Return Of The Jedi: An Unabashed Appreciation

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As the holiday season approaches, I like to draw a lot of familiar old comforts near. Star Wars was a major part of all my early Christmases, and quite a few of my recent ones, as well.  The memories all intertwine. Of course, there’s nothing innately holiday themed about Star Wars, if you don’t count the very deliberately obscure “Life Day “special, but as has been observed a time or two, the merchandising bonanza of the movies is a capitalistic triumph of the ages- and if we’re honest Americans, we know that capitalism is the true reason for the season.

Yes, an ever growing pile of Star Wars stuff, that I still own today and display proudly in my home next to my little tree, on Christmas seasons that I feel up to celebrating. At the time I got these little pieces of plastic they represented only fun. Now, they represent memories of love, happiness, security, and belonging.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Return Of The Jedi, the most divisive of the original three films. Like most people who were of single digit age when they first saw it, I’m very fond of it. It’s my favorite of the bunch. To me, the movies are all about the power and importance of friendship, and the celebration at the end with all the allies together having fun after triumphing over darkness is affirming. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was a very formative experience to witness as a four year old child.

This is a stark contrast to how much Empire Strikes Back had upset me. It’s a known fact that Harrison Ford wanted Lucas to kill Han Solo off, in order to “lend weight” to the story, but I believe his real intention was just to get out of possibly doing any more Star Wars movies. Han Solo was a childhood -and truly, still an adulthood- hero of mine. This might seem silly, but I think I might’ve turned out very differently as a person if Harrison had gotten his way.

Jedi in the theater as a little kid was my first taste of what I would later get out of concerts and particularly stellar parties. It was all the rage at kindergarten. We were thrilled by it, boys and girls alike.  There will be those who say that it’s not supposed to be a children’s movie, but I would argue that it absolutely is, it’s just that it’s a very good one that holds up well to revisiting in adulthood. If you want to descend into Sci-Fi darkness, you have the Alien series. Star Wars is a fairy tale. It amazes me how few people who are quite obsessed with it seem to get that.

And then there’s the Ewoks, the most misunderstood little fellows in the entire cinematic galaxy. Just there to sell toys, you say? You might be thinking of your own sacred cow, Boba Fett. Everyone’s favorite bounty hunter was created first and foremost to create buzz and attract investment into the sequel to the biggest movie ever. Not that there’s anything wrong with that- for a healthy fan’s understanding of Star Wars is one who has made peace with the business behind it.

The Ewoks are, of course, cute and cuddly. Except for when they are not. That’s the point. They fight ferociously, many of them die. They eat humans unless they’re instructed not to. After triumphing over the Empire, they play bongos with the helmets of the dead men they’ve slain. Lucas based them on the Vietcong. They’re ironic,  even a little bit subversive, and until the internet became a thing, I didn’t hear a single word against them.

So this holiday season, I’ll be writing my cards, wrapping some gifts, drinking some cocoa, gazing at my tree, reminiscing and catching up with friends new and old. Somewhere in there, I’ll make time to get transported away with a viewing of Return Of The Jedi.

But it will be the original version. I do have some standards.

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