Star Wars Episode VI The Return of the Jedi (1983, 1997)
Written and directed by George Lucas
I recall the theater (the late, great Edens 2, sigh), the seat location (back and to the left), and even the candy (Twizzlers).
I also recall that maddening wait of three years to learn the final secrets of Star Wars. I was not disappointed; in fact, I was probably in a state of mindless euphoria for at least two years following the release of Jedi, which was inevitably followed by a return to my senses, a sudden mid/late-80s backlash (accompanied by complete and unfounded embarrassment as I gave away my secretly-precious Star Wars toys), and finally a late-80s/early-90s resurgence which continues today in its current, once-again out-of-control state (recently it's been websites on how the interior of the Falcon could not possibly fit within the dimensions of the exterior when will I learn?).
Jedi is astonishing in scale and scope, visually stunning, and ridiculously imaginative. But a single word practically demolishes Lucas' golden palace: Ewok. By far the worst of Lucas' creations, Ewoks are annoying and pointless, utterly saccharine and worthy of the strongest contempt.
My understanding is Lucas originally planned to have the finale take place on the Wookiee home planet, and how much cooler would that have been?! Hundreds of screaming Chewbaccas on a rampage! Just think of it!
Alas, we are treated to cutesy, kid-friendly teddy bears. They're far more frustrating to watch now because of the lingering distaste for all the ill-conceived silliness of Episode I, which seems like a clear product of Ewokitis.
That distaste is reinforced by the new Jedi's added musical number in Jabba's Palace (a disastrous and fake-looking stupidity), and the "enhanced" Ewok celebration (although the quick cutaway scenes on Bespin and Coruscant are fan-freaking-tastic).
(Endor Holocaust credibly explains how the Rebels blowing up Death Star II would have inevitably led to the complete extinction of the Ewoks. Too bad this didn't happen before Lucas went location scouting on the Forest Moon of Endor.)
But I'm holding on too hard to an insistence that the Star Wars MUST BE COOL. It's easy to slag the newer trilogy because those films are not "mine," but truth be told, there's plenty in all three of the original films that requires turning a blind eye. Maybe one day I'll stop taking it (and myself) so seriously and actually become fond of the furry buggers.
Like most of the Star Wars universe, the Ewoks are both clumsy and somehow believable. And Lucas himself claims that if he wanted to create a commercialized species, he could certainly have done better than the Ewoks.
Then again, I sat through The Ewok Adventure with my sister enough times to know that the damn things really did appeal to kids. For the time being, let's just say I have a general dislike of the Ewoks, but am willing to reconsider in exchange for a three-picture deal with Fox, who are very concerned that any negative opinion on my part may cut deeply into their overall Star Wars franchise profits.
All Ewok venting aside, Jedi is still a great movie, upping the ante in countless ways: Jabba, speeder bikes, AT-ST Walkers, the second Death Star, the entire final space battle (especially the Falcon's insane flight into and out of the core reactor), Vader's final transformation, etc.
As with each of the "Special Editions," some improvements are unpleasant, while others are welcome. The enhanced Sarlacc pit, the cleaned-up space battles, the ending glimpse at Coruscant, are all happy additions. Yet I was shocked to see, in stark contrast to the claims of Lucasfilm, that the Rancor monster still had thick black matte lines, and was not matched to the rest of the scene. If I were Lucas, I'd be pretty damn embarrassed. Of course, if I actually were Lucas, I wouldn't be writing this at all I'd probably be hiring someone to kick your ass.
After a struggle with my own Dark Side (embodied in, amazingly, a lingering embarrassment left over from the 80s!), I can finally "come out of the closet" and announce that Jedi, while not "the best," is is my favorite Star Wars film. After being taunted for years about my fanaticism, I cannot stress how much of a struggle it is to admit this, either.
It would be far too easy to fall into the fold of traditional critics who say, "Empire is more complex, darker, more "serious," thus better."
But Jedi is just as, if not more, complex than Empire, and still manages to deliver a happy ending. So I now join the few, the proud, the fans of Return of the Jedi. My therapist is gonna freak!
Review by Crimedog