“That feels like a lot of nitpicking, and I’m not sure if it’s really valid.”
I’m looking at how from a logical view the throne room scene works. Also, I read and skimmed through the production, including Lucas’s thoughts from The Making of Return of the Jedi. In addition, some snippets from the rough drafts to figure context. I’ve become more convinced over the years that Jedi doesn’t really add up.
Normally, most fans don’t really look at ROTJ’s script. I looked at imdsb’s third draft, which is extremely revealing about the film. Also, I’ve re-watched ROTJ fairly recently. Comparing the film’s dialogue between ROTJ and TESB shows a lot of repetition and borrowing from TESB, or warping the words around lazily, which I’ve seen TROS do recently (TFA: Rey: I’m not going to get you anything. Kylo Ren (cocky): We’ll see.; TROS: Rey: We’ll see.). Luke does a similar thing but with Vader on the bridge scene in multiple parts:
TESB Vader: Now release your anger, only your hatred can destroy me!
TESB Vader: Search your feelings, you know it to be true!
ROTJ Luke: Search your feelings, father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you, let go of your hate!
TESB Vader: Son… come with me.
ROTJ Luke: Come with me.
The manner in which ROTJ Luke inverts the situation makes ROTJ Luke to be the supposedly more threatening one here, but it also insults TESB Vader at the same time, tbh.
It’s a bit cringy, honestly- it doesn’t feel like Luke is on even ground with Vader; it feels like he’s insulting Vader or forcing him to change, rather than a mutual understanding, which I got better during Luke’s duel with Vader in TESB.
TESB Bespin Cloud City:
Vader: Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker- Obi-Wan knew this to be true.
(Luke tries looking away once, probably for an opening to escape). Luke (looking straight at Vader again, then boldly): No.
Vader: With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.
Luke (still distressed from the loss of his hand): I’ll never join you!
The general lack of emotion from Hamill in the bridge scene (with a questionable reliance on head nodding and shaking to convey non-verbal meaning) is hard for the audience to emphasize with. When David Prowse is doing a better job emoting in the Darth Vader suit than Hamill, something is off.
Luke acting actively by challenging Vader through generally emotionless gestures and cold, indifferent words likely to “punish” Vader (“Then, my father is truly dead.”) is rather inconsistent with Empire’s ending where Luke was scared by Vader nearly killing him and his emotions at the end- denial- fear, horror, acknowledgement of Vader’s relationship with him. Luke was trying to get away from Vader at the end, when Vader cut off his hand, since he was a threat, now Luke is threatening Vader.
“The whole point of that scene is that the audience can’t be sure if Palpatine is telling the truth. He’s manipulative, what he says to one person can be different from what he says to another.”
Unfortunately, from what I have discovered, the ROTJ emperor actually has part of Vader’s idea of “only your hatred can destroy me”- it was discussed during the production of the film, which means that the Emperor is part TESB Vader.
One could assert that the Emperor taught Vader this philosophy, but it wasn’t created until ROTJ’s production.
“He acts like he doesn’t care about Luke, but in reality he’s afraid.”
Can you cite evidence of this? Several-several times in the film- the emperor is unafraid of Luke- dismissing his guards in front of him, taking his lightsaber confidently, calling it a “Jedi weapon”, encouraging Luke to strike him down in order to start the fight (or is convinced that Luke will go to the dark side as soon as it happens), and calling Luke- the threat in Empire- “a young fool”.
“He knows the light is more powerful than the darkness, and tries his best to eliminate the closest threat to his power.”
No, he doesn’t. It’s because the emperor’s petty, and Luke’s a twerp to him.
Lucas:… "But Luke turns off his lazer sword, throws it at the Emperor. “I have controlled my hate;I don’t hate my father. If you are so much on the dark side, you kill me- I dare you.”
“The Emperor gets enraged. The Emperor has a temper. He is a hateful, angry person, and so he says, “You little twerp!” And maybe he does what I had in the other script [either the first rough summary or its revision] where he starts shooting lightning bolts and Luke starts gasping for breath.”- p. 73, The Making of Return of the Jedi
“But he didn’t realize that the closest threat to him was his own second-in-command. Him not realizing that Vader will betray him is a key plot point, it’s not a hole in the story or anything like that.”
It’s a forced plot point, actually. Long before Rian Johnson did his “plot twists”, which mostly do actually have set-ups proceeding the said twists, and these set-ups make sense. I can’t say the same for Return.
Vader’s Motivation, Part II
Lucas: I don’t like the idea of Vader saying to Luke, “Come on over to our side.” Let’s forget what Vader is really trying to do, kill the Emperor.- p. 73, The Making of Return of the Jedi
Vader’s motivation of having Luke join him is almost entirely absent from the film, except for a deleted scene in ROTJ, with Vader calling out to Luke to join him. Even then, Vader doesn’t go into specifics-i.e. kill the Emperor, train with me more, rule the whole galaxy, etc. It is mostly implied “give yourself to the dark side” and is extremely vague.
When Vader has the opportunity to destroy the Emperor early on when Luke decides to full-on attack the Emperor, he chickens out, even though “Luke’s skills are complete?” Luke is now the foreseen threat to the Emperor, and if we are to take the Emperor seriously at his declaration that Luke will complete his training to the dark side; he was only an act away from the dark side (doesn’t make sense, but if it’s true, then Luke is extremely powerful). Vader: “You don’t know the power of the dark side!” Sometimes the comments are leaning towards favoring the Emperor “It is pointless to resist, my son.” [i.e. The emperor’s offer to the dark side] “The emperor is your master now”.
“He claimed that Luke had a lack of vision, but in reality he was the one who couldn’t forsee his own demise.”"
True- fair enough.