Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Six: Soap Opera in the Trees (Or: Han Solo Wants to be Your Back Door Man)


01:15:01 – 01:30:00

Since the high dive acrobatics sequence on Tatooine, at the Sarlaac Pit, the only bit of real action we’ve really had was the speederbike sequence that ended right as the last chapter began. Don’t expect things to get any more exciting in this chapter. There’s a lot of talking and soap-opera caliber emoting going on.

Luke Skywalker’s trick of levitating Threepio using the Force somehow convinces the Ewoks to let the rest of them loose and not eat them at this barbeque party they had planned. I’m not sure what they plan to eat instead. A Gamorrean guard sounds really tasty at this moment.

Later, in the middle of a large hut, Threepio tells the entire story of the Star Wars saga so far in Ewok language, using sound effects to mimic Darth Vader’s breathing, lightsabers and explosions. The Ewoks are held in thrall to their golden god. Afterward, the chief of the Ewoks announces that all of the newcomers, and the former main course in their feast, are now part of their tribe. Yay! We belong.

Let me just say here that I get it. The Ewoks are, in many ways, the Star Warsian version of Tolkien’s hobbits. They are short in stature, big in heart. They live in the trees rather than in holes in the ground, but their village isn’t so different from Hobbiton.

Words like “bucolic,” “pastoral,” “agrarian” come to mind, and I understand that this sort of fantasy appeals to a lot of people. Even I like it, in theory, since this sort of peaceful fantasy setting represents a safe place, a home base away from all the violence and scary things. Rivendell. Lothlorien. Tom Bombadil’s House. Even Hobbiton before all of the Men took it over. But, the truth is, it is the scary stuff that makes these places seem better by comparison. Without the war and violence, death and explosions, this sort of setting just becomes boring.

I was bored during this fifteen minutes and most of the fifteen that preceded it. Even during this viewing. I really wanted an Imperial walker to stomp its way into the Ewok village with its gun turrets a-blazing. I wanted to see the little teddy bears falling out of the trees while on fire. I wanted death and mayhem and shattered tree trunks.

What I got was Storytime with the Teddy Bear People and my least favorite droid.

After this, we get a scene from As Endor Turns, the longest running soap opera in the Empire. Luke goes outside the hut and Leia follows, then the two have a conversation that doesn’t exactly jibe with what the viewer already knows about their history.

Luke asks Leia if she remembers her mother. Her real mother, he’s quick to add.

Just a little bit,” Leia answers. “She died when I was very young.”

Padme Amidala died almost immediately after giving birth to Luke and Leia, so this is technically correct. She did die when Leia was very young.

Luke presses her for more. Leia says her mother was very beautiful. Kind, but . . . sad.

Who is she talking about here? I realize this movie came out in 1983, which was 22 years before Revenge of the Sith was released. But, I’m watching the special editions which were released just before the prequel trilogy came out. You would assume by that point they would know what they planned to do with Luke and Leia’s mother. Why keep these lines in the movie? Leia can’t remember this stuff about her mother. You could say that she’s talking about Bail Organa’s wife here, but then why would Luke stress her real mother?

Luke has no memory of his mother. Which makes perfect sense.

But we’re still in soap-opera mode here and our actors are feeling the need to over-emote. Leia senses that something is still troubling Luke. What is it, Luke? You can tell me.

Vader is here on the moon, he says. He’s come for Luke. Luke can always tell when he’s near. He has to go face him now.

Why? Leia wants to know.

Luke admits that Darth Vader is his deadbeat dad. But, that’s not all. Leia is also Luke’s sister. Luke doesn’t say it, but the implication is that Vader is her father as well.

I know,” Leia says, with dewy eyes. “Somehow . . . I’ve always known.” She didn’t seem to know when she and Luke were swapping spit. Just sayin’.

Luke goes on to say that he has to leave now to confront Vader. He thinks there’s still good in him and that he can turn him back to the good side. As I was watching the movie this time, I was trying to recall the way Luke ends up confronting Darth Vader, and this is the answer: He gives himself over to the Imperial forces the same way he walked into Jabba’s palace.

When Luke leaves, Leia is left alone on the treehouse walkway. She’s crying. But, she’s not alone for long because Han Solo gets his cue and he joins Leia for some soap-opera time.

Leia tells Han that she needs to be alone for a while. And like any red-blooded male, Han wants to know what’s wrong, why is she crying? When Leia says that she can’t tell him, then his first reaction is one of jealousy.

Did you tell Luke?” Han demands. “Is that who you could tell?”

Han begins to storm off, but then turns, comes back and apologizes.

Hold me,” Leia says, and then the two embrace.

I felt as exasperated as Han by the time this scene was over. Even before I knew all this stuff about Leia’s mom was one huge continuity error, this scene never sit well with me. Maybe because I was already angry about the teddy bear stuff. Maybe because emotional drama is something that Star Wars has never done particularly well. Dramatic action, maybe, at times, but never the type of acting that requires much emoting.

As a reference, go back to Emo Anakin’s “I Hate Sand” monologue.

In the next scene, we see one of those Imperial badguy shuttles floating down from the Death Star II to a landing platform in the forest. Luke said that Vader was already on the moon. Maybe he meant he was in the general vicinity, because it is indeed Darth Vader who comes down the shuttle ramp moments later.

An Imperial walker is also coming up. Luke comes out of this one, guarded by an Imperial commander and a couple of troopers. The commander tells Vader that this is a Rebel who surrendered to them. Although Luke denies it, the commander believes there may be more of them and wants permission to conduct a further search of the area. He gives Luke’s lightsaber to Vader.

The Sith Lord tells the commander to bring Luke’s companions to him and dismisses him.

Now we get some emotional father-son dialogue. Vader says the Emperor has been expecting Luke. Luke says some of the same things he said to Leia earlier: I know there is good in you. That’s why you couldn’t destroy me . . . yadda yadda yadda.

Vader’s not really paying attention at this point. An evil Sith lord doesn’t have time for whiny-ass kids. Instead, he is looking at Luke’s new lightsaber. He switches it on, marvelling at the green laser blade.

Your skills are complete,” Vader muses. “Indeed, you are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen.”

I think this means that Luke is now a true Jedi Knight. Or something. Constructing your own lightsaber is a rite of passage, earning Luke his final badge to sew onto his Jedi sash.

Vader tells Luke: “The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.”

Luke says, somewhat petulantly, “Then my father is truly dead.”

We cut to another exterior shot. Han, Leia, Chewie, the droids and several Ewoks are on a ridge overlooking the Imperial shield generator. They are discussing their plan of attack when Threepio learns, from the Ewoks, that there is a secret entrance on the other side of the ridge. It seems that the human-teddy bear alliance is paying some dividends.

Cut to: an outer space scene. Yay! The reason I love Star Wars. The Rebel fleet is preparing for their attack on the new Death Star. Lando is on the Millennium Falcon, and his co-pilot is a puppet character whom I know is named Nien Nunb. He looks like a dyspeptic monkey, and I never liked him or his stupid voice.

Admiral Ackbar is in command of the fleet from his ship. He coordinates the attack. Ackbar, I like.

Nien Nunb is apparently concerned that the shield won’t be taken down in time for their attack to be a success. Lando takes up for his friend, telling his co-pilot that they’ll have the shield down on time. Then he does what everyone does in the cockpit of a spaceship. He begins pressing buttons and flipping switches.

Ackbar tells the fleet to prepare to jump to hyperspace on his mark.

If there was a mark, I didn’t see or hear it. Everyone just goes to hyperspeed and flashes off into the distance.

Back on the forest moon of Endor, Han, Leia, Chewie, the droids and Ewoks meet up with the rest of the Rebel squad. There is a bunker below them, guarded by several Imperial scouts whose speederbikes are parked nearby.

To one of the Ewoks, Han says, “Back door, huh? Good idea.”

Han and Leia are still talking about how to proceed when one of the Ewoks takes matters into his own paws, stealing a speederbike, which gets most of the scouts to leave the bunker after him. The special effects in this speederbike scene don’t seem quite as good as the earlier one.

This leaves one scout at the bunker. Han goes up, taps the scout on the shoulder, and gets him to chase him to the side of the bunker where the rest of the Rebels are waiting. This was a little on the cutesy side. What if the scout had just pulled his weapon and shot Han instead of giving chase? I would rather Han just walked up to the man and blew his head off. Maybe that’s the difference between a PG and an R rating.

And this is where we will end Chapter 6 of the Jedi Edition of the 15-Minute Force. Not a particularly exciting chapter, but it seems to be ramping up to some real Star Wars action there at the end. Will our heroes get the shield down in time for Lando and the rest of the Rebel fleet to destroy the second Death Star? And what’s going to happen with Luke? I don’t know if these questions are answered in our next chapter, but I know they’ll be answered soon.

Until then . . . Back Door, Huh? Good Idea. I Know. Somehow . . . I’ve Always Known . . .and May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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