May the 25th 1983, Return of the Jedi makes it’s theatrical debut, and we were there. “Revenge of the Jedi” was the original name of the film until the last several months of the production. Something happened story-wise that caused the big name change, and there was a rush to pull everything that was printed, whether it was posters or articles in Star Log, to be quickly replaced with the new title. As anxious fans, this title change was an enormous event and we were all scrambling to get anything that had “Revenge of the Jedi” in the title.
Anyways it’s now May the 24th and a bunch of my friends, including Rod Andrewson, Scott Rigler, Brian Siken and a host of others made the big trek to Scottsdale, AZ to camp on the night before so we could be at the first screening of the final segment of the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a long night, and from our point of view, we felt like we were the only normal people in a sea of crazy fanatic fans. There was girl that decided to walk out in the intersection at about 3:00 in the morning and pretend to control the traffic lights with her own Jedi powers. At any given hour cars of thrill seekers would drive by and throw eggs into the crowd or hose everyone down with high pressure fire extinguishers. It was definitely a night to remember. The first showing was at noon so once we all got inside and to our seats, all the excitement began. The Kachina was a big Cinerama theater and the best seats were about the 5th row from the front and in the center. From these seats the screen seemed to wrap around and fortunately we got petty close to the E ticket seating. Finally noon comes and the movie begins.
Following one of SCI-Fi’s greatest films of all time, “The Empire Strikes Back”, the anticipation for this installment was without measure. The movie starts and the entire film is filled with screams and howls from the crowd. The new visual EFX by ILM are breathtaking as well as the score by John Williams, but about half way through the movie I was really not thrilled by what was happening on screen. As the stage was set with “Empire” as a dark, intense and very serious story line with deep character development, took a hard turn to whimsical and campy in Jedi… Teddy bears in the woods, a pathetically wimpy Han Solo who suffered from teen jealousy attacks. Darth Vader turns into a softy and when he takes his helmet off we find out he is really Humpty Dumty. The “other”, that Yoda had spoken of was Princess Leia who really didn’t hold up for any greatness. And the final blow of Luke and Leia being twins. I was very disappointed as the film played on but I thought it must have been because I was tired so I went again and, NO I was right it wasn’t anywhere near what I was expecting. I went several more times to watch the speeder bike chase and the end attack on the Death Star but story wise I just hated where it went, or didn’t go.
Writers Kasdan and Brackett, as well as the directorial vision of Irvin Kirshner were deeply missed and their labors were tossed aside for cute, cuddly and silly humor. Although the disappointment is still there 30 years later, I still love the film even though it was a far cry from what I was expecting to see. Ewoks are still a lot more palatable than Jar Jar Binks. HAAA HAAA! So with all that said, Happy 30th to RETURN OF THE JEDI!!!!