Thursday, July 16, 2015

On the Coffee Table: James Kahn

Title: Return of the Jedi
Author: James Kahn
via Amazon
As I have written previously, Return of the Jedi is my least favorite among Star Wars's original trilogy.  However, that is a bit like saying chocolate is my least favorite flavor in Neapolitan ice cream (strawberry's #1 - for the record).  I still love it.  I've also made an interesting discovery regarding print adaptations of the films.  I like the novelization for Jedi the best among the three, just as I did with Marvel's comic book renderings.  The story benefits tremendously from expanded character development and - I can't emphasize this enough - more meaningful integration of the Ewok subplot.

The Ewoks are the main controversy surrounding Jedi.  To the purists, the furry little critters were an early sign that the franchise was going off the rails.  I was young enough in 1983 to think they were adorable but I've become more skeptical of their inclusion in the years since.  There is a point to them, of course.  George Lucas liked the idea of a primitive society taking out the high-tech Empire through bravery and cleverness, a reflection of what the Rebel Alliance itself was able to accomplish.  Ewok vs. Empire is David vs. Goliath, complete with rocks in slings.  But the fur balls, too often, smell more like marketing gimmick than narrative substance.

The Ewoks are better in the novelization.  In the film, the Ewoks make our heroes members of their tribe after a C-3PO storytelling session.  In the book, they are more resistant to joining the cause of the Rebellion.  Han, Luke and Leia each makes a plea for the Ewoks' support, though it is Wicket, Leia's first contact with the critters, who makes the winning argument.  It's a nice moment for the overall franchise, a moral exploration of the Rebellion's importance on individual, global and galactic levels.  If more of that discussion could have been included in the movie, I think a lot of the purists might feel differently about Ewoks.

The book is not better than the movie but I can say the former has definitely enhanced my appreciation for the latter.  A New Hope is the self-contained scifi classic.  The Empire Strikes Back provides the landscape for a broader franchise.  Return of the Jedi is the most intimate story of the three, establishing the moral challenge that lies at the heart of the saga.  Luke must confront Vader not because he must vanquish his enemy.  He must overcome the temptation to use his powers for evil.  This struggle is no fairy tale.  Every day, powerful people make choices between compassion and ambition.  More often than not, they choose the latter.  The world would be a different place if that were not so.  The novelization allows a broader view of the moral struggles for each of the principals which ultimately makes for a more compelling story overall.

12 comments:

  1. The ewoks were a compromise. What Lucas had originally intended was for that battle to be on Kashyyyk with the wookies, but, by the time they'd gotten to Jedi, he felt like he'd made Chewbacca too sophisticated. Not to mention the issue of getting enough actors to play towering wookies when he already had a relationship with actors on the shorter side.

    Note: wook-E to E-wok

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    1. Yes, I understand. That doesn't change the fact that for a lot of people, the Ewoks are groan-inducing. Even for myself, I find it easier to take them seriously in the book than I do in the movie.

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    2. You know, I never had a problem with them. And, actually, I like them more, now, than I did when I was younger, because my daughter loves them so much.

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    3. Yes, my daughter likes them, too.

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  2. When I first saw the ewoks, I immediately thought, "Aha...another insidious Muppet take over...curse you, Henson." You see, I never trust anything with fake fur.

    I've met Peter Mayhew a time or two. No reason to mention that except for the fact that it's the first thing that enters my mind when I see the word "Chewbacca." My brain thinks "hey, I know who is in there..."

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    1. You're lucky! I follow Mayhew on Twitter but I sure can't claim to have met the man.

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  3. Hmmm...interesting reading this.

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  4. This one is also my least favourite because of those stupid smelly teddy bears. I actually thought it would have been fun to see them being cooked by Han and Leia over a fire but maybe I am being a bit too harsh....it is my dark side. The other issue I had is when Darth Vader is dying and Luke takes off his mask so we can finally see who is underneath. I find out it is Uncle Fester!

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  5. I haven't seen the movie, but I thought Ewoks looked cute in the promos. I really need to see these films. I'll DVR them if I see them on the schedule.

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    1. I'm amazed you have made it this far in life without seeing them.

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