Admit it, "Return of the Jedi" sucks ass

OK, so you think the prequels are highly disappointing flicks which only came into existance as a showcase for ILM and cash cows for the Lucas corporation. Seconded. On the other hand, you think the original trilogy is still the hottest thing since sliced bread and utterly flawless. Well, while the first trilogy as a whole is definitely much better than what we've seen of the prequels so far, it's certainly not flawless and if you take off the fanboy glasses for a second (and are no longer 13 years old) you'll have to admit that Return of the Jedi is in fact a rather collossal stinker that's almost as annoying as Annakin in Phantom Menace, the loathsome Spielbergian wiz-kid any self-respecting adult would love to throttle until he stopped being a smartass (i.e. until the coroner takes over). I mean, seriously: Ewoks?!?

When I watched the whole trilogy again a couple of days ago after it was finally released in somewhat bastardized form on DVD, I realized that R2D2 and C3PO in particular are quite a bit more annoying than I remembered them. Maybe it's because the whole "humorous sidekick"-gimmick has been done to death for several decades now, maybe it's because I was considerably younger and less experienced when I first came into contact with the franchise a long time ago, but I frequently found myself flinching when these two had another featured scene. Fortunately, this doesn't happen all that often and most of A New Hope and in particular The Empire Strikes Back is still highly enjoyable popcorn-cinema and their reputation as genre-classics is well-deserved. The same is definitely not true for Return of the Jedi, which is still every bit as annoying as I remembered it. People talk about great SFX and there are indeed a couple of minutes of really impressive ones in there, along with some stylish shots of the Imperial Army parading around in red, white and black tupperware (more on that later), but the remaining 110 minutes are hardly bearable unless you think Ewoks are cute (in which case I strongly recommend psychological therapy, at least if you're old enough to drive a car).

The whole thing starts with everybody's darling Darth Vader visiting the new Death Star, where we see lots of stylish tupperware in formation as the old wheezer gives us some basic exposition and the usual charming and good-natured death threats to his minions. "This could get quite good", we think, but then we cut to C3PO and R2D2 wobbling through the desert and just when you thought they were finally deported to the ass end of the galaxy for getting on everybody's nerves they arrive at the Muppets Show (Tatooine branch) with the mission to free Kermit the Frog from the clutches of Miss Piggy... no wait, that's Han Solo and Jabba the Hut. We get treated to an utterly pointless musical number, the usual bunch of guys in latex suits and a bad stop-motion boss for Luke to dispatch. Han is thawed, although something must have gone wrong in the process because I remember him doing little more than grinning sheepishly at Leia and getting saved by other people for the rest of the movie -- nothing like the Han we used to know, more like Hanna, actually. The only positive aspect of this first part of the movie is that we get to see Leia in a bikini and realize for the first time that there's actually quite a well-shaped woman beneath all that ridiculous hairdo. Apart from that it's all extremely tedious and predictable: the Bad Muppet dies, the good guys are freed and we can't help but think that this is the sort of tacky ending Lucas would have ruined Empire with had he done that one in '83.

Desperate for a change of location, Luke returns to Dagobar to complete his training, but Yoda isn't really in the mood since he's become a feeble old Muppet about to croak in the meantime. Given the fact that the time between the end of The Empire Strikes Back and the beginning of Return of the Jedi in the Star Wars universe was maybe a couple of months at best, it's quite amazing how a 900 year old creature will turn from a strong master capable of hauling X-Wing fighters out of swamps by closing his eyes to a senile old fart in such a short time, isn't it? But before he mangles his last sentence, Yoda manages to tell Luke that Leia is his sister, which was obviously devised by Lucas to repeat the "I'm your father, Luke"-surprise in Empire, but utterly fails to deliver because it's just a pathetic rehash which, in contrast to the Vader/Luke angle, doesn't spice things up in the least. Out of embarrassment over having to deliver such a lame line, the Good Muppet dies and Luke returns to his rebel buddies who've just heard about the new Death Star and amazingly enough decide to blow it up. Since we're now on level two in this game, it's a little more complicated than it was the first time around and requires the deactivation of a force field on the nearby forest moon Endor. The volunteers for the Endor mission are hardly surprising and thus begins the darkest chapter in Star Wars history (or at least in the original trilogy).

After an encounter with Imperial Stormtroopers and a subsequent chase through the woods, Leia is separated from the rest of the gang and is the first to encounter the vile Ewoks, a race of obnoxiously cuddly teddy bears whose sole purpose in life is to revolt adults and boost sales of Lucasfilm merchandise to pre-teens who weren't allowed to take their Chewbacka dolls to bed. Eventually, everybody is reunited in the Ewok village in the trees and makes sightseeing plans for the next day. Luke decides that now that his chances of screwing Leia in a Lucasfilm family-movie have diminished considerably, he should at least try to re-educate daddy and takes off to meet the old pervert, while the rest of the merry men decide to pursue the original plan and visit the local forcefield generators. Naturally, things go terribly wrong for both parties and while Vader takes Luke to the Emperor to finally settle the question who's got the biggest light-sabre, the forcefield tourists are caught sneaking in without buying tickets and are promptly arrested for loitering. Just when everything seems lost, the Ewoks wage a successful attack on the stormtroopers. Which brings us to the tupperware aspect of the stormtrooper "armor". I mean, what else could it be, since it obviously doesn't offer any protection against a furry midget with low-tech spears and arrows? Besides, this makes you wonder why they're wearing these contraptions in the first place. In fact, how did they manage to sell these things to the Imperial Army at all? "Well, it's no good against blasters, that's for sure. It also doesn't really help against a dwarf with a toothpick, actually. Plus it makes you sweat like hell and is a real bitch when you're in a hurry to go to the bathroom. But it's easy to clean and comes in three different colours (batteries not included)." -- "Sold!". Hmm... could it be that Yoda is so dry and wrinkly because he wore one of these things for a couple of hundred years? I guess we'll never know...

Back to the story. While the fight fur vs. tupperware rages on Endor with the fair maiden Hanna caught in the middle, we switch to the Death Star where Luke tells the Emperor that he doesn't want to pick up the soap, which naturally displeases the wrinkled old fruit whereupon Vader tries to teach Luke a lesson in devotion. Predictably this fails, just like the Endor stormtroopers' defence against an opponent half their size and technologically thousands of years their inferior, which allows the rebels to finally attack and destroy the new Death Star in a very nice ILM advertising short (more or less the only good aspect of this movie, really). Shortly before it blows up, Vader decides that blood is thicker than water after all and throws the Emperor down a conveniently placed shaft to the reactor core (who doesn't have one in their office?), but then blows his tough boy image for good by admitting that a cut-off artificial limb and a bit of static electricity from the late Emperor is really more than he can take and dies. Everybody not wearing tupperware makes it out of the Death Star just in the nick of time and the movie ends with the grandmother of all happy ends, where cast and audience alike are celebrating that this horrible film is finally over.

Final thoughts:

Disclaimer: possible errors in the timeline of the events described above are caused by my brain doing an emergency shutdown in order to protect primary cognitive functions from committing suicide (bad-movie-syndrome). And I'm not really interested whether the Ewoks shoot first either...

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