Welcome to my latest series of articles called “Why I love Star Wars”. This is a series that was inspired by reading Ken Napzok’s Why We Love Star Wars: The Great Moments That Built A Galaxy Far, Far Away, a countdown of the top 100 moments from Star Wars that made him love it all, including canon stories from every medium. As I was reading this book, I found myself thinking of some of my own favourite moments and wanted to discuss them.
Why I Love Star Wars:
Unlike in the book, I will not put the moments in any specific order (I do things like that enough in my Top 10s!) as the order would probably change on every viewing. Today I will be looking at Return of the Jedi
Beware: this will contain spoilers for the movie!
Igniting the Green
Sentenced for execution in the Sarlacc pit, Luke is at eh end of a plank on a skiff, while Jabba and his entourage watch on. Luke signals to Artoo, who is on Jabba’s sail barge and as he is pushed off the plank, he turns and flips himself back onto the skiff, using the Force to pull the lightsaber Artoo has ejected into his hand. The last time we saw Luke with a lightsaber was in The Empire Strikes Back, when we saw him lose his father’s weapon along with his hand. If we are paying attention, we notice the different hilt, but the moment he ignites his weapon, we are treated to a green blade, the first time we had seen the colour in canon. I have read that the green blade was decided upon so that it showed up against the backdrop of Tatooine’s blue sky, but away from the behind-the-scenes reasons, it is a great moment to hammer home that this is not the Luke Skywalker that we have seen before, but one who has grown as a person and a Jedi.
There is also a deleted scene set earlier in the movie where we see Luke finish construction of the saber and ignite it for the first time. While I do really enjoy that scene, I definitely think that what we see in the movie is a better introduction as it helps us get on with the story.
Throne Room Duel
This is one I have already discussed a while back during my list of Top 10 lightsaber duels. The black and dark blue of Vader and the throne room contrasts so well with Luke’s green blade and Vader’s red blade, while the duel in itself is not just a fight for the sake of a fight but instead progresses the story as Vader continues trying to convince Luke to side with him, first by threatening to kill Luke if he doesn’t turn and eventually by realising Luke has a sister and threatening to turn her to the dark side instead. This is what pushes Luke too far and his anger takes over, resulting in him overpowering Vader and callously cutting off his hand, only calming when a combination of hearing Palpatine’s laugh and seeing Vader’s cybernetic limb – which reminds him of his own hand – makes him realise how similar he and his father are. In this moment, Luke throws away his weapon, before declaring to Palpatine:
“I’ll never turn to the dark side. You’ve failed your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
The visuals are great, the way the story plays out brilliant, and the haunting music from John Williams completes the scenes perfectly.
Having defeated his master, Anakin Skywalker knew he was going to die, so took his chance to have Luke remove his mask, allowing him to look upon his son with his own eyes. For someone who has only seen the original trilogy, this is the moment that we can fully come to terms with Vader really just being a man who was corrupted, while those of us who have seen Anakin in his prime realise just how far he has fallen. Vader’s insistence that Luke has saved him is beautiful and his final line of “You were right about me. Tell your sister, you were right” shows just how important Luke and his compassion was to saving the galaxy. The great Jedi Obi-Wan and Yoda had both told Luke to kill Vader, but Luke’s compassion ended up being the way to success and was arguably more akin to the Jedi code than his masters. This, combined with his actions in the climax of The Last Jedi might just make Luke the greatest Jedi we have seen.
Vader’s Pyre & Victory Celebration
So right now, I am looking at the later version of the movie from the 1997 Special Edition onwards. Nothing against “Yub Nub”, but I think the “Victory Celebration” music is a great improvement to avoid dating the movie. Luke sets fire to a pyre upon which his father’s armour is resting, whle a rendition of the Force Theme works as a reminder that thought he armour will be remembered with evil connotations, the man inside was once (and at the death) a hero. As he keeps vigil, the camera pans up to the night sky, where we see X-wings flying over setting off fireworks. This allows a transition to fireworks on Cloud City, as the residents celebrate the death of the Emperor and destruction of the second Death Star. We see the same celebration on Tatooine, Naboo and Coruscant (complete with toppling statue, before returning to Endor, where we see the rebels and Ewoks celebrating in the trees, with friends reuniting to congratulate each other on their success. Luke looks over and we see the Force ghosts of Yoda and Obi-Wan joined by Anakin (you can have your own views on if it should be Hayden Christensen or Sebastian Shaw), before Leia pulls Luke back to the group. That moment for so long was the end of the Star Wars saga so has great emotional poignancy, and while that impact may be lessened now, it still feels like the culmination of so much storytelling and I really like how this version draws in the entire galaxy, including planets that we have come to know from the Prequel Trilogy.
The Saddest Moment in Star Wars?
OK, so I’m not a massive fan of the Ewoks, so to say my final spot is taken by a dead Ewok may sound cruel, but it is the beautiful emotion of the moment. The Ewoks do well to use their traps to take out some of the Imperial walkers, but the Imperial war machine is too strong and they start getting pushed back. We see 2 Ewoks running through the undergrowth, but an AT-ST’s blast knocked them both down. Only one of the Ewoks got back up and it tried to wake its friend before realising it was dead and kneeling over the body to mourn it.
Star Wars has some emotional moments, but this short moment may be one of the most emotional of all!
What are your favourite moments from Return of the Jedi?
Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you…