Return of the Jedi and the Phantom Mess

I was seven years old when Star Wars was released. I don't think I would be going too far out on a limb to say that Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. From 1977 to 1983 me and my brother Andrew were obsessed. 'Battlestar Galactica' tried to fill the void but we knew it was a cheap knock off (it didn't stop us from stealing a few BG toys anyway). The blu-ray release of Star Wars has been a way to reconnect to those childhood memories. I avoided the dvd's as I already had all the originals on Laserdisc (yes, Originals) but couldn't help myself to see it all in high definition, even if they are slightly bastardized.

As a filmmaker and a teacher of film writing I do find another layer of enjoyment to the craft of the original films. It gives me a perspective as to why the prequels were disappointing. It also makes me reflect on some of the shortcomings of the original films.

I would say that Return of the Jedi is the least successful of the first three films. It goes between cartoony Ewok action and some very dark moments between Vader, Luke and the Emperor. The tone is uneven. Still, it's an enjoyable film. What stuck out to me on the last viewing was the wonderful Speeder Bike chase. Watching the film again after seeing the prequels I noticed that the Speeder Bike scenes are very similar to Pod Racer scenes in Phantom Menace. It made me understand why I found the Pod Racer scenes monotonous and the Speeder scenes riveting.

In Return of the Jedi the Speeder Bike scene has so much weight to it. Our heroes have landed on the moon to put out the shield generator and if they are caught, all is lost. The consequence of failing is catastrophic. This means that the audience has much more anxiety watching the action unfold and they are desperate to see Luke and Leia succeed.

Compare this to the Pod Race scene. What is at stake here? A part for their broken ship. Sure, they need to get the ship fixed but does this really justify an immense action sequence? If they don't win the Pod Race will all be lost? It seems to me a couple of Jedi's could find a way out of this problem. The consequence of this scene isn't powerful. If the kid loses they'll come up with plan B. If Luke and Leia lose the whole rebel fleet will be destroyed and the war will be won by the Empire.

I'm not sure if they redid the sound on these scenes but they sound very much like the Pod Racing scene.