On May 25th, 1983, Return of the Jedi, the last film in the original Star Wars trilogy arrived in movie theaters. I cut school that day with my friend, Craig in order to take in the first show at the nearest theater playing it which was a 45 minute drive away from us. We were already excited to see it, following every possible source of information leading up to Jedi's arrival for tidbits of information, which was a lot different in the pre internet days. My subscription to Bantha Tracks, the official Lucasfilm/Star Wars Fan Club newletter provided much of the information, but there were other magazines, too. I remember being blown away by the photo below of Luke Skywalker, blaster in hand, surrounded by Jabba's court of thugs when it appeared in Starlog magazine.
Then there was the image below, and Craig and I were among the first people not associated with the movie to see it. It was shown during a Q and A with producer Howard Kazanjian at Boskone. At the time we all thought that maybe it was the original Death Star, not quite blown to atoms by Luke's torpedo.
Craig and I reached the movie theater well ahead of time. We were first in line, interviewed by a local paper, and though we were both really excited coming out of the theater when it was over, eventually the realization sunk in (at least for me) that Return of the Jedi was a mixed bag, especially given how outstanding the first two movies were.
Yes, the movie had a lot of great stuff. The space battles were exciting as was the speeder bike chase. In fact the special effects, overall, were pretty spectacular. The scenes with Luke and Vader, and Luke, Vader, and the Emperor were so good that they elevated the whole movie from being something that could be skipped (such as Episode I and Episode II), and even though I found the bulk of the Jabba the Hutt scenes to be too muppety, rubber, and too comedic in tone, I liked those scenes because I'm a big fan of monsters and space aliens. Other things about Return of the Jedi really bothered me though.
Han, the coolest of the characters was reduced to being something of a buffoon, and Chewie and Lando weren't that far behind. Boba Fett, the cool new bounty hunter character introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, returned to prove he was an inept, clumsy buffoon as well, disappointing fans around the world. His indignities were amplified when new footage was shot for the special edition released in 1997, and we got to see Boba Fett hitting on the backup singers and then having to rush back in place while his employer is being threatened by a stranger with a thermal detonator.
Leia, the princess who didn't need boys to rescue her, had almost nothing to do in this movie beyond look fetching in a bikini. C-3PO was also wasted as a character. Only R2-D2 and Luke Skywalker were able to maintain their dignity throughout.
While the first two movies introduced new amazing things with every scene, Jedi was really light on amazing new things. Sure there was Jabba, the Rancor, and the Sarlacc, as well as the Speeder Bikes, and the Rebels had some cool new alien species and some cool new ships that we didn't really get to see, but that's about it. Everything else was recycled from previous movies.
Then there were these guys:
I'm not even talking about their appearance, which doesn't actually bother me all that much, but their behavior was also just too gentle and soft, and like the scenes with Jabba the Hutt felt like George Lucas wanted this movie to appeal much more to really young children than the age group who latched onto the previous films.
Perhaps the biggest thing that changed for me with Return of the Jedi was that it was the first of the Star Wars movies to come out when I had my own income so that I was no longer entirely reliant on the whims of my parents to obtain the Star Wars merchandise I craved. Because of this I have a lot more merchandise from Return of the Jedi than I do for the previous movies. It was my hope to showcase much of my collection during this month long celebration of the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi. Unlike during my posts for the 30th Anniversary of Star Wars, I am no longer 800 miles away from where my things are stored. I have fairly easy access to it. Unfortunately, I am in the middle of moving, where I'm putting things into boxes, and not digging through sealed boxes taking things out. I was able to access some of my collection, so there should be plenty to look at, starting with tomorrow.