My first movie review…
…will be of a film that does not exist. MR. Clark of The Disgruntled Individual has written his own version of Return of the Jedi, here titled Revenge of the Jedi, drawing from a variety of sources and his own imagination. It is well worth the read. Spoilers for both Return and Revenge of the Jedi below the cut.
MR. Clark’s opening scene nicely handles two problems. As Clark himself points out, Vader’s power is diminished in Return, and so he changes the tone of Vader and the Emperor’s dialogue to make sure Vader retains his menacing presence. He also corrects Lucas’ failure to up the scale of the story with each sequel, giving us a huge fortress planet, the capital of the Empire, instead of another Death Star.
MR. Clark commits an egregious error when he moves onto the Tatooine segment of the film however: he has completely written out Princess Leia’s Metal Bikini! For such a crime he shall be cast into the Pit of Carkoon, where he shall be slowly digested over a thousand years while being forced to watch the prequel trilogy over and over again. But I jest, I rather like some of the changes he has made here, while others do puzzle me. For example, giving Lando the job of bringing Chewbacca before Jabba both expands Lando’s role in the rescue, and explains how he infiltrated Jabba’s palace in the first place. Good. But then Han is dropped in the pit of the rancor because he is the “adventure hero” of the films (no argument there), only to be rescued by Luke, which undercuts the whole point of having Han face the rancor in the first place. Puzzling. I suppose Luke needs to make a visible show of the Force that Nellith can see, but there could have been another way to work that in, such as Luke grabbing a guard’s blaster with the Force, which was way cool in the original.
Luckily, we are soon treated to a very impressive display of the Force as Luke breaks out his way cool mind powers to send Jabba’s sail barge crashing into the Dune Sea. Clark’s change of the sarlaac to sand devils is a non-issue for me, as it lets him tell his story but doesn’t change the menace of falling into the Dune Sea. Princess Leia makes her entrance with a nice Big Damn Gunships moment here, which honestly surprised me, as I was expecting her to by the mysterious bounty hunter who soon turns out to be a new character. Lando’s role also continues to expand in this scene as he sets to work sabotaging the sail barge instead of almost dying, which turns out to be a good thing since it seems he’ll be stepping into Han’s role for the rest of the film after Han suffers a heroic death at the hands of Boba Fett. I know there were originally plans to kill Han in Return, but I feel it is more in keeping with the spirit of the pulpy scifi Saturday matinee serial that is Star Wars that all the heroes stay above the ground. No leaves soaring on the wind here. Also, I prefer Lucas’ call back to Empire’s “I love you,” “I know,”. I do like that while Clark still has Boba Fett topple into the Dune Sea by accident, he leaves his fate uncertain.
We then arrive on, oh frabjous day!, Kashyyk. Not an ewok in sight, but plenty of wookies, who soon do battle with an Imperial landing force in a scene I like to imagine going something like this:
Then comes a nice incorporation of the sneaky stolen Imperial Shuttle idea; some character moments with Lando and Nellith, including a brief discussion of the safe path vs. the right path; and the big planetary and ground assault on Abaddon, the Imperial captial, that we’ve all been waiting for. I really like the rest of Revenge, which consists of the aforementioned battles, Luke’s temptation and duel with Vader, and the aftermath, with two major exceptions:
#1: Boba Fett is still pretty lame in canon
I am a fan of the masked bounty hunter, mostly because he has awesome armor and was pretty cool in the one Extended Universe novel I read years ago. MR. Clark admits that he isn’t a fan of the bounty hunter, and points out that Fett really doesn’t do much in the films besides look cool in his armor and die like a chump. While I think Fett definitely earned cool points in Empire for 1)successfully tracking the Falcon to Cloud City, and 2)detecting Luke’s infiltration into Cloud City, I would see a rewrite as an opportunity to give a cool suit of armor a cool character to wear it. General Grievous had a similar problem in the prequels, but at least he got to be a badass in the Clone Wars cartoon, which is more canon than the EU. Opinions on the coolness of Boba Fett aside, from a scifi writer’s point of view Fett’s reappearance for the final battle, sans arm, is problematic. This is a pulpy scifi space opera adventure story; why doesn’t Fett have a bionic arm replacement mounting blasters or hidden blades? Why would the Empire send a commander into the field with a missing limb? Not only would giving Fett a bionic arm solve this problem, it would also let him have a cooler fight with Chewie. Having both Han and Fett die in slightly more dramatic, but still kind of anti-climactic ways is far less satisfying than an extended duel between Fett and Solo or Fett and Chewie would be.
#2: No redemption for Vader
MR. Clark does write a much better ‘temptation to the Dark Side’ character arc for Luke than Lucas did (and Obi-Wan’s lightsaber makes a neat reappearance), but at the expense of Vader’s redemptive arc. Even as a kid, I knew Vader’s fate was much different from that usually suffered by movie villains, and to this day I still love Vader’s sacrifice and redemption, even if it seems out of place in a scifi fairie tale, or rather, perhaps because it is a twist on the usual fairie tale/pulp adventure ending where the bad guy dies in his sins. I really do like Luke’s temptation to the Dark Side looking like a real possibility, but I do not think it would have been impossible to give both father and son their character arcs. Also, in this version, Luke is not snapped out of his rage by a sudden realization of empathy for his foe after he cuts off Vader’s bionic hand, then stares down at his own. Furthermore, having Luke kill Vader seems to indicate that Luke did succumb to the Dark Side, striking down his enemy in hate instead of sparing his fallen foe and proving himself worthy of being a Jedi Knight. I prefer the Luke that falls into rage but is saved at the moment of truth by familial love, and the Vader that is likewise saved.
Clark ends the film on a more somber note than Lucas, which I think appropriate given the changes he has made to the story, with Luke walking into the twin sunrise of Tatooine (both a nice twist on the traditional Western ending and cool piece of symbolism) to take up Obi-Wan’s mantle, unable to fully enjoy the fruits of his victory.
On the whole, MR. Clark’s movie is one I would certainly go to see, and sounds far more appealing than the prospect of Episode II 3D.