The Bones of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

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The Bones of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

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Today we’re talking about the bones of my favorite film in the Skywalker Star Wars Saga!

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

If you missed any of the previous installments of Good Bones, you can find them here:
Episode I
Episode II
Episode III
Episode IV
Episode V

Let’s get to it!

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

This movie came out when I was eight years old. I’d seen the first two, and was really upset when I found out my dad, who was in the ARMY Reserves, got to see it before we did because the ARMY had gotten a copy to show them at their two week training camp.
So. Unfair.
I still remember sitting in the old Villa theater in Salt Lake City, watching this film. One of my sisters leaned over to me to read the subtitles for Jabba the Hutt, and I was like, “I can read it myself!” I should probably apologize for that.

The Bones:
The fate of Han Solo
Return of the Jedi?
What about the rebels?

The fate of Han Solo
Han Solo has been in frozen. Leia admitted she loved him. At the end of Episode IV Lando and Chewie were headed to rescue Han. Now what???

I’d never noticed before that the first third of this movie is spent rescuing Han. I love the cheese and fun that goes along with the rescue, so I don’t mind.

The first 20-25% of any story is usually spent on set-up, or showing the character’s daily life, why they need a change, and how that change might come about.

Granted, this is the third film in the trilogy, so the characters don’t need a lengthy introduction. We know who they are and what they can do. Although we do see that Luke has a few new tricks up his sleeve, which is very cool.

The writers give us everything we’re expecting as Lando fights to redeem himself to Han, Leia is out to rescue the man she loves, and Luke, relying on his newfound powers, makes sure none of his friends are going to be left to the mercy of Jabba.

As I watched this film again, I realized that this first section is one of the reasons I love it so much. I’m all about the bonds of friendship and love. Camaraderie is maybe my favorite trope of all time, and I’m a total sucker for it.

However, I’m not sure I would have written this the same way. The characters—all of them leaders—put the rebellion on hold to rescue one man. Neither the rebellion or the Empire are really mentioned until Luke comes back from Dagobah.

I’m not sure why this works, but it does.

Return of the Jedi?

Luke’s story is the crux of this movie.


Luke goes back to Yoda, who dies, leaving him alone. He learns about a sister, which makes a particular scene in Episode V very awkward, and then decides he can turn Vader back from the dark side.

Is that even a thing? I haven’t read/watched everything that goes before the original trilogy, but I don’t recall anyone having gone to the dark side deciding to come back to the light side.

Maybe it’s never happened before!

Imagine Yoda and Obi Wan watching Luke run off to face Vader and shaking their heads at the fact he thinks he can bring his father back. Of course, their way didn’t work, so why not try it?

While joyful, I bet it was a bit of a slap in the face knowing that family and love are what brought Vader back. Of course that’s what turned him in the first place, so there’s that.

In the end, we have to wonder if the Jedi returning was Luke beginning a new order, or Anakin sloughing off his dark ways to re-embrace the light. Perhaps it is both.

The scene with the Emperor, while not as flashy as the prequels, is much more emotional. The callback to cutting off Luke’s hand is great. There is just enough talking to keep Luke and Vader off balance.

As a kid I used to wonder if Palpatine had just shut his stupid face if Luke would have cut Vader down. Palaptine interrupts him, which gives us the tidbit that turning to the dark side has to be a conscious act. Which is interesting.

I probably wouldn’t change much through here. It works the way it is.

What about the rebels?

While Luke is on the Death Star, fighting for the fate of his soul, his friends are on the moon, working with those silly teddy bears, trying to get the shield down so Lando and the others can attack.

Without the Emperor being on the Death Star, this mission would have been a big deal. With him there, it gives the rebellion the chance they’ve been hoping for—end the Emperor and therefore the Empire once and for all.

The stakes are high. They turn to their best people to get it done. Or should I say, their best people step up to get it done.

Each battle is fierce. Because I saw this movie when I was eight years old, I’m a fan of the Ewoks. I’m the demographic Lucas was going for. I still like them. They’re primitive, and somewhat silly, but in the end they step up and use what they know to help Han and Leia.

There is a lot of humor in this film, and for whatever reason it works. Yes, it’s campy in places. Other times the dialogue is genuinely delightful:
Han: How we doing?
Luke: Same as always.
Han: That bad, huh?

The mix of action and humor really hits the spot for me. C-3PO is sometimes over the top, but not nearly as bad as they make him in the prequels.

The Bones of this movie are spot on.

The story telling isn’t bad either.

I’ve heard that originally the Ewoks were going to be Wookies. That would have been a great callback to Episode III…if it would have been written first. In the end Lucas leaned toward merchandising, and it worked for him.

What do you think of the bones of Return of the Jedi?

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