00:30:01 – 00:45:00
It’s common knowledge here in the bullpen of 15-Minute Force that this is my least favorite movie in the original “trilogy.” I have my reasons, and I intend to share them with you as we continue this project.
But . . . none of these reasons have anything to do with the opening half hour of the movie. I genuinely like most of the events of the first act of Return of the Jedi. I always think of this sequence as “The Rescue of Han Solo.” The practical Jabba is much more impressive than the CGI Jabba we saw in the prequels. And, Jabba’s palace, as a setting, is dark and lived-in and suitably creepy. Things happen in this sequence so rapidly that they challenge you to find the logic in them.
The plan to rescue Han is bonkers. I have to say this. The plan seems to be to have Lando Calrissian infiltrate the ranks of Jabba’s bodyguards. Then, have the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 deliver themselves up to Jabba as gifts from Luke Skywalker, who is suddenly claiming to be a Jedi Knight. And then Leia Organa, disguised as the bounty hunter Boussh, delivers Han Solo’s co-pilot, the Wookiee Chewbacca, to Jabba to collect the bounty on his head, and, later on that night, while everyone is sleeping or passed out, Leia defrosts Han herself. Of course, Leia and Han are immediately captured by Jabba, but we have to believe this was part of the plan, too, because Luke hasn’t made his big entrance yet. Even if Leia and the freeze-blind Han had escaped from the palace, Chewbacca and the droids were still prisoners. Only Lando is walking around free. So, getting caught was part of the plan. Then Luke shows up, throwing his badass Jedi weight around, and also gets captured by Jabba. The Force had to tell Luke that this would lead to all of our main heroes being reunited on Jabba’s sail barge as they are taken to the Sarlaac Pit. This is where the real rescue of Han Solo will take place. And, as the evidence will show, this was all part of the plan.
Like I said, bonkers.
Lando was already inside the palace. Couldn’t he have assassinated Jabba himself, or at least arranged things to allow Luke, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids to infiltrate the palace surreptitiously, kill or incapacitate Jabba (I say kill, but I have Sith leanings), and then free Han? I know there’s still a war going on, but couldn’t they have brought more Rebel support as well? My plan may be less entertaining than the one we see unfolding, but I think it’s more logical.
As this chapter begins, we join the party already in progress on Jabba’s sail barge. Artoo has a drink tray on top of his dome and seems to be a bartender or waiter. That blue elephant musician is pounding away at his space piano. Leia, still chained to the Hutt, looks out a window of the sail barge to what I will call a runabout, where Han, Chewie and Luke stand, in restraints and heavily guarded. Lando is also there, as one of the guards. Personally, I think someone should tell them all to sit down. It’s never safe to stand in a boat.
Han and Luke share some buddy reunion banter. Han says he thinks his eyesight is improving. Instead of a big dark blur, he now sees a big light blur. Luke tells him that there’s nothing to see: He used to live here, you know. Han quips that he’s going to die here. Convenient.
“Just stick close to Chewie and Lando,” Luke says. “I’ve taken care of everything.”
This doesn’t seem to instill confidence in Han, but it does begin to prove that all of the failures leading up to this moment were a part of the master plan all along. Luke is playing chess while the rest of us are playing Chutes & Ladders.
Back on the sail barge, Jabba flirts with Leia, pulling her close to that thing that passes for his face. He tells her that she will come to appreciate him. You have to imagine what Jabba’s breath must smell like. I’m guessing sour wine and swampy frog meat, with just a hint of mushrooms and black mold.
Threepio runs into Artoo on the barge, conveniently knocking the drink tray off of the astromech droid’s dome. Threepio is being typically fretful, as his programming dictates, while Artoo bleeps and blorps that everything is well in hand.
When we finally arrive at the Sarlaac Pit, I notice another special-edition change that I don’t hate. The Pit now has what appears to be a giant, tentacled clam inside of it, whereas in my memory it was just a hole lined with ranks of thorny-looking teeth. The teeth are still there, but, taken as a whole, the effect is much more impressive and genuinely horrific.
Threepio is forced to translate Jabba’s speech to those about to be executed.
“Victims of the mighty Sarlaac, his Excellency hopes that you will die honorably. But, should any of you wish to beg for mercy, the great Jabba the Hutt will now listen to your pleas.”
Han responds: “Threepio, you tell that slimy piece of worm-ridden filth he’ll get no such pleasure from us!” Chewie growls his agreement.
Luke, the mysterious Jedi, says, calmly, “Jabba . . . This is your last chance. Free us or die.” This is a crowd-pleaser. Everyone thinks that Luke is hilarious.
Luke is the first of the prisoners prodded to walk to the end of the plank extended from the little runabout. Luke gives Lando a highly-conspicuous nod. Lando nods back. Luke looks up at Artoo, who is at the railing of the sail barge above. Han looks around at nothing, because he still can’t see. Leia, looking down on the scene, licks her lips nervously.
Luke gives a sarcastic two-fingered salute (I think a one-fingered salute would have been funnier, but not appropriate for this family-friendly movie). We see a panel slide open on Artoo’s dome, showing why it was convenient that Threepio knocked the drink tray off. Then Luke executes a complicated diving-board trick, somersaulting back onto the runabout while Artoo shoots Luke’s lightsaber through the air and into Luke’s hand. After this, Luke begins doing what one does with a recently reacquired lightsaber, sending all of his guards to their Sarlaac Pit deaths while saving his friends. Lando has now revealed himself as well and has joined the fray.
One of Jabba’s minions mounts a gun on the sail barge railing and begins firing at the runabout. Boba Fett uses his jetpack to travel over to the runabout himself. Luke slices the barrel off of Boba Fett’s weapon. Then Boba Fett uses his grappler-cable to temporarily tie up Luke. Luke manages to cut his way out of the cable and leaps over to another approaching runabout to engage the half-dozen or so beings on this vessel in battle. While still being shot at from the sail barge.
Meanwhile, Lando is hanging off the original runabout from a rope after his scuffle with one of the other guards, who’s now in the digestive tract of the Sarlaac.
Han accidentally strikes Boba Fett in his jet pack with a staff after Chewie tells him that the bounty hunter is there. Boba Fett’s anticlimactic death scene follows. He soars uncontrollably through the air, bounces off the hull of the sail barge and then goes straight down into the Sarlaac Pit. I’ve heard rumors that Boba Fett survived this ignoble demise in the extended universe, but I don’t buy it. The Sarlaac monster burped after Fett went in. He’s dead.
I’m not sure how much of this battle at the Pit of Carkoon (which I keep calling the Sarlaac Pit: sue me) was enhanced in the special-edition, if any. It seems more exciting that I remember it being. And Boba Fett’s death scene seems a little more memorable. I remember being underwhelmed by it during my first viewing. Of course, Boba Fett’s legend grew over the years following this movie, and certainly with the addition of the prequels. When this movie was originally released, he was just that bounty hunter scum who flew around in the giant clothes iron.
During all of this commotion, Leia strangles Jabba to death with the chain used to bind her to him. This is pretty dark. Even now. And richly symbolic. You know, killing the slavemasters with the chains used to enslave, and all that. Since Luke told Jabba he would die if he didn’t willingly free them, it was also a part of the plan.
Han extends his staff over the side of the runabout, trying to save the still-dangling Lando. They’re still being fired upon during this. The runabout shifts and Han goes over as well, also dangling, while Chewie keeps him from falling. I’m not sure if this is meant to be just exciting, or a bit funny. It’s a little of both.
Luke makes his way over to the sail barge and continues raining hell on Jabba’s minions. He takes out the gunner on the rail, of course, and countless others.
One of the Sarlaac’s tentacles wraps itself around Lando’s ankle and begins hauling him in. Han begins aiming towards Lando with his space Luger.
“Wait!” Lando exclaims. “I thought you were blind!”
“It’s all right. I can see a lot better!”
Han’s shot is effective, and both Han and Lando are pulled back up to the runabout. Artoo frees Leia from her chain, which is attached to the bloated corpse of Jabba. Then Artoo rescues Threepio from Salacious Crumb, who is trying to eat the protocol droid’s eye.
On the deck of the sail barge, Luke tells Leia to point the main gun at the deck. While she’s figuring out how to operate the gun, Luke gets shot in his robot hand, but that doesn’t slow him down. He grabs a conveniently placed rope, tells Leia to come on, then activates the gun with a kick as the two swing over to join their friends on the runabout. The swing is reminiscent of the first movie, when Luke and Leia were swinging inside the Death Star. Artoo knocks Threepio off of the sail barge and then goes over after him.
Our reunited Scooby Gang rescues the droids from the sand with giant magnets while Jabba’s sail barge crashes and blows up spectacularly in the background. Han has been rescued, and we’re only halfway through this chapter.
As the Millennium Falcon and Luke’s X-wing leave Tatooine, the spacecraft split up and head in opposite directions. Luke gets on the comm and says he’ll meet them back at the fleet. Leia tells him to hurry. Then, Han thanks Luke for rescuing him. Han says that now he owes Luke one. I understand the sentiment, but, if you count Han coming to Luke’s assistance during the Death Star trench run and then rescuing Luke on Hoth, it seems Luke still owes Han. But, who’s keeping score?
Just like in Empire, Luke is heading off for Dagobah again. Let’s just hope that Han and Leia aren’t about to go parking in a giant space slug once more.
Cut to: Death Star II, exterior. There are lots of TIE fighters flying around in formation. More TIEs than I can recall ever seeing before.
Inside the Death Star sequel, we see large formations of stormtroopers and pilots and Imperial officers around one of those bad-guy shuttles. Red-robed Imperial guards come down the ramp, and I think this is the first time we see them, not counting the prequels. And there’s Darth Vader, of course. Vader kneels as Emperor Palpatine begins making his slow way down the ramp. Like Yoda, he uses a walking stick. And, like Yoda, I don’t think he really needs it.
“Rise, my friend,” the emperor croaks, and then he and Vader begin a walk-and-talk.
Vader tells his boss that the Death Star will be completed on schedule. Palpatine tells his chief enforcer that he’s done well. The emperor also says he senses that Vader wishes to continue his search for young Skywalker. Vader admits that this is so.
“Patience, my friend,” the emperor says. He uses “my friend” a lot with Vader, but I’m not sure he means it. “In time, he will seek you out. And when he does, you must bring him before me. He has grown strong. Only together can we turn him to the Dark Side of the Force.”
“As you wish,” Vader responds. Vader, who understands the intricacies of the Sith Rule of Two as well as I do, must be thinking that the Emperor intends to replace him with his son, who, with fewer robot parts, would cost less to maintain.
“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen,” Emperor Palpatine says, and then begins to cackle like a true movie villain should.
One screenwipe later and we’re back on Dagobah again. The establishing shot looks so much like the one from Empire that it actually may be the one from Empire. Then we’re back inside Yoda’s hut, and the 900-year-old Master Jedi is talking about dying. He’s having a bad day, apparently.
As Yoda lies down and closes his eyes, presumably for the last time, Luke says that Yoda can’t die because he’s come back to complete his training.
“No more training do you require. Already know that which you need.”
“Then I am a Jedi,” Luke says.
Yoda chuckles. “Not yet. One thing remains—Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.”
I know I have read somewhere that a man doesn’t truly become a man until his father has died, but I can’t give this proper attribution. Yoda seems to agree with the sentiment, though.
Of course, this means that Luke is a fraud. He’s been flying around the galaxy calling himself a Jedi, and Yoda just told him that he isn’t one yet.
Luke refuses to let Yoda rest in peace, though. He asks Yoda if Vader is his father. Yoda doesn’t seem to want to answer him, but after a moment he confirms that this is true. I’m not sure why this part of the scene was even necessary. This may be because hindsight is 20/20, and of course we all take it for granted that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Maybe there was still some doubt back in 1983. Obi-Wan Kenobi lied all of the time. It was possible that Vader was lying to Luke as well as he chopped off his hand. With Yoda’s admission, the matter was laid to rest, as Yoda soon will be.
“Told you, did he?” Yoda asks.
“Yes,” says Luke.
“Unexpected this is. And unfortunate.”
“Unfortunate that I know the truth?”
“No. Unfortunate that you rushed to face him. That incomplete was your training. That not ready for the burden were you.”
“Remember . . . A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware—Anger. Fear. Aggression . . .The Dark Side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Luke . . . Luke . . . Do not . . .Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor. Or suffer your father’s fate you will. Luke . . .When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be. Luke . . .The Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned. Luke . . . There is . . .another. . .Sk . . .Sky . . .walker.”
And then Yoda dies, and Luke is left with his mouth hanging open. Yoda never says that Leia is Luke’s sister, does he? Hmm . . .
This was an eventful chapter. We got to see the conclusion of the great Han Solo rescue sequence, and then we got to see Yoda strangle to death on aphorisms and exposition. In the middle, we were reminded that at least a part of this movie concerns the completion of the second Death Star, and we just saw Emperor Palpatine come on board. The playing pieces are moving around the board.
Our implied story goals, now that Han has been returned to the fold, are to prevent the new Death Star from putting down the rebellion once and for all, and to show Luke’s now unavoidable confrontation with Darth Vader. Wouldn’t it be great if both of these things could be happening simultaneously?
I’ll have a better view of this as we get into the next chapter, but I believe Yoda’s death scene signals our crossover into Act Two of our story.
Until next time . . .His Excellency Hopes That You Will Die Honorably. But, Should Any of You Wish to Beg For Mercy, The Great Jabba the Hutt Will Now Listen to Your Pleas . . . And May The 15-Minute Force Be With You.