Skip to main content

Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.


Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
(1983)

This has definitely suffered the most of the original trilogy. The effects sequences are more extravagant but comparably less inventive and effective (the speeder bike chase aside, the cleaning up of which is an example of revisions I can get behind), but most damagingly the story just isn't there. 

Its greatest asset is the one thing Lucas could carry through all his versions of the story on some level, the final confrontation between Luke and Vader. And it's a fine scene, ably constructed and supported by Williams haunting choral score and with Ian McDiarmid’s mocking Emperor showing commendable relish. Of course, a moment that was so impactful due to Vader silently observing his son being wracked with pain, then turning on the Emperor, now has "Nooooo! Nooooo!" splashed over it for what Lucas considers to be a fiddling symmetry.

This is where Lucas apparently took to micro-managing (Richard Marquand receiving the brunt of it) after letting Kershner have a fair bit of rope. So he didn't listen to the suggestions of Gary Kurtz (who left acrimoniously) and Lawrence Kasdan (who agreed with Ford that Han should die). He pressed on with repeating the climax he had brought forward into Star Wars (the Death Star) and instead of a rethink after deciding not to got to the Wookie world (as he decided to introduce Wookies with Chewie, who was technologically capable, it didn't fit his vision of a Vietnam-parallel undeveloped society versus advanced one) he reinvented it with the cutesy indulgence of the Ewoks. 

Most of the choices he made here seem like a retreat rather than advancement from The Empire Strikes Back. Han is an almost incidental figure; you can understand the reasoning that he should be paired with Leia but dramatically he should really have been aboard the Falcon, even if he wasn't given a heroic death. His character is very nearly just comic relief; Ford wears the humour well, but his character is shorn of the "cool" he had previously (just look at his "for laughs" defeat of Boba Fett). We don't care about the attack on the Death Star because we don't care about Lando. And we don't really care about the battle on Endor because it's all so lightweight. Which means the drama of the climax all rests on Luke. Who finds his father was a fat bald bloke all along. It turns out little Annie really likes the pies.

The scene where everyone reunites with Luke before heading to Endor/the Death Star has to be the most cheese-laden and excruciating in the original trilogy. Unfortunately that wasn't edited down, but we get a horrific song to the accompaniment of rotten CGI at Jabba's palace. Lucas calls out the pro-rubber people on the commentary at this point, saying that it's as fake as CGI. But, as is clear from the prequels, he can't see which sticks out like a sore thumb and is more of a challenge to suspension of disbelief. 

The Sarlacc now looks more like Little Shop of Horrors. And it's ironic that the one crowd-pleaser Lucas considered reinstating, Fett escaping its maw, he decided against on the grounds it didn't fit (like that music number did?) The replacing of the Ewok music at the end is also rubbish, and the speed of galaxy-wide celebrations of the Empire's defeat (within hours, everywhere?) is implausible for the sake of an attempt at "epic" wrap-up. Christensen looks like a smirking dick when he's joined the Force too (I don't see the logic, either; he turned to the good side of the Force as a corpulent cadaver).

***

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .