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Who Felt Return Of The Jedi Was A Letdown At The Time?

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As a first generation fan, I have witnessed the changing attitudes in the original fans over the years towards Return Of The Jedi has been in perfect tandem with the critical re-evaluation of the films.  I think I was first aware of this circa 1997 where all of a sudden, all these articles were being written about Return Of The Jedi having an opening sequence akin to The Muppet Show and that the Ewoks were a travesty.  Next thing I know, all those twenty-something fans were saying the same thing.

 

Now, back in 1983, everyone I knew (myself included) positively raved about Return Of The Jedi.  The sequence in Jabba's palace was like the Canina scene in A New Hope writ large; the space battle at the end was breathtaking; the scenes between Vader, Luke and The Emperor were dramatic and nail-biting; all the loose ends were tied up and - get this - not one single person complained about the Ewoks.

 

Now, this was in Britain, where we are notoriously cynical.  So, if we Brits bought into Return Of The Jedi, I fail to see how this was any different across the pond.

 

So, I ask, who amongst the original fans (don't even bother posting a reply if you didn't see the films first time round - this is for the grown ups only!) genuinely thought Return Of The Jedi to be a let-down when first released?  And, if so, why?  Be honest now.

That's some bad hat, Harry
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I was thirteen when Return Of The Jedi came out and I was excited by much of the film but I remembered telling my father at the time that it wasn't as good the last one, it wasn't just the story either, it looked a little tatty, the plot and characters seemed to have lost their sparkle and depth. Han didn't seem like Han, Leia didn't seem like Leia.

I remember him suggesting that this was because I was getting older and therefore not as into this kids film series as I was when I was seven and ten. I think he failed to notice how excited I was about the prospect of going to see the film and how my eyes lit up with the clips and trailers on television before seeing the final result.

Then came the real kicker.

After ANH and ESB we were pretty sure that after a loooooog wait we'd get another episode but after ROTJ that was it...nothing.

Even if the PT had started three years later (and not sixteen) and it had been everything I had hoped for. I still wanted more Luke, Leia and Han. Their story wasn't over, it had just begun but with and after ROTJ it just kind of fizzled out

I'm forty now and all that time I've never seen ANH and ESB as kids films, family entertainment yes but not exclusively for children.

Star Wars was amazing for a seven year old (and my parents liked it too which was rather incredible at the time) but the characters and plot grew with ESB and it felt like this was going to be an ongoing story which would at least hold the same level of quality.

ROTJ (like the PT) jumps from moments where it's uncomfortably dark (in a good way) and full of action to being rather bland and playing like an older person's idea of what a child might like (in a bad way). Where as the first two seemed (from my child perspective) to be aimed at the child in my parents, ROTJ just seemed to be a typically patronising 'children's' story but with Jabba's tongue (that whole thing with Leia and Jabba felt more wrong than Leia being Luke's sister when I was thirteen).

That's what I felt then and I've never stopped feeling that way.

The line that stood out for me was Threepio's "Here we go again" which rather summed up my response to it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Well i wasn't one of the Brits in 1983 that raved about Jedi and nor did any of my friends. We were all around 16 at the time & all agreed that it was nowhere near as good as ESB & ANH and that it just seemed like a re-hash of ANH. I couldn't believe how bad it was. It looked so cheap (apart from the FX) and the film was so predictable as i had already seen the end climax in ANH. It looked like the Actors had become bored of the movie.

Another thing was the Ewoks. We all hated them. They were just there to sell toys and for the "cute" factor. Even non Star Wars fans who liked the first 2 but thought the Ewoks were stupid. Bloody teddy bears taking on the Empire and beating them?

Jabbas palace another re-hash from ANH's cantina sequence. And the creatures just weren't as memorable. Pig Guards? Had they run out of ideas? This movie had a bigger budget than ANH and better technology but they all just looked like muppets. We all agreed that Jabba was brilliant though

Jedi could have been so much more, but it was a real let down. And is even worse now with the SE version.

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Easterhay said:

So, I ask, who amongst the original fans...genuinely thought Return Of The Jedi to be a let-down when first released?  And, if so, why?  Be honest now.

With God as my witness, I genuinely disliked it before it was even over.  I'd taken the day off to go to the premier.  As soon as I saw the Muppets inside Jabba's palace, I realized this wasn't going to be for me.  That stupid band, the lame plot - I knew the bomb-carrying stranger was the princess as soon as they showed her - all of that palace silliness, and particularly Jabba - it was all laughably bad.

It just got worse as it went on.  I thought the whole barge scene was poorly done - spectacle without story, I thought the brother sister angle was weak and unnecessary, the second death star was writer's block, the ewoks were Disney, and the emperor shooting lightning bolts out of his hands was almost comedic.  But the absolute topper in "oh my God, what have they done to Star Wars?" - was  3PO telling a camp fire story to plush toys. Fucking vile.

I can only remember two viewings in my life.  One was that premier day and the other was a few days after I bought the Faces VHS.  We used to have Lunchtime Theater where I worked back then.  Sort of a serial installment of films type deal.  People would bring in movies and we'd watch them in 45 minute segments every day.  I brought in the trilogy one time.  When Return was playing, I heckled it Mystery Science Theater style.

Star Wars Post 1977 and I officially went our separate ways in May of 1983.  I tried to like Empire and bought the Laserdisc around that same time, but it eventually drifted away too.

 

*edit*
For the record, I was 21 when Return was released.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

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Everyone I knew loved it and everyone I knew's older brother hated it (or no longer cared because you know, girls.)

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Biggest letdown was actually a tie between the Phantom Menace, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  I have seen Jedi in theaters at least 3 times and it is one of my favorite films, i really hate it when people claim revenge of the wooden actors is better than Jedi.

In fact the only time i have watched Jedi and wanted to smash something was in 2004 when George inserted Jar Jar and Hayden Skywalker, horrible in the worst kind of way.

“Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.” -Simon Pegg.

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Too bad Smith lost all credibility when he sold out and made More Jay and Silent Bob and a second Clerks.  Things he said he wouldn't do.

Also those kissass , glowing reviews of the star wars prequels and JJ trek.

“Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.” -Simon Pegg.

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I was 10 years old when Jedi came out and absolutely loved it in back in '83.

I just remember leaving the theater utterly jazzed and thought it was so much better then Empire at the time.  If anyone has read my previous posts, you all know I have done a 180 on Empire and Jedi, and Star Wars has always been great to me.  But here is how I felt towards Jedi in '83:

-Jabbas palace:  I was fascinated with this part of the movie back in '83, as I remember seeing a behind the scenes documentary on PBS that summer on how they made Jabba move with 3 people controlling it.  I just thought Jabba was the coolest fucking thing in the world, and the build up of him over the years made it that much more special, as that is the reason why he should not be in the ANH:SE, or TPM.

-The Ewoks didn't bother me in '83 because I was 10 years old, and I was still a kid. 

-I was also fascinated with the Obiwan/Luke conversation about Anakin on Dagobah.  To me this explained everything I wondered since Empire, and it was like I finally got all my answers to Star Wars!   

-The last 45 minutes of Jedi blew my mind in 1983, as that was always the crown jewel of the movie.  The Death Star fight, the Endor fight, and Luke fighting Vader, couldn't ask for anything else as a 10 year old kid!

I have to say when Star Wars was over in 1983, the Trilogy was the greatest thing to me in the world, and Lucas was a pure genius.  I often wonder if Lucas stopped after 1983 and just walked away, would I give Jedi alittle more leeway??? 

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skyjedi2005 said:

Too bad Smith lost all credibility when he sold out and made More Jay and Silent Bob and a second Clerks.  Things he said he wouldn't do.

Also those kissass , glowing reviews of the star wars prequels and JJ trek.

I fondly remember reading his advance review for ROTS... how the final duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan almost brought him to tears and then comparing it to Othello or Hamlet. L-O-L.

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Maybe it's an age thing?  Ergo, the effect Star Wars has on us is dependant on age?  We get blinkered as we get older; I know a fan, same age as me, who is part of what I tend to call ESB fans (ie, when it boils down to it, that's the only film they really like - although this fella actually thought ROTS was a good film - we all like the dark stuff I guess) who said he didn't enjoy TPM because he'd moved on to films by Tarantino by then.  Personally, I think Tarantino is a talentless hack who rips off the films of others and thinks no-one will notice.

 

Seriously, though, Smith isn't the first to compare Star Wars to Shakespearean tragedy.  I actually thought the tragedy of the romance in AOTC was very Shakespearean - go on, shoot me down in flames!  And Jar Jar (I may as well go all out here) is a modern day Falstaff, no?

That's some bad hat, Harry
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I was so excited to see it on opening day, any flaws didn't catch up with me until later. (Front row balcony center during speeder bike scene=IMAX!) I've been through a love/hate thing with the Ewoks over the years, and currently like them more than I like Jar Jar. ;)

They had the potential to be vicious little furry bastards, but noooooo!

There was some criticism in print at the time. SF author Norman Spinrad wrote a pretty harsh review in Starlog magazine that got a lot of fanboy hate mail. He might have also been the one who first suggested Lucas ripped off H. Beam Piper's "Fuzzy" novels for the Ewoks.

One of the other Starlog columnists later spoofed the whole controversy with a cartoon depicting Spinrad frozen in Carbonite.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Did we have IMAX in 1983?

 

Return Of The Jedi got plenty of criticism at the time from reviewers.  The Empire Strikes Back got knocked, too.  And A New Hope - or Star Wars as it was then - got mauled.  That's what worries me sometimes in the things that I read; at some point, some of us ceased to be fans and became critics :(

That's some bad hat, Harry
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Sequels were made and watched in a very different way back then. Everyone has a raging boner for continuity and tonal consistency now, but it just didn't matter as much to the average, non-starlog reader. That's why it was ok for James Bond to meet Blofeld in one movie and then meet him again in the very next. It just wasn't a big deal. 

I think the shift in sequel-making mentality might have begun after Temple of Doom was so deliberately, gleefully, different in tone than Raiders and people got all pissed.

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And yet I loved Temple Of Doom because it didn't simply re-tread old ground.  I think you're right, if a piece of art finds a fanbase, then they just want more of the same.  They don't like surprises; they enforce their own prejudices on the creator.

 

And we're all far too educated now, much more critical.  It's to our detriment, I think.

That's some bad hat, Harry
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I was a fetus, but my mom did see it opening day. I always liked RotJ growing up, I suppose because it was all action, little substance. It had the ground battle of ESB and the space battle of ANH, and I only had to watch one tape to get it all!

Not sure when exactly I realized it wasn't quite up to the other two. I knew people disliked the Ewoks and I could see where it was kind of repetitive of the other movies. However, it wasn't until I got here that I saw the full-scale ripoff it had always been, but I was too young to notice.

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Rip-off how?  And it took a forum full of haters to tell you what to think?  Sad, that.  Oh, for the innocence of youth!

 

ROTJ has little substance?  I suggest you read a little tome commisioned by The Smithsonian, it's called Star Wars The Magic Of Myth, to show you a different perspective.

That's some bad hat, Harry
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Easterhay said:

Rip-off how?  And it took a forum full of haters to tell you what to think?  Sad, that.

As some of us have tried to put across, we are not a forum full of haters.  Moreover, there is nothing wrong in realizing things only through discussion with others.  That is what forums, and human discussion in general, are for.

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Really?  And yet a poster here has "F*ck you Lucas" as their signature.  Of course, that's not hating at all is it?

 

I know what a forum is for, thanks.  That sentence of yours must be one of the most overused in the history of online forums.

That's some bad hat, Harry
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One person with that as a signature does not speak for everyone here.  Given your remarks to doubleofive, you might know what a forum is for, but you seemed to have forgotten it.

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So, not only are you following me from thread to thread, you're also compiling a list of my posts.  My word; do you really not have anything better to do with your life?  I know films like Star Wars bring out the obsessive in people but, really, Chewtobacca, chill out, fella.

By the way, I have no idea who doubleofive is or the post to which you refer.  Which suggests my posts mean more to you than they do to me. 

That's some bad hat, Harry
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Doubleofive is the person you were talking to above me.  No compiling was necessary.

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To me i Love ROTJ because it was before Lucas destroyed star wars.  much as i do last crusade because it was before he ruined Indiana Jones.

 

To me star wars is 1977-1983 , and indiana jones 1981- 1989.

“Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.” -Simon Pegg.

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I was not let down in the least.

I was 12 when it came out and I saw it on opening day, and 2 or 3 more times that spring/summer.

Even with all the anticipation and hype, I loved it and thought it was a worthy conclusion to the trilogy.