Comics Ate My Brain

January 10, 2006

The Circle Is Now Complete

Filed under: star wars — Tom Bondurant @ 1:45 pm
Sorry about not posting over the weekend, despite Ragnell’s best efforts. Instead, the Best Wife Ever and I spent Saturday and Sunday on household chores and errands. We are steadily getting organized, even if it’s taking a while. So I started this last night, but went to bed early with a nagging headache.


Last week I finished watching Return of the Jedi, which wraps up my several-weeks-long attempt to view all six Star Wars films in episodic order. As a standalone movie Jedi has its flaws, but as the last part of the cycle it’s not bad.

Naturally, its best parts concern Luke and Vader. In that respect it gets some retroactive help from Episode III. For example, Ep III ends with Yoda and Palpatine squaring off while their apprentices also duel. Although Yoda and the Emperor never meet in Jedi, the scene of Vader greeting the Emperor immediately precedes the Yoda/Luke scene on Dagobah, so it gave me a similar vibe. Likewise, the big Luke/Leia revelatory scene on Endor brought back memories of their birth. (I still think Padme should have died a few years after Ep III ended.)

Apart from that scene, though, one of Jedi‘s big faults is its failure to use Han and Leia to their fullest. The movie seems to consider the issue of their relationship settled once she unfreezes him, except for a bit at the briefing where she acts surprised that he’s staying with the Rebels. (If he were going to leave, wouldn’t he have split before then? Jabba wasn’t getting any deader.) The rest of the time everyone’s doing something loud and/or fast, and there’s not much opportunity for witty banter in the style of previous episodes. Again, the point of the movie is to show Luke’s triumph and the defeat of the Empire — in other words, big fight sequences.

Those Jedi does well, even with the despised Ewoks. (Lucas’ DVD commentary opines that the Ewoks were cannon fodder until the Rebels could gain the upper hand, and let’s not forget that Chewie in a scout walker played a big role too.) The tripartite Battle of Endor makes an appropriate bookend for the four-front Battle of Naboo (even if it’s really vice versa), but what’s interesting to me is the type of special effects employed. Jedi accomplishes pretty much the same spectacle as Phantom Menace without using any computer graphics. Obviously, after Episode III, the amount of computer-generated imagery dwindles. It could even be that the additions to the original Star Wars help ease the transition from CGI-heavy prequels to the original vintage effects. With relatively few CGI additions in Jedi, and none that stand out from the beginning of the Sail Barge sequence to the end of the Death Star, I felt “weaned off” CGI before the big battles started.

One of those concluding additions, of course, is the replacement of armor-less Anakin with a somewhat sheepish Hayden Christensen. I respect the opinions of others, but I liked it. Not only did it supply another link between trilogies, it allowed Luke to see his father in his prime, not as the Jedi he might have grown into. Lucas has suggested that Anakin looks like Hayden now because that’s how he looked when he “died in the good side,” or some such. I’ll accept that, but I’d also like to think Luke sees his own idealized version of Anakin — a young Jedi, around his own age, wearing robes more reminiscent of Obi-Wan than of Vader.

Ironically, one of the more unfortunate comparisons between Jedi and Episode III is that both movies find Vader utterly defeated after the big saber duels. Vader may get the worst of it in Jedi, since all it seems to take is one last, furious burst from Luke to catch him off guard. Most other times I’ve watched that scene, I’ve focused on Luke finally tapping into the dark side to defeat Vader. That’s clearly where the emphasis is supposed to be, but with the prequels fresh in mind I suppose the emphasis shifted.

Nevertheless, the parallels are still there. At the end of Episode III, Palpatine rescues Vader and puts him in the suit. At the end of Jedi, Vader kills Palpatine and Luke helps him unmask. It’s a neat way to balance everything out, and it illustrates how the cycle manages to hold together almost in spite of itself.

1 Comment »

  1. that the Ewoks were cannon fodder until the Rebels could gain the upper handYeah, the really bad parts (ewoks beating `troopers to death with rocks despite their armor) are pretty far between.Of course, the long-whisperered CW of the ewoks being wookies with small budgets explains a lot, too. I could easily see a wookie killing a stormtrooper…

    Comment by David N. Scott — January 14, 2006 @ 1:34 am

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