Now, I know there’s some confusion out there as to when exactly Life Day is celebrated. Some people say that it’s celebrated on November 17th because that’s the date that The Star Wars Holiday Special premiered way back in 1978. But listen …. I’ve seen The Holiday Special. I forced my friends in the Late Night Movie Gang to watch it with me a few years ago and they’ve never forgiven me. And I can tell you, from having watched it, that Life Day takes place on December 25th. I mean, it was so obviously an intergalactic version of Christmas that I don’t even know where to start. November 17th? No way! Life Day is December 25th!
And, even if it isn’t — well, isn’t a late holiday greeting better than no holiday greeting at all?
So, while those of us here on Earth celebrate our holidays, other planets are celebrating Life Day and that’s okay. Vive la différence!
So, to all of our readers who are observing today or who maybe observed back in November or whenever — Happy Life Day from the Shattered Lens!
During tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, ESPN is hosting the final trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The last film of the new trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker seems to have Rey (Daisy Ridley) coming into her own as a Jedi. It also looks like her friends are due to face a new threat, could it really be The Emperor? While Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi may have left some audiences divided, Disney is hoping this will bring everyone in line and in the theatre. It seems to be working as theatres around the country are already selling out in pre-sales for the film.
It looks like we have Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fighting against and alongside each other again. Could this also mean some sort of redemption for Kylo? We’ll find out come December 19th, when the film is released.
Horror can make a political statement, it can make you reflect on your status in society, or it can just entertain. The first two types are good, but it’s also nice to just have fun! “Sorority Row” written by Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger and directed by Stewart Hendler is a 1990s throwback. It had a real “I Know What You Did Last Summer” feel to it. Honestly, the reviews are not fair to this film. A lot of people want horror to be all things, but it’s supposed to be fun too. So, just relax and have a good time. Also, it doubled its money, which is what a movie is supposed to do- especially horror. It’s one of the few genres left that can produced by mere mortals.
What I liked mostly about the film was the writing. It had a lot of great humor without it being campy. I’ve gotten to know Josh Stolberg on twitter the script has quite a bit of his personality: clever and quick-witted. I especially enjoyed Jessica (Leah Pipes). As a man who went a Greek dominated college, she was very realistic. Her character and one-liners gave the story a mix of comic relief and reality. I practiced Criminal Law for waaaaay too long and I can tell you that even honest people can turn to something wicked if they feel threatened. People will invariably choose themselves over a possible life ending punishment.
The plot is similar to the original House on Sorority Row: a prank run a muck. The girls belong to Theta Pi and they to love to party, prank, and get murdered. Garrett a brother of the Sister “Chuggs” cheated on Megan another Theta Pi, which is not okay! So, the sisters have her fake an overdose so that Garrett believes he killed Megan. The sisters: Jessica, Ellie, Cassidy, Claire, Megan, and Chugs are all in on the prank are a little too convincing because they make Garrett believe that they need to hide Megan’s body in a mine shaft or their lives will be ruined. The sisters say they have to get rid of the air in Megan’s lungs or she’ll float back up. So, Garrett takes the initiative as a true go-getter and uses a tire iron to stab Megan to death. Jessica decides very quickly that they need to hide Megan’s body for real. When Cassidy refuses to participate, they wrap the corpse in Cassidy’s coat and throw it down the mine shaft. Jessica really thinks fast on her feet.
I don’t know about you, but I think Jessica would be good marriage material. Hear me out: she’s determined, quick-thinking, has a college degree, and is ruthless to protect her goals. Also, Cassidy tried to be all above it, but as Jessica said- “you could’ve called the police, but you didn’t!” Agreed. You don’t get to benefit from something wicked and then look down on everyone else. Jessica made her choice and stuck to it. She made a good point as to protecting everyone’s future and ran with it. Cassidy kept Hamletting over her bad choices. Do it or Don’t. Jessica, don’t listen to the haters.
All seems fine a year later. They’ve all moved on except for Garrett who has become a wreck over his humiliation and accidental murdering. Then, they all receive a threatening group text on their very old timey looking phones- 2009 was just ten years ago and these phones look like museum pieces.
This technology allowed for some extra suspense because reception and tech wasn’t that great then; therefore, the characters can be cutoff from help. I really think horror shouldn’t be set any time after 2009 because it’s just too easy to get help now. This lack of tech added a nice layer of suspense. The text sender stalks and murders them one by one.
The kills were pretty clever: an electrocution, death by chardonnay, tire iron throwing, and a good ol’ fashioned stabbing or three. It also had a fun twist at the end like the 1990s horror films of my youth. I recommend this film. Read my past reviews- I don’t just recommend anything. I’m an iconoclast and can tell you that this was a lot of fun. Happy Horrorthon!
Here’s the new trailer for an obscure little art film called …. Stars Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker!
My first reaction, to be honest, is that the title is extremely unwieldy. I imagine that most people in the real world will just call it “the new Star Wars film” while people on twitter will demand that it only be called “Episode IX.” I’m not going to speculate on which Skywalker is rising. The majority of them seem to be dead. Perhaps the film will end with Adam Driver taking over the universe and destroying it, Thanos-style. That would be kind of fun.
I’m not really big into Star Wars. You may have already guessed that. While everyone else is going crazy over this trailer, I have to admit that my first reaction was, “Again with the desert?” But, snarkiness aside, it’s a nicely done trailer. There’s no way not to be excited by that scene of Rey doing a back flip over that cruiser. And any trailer that ends with mocking laughter is okay with me. Apparently, the Emperor is back. And so is Billy Dee Williams.
(For that matter, Carrie Fisher will be in the film, as well. Director J.J. Abrams has said that there was enough unused Fisher footage from the previous two sequels that Leia will be able to play a role in The Rise of Skywalker.)
It’s always somewhat weird to me to see how controversial the Star Wars films have become. I really don’t have enough shrug emojis available to me to express how I react whenever I see people on twitter debating whether or not the last movie was any good or not. I liked The Force Awakens and I respected the fact that Rogue One killed off the entire cast. I was kind of indifferent to both Solo and The Last Jedi.
But, let’s hope the best for The Rise of Skywalker! Apparently, the Star Wars franchise will be going on a bit of a hiatus after the release of this one. (That said, if The Rise of Skywalker does better at the box office than Solo or The Last Jedi, that hiatus could be a short one.) So, let’s hope that they (temporarily) end on a good note!
The Star Wars Holiday Special was first aired in 1978 and, over the years, it has achieved a certain amount of infamy. Some people say that it’s the worst thing to ever be made for TV. To those people, I say that 1) that’s not a good attitude to have on Life Day and 2) have you seen Disco Beaver From Outer Space?
Anyway, this is a musical Star Wars extravaganza. One thing that makes it interesting is that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher were all ordered to appear in it. Seeing as how Harrison Ford tends to come across as being grumpy on a good day, I can only imagine how he reacted to filming The Star Wars Holiday Special.
(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR. She has over 170 movies recorded and she’s trying to get them all watched before the beginning of the new year! Will she make it? Keep checking the Shattered Lens to find out! She recorded the 1992 dramedy This Is My Life off of Indieplex on March 20th.)
This Is My Life tells the story of Dottie Ingels (Julie Kavner). Dottie may be stuck working in a dead end job at a cosmetics counter but she dreams of becoming a successful comedienne. She even entertains her customers, who all seem to be delighted to put off making their purchases so that they can listen to an aspiring star tell corny jokes that were probably considered to be dated even at the height of vaudeville. Most of Dottie’s jokes deal with raising her daughters — Erica (Samantha Mathis) and Opal (Gabby Hoffman) — on her own. Times may not be easy but … well, actually, as portrayed in this movie, times are remarkably easy for a single mom with a job in retail. It’s certainly easier for Dottie than it ever was for my mom.
Anyway, Dottie’s aunt dies and leaves her some money, so Dottie moves herself and her daughters to New York City so that she can pursue her comedy career. With the help of an eccentric agent (Dan Aykroyd) and his assistant (Carrie Fisher), Dottie starts to find success as a performer but her daughters also start to resent the fact that their mother is no longer around as much as she used to be. While Dottie is getting invitations to appear on late night talk shows, Erica and Opal are feeling neglected. Finally, they decide to run away from home and head upstate to see their father, little realizing that he may not have room for them in his new life.
This Is My Life is one of those films that could only have been made by someone totally in love with the concept (as opposed to the reality) of show business. While Dottie does have to sacrifice to find success, the film has no doubt that the sacrifices are worth it. As played by Dan Aykroyd, Dottie’s agent is a big lovable eccentric who just wants the best for all of his clients. In fact, everyone in this movie just wants the best for Dottie. As a result, the film is so good-natured that you kind of feel guilty if you don’t force yourself to love it. At the same time, it’s such an unabashedly sentimental movie that it’s difficult to take any of its conflicts seriously. It’s like a fantasy of what it’s like to be an aspiring star in New York. Making her directorial debut, the famous writer Nora Ephron laid on the schmaltz so thick that, for the majority of the film, there’s not even a hint of a rough edge or a ragged corner. This is a film that really could have used a little more profanity. And while Julie Kavner is undoubtedly a funny actress, she’s never believable as a stand-up comedienne. (At least not a successful one…)
That said, there were a few things that I did like about This Is My Life. Mathis and Hoffman are believable as sisters and there’s a natural poignancy to the scenes where they manage to track down their father. I related to those scenes and they brought tears to my mismatched eyes, not that it’s particularly hard to do that. Otherwise, This Is My Life felt like a typical directorial debut: heartfelt, uneven, well-intentioned, and just a little too heavy-handed.
Well, here’s the teaser for an obscure little art film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone takes the time to discover this little film. Hopefully, it’ll make its way to Alamo Drafthouse at some point because the trailer is actually pretty intriguing. It looks like it might be kind of exciting and there’s a voice over that suggests that there’s actually more going on in this film than just pure spectacle for the sake of spectacle.
“I know only one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.”
That doesn’t sound good.
(By the way, Mark Hamill actually speaks in this trailer. So, all of you who thought the ending of Force Awakens indicated that Luke Skywalker had been rendered mute — well, you’re wrong! Or, actually, it might be more correct to see that I’m wrong since I think I was the only one who thought that.)
The Last Jedi comes out on December 15th. I get the feeling that Arleigh and most of the TSL staff have already bought their tickets.
The evil Galactic Empire spent what had to be billions of Imperial credits to build the greatest weapon in the universe. It was known as the Death Star and it housed a laser so powerful that it could blow up a planet with just one shot. And yet, for all the effort and all the years that were spent building it, the Death Star had one glaring vulnerability, an exposed exhaust valve that the Rebel Alliance twice used to the destroy it.
For years, fanboys debated why the Empire would go to the trouble to build a super weapon with such an obvious design flaw. I have to admit that I was often one of them. No one else seemed to care but, to us, this was a huge deal. If the Empire could figure out how to blow up a planet with one super laser, why couldn’t they figure out how to protect that one valve?
Now, thanks to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we have an answer. We not only know why that valve was there but we also know what was meant in New Hope when the rebel general said that the plans to the Death Star had been stolen at great cost.
Rogue One is a fan’s dream, one that answers questions while expanding on the Star Wars mythology. Unlike the previous prequels, it adds to the story without cheapening the original films. In fact, of all the Star Wars films, Rogue One is the first to make the Death Star into a believable weapon of mass destruction. When it appears over one planet, it blots out the sun. When it blows up a rebel base, we see the destruction from inside the base instead of observing it from the safety of Death Star. Director Gareth Evans does for the Death Star what he previously did for Godzilla.
Unfortunately, like Godzilla, the action and the special effects in Rogue One are usually more interesting than any of the film’s characters. Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, and Riz Ahmed are all good actors but they’re all playing underwritten parts. No one steps up like Harrison Ford did in the original trilogy. Commander Kennec, played by Ben Mendelsohn, has a little more depth than the typical Imperial villain but, for better or worse, the film’s most memorable performances come from a CGI Peter Cushing and James Earl Jones providing the voice of Darth Vader.
Despite the underwritten characters, Rogue One is still the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back, a return to the grittiness, the thrilling action, and the awe of discovering new worlds that distinguished the first two movies. For once, a Star Wars film seems to have more on its mind than just selling toys. Though we already know what is ultimately going to happen to the Death Star at the end of New Hope, Rogue One is a frequently downbeat film. There are no Ewoks and, to great relief and rejoicing, Jar Jar is never seen. The closest that Rogue One gets to comic relief is Alan Tudyk providing the voice of a cynical robot. The emphasis is on the horrors of war and even the rebels are troubled by some of the things that they have done. For once, the Rebel Alliance actually feels like a rebellion and the evil of the Empire feels real instead of cartoonish.
Rogue One is projected to be the first of many “Star Wars stories,” stand-alone film that will expand the universe and hopefully clarify some of the points that were left unclear by the original trilogy. I think it’s going to be very successful very Disney. I’m just dreading the inevitable Jar Jar origin story.
When I first began this site on Christmas Eve of 2009 I had to thank the excitement I had for event films after seeing and experiencing James Cameron’s Avatar. It was an experience I hadn’t felt since the days of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, even earlier than that, the original Star Wars trilogy. These were films that fired up one’s imagination, appreciation and love for film as entertainment and art. Some of these films would linger on longer in one’s mind than others, but that first viewing in their initial release would always imprint their effect on each viewer.
When George Lucas announced that he would be returning to that galaxy, far, far away with a trilogy of prequels almost 15 years since the world last saw Return of the Jedi premiere first the first time, the Star Wars fandom were giddy, excited and hyped beyond belief. The Star Wars films and the many spin-offs (novels, comic books, video games, etc.) which came about because of it only whetted the appetites of long-time Star Wars fans for more films detailing the adventures in the scifi universe created by George Lucas.
Yet, the prequels’ effect on these long-time fans would be the direct opposite of the effect the original trilogy had on the fandom. These three prequels (all directed and written by George Lucas himself) would do more than disappoint the fandom. It would create a schism between those who saw the original trilogy as the gateway to their fandom and those younger generation who never saw the original trilogy and had the prequels become their gateway to the fandom. Even to this day there would be some of the younger generation who truly believe that the prequels trump the original three films which began the franchise.
When news came down that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and everything which George Lucas had built and cultivated there was no chance in hell that there wouldn’t be another series of Star Wars despite the disaster which were the prequels. Lo and behold, it didn’t take long for Disney to greenlight the sequel to Return of the Jedi and have it set decades after the events of that film.
So, it is with Star Wars: The Force Awakens that the Star Wars fandom get to see whether their continued faith in the franchise was worth it or if they have been Charlie Brown’d once again and had the ball taken away at the very last second. It’s easy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great or it was awful. The true answer to whether this film succeeded in what it intended do was a bit more complicated.
Yet, if one was to look for an easy and simple answer then I’m happy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great. It had it’s moments of logic gap and plot holes, but as an overall finished product the film succeeded in course-correcting the franchise from the nadir it was at with the culmination of the prequels. It wouldn’t have taken much to surpass the very low bar set by those prequels, but The Force Awakens leapfrogged that bar and went even higher.
The film does begin thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi and we find out with the now familiar episode intro crawl that Luke Skywalker has disappeared since those events and the galaxy has remained in turmoil with his absence. The Galactic Empire has been defeated, but in its place a new danger in the form of the genocidal First Order has arisen from the Empire’s remains. Opposing the First Order is a sort of galactic force supported in secret by the New Republic and led by General (not Princess) Leia Organa calling themselves the Resistance. It’s the conflict between these two factions and the search for Luke that forms the narrative base for The Force Awakens.
The film doesn’t linger too long in explaining the events which occurred in that 30-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It doesn’t need it as we’re quickly introduced to the series’ new characters in the form of Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the galaxy, who has been sent on a secret mission by Leia to find the clues as to her brother’s whereabouts. Next in line was Kylo Ren who becomes this film’s analogue to the Darth Vader figure of the original trilogy. Yet, the bulk of the film was told through the eyes of Finn and Rey. The former is First Order stormtrooper who has seen first-hand what the First Order truly stands for and not for the betterment of the galaxy. The latter is a young woman living life on the desert planet Jakku scavenging the graveyard of starship wreckage from a battle thirty year’s prior.
It’s through Rey and Finn that the audience learns through their adventures upon meeting up with each other on Jakku what has transpired since the Rebellion destroyed the second Death Star and killed Emperor Palpatine. To these two characters, the events from the original trilogy seem to have passed beyond the realm of history and become more like legends and myths to the younger generation. Through a combination of fear and awe, Ren and Finn get introduced to some of the original trilogies main characters (Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and even Admiral Ackbar). These are the stories they’ve been told of growing up come to life right in front of their eyes and their reaction mirrors those of the audience who haven’t seen these characters in anything new and relevant since the end of Return of the Jedi. The reaction alone to seeing Han Solo and Chewbacca alone seemed like the fandom’s collective cheer for the good that has been missing with the franchise for over 30 years now.
The Force Awakens is not a perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Like mentioned earlier, the film does suffer from some gaps in story logic and plot holes. As with most J.J. Abrams directed films he had a hand in writing the script and one could see where he sacrificed coherent storytelling beats for something that just pushed the story along the path he wanted the film to take. For those who have been steeped in Star Wars lore and backstory, this would be easily explained as the Force nudging, guiding and, if all else fails, pushing the characters onto the right path, but for the casual viewers it would come off as story beats of convenience.
As a story to bring back the faithful and lure in those still uninitiated to the franchise The Force Awakens straddles the line between nostalgia and trying to bring in something new to the proceedings.
Let’s begin with the former and just say it now that The Force Awakens does follow some major story beats directly from A New Hope (to a smaller effect from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). One could almost say that this film was a sort of soft reboot of the original trilogy with how it lifted ideas from them and through some writing and directing recombination come up with something new, but still very familiar for hardcore and non-fans alike.
Does this decision to lean heavily on the original trilogy for ideas hurt the film? For some it might be a bit too distracting to recognize too many callbacks to those earlier films, but for most it’s a reminder of what the prequels lacked and that’s the sense of adventure and fun. There was never anything fun about the prequels. The Force Awakens brings it all back and for most viewers this is the course-correction the series has needed since the last images from Revenge of the Sith faded away from the silver-screen.
Even the new characters introduced in this latest film were an amalgamation of the main characters from the original trilogy. Where Abrams and Kasdan changed this up a bit was to go beyond just creating new analogues for the classic characters of Leia, Han, Luke, Chewie and R2D2. They opted to take all the qualities fans loved about those characters and mixed them all up to be used in the roles of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren and BB8.
As the standout character in the film, Rey (played by find of the year Daisy Ridley) would bring back memories of not just the young and hopeful Luke from the original trilogy, but also some personal traits of Leia and Han. The same goes for Finn who at times reminded us of Han’s roguish charm to Luke’s naivete of his role in the larger world he has finally witnessed for the very first time. For the half-empty crowd this might look as lazy character development, but those who see the film with the half-full mindset would easily latch onto these new characters. Characters who now take on the responsibility of moving the franchise beyond the nostalgia of the original trilogy and erasure of the disappointment of the prequels to new adventures with the next two films.
So, is Star Wars: The Force Awakens worth returning back to the franchise after the prequels or is it too much of a rehash of the original three films? The answer to that is a definite yes despite some of it’s flaws. For some the very flaws some have pointed out (too many callbacks, sort of a reboot, etc.) was what made the film a fun time to be had. It’s a return to the comfort zone the fandom missed with the prequels.
Will the next two films in this new trilogy follow suit and just rely too much on nostalgia to continue trying to satisfy it’s massive audience? Or will Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow (director of Episode VIII and Episode IX, respectively) move into new territory with minimal callbacks to those earlier films? We as an audience will have to wait til 2017 and 2019 to find out. Until then enjoy what Abrams and Lucasfilm has accomplished with The Force Awakens. A film which has reinvigorated a film franchise that has seem some major lows, but one which also happens to be one hell of a fun ride from start to finish on it’s own merits.
P.S.: Some controversy has arisen since the film’s release concerning the character played by Daisy Ridley. Some have been very vocal about calling her Rey character as a sort of knee-jerk reaction to the accusation that the Star Wars films have lacked for a strong female lead. An argument that’s as misguided and misinformed as that of the films being whitewashed. The films in the franchise have always had strong female characters. The accusation that Rey as a character in The Force Awakens is such a “Mary Sue” (a female character written and created to be the best at everything, no flaws) ignore the details in the character’s development.
What’s sadder is that some of the very people (film critics and writers) who in the past have complained that major films (especially blockbusters) have been lacking in very strong female characters have been the very same who see Rey as a negative and a character too good. This despite the character following in the very same footsteps in how her predecessors have been written (Luke, Han, Anakin). It’s an argument that is sure to bring heated debate among fans and detractors, but one that takes away from the performance of Daisy Ridley who should be one of the many breakout stars to come out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
We’ve reviewed a lot of science fiction and we’ve got a lot more left to go. (Keep an eye out for my reviews of Starcrash and The Humanoid over the upcoming few days.) However, from the beginning, this month has always been centered around Star Wars. You may have heard that there’s a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it’s opening this week. Apparently, a few people are excited about it. Since we love reviewing little known art films here at the Shattered Lens, we decided why not review all of the previous Star Wars films during the week leading up to the release of The Force Awakens? Jeff (a.k.a. the blogger known asJedadiah Leland) started us off by reviewing The Phantom Menace.Then Alexandre Rothier took a look at Attack of the Clones, followed by Jeff’s look at Revenge of the Sith.Leonard Wilson was the next to step up to the plate, reviewing both A New Hope and The Empire Strike Back.
And now, it’s my turn to add my thoughts to this project. It’s time to review the 1983 film, Return of the Jedi. And I have to admit that, when I first thought about what I wanted to say in this review, I was totally intimidated. Unlike my fellow writers here at the Shattered Lens, I’m hardly an expert when it comes to Star Wars. Don’t get me wrong — I know the basics. I know that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. I know that Han Solo flies the Millennium Falcon and that Princess Leia is in love with him. I know there’s an evil Empire and I know that there are rebels. I’m not a virgin when it comes to Star Wars but, at the same time, I’m definitely not as experienced (with Star Wars) as most of my friends and fellow movie bloggers.
“Dang, Lisa, get over it!”
So, late this afternoon, when I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi, it was with more than a little trepidation. My obvious panic and welling tears convinced Jeff to watch the movie with me and I was happy for that. He loves Star Wars so I knew he could explain to me what was going on.
Finally, we watched Return of the Jedi and I discovered that I was panicking over nothing. Return of the Jedi may be the third part of trilogy and I may not be an expert on the films that came before it. But, even with all that in mind, Return of the Jedi is not a difficult film to figure out. As opposed to the finales of Harry Potter, The Hobbit, and The Hunger Games, Return of the Jedi keeps things simple. A good guy has been kidnapped by a bad guy. The other good guys come to the rescue and then go to another planet so that they can fight an even bigger bad guy. It’s not complicated.
As I watched Return of the Jedi and realized that I was having absolutely no problem following the film’s plot, I also realized that the Star Wars films are such a huge part of our culture that, regardless of how many of them we’ve actually sat through, everyone has absorbed them by osmosis. Bits and pieces of it are everywhere, showing up in everything from TV sitcoms to political commentary. (Remember how everyone used to compare Dick Cheney to Darth Vader?) The Star Wars franchise is almost biblical in that respect. At the same time, the fact that everyone knows about these movies makes them a little difficult to review. You don’t so much watch a Star Wars film as you join in a universal experience. As a reviewer, you definitely find yourself wondering what you can add to a conversation that everyone else has already had.
As a stand alone movie, Return of the Jedi is actually three separate films mixed together. The first film deals with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) showing up at Jabba the Hutt’s palace and rescuing Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and two robots from being tossed into a creature called the Sarlacc, which is basically a giant vagina out in the middle of the desert. The second film deals with the rebels teaming up with a bunch of teddy bears and fighting the Empire on a jungle planet. And the third film features Luke and Darth Vader (body of David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones, face of either Sebastian Shaw and Hayden Christensen, depending on which version of the film you’re watching) dealing with their family issues while the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) cackles in the background. Some parts of the film work better than others. The end result is entertaining but definitely uneven.
Jedi‘s heart belongs to that third film, the one dealing with Luke and Darth Vader. I’ve read some pretty negative online comments about Mark Hamill’s performance in New Hope and Empire Strikes Back but, in Return of the Jedi, he brings an almost haunted intensity to the role of Luke. In theory, it’s easy to be snarky about all the talk about the “Dark Side of the Force,” but, when you look in Hamill’s eyes, you totally understand what everyone’s going on about. You see the fire and the anger but, even more importantly, you see the struggle between good and evil. There’s a very poignant sadness to the scenes where he and his father prepare to meet the Emperor.
And speaking of the Emperor, he is pure nightmare fuel! AGCK!
As for the other two films to found within Return of the Jedi, the jungles of Endor didn’t do much for me. Don’t get me wrong. I thought the action scenes were handled well and, unlike apparently everyone else in the world, I was not annoyed by the inclusion of the Ewoks, the killer teddy bears who helped to the Rebels to take down the Empire. I thought the Ewoks were cute and I actually got pretty upset when one of them was killed in battle. If I had been alive when Return of the Jedi had been released, I probably would have wanted a stuffed Ewok and, I imagine, that was the main reason they were included in the film. (I also imagine that’s the main reason why a lot of people can’t stand them.)
So, no, the Ewoks did not bother me. What did bother me was that under-construction Death Star floating out in the middle of space. It bothered me because I really couldn’t imagine any reason why — after the first Death Star was apparently such a colossal failure — the Empire would insist on trying to do the exact same thing all over again. This, along with the fact that they were rather easily defeated by a bunch of teddy bears, leads me to wonder whether the effectiveness of the Empire was just a little overrated. I mean, the Emperor was scary but otherwise, everyone involved with the Empire was pretty incompetent.
Far more impressive, as far as villains go, was Jabba the Hut. In fact, Jabba and his decadent entourage were so memorable and colorful and evil and icky that they pretty much overshadowed almost everything else in the film. I mean, Jabba even had a blue elephant playing music for him! And I know that I’m supposed to be critical of the film for putting Leia in that gold bikini but you know what? Leia may have been forced to wear a gold bikini but she never gave up her dignity or her defiance. And when it came time to take out Jabba, Leia used the tools of her oppression to do so, strangling him with his own chains. In that one scene, Leia proved herself to be a true rebel.
There’s a lot that’s good about Return of the Jedi but, as I said earlier, it’s definitely an uneven film. Richard Marquand’s direction is perhaps the epitome of workmanlike. It’s efficient and it’s dependable and there’s absolutely nothing surprising or particularly challenging about it.
It’s interesting to note that, before Richard Marquand was selected as director, the job was offered to both David Lynch and David Cronenberg, two directors who are all about surprising and challenging the audience. What would David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi been like? Well, here’s one possibility:
As for David Cronenberg’s Return of the Jedi, it might have looked something like this:
For better or worse, the world got Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, which I imagine was pretty close to what George Lucas wanted the film to be.
As I sit here finishing up this review and wondering just why exactly I was so intimidated earlier (seriously, this turned out to be one the easiest reviews that I’ve ever written), I estimate that 75% of the people that I know are currently sitting in a theater and watching The Force Awakens. Keep an eye out for Arleigh’s review in the next few days!
And in closing, here’s that blue elephant that I mentioned earlier. Dance!