For so many reasons, the scene that made me fall in love with Star Wars remains my favorite: those last minutes of the confrontation in Return of the Jedi that just so perfectly culminate everything in the entire saga, for years every time I watched Star Wars, I always sat as close as possible to the screen for that.
But I just talked about the ROTJ battle last week. So let’s go elsewhere for this. But I also don’t like to go for another battle scene, and I have a series coming up where it’s “favorite ever scene” from each film, so I don’t want to do myself out of that! Ack! This is hard!
All-time favorite scene is burdened with so much — so what I will tell you is that this, these, the last images of each film, those are my favorite.
The ending sequences of the original trilogy are so crammed with emotion, are so simple and yet complex, I thin it’s impossible not to love them.
First, I love the Throne Room Sequence from A New Hope, even though 1) it makes no sense and 2) the silence of the film in contrast to the conversation of the radio drama is kind of a let-down.
I know this scene was put in to give a sense of completion in case the trilogy was never funded, think about what they’re celebrating. This plucky rebellion has just won their first victory of any sort against the Empire. They have devastated the most awesome megaweaopon ever conceived of, put the Empire into an inevitable financial bind, and proven that their little insurrection has a chance at being a triumphant revolution.
At the same time, they have themselves suffered an enormous loss of personnel and equipment. Those snub fighters weren’t easy to come up with, and at least three of the men who died were senior and veteran combat pilots they won’t easily be able to replace. (Plus the Empire knows where they are now. In fact, if Tarkin hadn’t been too arrogant to invite Motti’s starfleet along for the ride, no doubt it would have been a mutual destruction at best.) It’s as much a funeral in honor of the fallen as it is a celebration of the two who made the destruction of the Death Star possible — an act that was, truly, the greatest Luke Skywalker ever did.
But the celebration is a bit odd. First of all, where were all these guys during the fighting? I guess you could say they had more pilots than ships, but then, that makes it odd that a rookie like Skywalker was allowed up with them in the first place. That is a lot of guys. (Which begs the question why they didn’t evacuate the moon anyway — it was a slim chance that the pilots could knock out the Death Star, so why did they keep everyone in the base like its destruction was a sure thing? Oh, yeah, plot.) And they all stand there in absolute silence. There are no speeches, no commentary of any kind. I never thought much about that until I listened to the radio drama, which added some really great dialogue that I think would have spruced this scene up immensely —
HAN: This heroing isn’t bad. Maybe it’s time I got a steady job. Want to do it again sometime?
LEIA: What do you say, Luke?
LUKE (grinning): It wouldn’t surprise me at all!
(forgive my inexact quoting; I’ve only listened to this 4 times in four weeks and am doing it from memory.)
This is the only one of these scenes that I love the aesthetic as much as the emotion and surrounding story. It is brilliant. I wish the Movies in Color person would do this because I’d totally buy a print.
First you have the galaxy in frame. Never mind how the rebellion has managed to go into hiding far enough away to have a view like this of their own galaxy. Or why a medical frigate has a huge window like this. It is awe-inspiring. You have the two pairs, Artoo and Threepio silently watching, and Luke puts his arm around Leia to comfort her. They have both changed since they last saw each other on Hoth, and so has their relationship — Leia knows that Han loves her, and far more importantly, that she loves him as well. There’s no more dancing around it. But Luke hasn’t exactly been friend-zoned; I think that when he was able to connect with her via the Force, he realized then however subconsciously that they were brother and sister. His comfort is platonic, familial.
The Falcon soars off into the distance, the former betrayer paired with Chewbacca, who won’t take any guff from him if he turns into a triple-crosser. And somewhere, somewhere in that spinning cluster of stars is Han, their Han, frozen helplessly in carbonite and in the hands of a cruel gangster and amoral bounty hunter.
The end of this film comes as a shock. It’s not a good thing. It’s a fearful thing. And while it’s easy to believe things will work out . . . what if it doesn’t? And how can it? Luke is still reeling with the news that Vader is his father, his artificial hand as alien to him as this newly discovered part of himself. In a galaxy where Vader could be the father of the man who blew up the Death Star, is there such a thing as a happy ending?
(Were you paying attention? There was my real answer to the question: final shot of ESB is my favorite scene of all time.)
I used to capture this shot on the pic-in-pic on our “big” TV and keep it down in the corner throughout the credits, which I may or may not have danced around the house “singing” along to with the volume as high as it went. (There was a reason I could only watch SW while home alone . . .)
There is naivete to the triumph at the end of ROTJ, but one of the things about Star Wars and its mythological roots and lack of gray areas that makes it completely acceptable to leave logic at the door and accept what is handed at face value. (There is no way any empire, however crippled with the death of its head of state and the financial burdens of two destroyed megaweapons and one Super Star Destroyer, would simply retreat and allow this ragtag band to set up a provisional government. The Empire still held Coruscant. The Battle of Endor would only have been one step in a process far more complex than the novels would have you have, and 25 years ago Lucas probably could’ve put in a third trilogy about them continuing the good fight. But I digress.)
They’ve won! The Empire is defeated. Vader is good, and also conveniently dead so no one has to figure out what to do with the redeemed psychotic dictator. Luke and Leia are siblings, the love triangle is dissolved, she and Han will probably get married the next day (ha!). There’s no way the Ewoks or the lush Sanctuary Moon will suffer any ill effects at the destruction of a 100-mile spherical megaweapon loaded with nuclear reactors in its orbit. Everything. Is. Good.
And in the end, isn’t that why we love Star Wars?