Thirty years ago, on May 25, 1983, George Lucas presented his third “Star Wars” movie — “Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” — to his legions of fans. They’d been waiting three long years since the previous film. Many of them were disappointed.
Directed by Richard Marquand and exec produced and co-written by Lucas, “Jedi” completed the trilogy-spanning conflict between the evil Empire and the noble Rebel Alliance. It ended with an epic battle fought in space and on land (the forest moon of Endor) that culminated in the deaths of both the Emperor and his fearsome protégé Darth Vader.
Eric Geller of TheForce.net theorized that “Star Wars” fans’ disappointment in the third film had a lot to do with their love of the second one. “A lot of it is attributable to the post-’Empire Strikes Back’ high and the expectations that movies would continue to be like that in ‘Star Wars,’ ” he said. “I think it’s really hard to even meet the expectations for a ‘Star Wars’ movie after the one that most people enjoy the most.”
And then of course there’s the Ewok issue. Many people just couldn’t accept these new fuzzy characters into their Vader-hardened hearts, but they did play an important role in the “Star Wars” story. “It’s a lesson about judging a book by its cover and about the expectations that you have when you’re the dominant player in a particular area and how that pays off for the underdog,” Geller explained. “In this case what we saw was, the Empire — the dominant player — really just underestimated the threat that they were facing… you’ve got essentially these teddy bears throwing rocks at stormtroopers and hitting the weak points in their armor and just utterly decimating them.”
Though “Episode VI” has many detractors, it also has many vocal supporters. Simon Pegg, currently starring as Scotty in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” is an outspoken, life-long “Star Wars” fan. “When I watched ‘Into Darkness,’ I was thoroughly reminded of when I watched ‘Return of the Jedi’ in 1983 at the Dominion Theatre in London,” he told MTV News. “I was 13, and I remember being so energized by it that I had this look on my face of just overwhelming joy.” Pegg mentioned the film’s speeder bike chase sequence and the final space battle as personal highlights of that 30-year-old movie-going experience.
And “Jedi” has plenty of other elements that make it great: the gripping family drama, the final redemption of a hero gone astray and the spectacular demise of a tyrannical villain. And for some, just the sight of Princess Leia in her metallic bikini makes the movie worthwhile.
So will Leia’s bikini make a triumphant return in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII“? It’s unlikely — and so is a reappearance of the princess’ furry friends. “I don’t believe that we’ll see Endor again,” said Geller. “And if there’s one thing that I can say pretty confidently about the way that aliens are used in ‘Star Wars,’ it’s that, for the most part, you tend to see aliens localized to certain planets, if they’re not playing a major role… I see [the Ewoks] as having served their purpose on Endor.”