Thirty Years Of Jabba The Hutt’s Bitchy Admin Assist
Return of the Jedi was released thirty years ago today. Thirty years—three decades!—of salty Ewoks jokes, homemade Princess Leia bikinis, and of course Bib Fortuna, who I think we can all agree is the most enduring character from the original trilogy. To this day, you can’t stop children in every country of the world from putting sweatpants on their heads and growling in homage to Jabba the Hutt’s bitchy administrative assistant.
I’m just teasing you, Bib. Thanks to the prequels, there’s an army of Star Wars characters far more useless than you. Baby Greedo, for instance.
Return of the Jedi could have been ballsier. They could have killed off someone more pivotal than Yoda on the hero’s side. The film also could have looked better; whereas Star Wars has a visual grit and Empire a dream-like quality, Jedi looks very…pedestrian. The cameras really fail in capturing the gravity of what’s happening in this world. It’s no surprise to learn cinematographer Alan Hume quit late in Jedi’s production and was never officially replaced (word has it Hume was fed up with the way director Richard Marquand was being treated by the film’s production team).
That said, the sixth episode of this nutty space saga delivers in terms of narrative conclusion. We get what we were hoping for in Darth Vader’s final turn, and the very end is just the right amount of heartbreaking when you’re seeing it through Luke’s eyes. This makes Luke a true Jedi and a man—i.e. an outer space Johnny Cash-type who can host a private funeral without shedding tear one. Han Solo, emotionally transformed as well following his human popsicle ordeal, sticks around to help the Rebels and even invokes “bros before hoes” when sorting his romantic jive out with Leia.
Of course, the only reason Han can be Unfrozen Freelance Hero here is because Lando Calrissian performs a penance for his Empire Strikes Back treachery: according to official canon, the former Mayor of Cloud City did a full year as one of Jabba’s palace guards on the off chance Luke, Leia, and the droids would somehow pull their shit together to rescue both Han and himself. Talk about bravery and/or taking one for the team. There was no guarantee there. Imagine if the Rancor had somehow eaten Luke. Then what the hell would Lando have done?
Let us also note that despite a proliferation of cutesy Muppet-related nonsense Return of the Jedi offers its share of raw moments. Jabba the Hutt is literally choked to death by Princess Leia. An Ewok eats it onscreen, prompting another Ewok to sort of get all Platoon on us. Luke goes balls out in the closing seconds of his lightsaber battle with Vader, hacking away like his father’s torso is a piñata, all the while wearing a “Bitch, how you like me NOW?” expression on his face. Yoda dies of old age in close-up, which is really powerful because this guy’s supposed to be the strongest (good) Jedi in the galaxy yet he can’t mind trick the Grim Reaper (although, based on his elongated speech patterns, you can tell he’s fighting it with every molecule in his tiny green body).
Today, as a thirty-four year old recovering Tattooine addict, life with Return of the Jedi is a little bittersweet. G. Lucas can’t stop scribblin’ on his movies with CGI, and right now Jedi—the most recent Star Wars outing that’s more fun than slog—suffers worst of all. Great musical sequences altered and/or erased in favor of ham-fisted crap. Sarlacc penis. Blinking Ewoks. Prequel Hayden painted over Sebastian Shaw. Tiny Jar Jars. It puts a damper on everything. Yo dawg, where my Yub Nub at?
I guess it’s like an old girlfriend. You remember the good times, before she took that hard left and decided the moon cult was more important than you. What can you do? Complain about it on a blog, I guess.
At least Bob Fortuna remains in all his original 1983 glory. Kay one-a wunga indeed, my friend.
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