5 Things You May Not Know About 'Return Of The Jedi' & How It Could Have Been Much Cooler

Features
by Drew Taylor
May 24, 2013 1:57 PM
25 Comments
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This week George Lucas’ “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” turns 30. The conclusion to what was then imagined to be the end of the "Star Wars" saga concerned the Rebellion going up against the evil Galactic Empire, which has constructed a second, planet-destroying Death Star that is about to go online. It had a whole bunch of thrills, chills, and fussy robots, but, as we look back on ‘Return of the Jedi’ (and look forward to whatever J.J. Abrams’ "Star Wars: Episode 7" will be,) it’s interesting to note what the sequel might have contained under different conditions– and how it could have ended up being much, much cooler (This as the companion piece to that ran earlier today btw.) 

The Ewoks Could Have Been Creepy
As originally envisioned, the inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor weren’t the cuddly, ripped-from-Toys-R-Us stuffed animals. Instead, they were creepy little lizard folk, who you wouldn’t want to hug even if a very large space gun was pointed at your head. Clearly, this would have been a lot cooler – imagine how much more interesting it would have been for Leia (Carrie Fisher) to befriend a creepy little lizard instead of an easily awwwwww-able Ewok? It would have made Endor a far more dangerous place, for both our heroes and the invading Galactic Empire, instead of it being a heavily forested teddy bear’s picnic. Keeping the original Endor inhabitants, too, would have added something that none of the "Star Wars" movies have done particularly well, which is given things a sense of truly scary menace. Yes, there are goosebump-y moments in all of the original films, but imagine watching one of these creatures skitter into an Imperial walker (and just think about what those creatures would have done when they got inside! Splat!) Lucas was more concerned with toy sales than narrative efficiency or inventiveness, so the original Endorians were replaced by Ewoks. And the rest is adorable history.

Han Solo Died First
Perhaps the most celebrated bit of what-if miscellany is the idea that, early in ‘Return of the Jedi,’ Han Solo (Harrison Ford,) the rugged rapscallion who had reformed as part of the Rebellion, would have sacrificed himself selflessly for the good of the cause. Can you imagine that? Forget about Janet Leigh getting offed a third of the way through “Psycho,” this would have made every fanboy and fangirl in the audience shriek in absolute dismay. It would have been a bold proclamation by the filmmakers that no matter how beloved your hero is, they could very well end up on the wrong end of a blaster (and he wouldn’t be coming back as a shimmery Jedi ghost either.) Producer Gary Kurtz elaborated on the plan more specifically in 2010: “The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.” Both co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and Ford himself fought for this plan to be implemented, but Lucas wouldn’t budge, holding steadfast that Han should survive (and thus minimize much of the dramatic potential for the installment,) something that Ford still seems sore about. In 2010, in an interview with Peter Travers for ABC News, Ford commented that, “As a character, he wasn’t so interesting to me. I thought he should have died in the last one.” When Ford was asked what Lucas thought of this plan, Ford shot back (deadpan): “George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.” Once again: commerce trumps creativity; The Dark Side beats out the light.

The Spaghetti Western Ending
At the end of ‘Return of the Jedi,’ the Galactic Empire is defeated: the Emperor is dead, the second Death Star has been reduced to shimmery space dust, Darth Vader has found redemption in his final moments and the cosmos have been liberated (in the “special edition” version of ‘Jedi’ you see celebrations on multiple planets.) Back on Endor, our heroes Luke (Mark Hamill,) Han and Leia have been reunited along with C-3PO and R2-D2 and a bunch of annoying Ewoks, and everyone is insanely happy. But in the original, emotionally resonant ending, the rebel forces were in tatters following a high casualty rate in the battle for the second Death Star, Leia is nervous about taking on duties as the new queen, and Luke would, according to Kurtz, have walked into the sunset alone, “Like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns.” (Kurtz was then quietly asked to leave the production, shortly after he objected to there being a second Death Star, a plot point he rightfully found to be far too derivative.) This ending would have been really amazing, but it would have also robbed us of the Ewok celebration song, and really, are any of us willing to give that up?

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25 Comments

  • Griefo | May 27, 2013 6:45 PMReply

    When Lynch Met Lucas - http://vimeo.com/52553756

  • Scully | May 25, 2013 7:23 PMReply

    So do a rewrite, Drew, produce it and put in the theaters.

  • nightgoat72 | May 24, 2013 8:24 PMReply

    Those would not have been cooler at all. "Cooler" like all the dull, depressing post-Nolan Hollywood cinema these days, more like. Why does everyone equate joy, fun, and triumph with "uncool" these days? How fucking hipster.

  • nightgoat72 | May 26, 2013 7:57 PM

    That doesn't even make sense. I'm saying this article is hipster, not the movies.

  • BB1970 | May 25, 2013 2:01 PM

    So, by your definition, as Empire has a downbeat ending, it's "hipster"?
    I guess you're cinema preferences don't go further than an episode of Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

  • BB1970 | May 25, 2013 2:01 PM

    So, by your definition, as Empire has a downbeat ending, it's "hipster"?
    I guess you're cinema preferences don't go further than an episode of Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

  • BB1970 | May 25, 2013 2:01 PM

    So, by your definition, as Empire has a downbeat ending, it's "hipster"?
    I guess you're cinema preferences don't go further than an episode of Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

  • JD | May 24, 2013 6:32 PMReply

    1. The Ewoks were not space lizards. They were originally going to be Wookies. IT'S RIGHT THERE IN THE DAVID LYNCH QOUTE. In Lucas's first treatment for Star Wars, he had the Empire's ground forces fighting Wookies while the Rebels attacked the Death Star. It's also the reason for the Wookie battle in Revenge Of The Sith. During pre-production Lucas concluded they wouldn't be able to find enough tall people to play Wookies, but he already knew a lot of midget and dwarf performers from making the first two Star Wars films. So he, in his words, "Cut the Wookies in half and called them Ewoks." (There's a hint of the original concept in the final film when Chewbacca, along with two Ewoks, swings onto the Walker and takes over the controls.)

    (Also: the Ewoks are the Viet Cong. The Rebels are also the Viet Cong, but most people didn't get it. Remember that Lucas and John Milius came up with the original story for APOCALYPSE NOW.)

    2. Those Gary Kurtz qoutes have long ago been thoroughly exposed as having very little to with reality. Kurtz was remembering most of it wrong and making up the rest. His garbled descriptions of various chapters where Leia is queen of the universe and Luke's kids are turning to the dark side or whatever have no confirmation from anyone else connected to the original Star Wars trilogy.

    3. That being said, I would have liked to have seen David Lynch or David Cronenberg's vision of a Star Wars movie.

  • Starway2001 | May 24, 2013 5:30 PMReply

    Wow, this article is just dripping in contempt.

  • Starway2001 | May 24, 2013 5:30 PMReply

    Wow, this article is just dripping in contempt.

  • Starway2001 | May 24, 2013 5:30 PMReply

    Wow, this article is just dripping in contempt.

  • jojo | May 24, 2013 4:30 PMReply

    the first film's* ending

  • Jojo | May 24, 2013 4:29 PMReply

    Return of the Jedi does suffer from tonal inconsistency, not just relative to the other movies, but in the movie itself.

    Maybe.. No sentient life on the planet Endor. The Empire chooses it because it is remote and has no sentient life, so no hassle. The Rebels launch a ground force led by Han Solo, while Leia remains with Ackbar. Han leads a badass true-to-life combat scenario on the ground with actual rebel troops with real faces and emotions, risking their lives big time for the cause we've been following for three movies. He repays Leia's devotion by leading a successful and awesome badass battle, and instead of being weirdly emasculated, instead segways from rogue to hero by showing how far he's come as a leader. The film ends not with a teddy bear jamboree, but with a scene reminiscent of the first ending, not with the principal characters dancing to jub-jub, but with Leia ready to piece things back together in the galaxy with General Solo by her side as the Rebel Alliance celebrates. And Luke walks into the sunset.

    The on the ground in Endor stuff is what messed the movie up. It's not a bad movie, but it could have been so much better. It's Lucas's baby, so with change in the man, so changes the work, but if he had been as hands off as he had been with Empire and let the people who made that movie excel work their magic here.. who knows?

  • daniel | May 24, 2013 3:48 PMReply

    Revenge of the Jedi:
    1) Luke and Liea go to save Han. When they get to Jabba's palace, Boba Fett calls Vader and says "Hey buddy. Just like you thought, your son showed up to save his friend, so come get him, which is pretty much what you spent all of Empire trying to do, and this is a trap."
    2) Vader and the Empire attack, blowing the hell out of everything to get at Luke, including Jabba. As a bonus, Jabba is an actual character played by a person, not a huge, crummy puppet.
    3) Leia and Han escape, but only by Luke using some Dark Sideish choking action on say, Boba Fett. Leia sees this, Han doesn't, they just barely get away, but Luke is captured by Vader.
    4) Han and Leia, are now the defacto leaders of the Rebellion. Han wants to save his best friend Luke from Vader, Leia wants to defeat the Emperor and save the galaxy.
    5) Vader says "Hey Luke, the Emperor is going to kill your friends. He also knows, just like i said in Empire, that you can kill him. So why don't you do that, and you save Han and Leia, and we rule the blah blah as father et cetera."
    6) Luke kills the Emperor, now totally falling down the dark path.
    7) Vader is totally pumped, and now rules the Empire.
    8) Now Leia, Han and the Rebels have no choice but take the fight to the Empire, and maybe save Luke in the process. Liea expresses serious doubts: he's changed. Han: he's my best friend, I have to save him.
    9) the Rebels attack, and Vader says "Luke, I've totally reconsidered the not-killing-your-friends idea at this point."
    10) Luke tries to make things right, and has to make the choice between saving Han or saving Leia. He saves Leia, and gets to Han just in time to see him fighting Vader.
    11) Vader kills Han in front of Luke, an echo of him killing Obi Wan in front of him. Leia heart breaks in half, Luke freaks out, attacks Vader. Han, dying, uses the Force to do one small but emotionally resonant thing -- something that helps Luke fight him.
    12) Luke kills Vader, destroying the symbol of his own self-doubt, the Rebels are saved. But his best friend is dead, and Leia in total Guinevere form, can never be with Luke (and hells no they arent brother and sister for christs sake). She goes off to live in sadness, leaving Lando , who has governed things before, to run the new Republic.
    13) Luke, brokenhearted, walks off into the twin sunset of the desert -- just like Obi Wan Kenobi did after he blew it.
    14) Everybody cries, sees the movie six times.

    to quote William Hurt in History of Violence: "HOW DO YOU &$%%# THAT UP??"

  • That Kid | May 24, 2013 9:37 PM

    If only we could return to 1983...

  • Sean | May 24, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    Also I think that the death of Han Solo would have either clouded or been diminished by the deaths of Yoda and Vadar.

  • Sean | May 24, 2013 3:41 PMReply

    These 5 fact articles are usually without opinion and bias, but it seems as though Drew decided that this one needed his critical and important input.

  • swell | May 24, 2013 3:21 PMReply

    Kevin, send Drew a nice christmas present this year... after his recent run, it appears the site has a new lead dickbag to hammer on.

  • Bender | May 24, 2013 2:57 PMReply

    5 more ways to nag about something that is allready perfect the way it is!

  • Dan S | May 24, 2013 3:25 PM

    Sure, it's "perfect." That's why Lucas has made alterations to it since it was originally released.

  • Steve | May 24, 2013 2:55 PMReply

    Dang i saw that movie seven times when it came out, they must have done something right!!
    Also guys in lizards suits would have looked worse!!!

  • Matt | May 24, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    Yes, David Lynch directing Jedi would have been interesting. However, it would have also been a disaster.

  • YO DUH | May 24, 2013 2:43 PMReply

    Uh, you already shat on Jedi earlier. Once per day not doin' it for you anymore?

  • James | May 24, 2013 2:30 PMReply

    I've also read in multiple places that Lucas wanted Spielberg to direct "Jedi". However the fact that Lucas makes his films non-union/outside the DGA made that impossible.

  • David | May 24, 2013 2:26 PMReply

    Janet Leigh dies in psycho?you spoiling bastards!maybe Lucas could go back and fuck with that movie aswell

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