March 14, 1997

Star Wars Episode 6: Return Of The Jedi SPECIAL EDITION

George Lucas' first revision of the beloved saga is complete. There are many places in these Special Editions where I really appreciate the changes: he added more foreground and background creatures to Mos Eisley, he added a herd of Banthas to the Dune Sea, and more dynamic city views of Bespin the Cloud City. I really like the new shot of the Millennium Falcon blasting its way out of Mos Eisley in Episode 4. I don't object to replacing the Emperor in Episode 5 with the same actor from Episodes 1-3. But adding an entire musical number at Jabba's palace is just unnecessary and awful.

The Rebels Are The Bad Guys - To The Ewoks

While watching Return of the Jedi again in 2015 (in the wake of The Force Awakens) I noticed something new. The Ewoks (the otherwise unnamed natives of the Endor moon) live in peaceful coexistence with the Empire. The Empire has built a deflector shield and a spaceship landing pad in their forest (see artwork, right), but we are shown no evidence that the Ewoks' way of life has been affected in any way by the presence of the Empire. When the Rebel strike team arrives, their mission is to blow up the deflector shield, to enable Alliance forces to enter the Death Star and cripple the Empire, but this also means triggering a ecological disaster on Endor, in the form of a massive forest fire. The concluding scenes omit any reference to this- the Ewoks are seen celebrating their victory with no acknowledgement of the inferno burning just a few miles away. Adding to the amorality, the strike team (led by General Han Solo) persuaded the Ewoks to fight in this war they had no stake in by the influence of C-3PO, the droid that the Ewoks worship as a god. If the Rebellion had not co-opted the Ewoks on their mission, not only would there be no Ewok casualties during the Battle Of Endor, but the deflector shield would not have been destroyed (see below), and the Ewok habitat would have remained intact. This is exactly why the Prime Directive was invented on Star Trek!
Yes, the destruction of the Death Star and the collapse of the Empire is a good thing for the galaxy as a whole, but it has no effect on the Ewoks and their way of life in particular, and it's certain that the Ewoks paid too high a price for a victory compared to the possible extinction of their species.
I have heard some speculation about the Imperial-Ewok relationship on the Star Wars Minute podcast: did the Forest Troopers even know the Ewoks were there? Did they treat the Ewoks like troublesome raccoons? To bolster the Ewoks motivation for enter the conflict, they could have shown the Empire clear-cutting the forest to make space for their deflector shield, or maybe an AT-AT crushing their habitat? As it is in the movie, C-3PO tells stories of the Rebellion, and the Ewok leader spontaneously volunteers his people to fight.
FUN FACT: I saw this Special Edition in March 1997 - The Phantom Menace was coming in 26 months!