Return of the Jedi sucks.
There. I said it.
Before you pick your jaw up off the floor and begin to scream at me, at least permit me to make my case.
When it opened in 1983, Return of the Jedi could easily be thought of as one of the most anticipated films of all time. The films that preceded it in the saga are breathtaking achievements in the genre, and in filmmaking in general. They broke all kinds of box office records, won countless awards, and changed the way that nearly everyone thinks about movies. But with ROTJ, things were different.
George Lucas had been embroiled in skirmish with the Writer's and Director's Guild over his film's lack of opening title credits, which at the time was a violation of union rules. Frustrated with the bureaucracy, Lucas threw up his hands and disconnected himself from the Hollywood system. But was this the right thing to do?
Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back had powerful influences on them driving the story in the right direction. Brian De Palma, Bill Huyck, Gloria Katz, and Leigh Brackett to name a few. These influences are basically gone during the production of ROTJ.
When the prequels began their onslaught upon us in 1999, everyone was stunned. How could he possibly have screwed up this bad? The answer, it was collectively decided, was that Lucas cut out outside influence, surrounded himself with yes-men flunkies who wouldn't dissent his opinions, and made a movie the way he wanted to– in complete isolation.
If you've ever tried to be creative, you may have noticed that complete isolation doesn't bring the best results most of the time. Creativity is the process of remixing old ideas in a new way. Without a source of outside ideas our creative output will be kind of monotonous and stale.
Lucas paved the road to Hell with his desire for artistic autonomy.
However, fans forget that the path starts with ROTJ.
Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of cool stuff in ROTJ. But there's also a lot of really poor storytelling choices. Boba Fett, supposedly the baddest bounty hunter of them all, is accidentally tossed to the Sarlac in a moment that fuels detractors to this day. The Ewoks, although cute, are discount Wookiees and they feel silly and out of place in an epic space opera. Yes, they represent the triumph of personhood over technology, but surely there's a better way.
Most glaringly of all, the climatic sequence, the destruction of the Death Star, is the same climax from the original movie with a face lift. At the time, the giant space battle was the most elaborate optical printing scene ever, but the results are all dedicated to a conclusion that's foregone.
And let's not forget the uninspired performances. Star Wars has never been known for quality acting, but have you seen Harrison Ford in this movie? It's one of his all time worst performances. His banter with 3PO is cringe worthy.
Dramatically, it would have been better just to kill him off. It would make the whole conclusion to the trilogy feel much more intense. The stakes would be raised exponentially. There would be no need to delve into Jabba's palace and we could've just gotten into a much stronger conflict.
Of course, there's lots of folks that worship this movie as part of the sacred Original Trilogy. Some even call it their favorite.
My theory is that the Special Edition nonsense and the ridiculous Prequel Trilogy have resulted in this sad state of affairs. We've seen so much silliness, that going back to something old sounds really nice. We forget, because the prequels are so bad, that this movie isn't the best either.
Still, who can resist that moment when Vader has to chose between his son and the Emperor? It's pretty powerful.
If you still doubt my case, consider the video below. I think it'll help you see the light.
The Meandering Hexagon
Return of the Jedi Sucks
Return of the Jedi sucks.