<I>Return of the Jedi</I>: Once More With Feeling

Published in Film Criticism 8.2 (Winter 1984) pp. 55-66. Copyrighted.

Return of the Jedi: Once More With Feeling

Anne Lancashire
Professor of English
University of Toronto

Yes, the Ewoks and some of the monsters are too cute and toylike; occasional dialogue lines are weak; and at times both characters and action seem flat: as in Luke's return to Dagobah, which at first appears to be merely a routine tying-up of narrative threads left dangling at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. The George Lucas/Richard Marquand Return of the Jedi (1) stumbles occasionally, in these and other ways, on its narrative and technical surface, as a good number of reviewers and Andrew Gordon in this issue have pointed out (2). But to focus on the narrative and technical surface misrepresents Return of the Jedi, the third and concluding part of the central trilogy of George Lucas's planned nine-film Star Wars saga: for, as the third part of a trilogy, Return of the Jedi is a triumph. No run-of-the-mill sequel, but a film built in extraordinary detail upon its two popular and generally-acclaimed predecessors, Jedi is a carefully designed conclusion to make of the three Star Wars films together a complex structural and thematic unity. Beginning with apparent simplicity, the three films become structurally and thematically interrelated, in growing complexity and depth, as the series moves along. And--especially now that we have become accustomed to, and even somewhat blasÚ about, the usual Star Wars attractions of multiple special effects, mythic narrative, old-movie quotations, literary and psychological sources, and the like (3)--in the three-part unity lies Jedi's special interest, and the significant impact both of this film and of the Star Wars central trilogy as a whole.

The first Star Wars film--released in 1977 as Star Wars but now retitled Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope--stood independently for three years, almost universally praised, and can still stand alone: comic, exuberant, and presenting, along with fast-paced action, sophisticated allusiveness, and dazzlingly innovative special effects, a seemingly straightforward, archetypal world of boyish adventure and heroism, with a simple theme of trust in one's (instinctively-good) emotions as the key to personal and political success. The restless young hero, Luke Skywalker, comes up against the clear evil of the adult world around him, and overcomes it through determination, trust (as instructed by his new-found teacher, Ben Kenobi) in his naturally caring and heroic feelings, and a lot of help from his (new) friends. Caring and courage win the day for all three central characters--Luke, the cynical adventurer Han Solo, and the spirited Princess Leia--who begin the film apart and by its end, in the Rebel medal-presentation ceremony, stand triumphantly together. But the characters are young, and not much developed.

With The Empire Strikes Back (1980) the Star Wars world, though still full of excitement and special effects, becomes more introspective and complex, its comedy muted; and the films become thematically interdependent. Empire builds narratively, structurally, and thematically upon A New Hope to move its central characters from youth to adolescence: deepening them and introducing us to the darker side of human experience--most notably, to the evil which cannot be easily recognized and defeated because it exists within, as part of the very emotions that in New Hope could be trusted to lead to personal and political triumph and that now, further developed, lead to disaster when not understood and controlled. Caring and courage are seen to be mixed (even in A New Hope, from the vantage point of Empire) with impatience, pride, sensuality, hatred, and fear. The first thirty minutes of Empire, on the ice planet Hoth, through visual and narrative parallels provide a dark rerun of the whole of A New Hope--from initial Imperial threat to battle against the evil Galactic Empire (this time not concluding in Rebel victory); emotions such as recklessness, anger, romantic sensuality, and inpatience dominate; we are in the same Star Wars world as in A New Hope, but see it differently. And Empire then moves into a double-plot structure that parallels Luke's learning (on Dagobah and on Bespin) about the dark side of his developing emotions with that same learning by Han and Leia (on the Falcon and on Bespin)--while sobering echoes of A New Hope occur, such as the movement, enforced in A New Hope but voluntary in Empire, of all three of Luke, Han, and Leia to a man-made place of destruction (Death Star/Bespin) (4). Empire is a film of growth, adolescent doubt, and ambiguity: building upon the details of A New Hope to deny the youthful, optimistic emotionalism of the earlier film and even, in retrospect, to reinterpret it. Empire's emphasis upon the evils of war and weaponry, for example, creates a new perspective which, as we look back, turns the previously-triumphant conclusion of A New Hope, the Rebel medal-presentation ceremony, into a somewhat ironic view of military heroism--and makes sense out of what was, before 1980, the puzzling visual allusion of A New Hope's triumphant finale to Leni Riefenstahl's 1934 Nazi propaganda film, The Triumph of the Will (5). Not surprisingly, the critics who most liked A New Hope least liked the dark and ambiguous Empire (6).

Return of the Jedi is the final step in the trilogy, narratively and structurally repeating and reworking the locations, situations, and relationships of both A New Hope and Empire in order to synthesize and move beyond them: showing through its structural design the growth of the central characters past youthful optimism and adolescent self-doubt to maturity. Each episode in Jedi repeats, with variations, one or more episodes from the two previous films, to show successes by the central characters replacing what we now clearly see to have been earlier failures under similar circumstances; and the successes are achieved through the understanding and control of the darker emotions (hatred, romantic sensuality, fear, and the like), as taught in Empire by Yoda, together with the full development (only just begun, we now realize, in A New Hope) of the positive emotions of cooperative friendship and love. (The characters thus become, paradoxically, at once more complex and less entertainingly fallible.) Jedi in some ways comes full circle. In its positive emotionalism it recalls A New Hope to us more than Empire, and even incorporates--unlike Empire--swashbuckling old-movie sequences (Arabian nights and pirate ships on Tatooine, anthropological and Robin Hood adventures on Endor) and many comic asides. But always Jedi incorporates Empire as well, relying on the deepening of character and theme in the second film, joined to the first, to move thematically beyond them both. Of the three films, therefore, Jedi stands least well on its own, being the most allusively complex.

Jedi establishes its allusive structural and thematic pattern from the start by returning us, with positive changes, to A New Hope's Tatooine. After the now-standard Star Wars opening of an Imperial threat involving a Star Destroyer (here one launches an insect-like shuttle reminiscent of Empire's probe droid, but the episode is developed at length, with Darth Vader, as in A New Hope), we see as in 1977 two droids crossing the Tatooine sands on a mission. And the film then moves into a more elaborate and horrifying, though still comic, replay of A New Hope's famous cantina sequence, at the court of Jabba the Hutt: with subtitles, musicians, and all, and including Empire's bounty hunters.

Here narrative and visual parallels, synthesizing A New Hope and Empire, demonstrate how Luke has grown, through training and experience. When Luke first enters Jabba's palace, he is clearly no longer the na´ve, emotionally-underdeveloped boy who entered A New Hope's cantina. Now on a mission of friendship and love, he visually and narratively resembles the Ben Kenobi (on a similar mission) of A New Hope's cantina sequence rather than his younger self there. In New Hope, for example, Luke has to be saved both in entering Mos Eisley and in the cantina by the hermit-garbed Ben Kenobi using mind-tricks and a light saber; in Jedi's "cantina" Luke himself has become a hermit-garbed Ben, using mind-tricks and light saber for the good against evil, and rescuing both Han and Leia. With the experience of Empire behind him, he moves self-confidently, with the physical and emotional control taught there by Yoda, through the depths of now-perceived clear and repulsive evil (greed, sensuality, cruelty, etc.) represented by Jabba, overcoming (at times semi-comically) his enemies with ease, though the unexpected and appropriately-named Rancor gives him pause. (The emotional implications of the name call up Empire's theme of the [self-]destructiveness of the dark emotions.) The visual references to both A New Hope and Empire reinterpret the earlier films by emphasizing Luke's inexperience there; and they also, through the comparisons, represent maturity as the ability to cope in a new way with life's ever-recurring patterns. Luke has matured--though not yet completely.

Han's development is also shown here--more soberly than Luke's, but also through Jedi's replay (incorporating Empire) of A New Hope's cantina sequence--thus universalizing Jedi's theme of growth to maturity. In A New Hope's cantina a cynical and self-sufficient pirate, rescued only involuntarily from Tatooine by Ben Kenobi's choice of him as escape pilot, Han now in Jedi's "cantina" joins in open friendship ("Together again, huh?" he comments wryly to Luke as they are dragged before Jabba) with all the Star Wars heroes in the defeat of, not involuntary escape from, his former pirate world (and pirate self). Brought to Jabba's palace through the mixed emotions of love and romantic sensuality, caring and cynical pride (in large part Empire and A New Hope combined), Han has now begun to "see" anew metaphorically as well as literally. Even his part in the final Tatooine battle is symbolically significant: the former loner and part-scoundrel, who relied on blasters to solve all problems (7), here initiates a semi-comic "human-chain" rescue of Empire's ultimately-redeemed pirate, and his old friend, Lando (who in Empire in part represents Han's own dark side (8)). Jedi thus shows through its cantina replay, with Han as with Luke, a growth towards maturity: through friendship and love now controlling, and in part (Han's vision is not yet perfect) defeating, the dark "scoundrel" side of human experience (9). The first stage of maturity has been reached.

The tone of the Tatooine sequences of Jedi, through their allusive narrative and structure, is at once like that of A New Hope, comic and heroic (as when Luke and Leia once again swing together to safety, here not over a Death Star shaft but from pirate sail barge to skiff), and like that of Empire, dark and complex, in the emphasis on evil in Jabba's world (in A New Hope Tatooine is a largely comic "hive of scum and villainy" (10)) and in the implications raised by biblical parallels. And here the sequences not only look back to A New Hope and Empire, to reinterpret and to build upon them, but also foreshadow in detail, through their use of Empire, Jedi's own victorious conclusion. At the end of Empire Luke becomes (like Ben Kenobi in A New Hope) a secular, imperfect Christ-figure, tempted by Darth Vader (like Christ by the devil in the wilderness) with offers of worldly power and then self-crucified (through mixed emotions, such as friendship, anger, and fear) below Bespin on a cross in space (11). Here in Jedi the biblical parallels and their implications are extended, with Luke's entrance into Jabba's palace (the traditional epic journey to the underworld) not only a repeated New Hope cantina entrance but also specifically paralleled to the harrowing of hell that comes between Christ's crucifixion and his resurrection. (The harrowing, biblically and here, involves an underworld palace, gates resistless against the "savior," a great light around him, a defeat of monster-devils in a place of torment, a liberation of prisoners (12).) Luke's victory over the clear evil represented by Jabba is thus implied to be part of a spiritual progression--and points ahead to a greater, more complete victory, at the film's end: Luke's final triumph over the greater evil presented by a second "ruler" (in a second throne room), the Emperor: the hell not of clearly-perceived evil but of ambiguously mixed emotions. Even the details of Jabba's defeat, also looking back to Empire, in retrospect foreshadow the film's conclusion and take on symbolic meaning (13). Luke here fights a (traditional, epic) three-phase battle against Jabba's pit-beast, the symbolically-named Rancor, as he will later fight a three-phase duel (as previously in Empire) with the darkly-emotional Vader, the Emperor's defender; and Luke in part here defeats the Rancor as he will ultimately (more successfully) "defeat" Vader (and did not defeat him in Empire)--controlling his negative emotions, and using death (here a bone and the skull as weapons; at Jedi's end his own willingness to die) rather than fearing it. The Emperor, of course, along with his skull-like Death Star, is throughout Jedi a visual death's-head, powerful above all through the fear of death which Luke, with Vader, finally overcomes. Han is also here, as in Empire, paralleled to Luke as a secular, imperfect Christ-figure: the frozen effigy (through love mixed with romantic pride) of the end of Empire is in Jabba's wholly-sensual court a wall decoration like a religious image, contrasting starkly with the hell in which it hangs; and Han is then resurrected by love and friendship. The biblical parallels suggest in Jedi, as more darkly in Empire, that divinity (like hell) lies not beyond but within man--in unselfish, cooperative love; and though in Empire the characters' mixed emotions lead them to temporary defeat, in Jedi understanding, self-control, and love lead ultimately to victory.

The Tatooine sequences are astonishingly complex: their allusive details also recalling to us, for example, and reinterpreting, the New Hope Death Star rescue of Leia by Luke and Han (involving disguise and a handcuffed Chewbacca, a chute, a swinging escape), the Empire attack on Luke by the Wampa (Rancor-like and inhabiting a cave littered with bones), and Luke's chute-fall on Bespin. In every case Luke now succeeds--through control and/or love--where before (as we now understand the earlier sequences) he partially failed (he rescues himself, for example, from Jedi's chute-fall, as not from Empire's). The same pattern appears in the Tatooine sequences as a general replay of his Bespin attempt to rescue Han and Leia (14). Jabba as threatening sensual slug, to which Leia is chained, recalls too the space slug which almost swallows the romantic Han and Leia in Empire, in retrospect giving the Empire slug sequence additional symbolic meaning (50). And details structurally and thematically look ahead as well, to the ultimate defeat of the Empire, as when Jabba's barge, moving to destruction, at one point resembles a Star Destroyer.

Overall, Jedi consists of two main parts: the Tatooine sequences and a final three-level battle against the Empire. Bridging the two, however, are brief sequences involving the Emperor (from Empire) on the Death Star (from A New Hope), Dagobah (from Empire: centering on Luke), and a Rebel pre-battle briefing (from A New Hope: focusing on Han). Flat in themselves, they acquire thematic significance (though remaining narratively weak) through their incorporation of A New Hope and Empire. The first shows the two kinds of evil--external (emphasized in A New Hope, as in the Death Star) and internal (emphasized in Empire, as in the emotionally-tempting Emperor)--that the heroes face throughout the first trilogy. The latter two emphasize the achievement on Tatooine of a first stage of maturity only, and point to the completing stage to come. Dagobah--a replay like the Jabba cantina sequence--shows again, for example, through shots and dialogue recalling Empire, how Luke has grown: no botched landing, no symbolic snakes, no impatience, but promise-keeping and friendship; but it also visually emphasizes, from the start, Luke's again-damaged hand; Luke is not fully a Jedi yet. His final test will be confrontation with Darth Vader--with his father, and hence with his inherited potential (as both Yoda and Ben Kenobi imply), through the darker emotions, to be emotionally twisted from the good. The Rebel briefing, through recalling the similar briefing in A New Hope, shows Han, too, as now "trained" by experience but not yet fully tested and mature. In A New Hope (as in Empire too) a non-participant in Rebel battle preparations, here Han has become a General in the Rebel Alliance and has even given his cherished Millennium Falcon to his old friend Lando; but Han, like Luke, has not yet fully come to terms with his emotions and his fallibility--still protecting himself with commercial language ("I owe you one," he has told Luke after Jedi's Tatooine rescue) and with wisecracks.

The main business of Jedi occupies the second half of the film--the three-level battle against the Empire (with cross-cutting between the levels), which structurally sums up all the previous Star Wars battles: aerial dogfights over a Death Star, as in A New Hope (and including the Falcon against Star Destroyers, as in Empire); a land battle involving a power generator and Imperial Walkers, as in Empire; and a duel between Luke and Darth Vader, as in Empire. And in every case Jedi repeats the details of the earlier films to develop thematically: to show the central characters moving past earlier failures to final success, through final mature understanding, self-control, and cooperative love. In the dogfight, which in A New Hope ended with only partial destruction of the Empire but which here ends in complete victory, the entire Rebel Alliance for the first time operates cooperatively together; and in the final Death Star destruction we see Han's generously-given Millennium Falcon--captained by Lando, emphasized as Han's friend (and in Empire at first Han's dark side)--making the final dash (as made in A New Hope by Luke's fighter) through a trench-like space to victory. Cooperation, emphasized from the film's start (and contrasted throughout with Imperial coercion), goes further: the Death Star battle depends on the success (in which Lando trusts) of the Rebel mission to Endor, led by Han. On Endor, Jedi reverses the situation of Empire's Hoth snow battle: the Rebels, now active against evil (as in Jedi's Tatooine sequences) instead of merely escaping from it (as largely in A New Hope and especially in Empire), attack an Imperial base and generator (artificial energy), instead of vice versa, and win through the semi-comic cooperation of Robin Hood-like allies gained through friendship and non-violent religious instincts. (The Ewoks are technically a miscalculation, as Andrew Gordon argues--too cuddly and toylike visually--but they make symbolic, thematic sense; and they even symbolically use group-operated weapons for victory). And the final step in the Endor triumph is taken by Han and Leia, who here, as not on Hoth, finally work in cooperative trust for victory in battle together (not for Empire's mere escape), as Han, admitting his fallibility, at last subdues both his romantic jealousy of Luke and his pride--both dominant in the Hoth sequences of Empire. "I'm sorry," the new, caring Han (who used to protest, "It's not my fault!") tells Leia (16); and, having declared his love for her, he finally gives up all romantic self-centeredness (as foreshadowed earlier in his giving of the Millennium Falcon to Lando): "I won't get in [Luke's] way." Leia too by now understands her own emotionally mixed nature (her literal and symbolic parentage); and from the start of Jedi she has been no longer the proud princess but openly caring (though at first on Tatooine too romantic/sensual), as at the end of Empire. Han and Leia's final, Ewok-interrupted kiss, unlike their interrupted one to which it alludes, on Empire's Falcon, is accordingly a kiss both of trusting friends and of lovers. Self-knowledge, control, and unselfish love lead to success: military/political victory in part becoming the outward sign of the characters' inward achievement (17).

The dogfights and the Endor sequences show in more "realistic" terms (involving the necessity of war and weapons), as conclusions to the Star Wars trilogy, what the main Luke-Vader plot in Jedi finally shows above all idealistically and symbolically: maturity as the victory of self-knowledge and cooperative love--Empire and A New Hope combined--over hatred, violence, and fear. And the two more realistic plots are linked to the main one, as final Rebel success depends on Luke's friendship and love: first in Luke's presence on the Endor team and then in his voluntary passage to the Death Star to face Darth Vader and the Emperor. Here Jedi looks back especially to Empire, to show Luke's final growth to maturity. Luke on the Death Star, at Jedi's end, as in Empire goes through a three-phase epic duel with Vader, in an Imperial throne room visually recalling Bespin's three duelling areas: carbon-freezing chamber, round window, and central-shaft ledge; and Luke at first acts as in Empire--aggressively drawing his saber first against the Emperor and Vader, and striking Vader down. But in phase 2 of the duel, where in Empire Luke seeks out Vader, here Luke evades aggression (leaping symbolically upward, though his subsequent hiding is no final solution); and in phase three, when Luke again attacks Vader and pushes him to the point where in Empire Vader has Luke--maimed and fallen, by a central shaft leading down into space--Jedi departs radically from Empire to show Luke's final success and its causes. In phases two and three, as not in Empire, Vader has drawn his saber before Luke; evil, being ultimately self-destructive, has lost control (as the over-talkative Emperor also shows); and Luke at last in phase three (as indeed the "young apprentice" the Emperor calls him) recognizes, through the emotional evil he now sees and admits to himself as in others, the temptation before him: to pervert love, through hatred, pride, and fear; to destroy, in killing his own father, his own humanity (as shown in the Dagobah tree-cave in Empire); to become altogether (as the visual emphasis insists) inhuman, like his--and Vader's--mechanical black hand. Luke finally chooses, as not in Empire's duel, love over destruction or escape. Luke at last controls his fear of Vader as his father--of his own inner potential for evil/the Dark Side, through twisted emotions--and finds the inner strength to rely only on human goodness. Faith in the family of man (which the Emperor, ruling through pride, hatred, and fear, cannot understand) defeats the Empire: Luke's faith not only in himself but in his lineage ("I am a Jedi, like my father before me"), in his very humanity, despite its inevitably mixed (good/evil) nature. And Luke's cry to Ben Kenobi, the "good father," unanswered as he hung self-crucified (through ambiguously-mixed emotions) below Bespin in Empire, is now ("Father-- please--") answered by Vader, the "bad father," as the power of love triumphs (18). The Christian myth is reworked; the father in Jedi (whose human features we now see) does not sacrifice his (crucified) son, but son and father in suffering save one another; the family of man comes together in the mature, self-knowing, mutual faith and love which--rather than a god beyond humanity--is here the divinity in human life. The Jedi have returned; and on all levels of the final battle, goodness triumphs and un-perverts evil--both human (as in Vader, who now turns against the Emperor) and technological (as in Scout Walkers, which are now turned against the Empire). In a series of echoes and positive reworkings of both A New Hope and Empire, Jedi moves to its conclusion. The funeral pyre of purification, for example, replaces the Imperial burning of the New Hope homestead (19). Communal celebratory song (foreshadowed in earlier Ewok chanting; all are now "part of the tribe," as C-3PO puts it in the Ewok story-telling sequence) replaces the sirens' chorus of Empire's Bespin and the sensual Jedi vocal entertainment at Jabba's palace and pervertedly religious chorus for the Luke-Vader duel (20). And with Star Destroyers (the start of each Star Wars film) and Death Star vanquished, the world of Endor--J.R.R. Tolkien's name for Middle Earth (21), the world of ordinary human experience (which Tatooine, Hoth, Dagobah, and Bespin all too have resembled in various ways)--dances together in the stars (22).

With Jedi added to A New Hope and Empire, the overall structural pattern of the whole Star Wars trilogy emphasizes this central Star Wars theme of growth, in emotional control and understanding love, from youth to adolescence to maturity, in a gradual movement away from destructive technology and towards dominant natural love. All three films move from Star Destroyers and a wasteland (Tatooine, Hoth) to a man-made city of destruction (Death Star, Bespin); and in this movement, within each film and over the three together, we see a progression (as in the three phases of the final Luke-Vader duel). A New Hope (youth) concludes with the destruction of a Death Star and a brief glimpse of a potentially better world of loving people on Yavin's moon. Empire (adolescence) concludes with escape from Bespin (though this is no final solution) and incorporates symbolic central sequences of new natural growth on the primal, life-centered world of Dagobah (and in the Millennium Falcon). And Jedi begins like A New Hope on Tatooine, proceeds like Empire to Dagobah, and finally moves again, like A New Hope, to the destruction of a Death Star: and introduces simultaneously with its Death Star another, better world, thus taking us triumphantly through both previous films to its own mature conclusion. With the forest moon of Endor, Jedi moves us to a new green world of natural energy, community, and growth--the greening of Star Wars: a world from which (and from over which) destructive technology--the result and symbol of the dark emotions such as hatred and fear, and embodied throughout Star Wars above all in Star Destroyers and in a train of military power generators that parody the true power of nature, the Force itself--is at last banished. A New Hope's ending is a shadow of Jedi's only; Yavin's moon is, like Endor, a forest (jungle) world, but Yavin's moon, with its ancient temple now a Rebel military base, is a somewhat perverted world. The film there encloses us in technological militarism and ends with military ceremony in part optimistically heroic and humane but in part also hinting at fascism (23). In Jedi all military ceremony belongs to the Empire: as in the sequences with first Vader and then the Emperor arriving on the Death Star; and in the symbolic main action even the chief weapon of goodness--Luke's new, self-made green light saber, replacing his blue inherited one (24) lost in Empire--must finally be discarded, for victory over evil only through the power of understanding, self-control, and love. (A New Hope foreshadows this, in Ben Kenobi's final refusal to use his light saber against Vader.) In the Endor plot line, even R2-D2 fails. And Jedi thus ends on Endor not with A New Hope's military honors and romantic teasing but with the liberated forest itself (life and growth) and loving communal celebration, including Ewok children. Fireworks replace battle explosions; we see embraces all round; and once again, as at the end of A New Hope, the main characters face the camera together--but this time not in military ceremony but entirely as members of a mature and loving, mutually-sustaining family group. The saga which began by fascinating us with technology ends with its focus firmly upon man--and, like E.T. but not simplistically, upon the power of human love (25).

Jedi--Star Wars VI--is an extraordinary film, the repetitive structure of which becomes in part its theme, giving us an unchanging Star Wars world in which men grow and acquire new, complex perspectives on human existence as they move from innocence through experience to maturity. Jedi builds in detail, narratively, structurally, and thematically, on both the comedy and optimistic emotionalism of A New Hope and the terrifying self-knowledge of Empire, synthesizing them to give us, through its very human characters, the Star Wars world "once more with feeling"--a new tragi-comic feeling of mature, sober, and knowing faith in the ultimate power (force) of love, despite the evil within us all. This all sounds terribly serious--and it is; but it goes along with lots of splendid inventiveness of visual detail, fast-paced action, narrative interest, complex special effects, cinematic quotation (as with the King-Kong-like Rancor), often-witty dialogue, a thoughtful musical score, and saving (often self-depreciating) comedy (as with C-3PO as mock god on Endor): all integrated, but never obtrusively so, with the theme. The film has something for everyone--and more with every viewing (26).

The few surface flaws become, in the end, unimportant. This is popular art at its creative best.


1. Marquand may be the director of Jedi, but Lucas is most certainly its auteur. See, e.g., Richard Patterson, "Producing and Directing Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," American Cinematographer, 64, 6 (June 1983), 113.

2. Typically negative reviews (though limited in perception) of Jedi's narrative and technical service include: Vincent Canby, "The Force Is With Them, But the Magic Is Gone," New York Times, Sunday 29 May 1983, Sec. 2, pp. 15-16; Pauline Kael, "Fun Machines," New Yorker, 30 May 1983, 88-90; David Ansen, "How the Force Conquers All," Newsweek, 30 May 1983, 95-96; Robert Asahina, "Stale Popcorn," New Leader, 30 May 1983, 19-20.

3. The first two Star Wars films were much written about in terms of these attractions; see, e.g., American Cinematographer, 58, 7 (July 1977) and 61, 6 (June 1980), passim; Andrew Gordon, "Star Wars: A Myth For Our Time," Literature/Film Quarterly, 6 (1978), 314-326, and "The Empire Strikes Back: Monsters from the Id," Science-Fiction Studies, 7, 3 (1980), 313-318; "Star Wars: The Year's Best Movie," Time (Canadian edn), 30 May 1977, 46-48 and 51; Vincent Canby, "Not Since 'Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe' . . . ," New York Times, 5 June 1977, Sec. 2, pp. 15 and 33; Gerald Clarke, "The Empire Strikes Back!" Time (Canadian edn.), 19 May 1980, 52; The Star Wars Album (New York: Ballantine Books, 1977), passim; Martin Miller and Robert Sprich, "The Appeal of Star Wars: An Archetypal-Psychoanalytical View," American Imago, 38 (Summer 1981), 203-220. Jedi reviewers, however, write of satiety in such matters, and even attack what was formerly so much admired: see, e.g., Robert Hatch, in The Nation, 18 June 1983, 776, Canby, p. 15, and Asahina, 19, though American Cinematographer has put out, as usual with the Star Wars films, an issue (June 1983) on the technical aspects of Jedi.

4. For a detailed analysis of the design of Empire and its relationship to A New Hope, see this author's "Complex Design in The Empire Strikes Back," Film Criticism, 5, 3 (Spring 1981), 38-52.

5. The allusion was pointed out by several A New Hope reviewers in 1977; see Canby, "Universe," p. 33, and Arthur Lubow, "A Space Iliad," and Terry Curtis Fox, "Star Drek," both in Film Comment, 13 (July-August 1977), 20-23. See also my own "The Star Wars Saga: Comedy versus Tragedy," Dalhousie Review, 62 (Spring 1982), 11.

6. I have previously written on this point: see "The Star Wars Saga," 5-13. Empire, though still praised, in fact received more mixed reviews than A New Hope.

7. See especially A New Hope, and Han's comment to Luke (Millennium Falcon interior, journey to Alderaan), "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side." (Here and throughout this article, dialogue is quoted from the films themselves rather than from the published filmscripts, as the latter do not always accurately represent the finished films.)

8. See "Complex Design," 43.

9. The term scoundrel, for Han, is emphasized in Empire: used both by Leia and (proudly) by Han himself (asteroid cave sequence); see "Complex Design," 43-44.

10. The words are Ben Kenobi's to Luke: A New Hope, approach to Mos Eisley. Jedi turns the earlier semi-parodic dialogue into serious commentary.

11. See "Complex Design," 44-45. 12. The basic account of the harrowing of hell is to be found in the New Testament apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. The more elaborate religious and literary tradition is described in, e.g., critics' treatments of the use of the tradition in Shakespeare's Macbeth: as in John B. Harcourt's "'I Pray You, Remember the Porter'," Shakespeare Quarterly, 12 (1961), 401, and Glynne Wickham's "Hell-Castle and its Door-Keeper," Shakespeare Survey, 19 (1966), 68-74. Note that, in the Gospel, Hades "swallows" its victims; and in medieval and Renaissance tradition, hell is entered through monstrous jaws.

13. Significantly Lawrence Kasdan, co-author of the Jedi screenplay (and author of Empire's), has commented, in an interview with Dan Yakir, on his "great admiration in literary construction for foreshadowing," which "lends a kind of symmetry to the story." See Film Comment, 17, 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1981), 54.

14. Earlier sequences now fall, when seen beside Jedi's, into a clear pattern. For example, Luke's dealings, near the start of each film, with the parallel attacks of the New Hope Tusken Raider, Empire Wampa, and Jedi Rancor, now show us the basic three stages of Luke's progress through the three parts of the trilogy: total inability to cope with evil, ability to cope in part with evil, and ability to defeat evil.

15. The self-destructive sensuality of Han and Leia's Empire relationship, there implied only through details such as the soundtrack's sirens' chorus as Han and Leia fly to Bespin, becomes symbolically expressed through the visual details of the Jabba sequences. And here, as throughout Jedi in general, the characters defeat what formerly they merely escaped from.

16. For Han's typical protest, see, e.g., Empire, the Falcon's second failure to go into lightspeed, and Jedi, the Tatooine carbonite-escape sequence. A New Hope's Han accepts no (non-commercial) responsibility for others; Empire's Han accepts responsibility but not blame.

17. Interestingly, Han's final victory at the Imperial generator is even non-violent: a trick, not a shoot-out. (The Han of A New Hope prefers "a straight fight to all this sneaking around" [arrival on the Death Star].) And significantly the victory comes immediately after he has at last openly declared his love for/to Leia.

18. The phrases "good father" and "bad father" are Lucas's: see Aljean Harmetz, "The Saga Beyond 'Star Wars'" (interview), New York Times, 18 May 1980, Sec. 2, p. 23. This salvation through love is foreshadowed in Han and Lando's earlier mutual rescue of one another from Jabba and his crew (especially since Lando in Empire at first in part represents, like Vader with Luke, Han's dark side).

19. Wagnerian or Viking saga allusions, of universalizing power, also replace more limited movie-Western allusions.

20. These are the only instances of choral music in Star Wars so far.

21. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, ed. Christopher Tolkien (London, 1977), p. 89. I am indebted to Ian Lancashire for this point.

22. A few critics have pointed out, though as a flaw in the films, the similarities throughout the Star Wars saga between Lucas's fictional other-world locations and the films' obviously real-world locations: see, e.g., on A New Hope, H.J. Gans, "'Star Wars': The Teen-Ager as Democracy's Savior," Social Policy, 8, 4 (Jan./Feb. 1978), 55, and on Jedi, Pauline Kael, 88 (the settings are "all too earthly"). Note too that Lucas's Star Wars quest ends in the earthly Eden of his own backyard: a California redwood forest.

23. The hint is through visual allusion to the Nazi propaganda documentary, Triumph of the Will. See above and n. 5.

24. Blue, of course, is the color of hope.

25.Harlan Jacobson, "The Right Strikes Back," Film Comment, 19, 4 (August 1983), 10, mistakenly declares what originally seemed to be the emphasis of A New Hope alone to be the emphasis of the completed trilogy: a positive commitment to armaments and war. Robert Hatch, however, though not seeing beyond Jedi's surface, correctly perceives the dominance in Jedi of Ewoks and the supernatural powers of virtue over "military machines" (p. 776).

26. Jedi screenplay co-author Kasdan has expressed admiration for Kurosawa because "his films work on several levels at all times. They can be taken as pure popular entertainment, and then they can be skinned and peeled like an onion to find out what he's really talking about" ("Dialogue on Film: Lawrence Kasdan," in American Film, 7, 6 [April 1982], 30).