Star Wars Return of the Jedi

  • Title:  Star Wars Return of the Jedi
  • Director:  Richard Marquand
  • Date:  1983
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Nevertheless, I’m taking Captain Solo and his friends you can either profit by this or be destroyed.  It’s your choice but I warn you not to underestimate my powers.”  — Luke

“When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not.”  — Yoda

“Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall, that is the way of  things, the way of the Force.”  — Yoda

“Anger, fear, oppression, the Dark Side are they.  Once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny.”  — Yoda

“Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of  the Force.  He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Dark Vader.  When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.  So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

Return of the Jedi again starts with a crawl updating the audience to the plot, and reminiscent of very old movie serials.  There is an impressive opening shot of a very large and long ship approaching a partially constructed Death Star.  The sequence has several impressive model shots as well, including:  two star destroyers, shuttles, and the moon with the Death Star itself.

On Tatooine, R2-D2 and C3PO are in the desert, they approach Jabba’s palace.  Inside, R2-D2 plays a message from Luke Skywalker.  He wishes to bargain for Han Solo’s life, and gives Jabba R2-D2 and C3PO as gifts (don’t worry it’s all part of the plan).  The droids are indoctrinated into Jabba’s workforce in a scene which includes shots of droids being tortured (one is having it’s feet burned with red-hot horseshoes, another is being pulled apart at the arm and hip sockets).  Jabba’s palace has an 1001 Nights aspect to it, and it’s full of music, aliens, and dancing girls.  Jabba kills his slave girl, dropping her into a pit.  A bounty hunter comes in with Chewbacca, haggling with Jabba (via C3PO’s translations) to get a higher price.  Lando is also hiding in Jabba’s palace in disguise.  Later that night, the “bounty hunter” rescues Han.  He’s frozen in Carbonite and she de-freezes him.  She’s Princess Leia.  Han is basically OK, though temporarily blind.  Jabba quickly captures Han again.  Leia is brought to be Jabba’s slave girl, and Han is imprisoned with Chewbacca.  Luke, dressed in black and cloaked, arrives.  Luke uses his Jedi mind tricks on one of Jabba’s guards, but they don’t work on Jabba.  Luke threatens Jabba for Han and Leia’s lives, but Jabba is over-confident and drops Luke in the Bantha pit.  Luke kills the Bantha monster and the Bantha Keeper is devastated.  However, Luke in unable to rescue Han at the time and the entire group is taken to Jabba’s sail barge to be taken to the desert where they will be executed by another monster – Jabba thinks.

On the barge, Luke will be forced to walk the plank – but instead he performs some very impressive gymnastics and grabs his light-sabre that R2-D2 has sent sailing into the air.  The Star Wars theme swells.  Luke fights Jabba’s creatures and rescues Han and Chewbacca, then heads to rescue Lando. Leia tries to free herself and also kills  Jabba.  Leia also rescues R2-D2.  She points the huge gun on the sail barge at the deck, set to blow.  Luke and Leia swing to safety on a smaller desert hover boat where Han, Chewbacca, and Lando await.  The two droids dive into the desert sand, and are picked up by the smaller boat.  The sail barge is destroyed.

Luke heads off to Dagobah with R2-D2.  The rest are on the Millennium Falcon heading for the alliance fleet.

Meanwhile, Darth Vader and an extremely impressive parade of troops great the Emperor.  The Emperor urges Vader to wait for Luke to seek him out and together they will turn Luke to the Dark Side.

Meanwhile, Luke visits Yoda on Dagobah.  Yoda is dying.  Luke is devastated to lose his mentor, but handles it without the anger of his younger days.  Yoda also avoids Luke’s questions, but mentions a mysterious “other”.  After Yoda’s demise, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi appears.  He confirms what Luke knows – Vader is his father … and also tells him Leia is his sister (Luke half figures this out himself).  Luke now knows he must confront Vader — but he’s convinced there is still good in his father.

Meanwhile the Alliance, including Han Solo, Lando, Chewbacca, Leia, and in the background, Wedge, as well as a full room of others goes over their plans.  A female general/diplomat reviews information received from “Bonthan spies”, then turns the meeting over to Admiral Ackbar to explain the details of the attack.  Lando will lead the fighter strike team in the Millennium Falcon which Han gives him.  Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO, and R2-D2 will go to Endor to knock out the Shield Generator.  Luke arrives just as the plans and teams are being finalized and joins Han and Leia.

On Endor, Han and Luke encounter a pair of Storm Troopers and the speeder bike chase ensues.  Leia falls off her bike.  Luke returns to Han and company.  Meanwhile, Leia meets and befriends an Ewok – a sort of primitive walking teddy bear.  Leia is nearly captured by a pair of storm-troopers but she manages to defeat them herself.

Meanwhile, on the Emperor’s ship, Vader reports that a Rebel force has landed on Endor, including Luke. The Emperor orders Vader to Endor.  Luke will come to Vader who will bring him to the Emperor.

Meanwhile, Luke, Han, and company are looking for Leia — they don’t find her, but get caught in a trap. Though they get themselves free, they are captured by Ewoks.  The Ewoks worship C3PO.

They are taken to the Ewok village.  Leia appears.  Luke uses the Force to raise C3PO’s chair and the group is set free.  Leia kisses Han.  At the feast that evening, C3PO tells the gathered Ewoks the story so far complete with sound effects.  The Ewoks look on in stunned amazement.  Luke, Han, and everyone are inducted into the Tribe.

Luke and Leia speak to each other.  First, Luke asks Leia about her mother.  He then tells her, Darth Vader is his father.  Then he tells Leia she truly is the last hope of  the alliance, she’s his sister and has the power of the Force too.  He wanders off, because he’s a danger to the main Alliance mission.  Han arrives.  Han gets a bit angry that Leia’s honest with Luke but won’t tell him what’s wrong.  Of course, Han has no idea what Luke’s just told Leia.

Luke turns himself  in to Vader.  Despite Luke insisting there’s good in Anakin Skywalker, Vader turns him over to the Emperor.

Han and his team check out the shield generator on Endor.

Lando and his space fleet make the jump to hyperspace under Ackbar’s orders.

The Ewoks lead Han and his team to the back door of the bunker.  An Ewok steals a speeder bike and draws off some of  the troops.  Unforunately when they walk into the bunker…

Vader brings Luke to the Emperor.  The Emperor gloats that Luke’s friends are walking into a trap.  The space battle attack on the death star has to break off and a space battle ensues.

Han, Leia, and Chewbacca face a legion of storm troopers.  C3PO baits the storm troopers into a trap and the Ewoks attack.  Before long an all-out battle occurs between storm troopers and Ewoks.  The Ewoks do well but many are also killed.

The Ewok battle on Endor is intercut with the battle in space between Lando’s group and the Emperor’s fighters.

The Emperor, again, gloating has the Death Star attack and destroy a rebel ship.

On Endor, R2-D2 gets hit by laser fire.  Han tries to hot wire the bunker door.  More Ewoks are killed. Lando continues to lead the fight.

The Emperor continues to goad Luke.  Luke grabs his light-sabre but Vader blocks his attack on the Emperor.

The Ewoks begin to succeed again in their battle with the Emperor’s troops.

Leia is injured as she tries to cover Han at the door.  Chewbacca commandeers an Imperial Walker.

Luke fights Vader, then stops.  Vader strikes out at Luke and Luke counters him.  Vader throws his light-sabre at Luke,

The space battle continues.

Han and Chewbacca pull one over on the Imperial troops.

Luke plays cat-and-mouse with Vader and insists he won’t fight him.  When Vader realizes Leia is Luke’s sister and says he will convert her to the Dark Side.  Luke fights back, hard, now angry.  The Emperor arrives, and Luke, looking at his own mechanical hand, and Vader’s wrist where he’s cut off his hand, stops, and tells the Emperor he’ll never turn to the Dark Side.  Luke throws aside his light-sabre.

Back on Endor, the bunker is destroyed.  In space, the attack on the Death Star commences.

The Emperor attacks Luke with lightening bolts.  Luke pleas to his father for help.  Vader grabs the Emperor and throws him into the well of a power reactor, saving Luke, but getting electrocuted in the process.

During the space battle a rebel ship hits a star destroyer and it sinks, crashing into the planet.  Luke drags Vader to an escape craft.  Vader asks Luke to remove his mask so he can look at Luke with his own eyes.

Luke escapes in the shuttle.  The Death Star is destroyed.  Han assures Leia that Luke wasn’t on the Death Star when it blew.  Leia quietly responds that she knows.  Han offers to not get in the way when Luke returns.  Leia explains Luke is her brother, then kisses Han.

Luke burns his father’s body.

Everyone reunites at the Ewok celebration.  Luke wanders off and he sees the ghosts of his father, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi before Leia brings him back to the party.

The conclusion to the Star Wars trilogy is actually quite good and satisfying.  It’s best in it’s quiet moments – Luke’s conversations with Yoda and Ben (Obi-Wan); Luke’s explaining his background to Leia; even Leia explaining to Han that Luke’s actually her brother and she’s in love with Han.  The film also uses short set pieces and in the last half-hour/forty-five minutes a lot of inter-cutting.  This stops the film from bogging down.  Yes, the film is the Hero’s Journey but it’s well executed, especially as at the time true fantasy heroes journey’s were seldom the subject of  popular entertainment films.  Luke is much more mature here, so much so, that I wondered just how long Han was stuck in Carbonite, since Luke has finished his training.  Leia also seems a bit older, and more ready to take on responsibility, though her character doesn’t grow as much as Luke or even Han.

Return of  the Jedi also has a lot of great lines.  Like all of  the Star Wars trilogy the writing is very quotable, which makes the film fun to watch.  All the leads also do a good job.  Mark Hamill is no longer playing the “whiny farm boy” but has grown and matured. Han Solo has discovered the importance of caring for people instead of just himself and Chewie.  Only Leia, though always strong, seems to have not changed much… though she does more or less propose to Han.

Recommendation:  See it, a true classic.
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Sting

Next Iron Chef – Competition or Co-Operation

This morning while drinking my morning coffee I sat down to watch The Next Iron Chef (NIC) which I had recorded on my DVR Sunday 25 November 2011.  I normally record my shows and watch them later, and though I watch NIC ”live” (that is when it’s aired) about half the time (so it doesn’t take up space on my DVR) I was out of town Thanksgiving Weekend and not awake enough to watch it when I returned home.

I’m pretty sure most people will know what NIC is, but if you don’t it’s a competitive cooking show on Food Network to “choose” their next “Iron Chef” for Iron Chef America.  And yeah, I’m pretty sure they know from day one who they are going to pick, or at least have a pretty good idea — and the rest of the candidates are just there to fill in and make a halfway interesting competition show.  This year’s competition included chefs who had previously competed and had, obviously, not won the last man standing title.  However, it’s interesting to note that many seemed to end up with the consolation prize of their own Food Network show, or as a judge on a different competition show, or something.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if competing on  Next Iron Chef hasn’t led to other career-boosting perks that we, the audience, don’t see.

However, this week, or rather last week, something unusual happened.  The show is in two parts:  the Chairman’s Challenge – a themed challenge for all the competing chefs; and the Showdown – the two lowest ranked, or least successful, chefs in the Chairman’s Challenge face off in a secret ingredient challenge.  Now, this season, to be honest, I’ve been extremely disappointed by the secret ingredient challenge… I mean, breakfast cereal, really?  That’s not a secret ingredient, that’s something to avoid at the supermarket.  Part of the point of watching competitive cooking shows is to see something you never see.  It’s sports for girls – and I don’t mean that in a demeaning sense.  But I watch NIC, Next Food Network Star, Chopped, the late, lamented Food Network Challenge (especially for cakes, sugar work, or chocolate), or occasionally Iron Chef America, not to get ideas for dinner but for the same, exact, reasons my Dad watches college or pro football or basketball.  So seeing professional chefs using Rice Krispies or Kikoman Soy Sauce, or canned tuna, is just not what I want to see.  That’s completely boring, and it’s almost an insult to the chefs.

However, this week they gave the chefs in the Showdown a real ingredient:  lobster.  I thought that was good.  And it’s a challenge-worthy ingredient.  Obviously, to win, the chef has to do more with the lobster than just boil it and serve it with butter, so yeah, good challenge.  Now, the two chefs in the Showdown, were old personal friends.  They had grown up together, worked together, and seemed close.  And throughout the program so far they seemed to almost be working as a team.  And seriously, that can be a strategy in any competition – no matter what the rules say.  I’ve seen other types of competition shows where two or three people “bond” or unite to knock off other competitors, but eventually become competitive themselves with each other after knocking everyone else off.  It’s a completely valid playing strategy.

The two chefs, then, each did their own thing.  They produced two completely different dishes, and each did their own work.  It’s not like one guy grated cheese for the other guy or something.  They both worked separately, and produced two completely different dishes.  But they decided to plate together.  I actually thought it was AWESOME!  There was definitely a sense of “we go down together, or we succeed together”.  I didn’t think it was arrogant or snubbing the judges or snubbing the idea of the competition at all.  After all, the whole “who will win” thing seems to be a bit of a farce, anyway, so what’s the harm Besides it placed friendship and co-operation over competition and I liked that.

So, when time was called, and the two chefs were called up in front of the three judges and Alton Brown… for the chefs it was a disaster.  The panel of judges spent most of their time berating both of the chefs — even calling the chefs arrogant. Arrogant, really?  Calling a chef arrogant tends to be about as redundant as calling a basketball player – tall.  The judges did, eventually, judge the actual food prepared, but even in their “closed doors” discussion of their decision – most of what they had to say was how angry they were that the two chefs had decided to present together, and that they just couldn’t handle the idea of these two friends working co-operatively.  But when they gave their decision, they gave the obvious one – one chef was dismissed from the competition and the other was allowed to stay, though he was warned against any further “stunts”.

So let’s examine this further.  Did these two chefs break any competition rules?  No, they didn’t.  Each chef prepared his own food.  Each dish was unique.  They didn’t consult with each other about their plans.  They didn’t help each other prepare the dishes in any way.  And they didn’t present a single dish. What they did do was plate together:  Chef A had a bowl of basically lobster soup, and Chef B had this molecular gastronomy thing that kinda’ resembled a salad – though a complex one.  The resulting plate was a nice bowl of soup, with a really interesting, bizarre side dish (mind you either would have been a filling lunch).  So, in a sense, the two items complemented each other in a Yin-Yang sort of way – comfort food of Lobster Soup and cutting-edge Lobster salad thingy.  In other words, you might get both together in a high-end restaurant.  But the two chefs didn’t plan it that way.

And, obviously, these two friends did not want to be in the showdown opposite each other.  Plating together was a way of trying a desperate “Hail Mary Pass” to get both of them through to the next round, despite the normal rule of an elimination.  It was more thinking “outside the box” and around strict adherence to the rules than any sort of slap in the face to the competition, Food Network, or the judges.

That the judges eliminated someone doesn’t surprise me – that’s what these shows do.  The cynical part of my brain almost thinks that before the chefs even step in the kitchen they draw lots and pre-determine who will get booted off when, and everything is scripted anyway.  Finding that out wouldn’t have me “up in arms” it would have me nodding my head and saying, “I knew it!” – it’s clearly entertainment after all.  But what I really didn’t like was the very negative almost mean reaction to what these two chefs did.

And I think it’s symptomatic of a problem in the US, where everything seems to be a competition of dualities.  It’s always:  paper books or e-books; Windows or Apple; Android or iPhone; Chevy or Ford; Kindle or Nook, etc.  Everything is always forced to be a choice between one or the other — and where that has it’s place, there’s also room for a broad smorgasbord or buffet of choices.  When it comes down to two choices only, often both have their drawbacks and one really wants a third option (American politics anyone?).  For example, my e-reader is a Sony, the third choice no one ever mentions, and though I buy my fiction in e-book form, I buy physical paper books for non-fiction.  Moreover, in the real world, a lot more is accomplished through cooperation than knock-down drag out competitive fights.  It does take more than one person to start a business, build a building or a road, and create civilization. When people work together a lot more happens than one person alone can possibly do.  Which doesn’t mean a single person has no worth, obviously when someone studies to be a doctor they need to learn by themselves and not cheat off their neighbor.  But they are not learning in a vacuum either, and that’s what we’ve forgotten as a society.  That med student is being taught by other doctors and teachers who were taught by those who went before them.  That med student is being taught in a building – built generations ago probably since the best medical schools are the older ones.  That building is supplied by power, from a local electric plant and other people work there.  That student drives to school on roads built by others.  Or he bikes to work on paths built by others.  And that student’s bike or car was made somewhere as were his or her clothes.  The self-made “individual” is the biggest myth out there.  But I digress…

What I meant to say is that by working together a lot more could be accomplished.  Yes, NIC is a competition.  And yes, it’s just a cable cooking show competition.  And yes, sooner or later “Team Bromance” would have been broken up anyway.  But the snarky comments of the judges were uncalled for.  The stage-whispered “what a mistake” comments of other competitors – not to mention what was said in the “post-game commentary” was shameful.  In my opinion, the two chefs should have been recognized for what they did.  That they decided to present together shouldn’t have been more the focus than the actual food prepared – and it definitely was.  And that, I thought was truly shameful.