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New Escapist Column! The Flawed Redemption at the Heart of “Return of the Jedi”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Monday. This one has been kicking around inside my head for a little while, but came to the fore with the recent trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Primarily, the flawed redemption at the heart of Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi.

Look, everybody knows the basic arc of the Star Wars saga. Luke discovers that Darth Vader is his father, sets out to redeem him, manages to turn Vader away from the dark side before Vader dies. However, that’s never been quite how it works. The actual arc is a lot messier and more complicated, and a lot less conventionally heroic than it is remembered. Return of the Jedi never actually bothers to redeem Vader, instead focusing on redeeming Luke’s idea of Vader. At its core, Return of the Jedi is a story about how hard Luke wants to believe his father was a good man, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Along the way, Luke gambles the entire future of the Rebel Alliance and his sister’s fate on the assumption that there is goodness in Vader, while the film never actually bothers to demonstrate that there is any. It’s a fascinating incomplete arc, and one that hints at a gaping moral void at the heart of the larger Star Wars saga. It’s a story about how an individual’s redemption doesn’t matter, only other people’s idea of that redemption. In its own way, it marks Return of the Jedi as a quintessentially eighties movie; it is a story about how the most important thing to Luke is not the fate of the galaxy, but his own self-image.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Sympathy for the Devil, or at Least Understanding for George Lucas…

Next week, George Lucas will release his complete six Star Wars movies on blu ray. Truth be told, I’m not sure that I’ll buy them. This isn’t a note of protest against the director’s seemingly incessant tinkering with the movies that helped define a generation, but just one of indifference. The franchise doesn’t feel essential any more, even though I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I can’t help but feel that – were I to buy the complete set – I wouldn’t be getting the iconic films that marked a collective cultural experience, but George Lucas’ heavily revised notes on those films, which is something quite different. That said, I can’t bring myself to spew the type of vitriol at Lucas that most on-line fans seem to enjoy producing, if only because I can almost respect what Lucas is attempting to do.

Whatever happened to light entertainment...?

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The Trouble With Trilogies: Why Superhero Fanchises Have Trouble With the Third Instalment…

So, it turns out that The Dark Knight Rises has a top secret ending. That’s very interesting, and I wonder what it could be. A few obvious possibilities have popped into my head, but there’s one facet of this news which really fascinates me: this piece of information gives weight to the suggestion that Nolan is going to give his superhero franchise a definitive ending, something that perhaps explains why we don’t really have a “classic” superhero trilogy yet, despite the fact that quite a few comic book characters have pushed well past the third film. So will Batman be able to do what Superman, Spider-Man, the X-Men and even another Batman have failed to do before him? Will he craft a complete and wonderful trilogy?

Batman really wants to know what the ending is...

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Family Guy: It’s A Trap!

Oh, we’re about to do Jedi, aren’t we?

Let’s just get through this.

– Stewie and Peter introduce the episode

And so we reach the end of the Family Guy Star Wars specials. It’s A Trap! is pretty much at an immediate disadvantage – the guys have already made two Star Wars specials, so a lot of the novelty is gone; not to mention the fact that Return of the Jedi is hardly a classic, fondly remembered in comparison to the prequel trilogy, but still nowhere near as good as the original two films. However, the production team acquit themselves admirably. When the episode works, it really works – there are some absolutely hilarious scenes in there. It’s not the most consistent piece of television you’ll see this year, but it’s damn entertaining, and made with a respect that shines through.

That's one bad dad...

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