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Fifteen reasons why Return of the Jedi is a bad film

Jedi a good film it is not. (in no particular order)

  • It’s forced (excuse the horrible pun). There are more false moments than a Ukrainian politician’s losing speech. Anyone who understands the rhythm and truth of film-making will recognise this. Let’s go into more detail.

  • Empire was a mature work. It had emotional depth far superior than the original yet lost none of the fun nor excitement. At times the dialogue let it down (You’re a nerf herder!), but thankfully this is rare. In a few extraordinary moments, it’s an arthouse film within a large budget sci-fi realm, thanks primarily to its director and screenwriter. Alas for instalment three, it was NOT a case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

  • Perhaps not a huge mis-step but it happens early. Leia is undercover. Her helmet and male voice is pretty cool except she uses approximately three words to convey whole sentences. Watch the subtitles change while her language does not. The alien language is undeveloped here. Also, having her take off her helmet tends to also remove the plausibility of other bounty hunters/robots. It devalues the mystique of the world that is created. Oh it’s Leia! So despite the male voice, alien language, alien facial features complete with a mini data screen where the eyes should be, it’s just some dude with a helmet.

  • Jabba’s palace. From the moment the Gamorrean guards appear until the end of the Tatooine sequence we are presented with a pretty bad Muppet show. All of the aliens look fake, even in the special edition. Jabba is the best of the bad lot. Given his size, we can forgive him but the rest look amateurish. In one scene, Max Rebo, the blue guy in the band, completely bends his obviously rubber nose. The little guy Salacious Crumb is extremely annoying. And the puppet is not sophisticated by any means. They’ve taken the success of the Cantina Bar and extended it. That sequence worked because of the sharp editing. The creatures were often fake looking but we never saw them but for a few seconds. Not in this over-long section.

Some of the more humanoid shaped aliens around the Sarlacc Pit sequence look better but we don’t too see much of them. It’s The Muppets Show. The laughing of Jabba and Salacious feels like the two old guys (Statler and Waldorf) on the balcony dishing out shit to the stage performers.


  • The Rancor Monster. Speaking of puppets, this one is unconvincing. It looks exactly like what it is (for the most part), a puppet with a hand up its ass. It looked false at the time. Luke kills it far too easily. Also he has a command of the Force, as he has demonstrated so far, so why does he need to throw a rock at the door lock? Can't he close it by himself? Can’t he use the Force to hurl it at the lock? He’s done a lot more than that in the scenes prior. Lame. The Mon Calamari are very effective. But it’s an exception rather than the rule. Look, you can get away with puppets if the execution is good. In Jedi, it is not.

  • Special effects. I could easily highlight each individual shot that is sub-par but let’s lump them together. The blue screen/rear screen projection looks incredibly fake. Given that Star Wars was made six years earlier, with a third of the budget, this is a huge letdown. One sequence in which it is devastatingly obvious is the speeder bike sequence. It’s an exciting sequence. The background plates are awesome, thanks to the Steadicam work, revolutionary at the time, yet the superimposition of Luke and Leia and many other shots over the top aren’t credible at all. The explosions and people falling off look great but so much of it doesn’t hold up. It looks exactly what it is, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in the studio. You couldn’t say that with anything in Star Wars.

  • The editing. It’s the longest of the three films. Shots hang on longer than they should. It’s too loose. In the ominous sequences featuring Vader and The Emperor (and later Luke) it works quite well, but the rest of it needs tightening up. It drags where it should be exciting.

  • Boba Fett. Ah the near silent foreboding assassin. You don’t want to mess with this guy. The only reason he doesn’t fuck with the Empire or vice versa, is their shared interest in this particular financial deal. So why of all of a sudden, does he become an extra to Jabba’s pussy filled part goers? It’s unworthy of him. He has none of his presence from Empire. The simplistic way in which he is dispatched reeks of lazy writing. He deserved a more fitting end. It’s sad. Speaking of poor character resolvement…

  • Yoda dies off far too quickly, without build up and with little emotional impact. In Empire he was such a strong character. Here he barely registers a presence. It also seems almost pointless for Luke to return to Dagobah, only to conveniently watch Yoda pass. Lame. Which leads us to…

  • The Ewoks. If you were under ten when you first saw Jedi, you will accept them. How I Met Your Mother cleverly analysed ‘The Ewok Line’ and it sits true. At the time, for which the film was made, the fans had literally grown up with the series. Lucas said from the outset that Star Wars was made for ten year old boys. Which meant that by 1983, they were sixteen. If you’re making a trilogy over six years, and had made an emotional maturation with film two, why on earth would you go backwards with film three?  Jedi is more immature and pandering to children than the first film, which didn't pander by the way; it transcended age. The Ewoks are a sickly, deliberate attempt to lure/appease young children, which didn’t sit well with the darkness of the Skywalker duel, let alone the trilogy as a whole. It would have been far more effective to have a tribe of Wookies. I can believe that Wookies could have defeated the Empire’s forces but not a bunch of teddy bears. It makes the Empire weak. They're not a foreboding enemy anymore. It takes all of the danger out of it. Having Wookies could have also added a sub-layer for Chewbecca’s evolution, a back-story to be explained (perhaps in the prequels). The Ewoks themselves weren’t a huge mistake but the way in which they were presented was.

  • This is possibly the worst decision in the entire original trilogy. Why the hell does Leia need to be Luke’s brother? We’ve seen them making out in the previous film. It’s a primary reason not to go there. It’s incest for God’s sake! Luke is driven in the first film to rescue the Princess, like the swashbuckling epics of old. She’s beautiful he says. To make him her brother is clearly a last minute decision. Sure Yoda mentions it in Empire but why then would you have them make out? It’s ludicrous and a more than little pervy. You immediately grasp that Lucas is making it up as he goes along, despite his bullshit that it’s all part of his manifesto. As Jar Jar says, Pwease! The worst part is, that this horrendous decision to make them siblings is really moot. Very little comes out of it. It isn’t necessary at all. Leia does nothing with her power. If this had been in any other film the studio would have vetoed it but Lucas was too powerful by then. It’s a lack of respect for the millions that has sworn loyalty to his saga. Shame on him. He got lazy. He got complacent. Something he would repeat with his misfired prequels.

  • Darth Vader. Oh dear, what a letdown. So it turns out that he is a wizened nice white guy who loves his son. No, no no. Okay, so they’ve already established him as white after Empire, which isn’t exactly satisfying but it’s already in place. (A mistake there too.) Why did he have to be so goddamn nice? Make him more tortured or something. It just doesn’t sit right with the Vader we’ve known and (lovingly) hated throughout the entire trilogy. Don’t even mention that shot at the very end with the ‘hallowed’ dead in halo. It’s piss weak.

  • Jedi repeats too much of the earlier films. Luke’s trip to Dagobah. Extended Cantina Bar (Jabba’s Party Palace). The Death Star in reconstruction. The ticking time bomb story. The fight down the trench, I mean, the internal shafts etc. etc. You’d think that the Empire would have learned from the attack on the first Death Star and not had their huge weakness so accessible. Also it only takes three shots from the Falcon to set off the old ‘chain reaction’ and completely destroy the thing. This is old territory almost completely rehashed. I’m guessing it’s so that Lucas could throw in some more ships into his frame, as he was obsessed with doing in the prequels. Haven’t you heard that less is more George? They could have possibly gotten away with it if it had been written well enough. Unfortunately it isn’t.

  • The last act with the Emperor works well even if it is repetitive. Search your feelings. You don’t know the power of the dark side. Join us! How many times do we hear these same words? The script is not developed enough. It feels rushed. It needs a lot of work, especially in the first half. They should have thrown out half the story and begun again. Overall the writing comes nowhere near the quality of the work done by Lawrence Kasdan and co in film two. They haven’t pushed it as far as they should have. Parts of the story are there but the execution falls short. This is what happens when you reach a point of huge success. You get complacent. Lucas has already lost it.

  • Perhaps the last thing, without going into detail, is the direction. Richard Marquand was not a great director. Unfortunately he died soon after so we don’t really know what he was capable of but he certainly didn’t have enough behind him to cement a film as huge as this. Some of the acting is poor. Take the line, ‘But you’ll die,’ from Luke. It’s terrible. Or Luke’s soliloquy to Jabba. 'You can either profit by this or be destroyed.’ Or the whole brother- sister discussion on Endor. It’s cringe worthy. It’s poorly directed. Though the material wasn’t great. One wonders if Marquand wasn’t chosen because he was easier to manipulate than the experienced Irvin Kershner (and thank God for him. Craft and subtlety is evident in his work). Perhaps Kershner battled with Lucas. We know that producer Gary Kurtz certainly did. We also know that Lucas was a control freak even before Star Wars was a hit. Perhaps we should be thankful that he was, for he gave us the entire universe. Yet, at some point, he went too far and lost sight of what was good, what was important. He lost sight of filmic principles that he had utilised in his previous works. If you read up enough about the original Star Wars, much of it was driven by others, such as editor Paul Hirsch and sound editor, Ben Burtt whose sounds for R2-D2 was so successful that R2’s role was increased during the editing phase (a rarity these day when sound is the very last thing to be added).

Sometimes, magic gets into a film and its better than even the film-makers planned for. The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and Star Wars. There's no magic in Jedi. Neither could you expect there to be. Three great films in a row? It just doesn't happen. Alien, Batman, Superman, X-Men, Matrix, etc. None can pull off a brilliant hat trick and this is no different.

Early poster

There’s many individual reasons for failure but despite its gloss and high budget, Jedi is a poor conclusion to the first two films which were magnificent. Rhythm and truth were lost. Simplicity was lost. Subtlety was lost. These are important factors in film-making. Lucas became 'more powerful than you can possibly imagine'. By Jedi, he had already passed his peak. Raiders had already been made. Spielberg seemed to be in control thereafter. Watching the Indy films feels much more like a Spielbergian experience that a Lucas one.

I for one, as a teenager at the time who went to the Jedi Premiere was very disappointed by the experience, and the prequels to follow. Lucas insisted over and over again that his vision had to be adhered to, until the end, no matter what other opinions may have interjected, or offered to assist. Not all his fault of course. By then everyone was crawling up his ass regardless. Nonetheless he was a filmic despot of Caligula-esque proportions. His will drove him to success and power, only to have it corrupt him. Such a shame for a man who gave us so much, only to take it all away again.

Having said all of that, ROTJ is still preferable to the horrendous, lifeless prequels.

Now that the franchise is in the hands of others, I pray that they won’t make the same mistake(s). It seems in good hands for Episode 7 but you know what they say about history.




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  1. I only ever watched it once, and did not think a lot of it. I suppose the revelation of Darth being Luke's father and Luke and Leia being siblings and the empire coming down smoothed over some of its other faults for me, but not those irritatingly cute Ewokes and their moronic songs. I like your idea of them being replaced by Wookies. If I was making a the new one, I would try and make the actors play it for real, and revisualise it like Battlestar Galactica was. But they won't. I am not really looking forward to the new movie, but will probably force myself to go, like I forced myself to go to the sequels of Jurassic Park, Terminator and Mad Max. Jurassic Park was okay, maybe because I was not expecting much, Terminator was forgettable and Mad Max was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

  2. Great piece of writing. I love Star Wars but do not profess to be a expert by any stretch of the imagination - you however are clearly a huge fan. Everything you wrote rang true for me, you have no doubt put down brilliantly what millions of Star Wars fans have been thinking. Those bloody Ewokes - you think they would have learnt their lesson before they tortured us with Jar Jar.....I too hope Episode 7 revives the brilliance of Star Wars. May the force be with you my friend.

  3. In other words, it's a big cluster f*ck, as is Lucas' neck. But this piece was very well done and entertaining, Anthony. It should be widely publicized.

    Hope you're well, and let's catch up soon. xo

  4. "Those bloody Ewoks - you think they would have learnt their lesson before they tortured us with Jar Jar"

    Sadly it seemed the success of Jedi made GL think every idea he had was gold. ROTJ made more cash than Empire - even though ESB sold more tickets. The fact that he got away with such lazy, uninspired filmmaking in Jedi is the reason he took the same attitude into the prequels.


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