This will likely not come as a huge shock to many of you reading this, but I have long been obsessed with Star Wars. I still have my copy of the original trilogy plus a making-of documentary on VHS. This is in spite of my wife Kate and I having not owned a VCR for some time. As I have explained, it will be far easier to eventually find a VCR than to track down an elusive box set.
I should add that not all of the fanfare over the new set of Star Wars movies has been positive. With the lingering distaste for the prequel trilogy (’Phantom Menace’, ‘Attack of the Clones’ and ‘Revenge of the Sith’) some spoilsports have been skeptical about how the new entry to the saga will compare, given that for many, the entries released around the turn to the millennium came as a disappointment.
While they certainly do not compare to the original three films, which admittedly seems an impossible task to live up to, I do not share the same level of hate for the most recent movies. If I had one complaint, it was that the new movies seemed too reliant on computer-generated images, and it lacked some of the “realism” of the original movies. It does seem slightly ridiculous that I could complain about realism within a fictional universe populated by all manners of creatures, lightsabres, and spaceships, but that is the hold that Star Wars has had on me for more than 25 years now. Within the universe, even the unbelievable and the unfathomable have a place within reality.
Which is why it has bothered me for quite some time that ‘Return of the Jedi’ is so often lumped in with the latter movies as being a weak link in the chain.
This could not be further from the truth. ‘Return of the Jedi’ has always been a fantastic movie. From the extraordinary opening sequence on the desert planet of Tatooine, which brought us Jabba the Hutt, Sy Snoodles and the Max Rebo band and the Sarlacc Pit (a pit-dwelling desert creature that eats people, now you see why “realism” was in quotations) it’s a thrilling adventure movie. The Ewok-led battle on the forest moon of Endor is a remarkably astute take on the Vietnam War, which was still very fresh in the public’s mind when the film was released in 1983. As well, it has Lando Calrissian taking the controls of the Millennium Falcon and leading the assault on the new Death Star.
It even has some emotional moments such as (32-year-old spoiler alert) when Yoda dies or Darth Vader finally turns on the Emperor to save his son.
Again I turn to the issue of realism and its place in the Star Wars universe. For many people, it seems that their issue with ‘Jedi’ mainly stems from the inclusion of the Ewoks. While the appeal of the teddy bear-like Ewoks to kids is undeniable, it shouldn’t be the end of discussion. These teddy bears were not playing around, they took on the Empires baddest troops and scored a victory by using the elements to their advantage like when they crushed the Scout walker with giant swinging logs. People love Chewbacca, another furry character who only communicates through moans and groans. But, if you dare shrink a Wookie from seven feet to three feet and give it a haircut, then everyone cries for three decades because it’s not “realistic.” With my daughter Abby yet to full experience Star Wars, since she is only 11 months old, I for one am ecstatic that the Ewoks will likely capture her imagination, then we can wear matching C-3PO t-shirts.
‘The Force Awakens’ could very well break every box office record later when it’s released this year. But that won’t keep it from being criticized by those who feel it doesn’t live up to their own impossible expectations. Just keep in mind that these stories happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, how realistic can they possibly be?