Writer/director George Lucas wants me to root for the Rebel Alliance to defeat the evil Galactic Empire, but how can I? As the Empire attacks Princess Leia's (Carrie Fisher) transport ship, Lucas makes it pretty clear that the rebels are just asking for it. While the Storm Troopers board the ship wearing full body armor, the rebels protect themselves with the Rolls Royce of personal safety equipment, the vest. Body armor v. ordinary clothes. Who should we be rooting for? If the rebels aren't smart enough to wear full body armor like the Imperial troops then how can they hope to win their civil war?
Left on the editing room floor were the crucial scenes between rebel commanders discussing the merits of this particular defensive maneuver.
Rebel #1: "You know, I've always thought polyester was a very distracting fabric."
Rebel #2: "Good point. And hey, even if our vests don't repel any weapons fire, at least we'll look good getting shot."
Eventually, it becomes clear that the Empire commanders aren't a whole lot brighter. They've designed a planet-sized space station with a two-meter wide hole in it that leads directly to the reactor core. Every time the Empire does maintenance on the hull Darth Vader has to remind the workers not to horse around lest they drop a paint brush or wrench down the opening and destroy the entire station.
As Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) flies around outside, blasting away, an aide tells the Empire's commander (Peter Cushing) about the problem. Instead of sending someone out a portal with a couple of trash can lids to plug the damn thing up, he just looks on plaintively as Luke fires a laser shot into his Achilles' heel. This originally led to the premature title for the sequel: "Star Wars II: Kill the Death Star Engineers." And, yes, this was once the highest grossing film of all time . . .
As Luke (Mark Hamill) is getting hypothermia and losing consciousness on some ice planet where the rebels have decided to hide another base, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness) materializes in front of him and tells him, "You will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me." Little do we know that this statement proves to have a frightening -- nay, horrifying -- translation. By now you undoubtedly know what it is. C'mon, yell it with me: "MUPPETS!" Unbeknownst to the ordinary movie patron, this scene is eerie foreshadowing of even worse things to come: EWOKS.
Luke, with R2D2 in tow, travels to Yoda's planet to be instructed as a Jedi Knight while Han (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (who cares?) and C3PO run away from the Imperial fleet and eventually stop at a mining colony run by Han's old friend, Lando (Billy Dee Williams).
After some confusion, Luke realizes that the little green stuffed animal (which looks like Kermit and Miss Piggy after they've been melded together by the Enterprise transporter) is actually the great Jedi Master, Yoda. Yoda, best known for sending elementary school teachers into therapy with his atrocious grammar ("Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try."), teaches Luke the all-important Imperial-defeating trick of moving small rocks with his mind. Supposedly, when Luke attacks the fleet single-handedly, they will all run away once he shows them the floating rock trick.
When Luke gets a vision of Han and Leia suffering, he runs off before completing his training, at which point Obi-Wan tells him that "I cannot interfere if you face Darth Vader." This raises an unfortunate question about dead Jedi Knights. Are there some sort of rules to being a dead Jedi Knight? Apparently, guiding the destruction of the Death Star is okay, but helping Luke escape a light sword fight without having to be called "lefty" for the rest of his life is apparently off-limits. Maybe, Lucas left something out of the script that he will reveal in the Prequel Trilogy?
1983 brought us the conclusion to the fabled Star Wars trilogy. Would Luke fall to the dark side? No. Would this be the best of the Star Wars films? No. Would it be the greatest "merchandising" movie in celluloid history? Yes.
With the battle between good and evil hanging in the balance (no, not Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader; rather, "Believable Story" vs. "Merchandising Tie-ins"), the filmmakers of this third installment of the Star Wars series ask themselves the most important question of all: "How do we cash in on this Muppet thing?" Well, the answer appears to be simple: fat worms (Jabba the Hut), pigs (Jabba's guards), rats (Jabba's sidekick) and little walking teddy bears (Ewoks). This film actually has more muppets than a Jim Henson feature-length film!
Looking like a smaller version of Marlon Brando, the galactic gangster Jabba the Hut is a passable puppet extravagance. Jabba was probably the most complex puppet ever to appear on film, but he's still just a muppet! Once Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the robots land on a forest moon in an attempt to disable the shield generator for the new Death Star, the Ewoks send this film far, far away into some Mattel action figure marketer's fantasy land. While Lucas intended to send the message that a primitive culture could fight toe-to-toe with a much more advanced society and . . . win. What actually came across to the kids and kids at heart who saw the film was that they needed to head to the toy store after seeing this film. Blatant commercialism is what many fans viewed this film as, but they still watched the film countless times at the theater. It appears that with the Star Wars formula it is impossible to make an unprofitable Episode of the Star Wars saga.
By this third "Star Wars" film, the "force" thing starts to make about as much sense as cold fusion. If the dark side of the force is so strong, how come the Emperor needs guards? How come he can't foresee Vader's betrayal? And like Grand Moff Tarkin from the first film, the Emperor fails to learn or realize that during a space battle a death star is the last place in the galaxy you want to be at? This may be some kind of mythological tale in the vain of Tolkien, but do the plot holes have to be large enough to fly a super star destroyer through? Why does Luke allow himself to be nearly roasted to death by the Ewoks before levitating C3PO instead of just making a little bear head explode, like in "Scanners"? You don't have to be a Jedi Knight to know that if you make one Ewok head explode, the rest of the Ewoks don't screw with you.
The Star Wars trilogy is arguably the most influential and perhaps most important films of the sound era. Let's just hope that with the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy that Lucas learns from all his past mistakes and avoids making them a second time. Does Lucas have the gall to give the Ewoks a cameo appearance in the prequels? Let's hope not.