Return of the Jedi: 40th Anniversary Reflection

Return of the Jedi turns 40 years old this month, and Lucasfilm celebrated the anniversary of the iconic finale of the original Star Wars trilogy with a limited theatrical rerelease of the film. Fans had from April 28 to May 4 to experience Episode 6 on the big screen, whether it was for the umpteenth viewing or for the very first time.

I was too young to see the original trilogy in theaters upon its initial release. However, my mother told me the first time she felt me kick was when my father took her to see The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe it was premature or unconscious jealousy as my parents were seeing something I knew I’d love.

A theatrical viewing of the special editions fell out of reach as the awkward teenage me chickened out of seeing A New Hope. Several high school tormentors were in line at the theater, causing me to skedaddle right back in my parent’s car and forgo the whole thing. I never told them why, as the personal embarrassment made it too difficult to explain, causing me to forgo Empire and Jedi as well.

When the 40th-anniversary release was announced, it served not only as an opportunity to right a personal wrong of sorts but to experience Star Wars in a manner that my parents and many others have romanticized. My wife and I took in an afternoon showing in a 94-seat auditorium was all but sold out.

After the commercial with Nicole Kidman trapped inside an AMC theater concluded, the beautiful orchestral trumpet of the Fox Fanfare blared from the speakers as the 20th Century Fox logo graced the screen.

I never knew how much I could miss a 19-second piece of music as chills went down my spine. The intro was absent from the five films Disney released, but now that the mouse owns Fox, hopefully, it will return in future installments of the franchise.

The yellow crawl traveled up the screen, giving me all the feels while ushering in a renewed sense of how well it serves the film. Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy said the crawl is reserved for the saga films, explaining its absence in Rouge One and Solo. The Skywalker saga is over, and the next round of movies is telling three different stories, which would benefit from the crawl more than most.

Let’s get this part out of the way.

Yes, it was the special edition and not the original unaltered version many fans have been clamoring for. Jedi Rocks, blinking Wicket, and Darth Vader’s “NO!!” are all present.

Disney also didn’t spring for any viewings to be exhibited on premium screens. No Dolby Cinema? It’s a choice, but it didn’t detract from the experience. According to Box Office Mojo, the 1983 film made over $7.2 million across 475 theaters during its seven-day run. That is not bad for a release Disney didn’t promote.

I’ve seen this movie hundreds of times, and there were a few things I noticed for the first time.

Many of the matte paintings stick out like a sore thumb—especially the Millennium Falcon parked in the hanger bay. I’ve never had an eye for production and special effects. However, it was jarring to see something I thought was a real set my entire life turn out to be fake.

Perhaps it was the quality differential between a non-premium theater screen versus an HD TV at home with all the bells and whistles. Nevertheless, I got over it quickly and chalked it up to a movie made a long time ago in a… it’s an old movie.

Other items that newly caught my eye was seeing construction workers welding the incomplete Death Star as Darth Vader’s shuttle arrived. There was also a Tie Bomber on the ramp where Vader’s ship docked, something I couldn’t believe escaped my eye until now, considering it’s one of my favorite ship designs.

The final thing I noticed was the scar under the left viewport of AT-ST Chewbacca and the Ewok’s hijacked. The scar must have been inserted to help the audience tell the difference between the Imperial AT-STs and Chewie’s ride. Finally, there was blood on Han Solo’s finger from checking on Leia after she was shot at the Endor bunker.

C-3PO and R2-D2. Man, it was great seeing them again in prominent roles after being sidelined in the sequel trilogy. I love me some BB-8, but the duo, who some call the true heroes of Star Wars, create a special kind of magic that leaves an indelible impression.

Fans are divided regarding the teddy bear-like warriors known as Ewoks. First of all, put some respect on Chief Chirpa’s name. Second, any tribe that can capture Han Solo, Chewie, and Luke Skywalker and nonchalantly attempts to EAT THEM are straight-up savages.

Luke’s rage when he defeated Darth Vader isn’t rage at all. The threat of Leia being turned to the dark side triggered an immense expression of love. Love, to save. Love, to protect. Love, to ensure his sister didn’t suffer the same fate as their father.

It would be disingenuous to ignore the state of Star Wars fandom. It’s in an ugly place right now. While ROTJ’s limited theater run has ended, someday, it grace theaters again. When that time comes, don’t let your thoughts betray you. In the theater, Star Wars is movie magic.

It’s an experience that one should never deprive themselves of, no matter how one feels about the current administration. George Lucas’ original trilogy is lightning in a bottle, the likes of which will never be duplicated.

Thank you for reading, and may The Force be with you.

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