35. Dissecting Return Of The Jedi
This week Kelly and JJ discuss the final installment of the original Star Wars trilogy: Return of the Jedi. Is it successful? Is it not? It's better than the prequel trilogy, but is that saying much? Note: Sorry about the audio in parts; it was raining really hard and unfortunately we don't have actual recording studios. P.S. JJ doesn't know what to spend her Audible credit on, so give her recommendations!
Return of the Jedi is kind of a great example of a story doing all the "right" things and still coming off kind of...bland. That's not to say it's a bad movie, it's just not...great.
Part of Jedi's problem is that a lot of character growth has happened off-screen. When we first see Luke at Jabba's palace, he's already gone full Jedi, but when we left him at the end of Empire, he recklessly cut short his training with Yoda, raced in headlong to rescue his friends, had his hand chopped off, and discovered that his enemy was actually his father. There's an entire story between these two movies we're not shown.[1. And there is! In the now no-longer-canon Star Wars: Extended Universe books, there's a book called Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry, wherein we find out how Luke came by his new lightsaber.]
Storylines brought up in Empire aren't really satisfactorily explored, or not properly set up for Jedi. Luke's temptation to the Dark Side doesn't have any weight or stakes; we never see Luke struggle with that temptation until the absolute end of the movie. Leia's Force powers angle of being Luke's twin is summarily dropped except as a plot element (i.e. the cause of romantic tension between Leia and Han, or Luke's brief slide into rage when Vader threatens to turn her to the Dark Side). Han more or less has nothing to do except have strange moments of jealousy where Luke is concerned when he'd never been jealous before, and Darth Vader's redemption arc takes over what should have been Luke's story (his struggle/temptation to the Dark Side).
This movie also suffers from THE WORST sagging middle ever. The Ewok segments tonally feel like they're part of an entirely different movie.
Ultimately, this movie is well-crafted and competent, but it feels a bit rote because the story arcs are not followed through on with any sort of depth. The stakes are physically high, i.e. Will the Rebels destroy the new Death Star before it destroys them? Will the team on Endor be able to dismantle the shield generator in time? But the emotional stakes are pretty low, and therefore, it's kind of hard to care beyond the fact that you're already invested in these characters.
What We're Reading
Morning Star by Pierce Brown
JJ has an Audible credit and doesn't know what to spend it on, so if y'all have any recommendations, let her know in the comments!
What We're Working On
Kelly is reprising her contracts class at the Loft Literary Center
JJ is reviewing first pass pages for Wintersong (which means ARCs are coming soon!), and writing the companion book.
Off Menu Recommendations
Caravan of Courage (which was titled The Great Ewok Adventure when I first watched it as a kid)
Running! Marathons! (Not really, but if it's your thing, go you!)
That's all for this week! Next week we will be returning to our Publishing 201 series with a peak into the process on "the other side of the desk" (SPOILER: It's all meetings). As always, sound off in the comments if you have any questions or suggestions for future topics!