Vebber and Gould's "Fifty Reasons Why Jedi Sucks"---A Rebuttal (Pt. 3)
In Ted Edwards' "The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium" (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1999), Dan Vebber and Dana Gould present a nearly-blasphemous, irreverent, irrelevant list of fifty "reasons" why George Lucas' cinematic masterpiece Return of the Jedi, as they say, "sucked." They begin with a brief essay filled with angst and bitterness against ROTJ and conclude with the following: "There are plenty of fans who argue that by the mere fact of its being part of the trilogy, Jedi should be above criticism. We'd ask those people whose initial response to this list is one of anger to apply the fifty points below to their next Jedi viewing." I have done so, and, as a true SW fanatic, I am prepared to answer their every point and remind them that ROTJ is not above criticism because it is part of the original trilogy, or indeed because it is part of the saga -- it is above criticism because it is one of the best damn films ever made! It is also the reason SW woke up that little part of my imagination that it now indwells permanently.
(This essay covers pages 207-222 of the Compendium's index; quotation marks and boldface type are used intelligently to indicate quotations from Vebber & Gould.)
21 . Terrible, Terrible Postproduction Looping. "In about half of Jedi’s scenes, little attempt is made to match the dialogue with the characters' lip movements."
In twelve years of watching ROTJ many, many severals of times a year, I have never, ever seen that their lips aren't synched. I am willing to acquiesce that you are way, way more observant than I am; but I also have never been able to read lips and even in the cases of dubbed foreign films, I can barely tell they aren't synching. And yet as I'm watching it again now and paying attention, I'm not finding any evidence of this. And, to take my contradiction a step further, here's an interesting quotation from Duwayne Dunham in The Annotated Screenplays (by Laurent Bouzereu, Del Rey, 1997), p. 239: "I remember George saying one day, 'Threepio is out of synch.' I said, 'What do you mean Threepio is out of synch? He doesn't even have a mouth!' But you know, it was true, and it was very important to George that every little inflection, any kind of body movement coming from the robots and the different creatures, be put with the right syllables."
22. Subpar Special Effects. "It's strange that the film that gave us sci-fi’s most intricate and well-choreographed space battle to date also gave us so many effects that look just plain silly . . ."
It's strange that the people who can't stop praising the space battle would be whining about this! The rancor, they promise, much to our eager anticipation, will be whined about in its own special category (more padding of the essay, obviously). But their specific complaints begin with Han being freed from carbonite. Now, I never understood Han glowing as he comes out of carbonite, but then again, I’ve never been intimately acquainted with thawing carbonite, and somehow I don't think our critics have been, either. Unless they are in fact Ugnaughts who have not revealed themselves to be so. Maybe the reaction to the oxygen and hydrogen in the atmosphere affects it that way. They also complain about the shadows under Jabba's sail barge; having never hyper-analyzed them myself, what can I say? Also, they exhibit disgust that the explosion of the Imperial bunker "engulphs several square miles" yet leaves Han and his team unscathed--they need to eyeball better, as I never thought that explosion was that violent, and most of it explosion was upward and not outward anyway.
23. The Rancor Effects."In quite probably the worst use of a blue screen in the history of big-budget film, the rancor looks so awful it deserves its own separate mention."
And yet after that scathing remark, they acknowledge that the creature is well-designed and that the effect could be potentially cleaned up. This padded complaint seems to barely exist. Sometimes the rancor glows, and sometimes it looks two dimensional? Get a life.
24. Leia and Han’s Relationship. "The subtle, repressed passion of Empire is simplified to high school relationship levels . . . Han and Leia never look or act like two adults in love."
This is quite true. Could it be, gasp, because they aren’t in love? Because Leia is a frigid bitch? I don't see that Lucas needs to get blamed for this, or that the film must suck because of something the character inherently is. Han clearly feels more for her than she does for him, and the "hissy fit" they accuse him of having is perfectly natural considering that Leia never has given him much more than the time of day or implied she might have feelings for him. He has a faint inferiority complex, and you can't blame him for being frustrated. Oh, and he's 11 years older than she is. Repressed passion? What you two need to learn is that love is more than snarky bickering--I thought they acted like high schoolers in ESB!
25. Carrie Fisher's 'Acting.' "When Carrie Fisher isn'’t staring vacantly into space, she's emoting to degrees previously seen only in Mexican soap operas."
Look, the same could be said of the previous two films. If it wasn't complaint-worthy in ESB or ANH, it's not a reason for suckage now. So Carrie Fisher isn't much of an actress. Come on. Plus, understand that this is how people act in real life! It's extremely realistic, and while realism may or may not fly with some people, and you can cry all you want about it not being what you want, people's personalities will be what they are.
26. Obvious Missed Opportunities.
It took me two readings to understand what they were getting at here, and none of it is worth quoting. I sum up--basically, the complaint is that the things George talked about doing preproduction never made it into the film: Endor not being Kashyyk, for one; also, apparently, Lando should have died (I guess so they could complain about how racist GL was to kill the "one" black character). Also, for no discernable reason whatsoever, they lament that a bunch of X-wings didn't crash and burn into the Death Star II's shields because they couldn't pull up in time. I guess they like senseless carnage. Also, there's something about the whole of ROTJ being a "missed opportunity in the context of the trilogy," but they don't elaborate what they mean, and since I have no idea what they're on about, I just have to leave it. Quite possibly, this is the dumbest thing I've ever read.
27. Yoda. "In Empire, Yoda was a sagacious sprite who brought to mind Gaelic legend. In Jedi, he's an annoying toad who sounds like Super Grover. . . . Jedi's Yoda is lacking in wisdom and festering with cuteness."
I have to say, first of all, that if this is what you think cute looks like, I don't want to see what your spouses look like. Eugh.
In all seriousness, and apart from the cute thing (ugh), I don't argue with this complaint. It's just . . . this is how I feel about Yoda all the time. Yeah, you heard me, in all six movies, "annoying toad" is right! News flash: he was never wise. Now, while they insist that ESB all had us recalling Gaelic legends (can't say it did), I reply that Yoda has always made me want to see how far I could punt him. Plus, it is pretty obvious that by blind arrogance, he allowed the Republic to be destroyed and that he was willing to basically see as many people dead as it took to hide his error--including Luke, whom he was training for a suicide mission. So, all right, if Yoda irritates you in ROTJ, you now know how I feel all the time; however, if I thought one stupid idiot was a reason for one film to suck, I wouldn't be the Star Warrior I am now!
28. The Opening Text Crawl.
Heh, you think the ROTJ crawl is bad? Wait until Ep. 3 comes out.
The majority of this complaint consists of quoting all three trilogy crawls, which, if you don't have them committed to memory now, you probably aren't even reading this list.
In all seriousness, though, their primary objection is that the ROTJ crawl begins its focus on the word "friend" and resembles something out of the TV Guide. I think they’re alone in thinking this, but I will address their complaint that they want to be watching "something a bit larger than a buddy picture." And I'll address it by pointing out that the word "friend" gets used way more frequently in ESB than it does in ROTJ, and is clearly one of the linking themes throughout the saga.
29. Imperial Technology. "Imperial engineers should really figure out a way to keep their vehicles from blowing up so easily. . . . Not only does a single crashed A-Wing take out an entire eight-kilometer Super Star Destroyer . . . Based on what Jedi shows us, the Empire could have been defeated with a couple of well-placed safety pins."
Okay, I'm pretty sure no one has ever thought of a way to keep the fuel required to keep anything in space from being anything other than highly explosive. And perhaps you noticed or maybe you were too busy being bitter about the lack of exploded X-wings when the Death Star's shields were still up, the A-wing did not take out that glorious piece of spacecraftery known as the Executor; rebel fire moments before had destroyed the shields on one side of the ship, and before they could remedy the damage or intensify the forward batteries to prevent any debris from getting through, the A-wing sailed into the bridge. The resulting explosions killing crewmembers and the void sucking the rest out caused the ship to run out of control. It was sucked into the gravity well created by its proximity to the Death Star, and the collision resulted in mass explosion and death. If they had been out in open space, they would have drifted and eventually repaired the damage. But they weren't. Thus perishes a noble ship and crew.
30. Jabba's Droid Torture Room. "First of all, torturing droids is stupid on a purely conceptual level, seeing as how they're machines and all. But what on earth was going through Lucas and Marquand's heads when they decided to play the scene in Jabba's droid room for laughs?"
(I stare blankly at the screen for several long moments before finally thinking of something to type besides "wow.") These . . . these guys really thought this was in here for laughs? Actually, they proceed to spend two paragraphs (and some pretty serious language) expressing their disgust over a "humorous droid torture scene." I'm stupefied because . . . I never saw anyone laugh over it, never heard anyone mention that it is in here for laughs, or . . . or noticed any reference anywhere to this being here for any humorous reason. No wonder they're complaining about failed humor and all this stuff that makes no sense to me-—if they thought this was supposed to be funny-—good lord, what is wrong with these two? They have misunderstood this scene so violently that I can't even think of anything else. This can't be a reason for the movie to suck--it's just a reason for these clowns to get a clue about what they're watching.
To be released in five parts of 10 points each. Warning: The original authors of the list did not restrict themselves to 50 individual objections but repeated themselves frequently (probably because it's impossible to come up with 10 individual reasons, let alone 50). So just be aware of that.