My 2013 Movies: Return of the Jedi (1983, on DVD, home collection)
This was my seven-year-old’s first time seeing the movie. We had previously watched SW and TESB, in the order in which God intended them. And also because I don’t own II and III.
At this point in the movie he leaned over and whispered:
MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: Daddy, who is that with Yoda and Obi-Wan?
ME: That’s Anakin Skywalker as a young man.
MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: …?
ME: Darth Vader. He was Anakin as a young man. Then he became Vader.
MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: I know. But…?
ME: Now that Darth Vader turned good before he died, he gets to be the good, non-evil version of himself as a ghost.
MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: But he didn’t look like that when Luke took his helmet off. He was older. I thought he was Luke’s father.
ME: He is. But this is him when he was younger.
MY SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: …
I certainly don’t have to rehash all of the Lucas-prequel-revisionist foolishness here, but it really does call into question what order these movies are “supposed” to be viewed in. I’m terrifically old, so it’s hard for me to watch them in story-chronological order - because then they become Vader’s story only, with Luke and Han and Leia simply appearing as supporting characters. Luke’s character arc is stripped of any meaning and Han is just this guy, you know?
So I guess I can understand showing Young Anakin as a force ghost if one were to watch these in order, because it would pay off emotionally to see him happy and darkness-free in the Jedi afterlife (even though Christensen seems to have acted this moment as more “creepy and leering” than “benevolent fatherly ghost”, if indeed he even knew or was aware of what he was supposed to be emoting in this moment when Lucas hatched plans to Frankenstein it together. I kind of imagine Lucas just telling him, “Okay, stand there for a moment. I don’t know how I’ll use this, but it’ll probably come in handy. Give me one that’s angry. And one that’s proud. Or something. Okay, now silly, like make a face. Aaaaannnd we’ve got it!”).
Anyway, so my boys and I all watched Jedi this weekend, and had a fun enough time with it. It strikes me now that this really has a terrific, epic opening and a wonderful finish…and pretty much just lurches around through the whole middle. It’s kind of hilarious how marginalized Yoda is here, how little, narratively speaking, he’s given to do. In Empire Yoda’s given mythic status, a big build-up and reveal, and then his character comes across as fully realized - a whimsical, cute, ancient-but-spry mentor. His efforts impact Luke, they spin him off onto his journey.
But then all Jedi serves to do is give Yoda the boot. We don’t really know and aren’t told how much time has passed, but suddenly he’s got one green toe in the grave. Luke shows up and Yoda basically says “Welp, my death upon me it is,” and then within two minutes he’s kicked it. It’s a silly, abrupt send-off with virtually no impact on the story. A minute later Obi-Wan-Ghost does the heavy lifting of Anakin’s backstory for Luke, and although Luke thinks he has more training, Yoda told him that he doesn’t (despite previously stressing - rather strenuously - that he did).
Oh well. Water, bridge, etc. It’s a fun movie. We all enjoyed it.
But I wonder now - now that I and all of my present and forever progeny have seen it - whether there will ever be a reason to watch it again.