Saturday, May 25, 2013

30th Anniversary of Return of the Jedi

Original Poster
On Wednesday, May 25th, 1983, the third and final chapter of the Star Wars TrilogyStar Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, was released in theatres (exactly six years to the day of the release of the original Star Wars)! Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of that epic conclusion and to celebrate, CHERNOBOG'S BLOG would like to take this opportunity to share some of it's thoughts and even some trivia on one of my favorite movies of all time!
After Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) rescue Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from Jabba the Hutt, the Rebel Alliance plans to destroy the second Death Star, currently under construction and overseen by The Emperor himself! With the death of Jedi Master Yoda, Luke must complete his training and confront his father, Darth Vader, thus becoming a true Jedi Knight!
After the phenomenal success of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, creator/producer George Lucas had to face some hard decisions with completing his saga. Since relinquishing his directorial duties to Irvin Kershner for Episode V and choosing not to bow down to Hollywood/20th Century Fox politics such as choosing to leave the Directors' Guild and Writers' Guild after having to pay fines for his independent, creative choices. Not to mention the fact that Lucas had put up the money for the production himself yet again. For the third installment of the Star Wars saga, Lucas originally wanted his friend and co-creator of Indiana Jones Steven Spielerg to direct, but eventually settled for relatively unknown Welsh director Richard Marquand.
By the end of Episode V, the popular character of Han Solo  had been frozen in 'carbonite' and taken away to Jabba the Hutt by Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch). Harrison Ford, who had become equally popular as the character of Indiana Jones, did not originally want to return, but Lucas insisted.
While the third movie was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi, Lucas made a last minute decision to change it to Return of the Jedi just weeks before it's release. During the production of the film, it was given the alternate title of "Blue Harvest" to prevent any story leaks. Return of the Jedi was a major breakthrough in both film production and special effects. The movie introduced some new major characters that would become vital to the saga including Jabba the Hutt (also a technological difficulty and triumph, before re-introducing him in the Special Edition of Episode IV) and the first full appearance of The Emperor (a.k.a. Palpatine, Ian McDiarmid) who had previously appeared as a hologram in Episode V originally played by Clive Revill, pre-Special Edition). One of the most popular new characters introduced in Episode VI was Wicket, the Ewok (Warwick Davis), who was the most prominently featured Ewok in the film. Other new elements included in Episode VI were Luke's new green lightsaber and Leia's slave outfit (which has become one of the most popular cosplay choices for girl Star Wars fans at conventions). While Episode VI was the most technologically sophisticated and had the highest budget of any of the Star Wars Trilogy, there has always been a huge schism with fans whether Episode V and VI is the best.
"Revenge of the Jedi" Poster
I consider myself a second generation Star Wars fan, as I was not born in time to see the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (a.k.a. Star Wars, 1977) film, but I was however, able to see Return of the Jedi in theatres and it has since always been and always will be, my favorite Star Wars movie! Although I was a considerably young Star Wars fan at the time, I had the privilege of seeing the other Star Wars movies on VHS, which at that time the home video craze was still a growing market. I also already owned many of the toys and action figures, which remain highly collectible today. Even today, I am still the proud owner of many of them, although having sold a considerable amount of my collection in recent years. Seeing Return of the Jedi is one of my clearest and fondest early memories, although I can distinctly remember not seeing it until later in the year. At that time, movies were kept in theaters longer and when I and my family did eventually see the movie, it was already in the Fall and we saw it at one of the few remaining Drive-In theatres near Ft. Worth, Texas. I can remember it being very cold and the speaker near the car window was not the best quality but the screen was huge (or so it seemed at the time) and I enjoyed every minute of it! While Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) has always been my favorite character, most likely due to my very young age I was very fond of the Ewoks, particularly Wicket, both actors I have had the pleasure to meet and get autographs. I still find that Luke's black costume and green lightsaber has always been my favorite image of him. I remained a lifelong Star Wars fan and can remember dressing up several times as Star Wars characters for Halloween over the years, especially with my Mom-made Jedi cape and partially store-bought Ewok costume when I was a child.
1997 Special Edition Poster
1997 was a big year in my life, mostly because that was the year I graduated high school, but also because that Summer was the release of the Star Wars "Special Editions"! Other than Episode VI, this was the first time I was able to see Episode IV and V in the theater. Despite all the changes, this was one of the happiest times in a theater I can remember since the Summer of 1989 (Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II). As for the release of the "Special Edition" version of Return of the Jedi, I feel it had some of the best and worst changes of those "revisions". While many of the changes made in Episode IV, like "Greedo shooting first!" and "Jenny Craig-Jabba" are preposterous, some of the more updated technological additions were acceptable (1995 THX remasters). As for those changes made in Return of the Jedi, there are a few which I feel, while they only alter some of the less important scenes in the movie, the changes to the ending particularly are the most controversial. The changing of Jabba's band is so over-the-top ridiculous that I will barely mention it, however giving the Sarlacc Pitt a beak in place of his open-toothy, maw is even more idiotic. With the added scenes at the end, I found the addition of showing the celebrations seen all over the galaxy at the "Fall of the Empire" was impressive however in removing the Ghost of Anakin Skywalker, originally played by Sebastian Shaw and replacing him with Hayden Christensen (who played Anakin in Episode II and III) was an outrage!
No matter if you think Episode VI is better than V, or if you think the original is the best, Return of the Jedi still remains my personal favorite since I was a kid for several reasons. Ultimately, it was the final chapter in the trilogy, successfully ending the saga and completing the epic hero's journey of Luke Skywalker. Even though this year marks the 30th Anniversary of Return of the Jedi, the Star Wars Saga is far from over. As many of you know last year, the Walt Disney Corporation acquired Lucasfilm and it was announced that J.J. Abrams is to direct Episode VII set to be released in 2015.
Even after 36 years, the Star Wars Saga is still alive and well today! I hope you are just as excited as I am and can't wait to see what's going to happen next. "May the Force be with you!"