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Thoughts On Jedi
This is where the wheels come off.
I had always defended Jedi, but I don’t know if I can anymore: it is an actively silly movie that flirts with insulting your intelligence.
Star Wars and Empire were dumb; Jedi is stupid.
It moves along at a clip, except for two scenes I’ll talk about, and there’s a lot of Star Wars jammed into the two hours and nine minutes: lightsabering (a green one!), and bantering, and the power of friendship, and Wookiees. Don’t get me wrong: this film is light years (no pun, etc.) ahead of the Prequels, if only in basic filmmaking competence, but it doesn’t stand with the first two films of the OT (Only Trilogy).
I keep getting distracted by bullshit like the technical logistics of puppetry, so I took notes this time; this might actually go in order.
Who knows, though?
“Basic” is the lingua franca of the SWU: it sounds like English, but it written in glyph-like symbols that look like the only instructions were “Make it look real spacey.”
In a universe full of silly bullshit, the unnecessary sentience granted Jabba’s front door might be the silliest.
You are creating problems for yourself when you let your security system think for itself, even if it is a cool and scary metal eyeball.
On the topic of unnecessary sentience: Artoo is an astromech, which means his main function is helping ship computers navigate; Threepio, as he will remind you, is a translator.
My phone does those things, and it doesn’t have its own agenda; computers can perform astoundingly complex tasks without the ability to reflect on their own actions.
As I mentioned, I have the 2004 DVDs, and this so-called “Jedi Rocks” sequence that replaces the already-cheesy muppet band with a shiny CG horror waving its uvula at you like a testicular punching bag, and Boba (I can’t wait to stop writing about that under-achiever) flirting with alien girls.
Except for Nichelle Nichols, if you are a black lady in space, your ass will be painted green.
If if talk about how dumb the overall “plan” to get Han back was, or how slapsticky and winky the shot of Leia sneaking through the sleeping monsters while making more noise than a rusty AT-AT was, then my brain will shoot out of my left eye socket and begin to materially support ISIS.
So, please don’t make me.
Anyway, Leia gets caught and bikinified and it’s very famous, of course, and brings up two questions.
1. Why does Jabba like human women?
2. Can anyone really blame Carrie Fisher for getting high?
There is now wackiness, and assorted teenage rebellion, and Boba Fett gets eaten by the sand-vagina, and the only shot in which Lando’s process is out of place, and jumping, and more jumping, and then yet again more jumping.
Aliens are kicked.
Then, in a shot you could call homage or the first shovel of dirt in what would be a miles-long strip mine of all the imagery from the first film, Luke and Leia swing from Jabba’s Barge to the skiff.
We are not told what the rope is attached to.
Then everything blows up.
Maybe what makes Jedi a different film than the first two is the structure: both Star Wars and Empire had much larger second acts than Jedi. SW‘s second act is the Death Star sequence, and Empire‘s is Dagobah intercut with Han and Leia on Cloud City. (The third act also takes place in Cloud City, obviously: it starts when Luke gets there.)
Both third acts, too, are fairly short: the Death Star assault is less than fifteen minutes, but Jedi has an extended third act that runs for 40 or 50 minutes and cuts among three different locations.
It is–no doubt–edited masterfully, but there’s a lot of shit going on for a long time.
So: the whole second act is Luke is Luke being fucked with by Yoda and Obi-Wan, and I have lost my patience for Obi-Wan’s sketchy foolishness.
That man is slippery.
Even after Yoda tells Luke that he has a sister, Obi-Wan dicks around and plays the “search your feelings” game with Luke instead of being a straight-up guy about things.
“Obi-Wan, is it true? Do I have a sister?”
“Who is she?”
“Search your feelings, Luke.”
“Mon Mothma! Mon Mothma is my sister!”
“Mon Mothma. You don’t know her. She’s in the next scene.”
And so on.
(Speaking of Mon Mothma, when she delivers her destined-for-memetic-glory line about the Bothan spies dying, she gives a spectacular SO SAD take.)
By this point, the Emperor has arrived on the new Death Star and all the troops are lined up to greet him and Vader and Imperial officer kneel before him: this Emperor fellow must be important, we think, and then he and Vader walk out, and as they walk out, the Emperor begins cackling, loudly and evilly.
This laugh could not be mistaken for jocularity.
“Who was that guy with Vader?”
“You kidding me? That was the Emperor!”
“That’s our boss?”
“The evil wizard with a face like a raisin’s testicle?”
“You should whisper, but: yes.”
“Jenkins, did you not know our organization was headed by evil wizards?”
“No, I knew, but when you see it right in front of you like that, it’s different.”
“I mean: that laugh was downright unsettling.”
“It did maybe seem like he was laughing at something other than what, say, you or I might laugh at.”
“He wasn’t laughing at a joke, Sarge.”
“No joke I wanna hear.”
“Not to belabor my point about the laugh, but if you were to transcribe it, you would write ‘Mwah-hah-hah.'”
“Palpatine gonna palpate, Jenkins. If you didn’t want serve an evil wizard, then why’d you join up?”
“GI Bill. Need money for college.”
“Good program, the Galactic Infantry Bill. An investment in society.”
“What are you going to study?”
“I wanna be a vetrinarian, Sarge.”
“Oh, yeah. Grew up on a nerf farm. Animals all day, every day. Nothing but. Love ’em.”
“That’s nice, Jenkins. You’ll be good at it.”
“Yeah? Thanks, Sarge.”
“I love you.”
Meanwhile, back at the Rebel Fleet, Lando has somehow acquired a new cape.
Two movies, two capes: this one is his General’s cape, because all of the main characters have been made generals and are also allowed to wear whatever the hell they want, even though the rest of the Rebel troops are in uniform.
Han is wearing a utility vest when he gives the Falcon to Lando for the attack on the Death Star, and it is unclear what ship Lando was planning on piloting had Han not offered.
This falls under the “questions better not asked” umbrella.
The Star Warriors go down to Endor–which is variously and interchangeably referred to as the Forest Moon of Endor, or the Sanctuary Moon, or just plain Endor–to blow up the shield generator so Lando and some sort of catfish-person could fly into the Death Star and blow it up.
Endor is clearly the redwoods of Northern California, and this is because George Lucas had been to Norway and Tunisia (twice), and now wanted a short commute.
Which brings us to the Ewoks.
Ralph McQuarrie, the designer who first drew almost everything that makes up the Star Wars visual universe, refused to have anything to do with them, and the crew openly mocked them on the set.
Are they an inherently flawed conception, or is it the ludicrous “Teddy bears defeat the Nazis” storyline they’re saddled with that ruins them?
Maybe it was the design: flat, black eyes that didn’t blink.
Sure, Chewbacca is silly, but Peter Mayhew’s soulful blue eyes sold the character as a living being.
These things looked like the teddy bear you weren’t quite sure about as a kid.
The one you turned to face the wall every once in a while.
Their motivation to join the Rebel’s cause is also played fast and loose: Threepio tells a story, so they decide to hurl themeselves at Imperial troops?
Unlike the plot hole of Luke being handed an X-Wing on his first day (which must for sanity’s sake be ignored), this can be fixed by having the chief Ewok tell our heroes a story about the Ewok villages the Empire had destroyed, blah blah blah.
Supposedly, the Ewoks were originally Wookiees and you could have gotten into the backstory of the Empire enslaving them; that would have been a satisfying story, but maybe it’s just easier to find midgets than it is to find giants.
Before Luke goes and whines at his daddy, he and Leia go to the old Tom Sawyer village from Disney World and actor at one another.
The only way to describe it is “actoring.”
There are dramatic turns away from each other, and shaken heads, and pauses–OH, THE PAUSES–that let you know that there is some high-quality actoring going on.
In Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher’s defense, there was also quite a bit of writering going on in that exchange.
Princess Leia is also now wearing some sort of peasant outfit that looks like she is picking her children up from a Marin County elementary.
It is best not to think about where she got these clothes, as she did not have any with her when she fell off her ‘speeder.
It is also best not to think about who did her hair.
Did an Ewok do your hair, Princess Leia?
They have stubby little fingers and tried to eat your friends.
Why would you let an Ewok do your hair, Princess Leia?
Anyway, Luke finds Vader and they go to the Death Star and Han and the rest of them join forces with teddy bears and attack the shield generator.
They are greatly aided in this mission by the fact that the Empire is terrible at being a military.
The Rebels just walked up to the front door of the shield generator; I don’t know much about military tactics, but I would imagine that you try to stop an enemy slightly before the actual front door.
A wall would be perfect for this situation: sure, it’s low-tech, but it’s surprisingly effective.
You’ve got lumber.
Luke and Darth and the Emperor actor at each other for a while and then Luke and Darth are like ZHWIM! and SHWAMPF! and whatnot and then Luke goes all gander on Vader’s goose–hand-wise–but Luke is all “No, I won’t be bad for you, I’m a good guy and I’m blond,” and then the Emperor Force-lightnings him.
When the Emperor shoots Force-lightning, he sticks his pinky out, because he’s classy.
This fight is taking place in the Emperor’s Throne Room, which is all blues and blacks and metal railings.
“Emperor, what are you thinking for the Throne Room?”
“Well, I will be having a final showdown there.”
“Oh, very. Very dramatic. Make it the most dramatic room anyone’s ever seen! Mwah-hah-hah!”
“Oh, and put it right next to an exposed reactor shaft.”
Han, Leia, and Chewie blow up the shield generator, Luke and his father have a moment, and Lando and Skippy Joe blow up the Death Star.
And we’ll skip all the elsewhere-voiced thoughts about how the Death Star’s debris would cause a holocaust on Endor, and that replacing Yub Yub with some soft rock bullshit was another terrible decision by George Lucas, as was substituting Hayden Christianson for Sebastian Shaw as Vader’s Force-ghost.
And we’ll ignore the fact that the humans who previously wore the helmets the Ewok plays as drums were probably eaten by that same Ewok.
And close with one observation: Luke honors his father by putting him in a funeral pyre.
Wouldn’t the Darth Vader suit be fireproof?
Because I think Darth Vader would have had them make his suit fireproof.
It seems like something he would demand, given his history and all.
It’s almost like they were all just making up children’s stories as they went.