2 Lessons Learned from Reading RETURN OF THE JEDI

“After a daring mission to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels dispatch to Endor to destroy the second Death Star. Meanwhile, Luke struggles to help Darth Vader back from the dark side without falling into the Emperor’s trap.”

The Star Wars films are classics, garnering a massive following that has grown and grown as more generations are exposed to the fantastical journey of Luke Skywalker. Many of my Star Wars memories involve watching them on repeat at my grandma’s house (“Please, can we watch it one more time, grandma?”) as well as acting out scenes on the playground with siblings and friends.

Star Wars struck a deep chord internationally, especially in regards to spirituality. “The Force” is heavily featured in the Star Wars Universe and refers to the life force flowing around and into each of us. Through Luke’s journey, audiences learned not to give in to hate. To the “dark side.” These screenplays (the original trilogy) were a blast to read. So let’s get to it! 

Here are 2 lessons learned from reading the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi screenplay:

  1. Get creative with action sequences!
  2. Use character quirks to progress story and surprise the audience

#1. In this creatively constructed action sequence from Return of the Jedi, Imperial troopers and walkers attack the forest moon of Endor:

EXT FOREST

The battle rages on. Stormtroopers fire on Ewoks with sophisticated weapons while their furry little adversaries sneak up behind the Imperial troopers and bash them over the head with large clubs.

A walker marches through the undergrowth blasting Ewoks as it goes. An Ewok warrior gives the signal, and a pile of logs is cut loose. The logs tumble under the walker’s feet, causing it to slip and slide until it finally topples over with a great crash.

A scout bike races past and is lassoed with a heavy vine. The other end of the vine is tied to a tree, and the bike swings around in ever-tightening circles until it runs out of rope and crashes into the trees with a huge explosion.

Chewie swings on a vine to the roof of one of the walkers. Two Ewoks cling to him. They land with a thud on the top of the lurching machine, then hang on for dear life. One of the Ewoks peeks through the window.

GET CREATIVE WITH ACTION SEQUENCES We have fantastical creatures engaged in hand-to-hand combat, a scout bike lassoed to spin and crash into a tree, an Imperial walker taken down with a pile of logs, and Chewie swinging onto one of the machines. There is a lot going on but it doesn’t feel overboard because the action beats are clear and cinematic by nature. The way the characters fight is serious yet imbued with a comedic edge. 

The scout bike moment stuck out to me, causing me to raise an eyebrow at the immense creativity on display. One can feel, see, and hear the moment described which is a sign of great screenwriting. Using elements that exist in the landscape in creative ways helps to involve the audience further, and the pace of Return of the Jedi quickens to a breakneck pace, yet feels fun!

#2. In the following scene, the Ewoks are wary of Luke, Han, Chewie, and Artoo, but regard See-Threepio as a god:

LUKE
Do you understand anything they’re saying?

THREEPIO
Oh, yes, Master Luke! Remember that I am fluent in over six million forms of communication.

HAN
What are you telling them?

THREEPIO
Hello, I think… I could be mistaken. They’re using a very primitive dialect. But I do believe they think I am some sort of god.

Chewbacca and Artoo think that’s very funny. Han and Luke exchange “what next?” looks.

HAN
Well, why don’t you use your divine influence and get us out of this? 

THREEPIO
I beg your pardon, General Solo, but that just wouldn’t be proper.

HAN
Proper?!

THREEPIO
It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.

Han moves toward Threepio threateningly.

HAN
Why, you–

Several Ewoks’ spears are thrust in Han’s face at the affront to their god. The Ewoks move in to protect their god and Han is surrounded by a menacing circle of spears, all aimed at him. He holds up his hands placatingly.

HAN
My mistake. He’s an old friend of mine.

USE CHARACTER QUIRKS TO PROGRESS STORY AND SURPRISE THE AUDIENCE See-Threepio’s character tends to complain and intellectualize situations. Many of us know someone similar and seeing this archetype involved in action sequences is quite amusing. Prior to this, Threepio has been taunted and literally torn in half, so seeing him worshipped by Ewoks in the above scene is a refreshing change of pace. 

See-Threepio is able to communicate with the Ewoks but his programming restricts him from “impersonating a deity” which means another solution must be found. Of everyone in the group, Threepio would be the last character I would expect anyone to worship, mostly based on his personality. Chewbacca makes sense, considering his physical likeness to the Ewoks, but See-Threepio is a surprising choice that ultimately pays off (seeing Luke use the Force to levitate Threepio is such fun to watch!).

Using character quirks and unexpected shifts keep the story interesting and grounded. Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas seem to have had fun writing the screenplay, and their zealous joy leaps off the page.

Thank you for reading! Thoughts? Questions? Please comment below and come back soon, friend.

ST

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