Top Summer Movie #5: Even Han Needs Rescuin’
RETURN OF THE JEDI
Release Date: May 25, 1983
Tickets Sold: 93,229,206
Total Box Office (Adjusted): $709,474,258
As Darth Vader and the evil Empire reconstruct the Death Star in secret, the rebels, led by Jedi Luke Skywalker, prepare to make their final stand (they also make a quick detour to visit the Ewoks and help out merchandise sales).
Wow Factor: How is it all going to end? The first two Star Wars movies had been wildly successful at the box office, so there was a lot riding on this movie. Unlike most sequels where it’s a new adventure with the same characters, Lucas knew he was going to tell a 3 part story, and had planned accordingly. This wasn’t a sequel, it was a conclusion.
Re-Watchability: Of the three original movies, this one is the hardest to get through multiple times, mainly because it stalls in the middle. In fairness, Empire Strikes Back probably deserves some of blame here though. If you think back to the end of Empire, there were really only two or three pressing questions that the sequel was going to be obligated to answer:
a) Would Han Solo be rescued?
b) Could Luke save his father from the Dark Side?
c) Could the rebels defeat the Empire once and for all?
And that was pretty much it. The first question gets taken care within 20 minutes or so, and the other two are really the crux of the trilogy, meaning they’ll have to wait for the finale. So there wasn’t a whole lot to do for a large chunk of the movie (hence the Ewoks). Which brings us to…
Improvement: Star Wars is an iconic piece of cinema history, and a very well told story, but it wouldn’t have hurt to build in a few more things for the characters to do in the third part. Now, not every show needs to be like LOST and spend its conclusion frantically trying to tie up all the loose ends (and largely succeeding, but that’s a separate argument), however, there needs to be enough mystery left to drive the story through to the end. The whole Endor sequence felt like something to fill the time before the final Vader/Skywalker showdown. Also, if you ask me, Boba Fett deserved a better conclusion than getting accidentally knocked into the Sarlacc pit. Other than Dog, Boba Fett is the iconic bounty hunter. He should have at least gone down swinging.
Lessons Learned: The success of this movie was largely driven by the two before it. As a stand-alone film it wouldn’t have made the Top 10, but as the conclusion to an epic trilogy, it finds itself in the Top 5. I think the lesson here is that it’s okay to finish telling a story. It’s very plausible that if Return of the Jedi were released today, there would be an extra scene or shot somewhere suggesting that the Vader killed by Luke was a double, or that the Emperor had survived the fall, or that another Sith Lord was lying in wait to take over. All of those sound like pretty crummy plot points, but they suggest the possibility of another movie (and another payday). Now, ultimately Star Wars returned, but in a prequel, not a sequel. Remember it’s okay to finish telling a story, even if it is a summer blockbuster.
armovieguys score: 8 out of 10.
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