Kevin Drum is one of the most thoughtful, readable pundits on the web, who seldom takes a position simply to gin up controversy or get people arguing. I've been reading him since his Calpundit days. So it was something of a shock this past weekend when he announced his apparently sincere belief that... Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars movie. Say what?
What does his argument boil down to? First of all, he just wants to ignore the Ewoks. As in skip a couple chapters on the DVD so the Ewoks are barely in the film. Once you take out the Ewoks, he argues, you've got a movie that starts out beautifully on Tattooine and then progresses through a series of lovely sequences, including some of Darth Vader's best lines, to a powerful ending. And the visuals in RotJ are the best of the original trilogy, claims Drum.
And then, finally, there's the finale. For all its Saturday matinee melodrama - and this is, after all, Star Wars' heritage - the confrontation between Luke, Vader, and the emperor in the emperor's throne room is, by a mile, the best extended sequence in any of the movies. The dialog is terrific, the pacing is near-perfect, the visuals are spectacular, and the final metamorphosis of both Luke and Vader - which, again, is really hard to pull off credibly and could have been fucked up in a hundred different ways - was instead pulled off flawlessly. And then, in a mirror image of the movie's start - a terrific short opening scene followed by a longer introductory sequence - the long final sequence in the throne room is capped off by a shorter final scene on the hangar deck between Luke and Vader. This was a genuinely poignant scene. Even the music was perfect.
So what do you think? Has the punditocracy finally gone off the rails, or does an Ewok-less Jedi seem like it could be a good movie? I have to admit, I've always wished Return could be a bit darker, perhaps featuring the death of Han Solo as Harrison Ford wanted — and the fact that Princess Leia does nothing to develop the Jedi abilities that were hinted at in Empire Strikes Back has always seemed a major flaw to me. But what do you think? [Mother Jones]