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Luke Inside Yourself: The Self-Help Philosophy of “Return of the Jedi”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, has a tradition of covering Star Wars films at Christmas. Last weekend, we covered the last of the films on the list, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. It’s a fun, broad discussion. However, watching the film and talking about the film got me thinking about the film as a cultural snapshot of 1983.

Every generation gets the Star Wars movie that they deserve.

The original film was intended as George Lucas’ statement on Vietnam. Lucas had originally planned to make Apocalypse Now, and it is possible to see shades of that in his existential parable about a plucky band of rebels facing a technologically superior evil empire. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back was perhaps one of the first true blockbusters of the eighties, and also helped to further codify the future of mainstream cinema as the New Hollywood movement endured its death throes with failures like Heaven’s Gate.

As such, it makes sense that Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi was the perfect film for 1983. It was a much less creative sequel, one that reduced the franchise down to a set of easily repeatable iconography while also maximising its toyetic potential. However, there is more to it than that. Return of the Jedi arguably marked the end of a journey that began with Star Wars. After all, the original Star Wars was in many ways a radical allegory for late seventies America, bristling with anger and rage at a broken world.

In contrast, Return of the Jedi is essentially a self-help movie, where the fate of the galaxy matters much less than how Luke Skywalker chooses to think about his father.

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