a lot of, well, feels — everyone seemed to get their moment, which was nice.  I found this Episode really engaging, actually, and because I have gotten so invested with the characters, I was just happy with anything and everything that was thrown at me.  Learning more about them and their adventures in pursuit of cosmic justice, with a little love and friendship on the side?  Heck yeah!

So that’s the end of the original trilogy, now onto the prequels.  It’s hard for me to consider, in a vacuum, if I would have been obsessed with these movies had I not already been inundated with references to them since birth.  I enjoyed them, I get the jokes and references now (and will now be making some of my own) and I certainly see the appeal.  It’s quirkier and stranger than Star Trek, and I do love any story about a Chosen One and his rag-tag band of rebel fighters. There is indeed something special about the original trilogy, and it wouldn’t be so woven into our cultural fabric if there wasn’t.

star-wars-return-of-the-jedi-posterBottom Line: A satisfying finale that had a lot of individual merits, but also had the distinct feel of turning from a cult series to a blockbuster, family-friend franchise.

Episode VI Roundup:

Favorite Character(s): Leia, Ewoks, Vader, Luke

Least Favorite Character(s): Jabba. Just because he was gross, but fair enough as a villain.

A-ha! Moment: Admiral Ackbar. I get it now.

WTF? Moments: Vader picking up the Master with one hand (well with a hand and a stump) and just calmly dumping him over the side of the railing.  Bye!

What worked best: I loved that the Rancor had a friend. I felt bad for him, you know, kept in that dungeon and such, and then when the guard cried over his death I felt vindicated.  Also, Boba Fett deserved a better death.  That dude was smooth, flirting with the ladies in the back?  Then kinda helping out the rebels? I need more information.

What didn’t work: The CGI changes, including putting in Young Anakin instead of his Episode IV Uncle Fester self at the end, was a mess.  And I realize not everyone liked the Ewoks. To quote a friend, “yeah, I love the Ewoks as much as parasites laying eggs into my eyes.”

Best Quotes: “It’s a trap!”

If you missed my previous reviews, here’s Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  Look for Episode 2 tomorrow.

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  • spider-fan14

    Best review you’ve done so far. Looking forward to reading what you think about the prequels after having watched the originals (prepare to feel like blowing your brains out lol)

  • Scullibundo

    I enjoy reading these, but it often feels like you’re trying to please the fan base as opposed to giving honest thoughts.

    Return of the Jedi performs the unforgivable sin that is making Han Solo lame as hell. The real Han Solo never came back out of carbonite.

    • Northern Star

      Aw c’mon, Han Solo had to be released from carbonite, it wouldn’t have been a proper conclusion had he not, but I see what you’re saying regarding his portrayal in the film, I think he should have had a more discernible character arc throughout where we see him prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the rebel cause, but he survives and comes out a humbler and more selfless person than when we first met him… that would have properly completed his arc across three films.

  • micodin

    First time post!

    Loved all three reviews! Great job. I want more!

  • Lance

    Cool review!

    It’s interesting that in retrospect, whatever happened to Lucas as a storyteller seemed to have started with Jedi. I think most of us know that Lucas was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s study of myths and legends, but from interviews I’ve seen, by RotJ Lucas tended to talk a lot more about fairy tales as opposed to epic-scale myths.

    I think Lucas stopped thinking about Star Wars in terms of being one epic myth, and started thinking about it as a series of kid-friendly fairy tales. That explains the Ewoks and all the cuteness that follows.

  • Strong Enough

    Damn that facebook comment from Mark…. lmaooo wow

  • Zepherous35

    Your opinions on these movies are interesting. However, you have to go into them realizing that they existed before many of movies that you seem to be leaning on for emphasis. They created the groundwork for movies today. It’s still interesting seeing you try to enjoy these movies so many years later. I have seen them many, many times and it is always refreshing to see someone look at them through fresh eyes. I love the Prequels, especially Revenge of the Sith. Hope you do as well.

  • Strong Enough

    Revenge of the Sith>>Return of the Jedi

    oh yeah…i went there

    • Anonymous

      I respectfully disagree. And unrespectfully disagree. Did I mention you’re wrong?

      • Moebius

        I feel the same, I think EP3 is superior to Jedi and people dont want to see that mainly because Jedi stars the original cast

      • Joseph M

        I agree. Sith was a good Star Wars film, and easily a contender against Jedi. It’s greatest flaw was the awful and completely miscast Hayden Christian…whatever his name was. Young Vader should have had sexuality, danger and attitude, not some bland skinny blonde whiner.

      • Bennets gooch

        I was about 9 I think when JEDI came out. Loved everything about it! Even the EWOKS, personally, I never even knew people hated them till I got the internet. Theyre still cool with me, unless they blink!

        Though I do love elements of Revenge of the Sith, it has some stunning moments. (order 66!!!) but it needs some editing and fixing for it to be great. JEDI needed none, which it received some shocking additions. These additions should have been focussed on the prequels. Mainly Anakins dialogue, and that long boring chase onboard Grievous ship in those airducts. Luckily we have Fan-editors in the world so i have seen improved versions of them, and theyre actually great. Mostly.

        But ROTJ wins for me over SITH.

      • Excpired

        Sith was by far the most intense star wars film, it was the culmination of Anakin and it showed us his defining moments that made him Darth Vader. I thought the story of his creation and fall from grace was perfectly executed. That being said there were a lot of other lackluster elements to the Sith film, and Hayden being miscast definitely dampered the film overall (though I feel like he played a better psychotic Anakin then he did a lost Anakin). Sith is my favorite of the 6 mostly because we got to see Darth Vader before he became the grotesque beast in the costume, and that was something I very much enjoyed getting to see.

      • Sean

        Revenge of the Sith could have been better than Return of the Jedi, but Anakin’s fall was horrible. His motivation didn’t make any real sense. Then we see Vader in costume whining about his lost wife. Someone dies of a broken heart.

      • darthvader69

        nooooooooooooooo.com

        that’s all I need to say

    • Dan Geer

      Thank you!
      I do love Return of the Jedi, but Revenge of the Sith is CLEARLY superior in my opinion. I think people typically claim Return of the Jedi is greater than Revenge of the Sith just because it’s a part of the original trilogy the older fans automatically worship, and because Sith is a part of the commonly loathed prequel trilogy that they MUST hate without question. Sith is definitely way better than Episodes I & II, and shouldn’t be automatically loathed just because it’s a prequel.

      P.S.: I do like the prequels in general, but Sith exists on a level way above TPM and AOTC to me.

  • RorshachLives!

    the original 1983 theatrical release is where the ‘Star Wars’ saga ended for me… everything after that was just franchise-bait!

  • Ziro

    “I enjoy reading these, but it often feels like you’re trying to please the fan base as opposed to giving honest thoughts. ”

    that! but still interesting I guess.

    you should try to watch Tartakovski Clone Wars micro-series, between EP2 and EP3. Its only 2 hour long and really worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Mark Bennett,
    There’s a reason Allison has a job in the pop culture world and you don’t.

  • agent_black

    @Mark Bennett – Probably the same number as took to turn you into a nasty, misogynistic little, w*nker, none.

    If your comments were posted 4 hours ago that makes it 4-5am here in the UK ‘Top Commenter from London’ so I guess you came back home after another unsuccessful night of hanging around Kings Cross Station begging men to let you suck them off, but even the dark, seedy underbelly of Old Londinium at 3am wouldn’t crack one off in your ugly cake hole, forcing you to go back to your mums basement, empty mouthed and bitter at the world.

  • Mavro

    You guys/gals can report Mark’s post. Just FYI.

  • Joseph M

    I’ve fell out with Allison. I overlooked a writer on a brilliant film/TV site that hasn’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy, I even overlooked her thinking Fett was ‘kinda helping the rebels’. What I can’t take is that she liked the Ewoks. This is offensive! That said, not as offensive as that Burnett asshole.
    Last chance, Allison. If you like Jar Jar Binks, we’re finished!

    • Joseph M

      *Sorry. The offensive asshole’s name was Bennet, not Burnett.

  • Bennets gooch

    Definately THIS!!!! ^^^ LMAO!

    re, Alisons reviews, People on here saying Shes just trying to please the fans.. Are you kidding me? She’s just watched Star Wars OT for the first time ever! Of course she fuckin likes em! Girls can like Star Wars too!

    Though, I know a girl that had never seen the OT, she watched them at mine, and she loved them all! But, then it came to Phantom Menace, she did not like at all! Turned it off before the pod race, never watched the other prequels. Too strikingly different, I imagine Alison will feel the same. Personally Alison, keep it holy! Then again, it may be at least handy so she can see our pain. Theyd be half decent films is someone edited all the lame corny clunky dialogue out, though there wouldn’t be much left.

  • Bennets gooch

    Anyone else think there should be an overwhelmingly large voting POLL sent to Disney in advance, stating we prefer puppets over CGI characters? Jabba the Hutt and Yoda are 1000 000 000 times better as puppets than their CGI alternatives.

  • Anthony

    If you loved the ewoks, you should watch “caravan of courage” and “battle for endor”. Not the best movies ever but interesting, especially the second one.

  • Dan Geer

    To Allison Keene,

    I suspect that you’ll find the prequels to be way different than the original trilogy. They are. You should not expect the same kinds of stories or characters. While they are flawed films, they do have interesting subtleties that, for first time viewers, may not actually present themselves to the forefront until Revenge of the Sith, which reveals everything. So if events don’t make much sense in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and/or don’t seem all that interesting or important, expect Revenge of the Sith to help out with makiing things more clear. It may be beneficial for you to re-watch TPM and AOTC after having viewed Revenge of the Sith to see what subtleties you missed upon your first viewing.

    Again, don’t expect the Original Trilogy. Don’t expect characters that are immediately likeable. The prequels are much more subtle, as well as political, and they take Revenge of the Sith to properly gives the viewer an understanding of why TPM and AOTC need to be.

    The original trilogy is more character-driven. The prequels – if you can get past the constant bashing they undeservedly receive online and just form your own opinion – are plot-driven.

  • Turner

    Really enjoyed the reviews Allison. Good job. As a side note, Gary Kurtz (producer on “A New Hope” and “Empire”) said in recent L.A. Times article, the reason he parted ways with Star Wars and didn’t produce “Jedi,” was because Lucas became more interested in using the movies to sell toys than to tell interesting stories. In “Jedi,” in my humble opinion,” you can really see that. Also Harrison Ford looked bored as hell.

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  • Katie

    @Mark Bennet: Hey Mark, thanks for sexually harassing an entertainment blogger because she never saw your favorite fantasy film series. If she had a dick, would you be this enraged? Or maybe you’d be a little less free with your words, considering you might have some competition. It’s guys like you that make women feel unsafe in this business. Well done.

  • yep

    I love all 6 films. To be honest. Everyone is like OT is great with acting and all and PT is lame, corny, etc….You may say blasphemy, but honestly, the dialogue in all 6 films are corny! That’s what makes Star Wars what it is. Corny one-liners that pop up from time to time. The acting in all 6 films are all corny! Really the best acting in all the films is James Earl Jones and he only did voice work. Star Wars films are supposed to just be fun films, and quite frankly I had fun with all six and can’t wait for Episode VII, VIII, and IX and whatever follows just because I love to see these films. But this is my opinion, and opinions are like buttholes….everyone has one…enjoy..

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  • Someone

    What about the Emperor? Did you like him? I thought he was the most fun to watch and his scenes are very enjoyable. Also, kinda funny you referred to him as “the Master” :P

  • Will J

    You think that Star Wars was previously a ‘cult’ series? Are you downs? The first film was one of the hugest films of all time! These have never been cult films, always blockbusters! Don’t understand your point here, original trilogy is as great as it gets.

  • Chris

    I really don’t understand how anyone could think that A) Jedi was too childish or B) Sith was a good movie, let alone BETTER than Jedi. Jedi may have introduced the Ewoks, which were cute and goofy, before slaughtering tons of them. The moment during the Battle of Endor where we see how many of them died for a war that essentially wasn’t their own was powerful. Luke nearly turns dark as he savagely attacks his father, cohersed by the emperor, juxtaposed with the rebel fleet nearly being wiped out in their last major chance to take down the empire. It had more emotional stake than either of the two episodes before it and it worked well. Sith, on the other hand, while better than the bland, visually numbing prequels before it, failed to believably raise the stakes at all. Anakin’s motivations are so unbelievable, he’s such a whiny bitch the whole time. The main character is totall unlikable, and has no chemistry with his wife. By the time he “reluctantly” turned to the dark side, I was just begging for it to end. I don’t know how anyone can overlook the failure of what was the entire point of the trilogy, the humanization and fall of Anakin, as being a total failure of dull, lazy storytelling, poor acting, and overblown visual confusion. By the time Padme dies of a broken heart, whatever respect I might’ve had for the film has completely disappeared. I always viewed Vader as a badass who was pushed to the dark side, what we got was a dead eyed twenty something who threw temper tantrums until he was easily manipulated into mass slaughter for no clear reason, until getting his ass beat by the only remotely liable character in the film, in one of the most anti-climactic and laughabl ways possible. Yeah, hubris caused a supposedly talented warrior to make a ludicrous front flip over a guy wielding a lightsaber? Come on. The only thing that dragged the entire prequel trilogy along was the score, which emotionally guided us when the cartoony visuals, painful dialogue, and wooden acting couldn’t.

    Jedi may be the worst of the original trilogy but it is leaps and bounds better than any of the prequels.

  • BK

    In regards to your WTF moment: When Vader saw Luke being tortured by the Emporer’s lightning bolts, that’s when he finally realized that blood was thicker than water, so to speak. That’s why he said “FTS”, picked up Palpatine, and tossed him into that reactor. You can say it was his way of re-claiming his humanity, and possibly, letting go of all the anger and hate that had consumed him throughout the years.

  • Goobity

    “What didn’t work: The CGI changes, including putting in Young Anakin instead of his Episode IV Uncle Fester self at the end, was a mess.”

    Wait. If this is truly your first viewing of the film, how could you possibly be put-off by changes to a version you claim to never have seen?

    Doesn’t make sense, now does it?

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