Moved to Tears by Return of the Jedi

This is an embarrassing post. However, it’s been a trying week and I’ve promised I’ll always be honest with you.

It’s no secret that my favorite of the original three Star Wars films is Return of the Jedi. Like most victims of 1990s nerd culture, I belittled it for a time. Like the characters in Kevin Smith’s Clerks, I was possessed of the idea that the darkness of The Empire Strikes Back was a virtue to be extolled simply because…reasons.

But I come to praise Return of the Jedi, not bury The Empire Strikes Back in shade.

The Masterful Moment

There’s a moment in Return of the Jedi that moves me to tears each time I watch it. There are moments that can spur the same reaction, but this is the moment that triggers the reaction each time no matter how distracted I am.

It’s more than a moment, actually. It’s the entire fight at Jabba’s sail barge.

Given that there’s no great emotional moment in this scene like Darth Vader’s death (spoilers) or Yoda’s death (spoilers) or the destruction of the more beautiful incarnation of the Death Star (spoilers), you might wonder why it elicits such a reaction.

In addition to all the emotional reasons tied to the onscreen declaration of Luke’s development from boy to man, of Han’s selfless choice to save the Lando who betrayed him, of Leia’s victory over a misogynistic slug, to John Williams’ incredible scoring of the moment, it’s one additional factor.

Luke Sail Barge Green Lightsaber Return of the Jedi | kessel korner
I get an emotional rush at this moment, and Chewie’s behind him, like, “Oh s***’s getting real.”

The Additional Factor

The fact is that I’m moved by the pure expression of filmmaking as art.

Like beholding a masterwork painting, the battle at Jabba’s sail barge is so magnificently constructed that I can’t help but find my breath taken away. When I listen to the music without watching, I am still moved to tears because that section of the score is the work of a maestro who knows how to use music as a declaration of joy and power.

It reminds me that I’m lucky ever to have experienced such art, and even luckier to be able to own a copy of it. We should all remember that we have lived through a golden age when true artists made works so accessible that they were a pittance to see.

I will likely go my entire life without seeing some of the masterworks of the Renaissance, but I have seen art produced as simple entertainment for the commoner. Like Shakespeare, you wonder if anyone knew at the time they were seeing something that would change an art form forever.

So yes, that moment moves me to tears. It should move everyone to tears when they realize or remember that they got to behold something so beautiful and so perfectly made.

Luke Sail Barge Green Lightsaber Return of the Jedi | kessel korner
This entire scene invalidates Rian Johnson’s movie, as does his willingness to sacrifice his life for Vader/Anakin. Just accept it.