Mark Overanalyses Film

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

March 27, 2023 Mark Hennigan Season 3 Episode 1
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Mark Overanalyses Film
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Mark Overanalyses Film
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Mar 27, 2023 Season 3 Episode 1
Mark Hennigan

Mark's overanalysis is fully operational as he tries to figure out what makes Return of the Jedi such a great ending to the Star Wars trilogy, how Luke expresses an argument from both previous films, and what long-term impact believing C3PO to be a god might have on Ewok society.

Show Notes Transcript

Mark's overanalysis is fully operational as he tries to figure out what makes Return of the Jedi such a great ending to the Star Wars trilogy, how Luke expresses an argument from both previous films, and what long-term impact believing C3PO to be a god might have on Ewok society.

Hi everybody, and welcome to season 3 of Mark Overanalyses Film! I am very excited to be back, because I love doing this, but I am also ever so slightly sad. That’s because today I will be discussing Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, the last of the original Star Wars trilogy. It doesn’t mean I have to stop talking about Star Wars, but it probably means I’ll have to talk less about Star Wars less… A quick note before I begin, a brief reminder that I am available for story coaching and reading at Also, I’m a little late starting this season, so depending on my schedule, I am going to try to release a few episodes weekly whenever possible. 

Anyways, on with the overanalysis. Just like The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi seems to have had George Lucas very much all over it, but it was directed by Richard Marquand. The screenplay was written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, with George Lucas getting solo story credit.

Now, Return of the Jedi divides people a bit: either they think it’s worse than the first 2 Star Wars movies, or they think it’s worse than most movies. Unsurprisingly, while I may have some sympathy with the former group’s position, I love this film. Of course I do. The original Star Wars trilogy runs deep in me. But that doesn’t mean I’m blind to its flaws, like the fact that the 3rd sequence is pretty much one big exposition dump, or that I don’t shake my head ruefully when I see the newly inserted CGI and wonder “why insert a campy nightclub singer into the moody Jabba sequence George, why?”. The fact that he added a CGI singer to Jabba’s palace and a weird CGI mouth on the sarlacc is bad enough, but the cut away to other planets that we haven’t seen at all in this trilogy right at the end is just bizarre. It’s not just that it looks bad. It’s not just that it didn’t need to be added. It’s that it completely takes you out of the core story right at its end. It’s jarring, and I think it’s a terrible decision not to stay with Luke when it is Luke’s story. 

What Return of the Jedi does have though is, overall, one hell of a climactic ending. And not just to this movie, but to an entire epic trilogy. And that is bloody hard to do. The only final films I can think of in terms of a narratively continuous trilogy that even come close are Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Back To The Future III, Toy Story III, and Before Midnight. But I would argue that none of them have the thematic unity and narrative clarity and pacing that Star Wars has. So what is it that Return of the Jedi does that puts it at such rare heights? And how does it so successfully tell an interesting story for a protagonist after said protagonist has already changed significantly twice in the two previous films?

With all that in mind, first, I’ll look at the fundamental features of the protagonist, and then I’ll go through the main story beats by looking at the sequences of the film. Then, I’ll talk about the main things I learned along the way.

Ok, so, without further ado, let’s get into the 5 Questions about the protagonist. 

Q1: Whose story is it? 

Now, this is an interesting one. Because, obviously, Luke Skywalker is our protagonist. But he’s not the most typical protagonist, as I’ll get into shortly. For now, let me just remind you that Luke is a trainee Jedi, who has recently discovered that Darth Vader is his father. Which is a lot to take on. But hey, Luke’s family already got slaughtered in A New Hope, and that didn’t seem to faze him, so I guess he’s pretty tough.

Q2: What is his life dream?
Life dream here refers to what it is that the protagonist wants or is aiming to do when the film begins and the story has yet to properly start. Well, you could of course argue that what Luke really wants to do is defeat the Empire and/or become a Jedi Knight. But ultimately, the reason why Luke wants any of those things is symptomatic of what he’s doing when we first meet him in Return of the Jedi: he is trying to protect the ones he loves. And when we first encounter Luke here, that means he’s trying to bust them out of Jabba’s palace.

Q3: What is his want?

Want here is what the character is trying to achieve in Act II of the film, from the moment they really begin their journey until the moment they are at their most defeated. As such, it is a SMART goal, in that it is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. Now, let me say here: I am really in two minds about this, so I’ll lay out both possibilities here. The Return of the Jedi is very similar in structure to The Empire Strikes Back to my mind. In The Empire Strikes Back, you have the planet Hoth adventure, then the twin plots of Han and Leia trying to escape while Luke trains, then these come together in Act III when Luke confronts Vader to save them. Here, you have the planet Tatooine adventure, then the twin plots of Han and Leia destroying the Shield Generator while Luke and Vader circle each other, before finally these two plots again intertwine as Luke’s soul is once again threatened by the danger posed to his friends by the Emperor’s trap. More on that in a bit. Now, there’s a very clear structure to Luke and Vader’s story throughout Act II, and so part of me is inclined to think of that as the Want. But just like Han and Leia’s attempts to escape Vader gave The Empire Strikes Back its shape, here I think their attempts to destroy the Shield Generator on Endor gives Return of the Jedi its shape. This is the ‘mission’. It’s the thing that spurs all the change to occur. And it’s tangible. Either Han and Leia blow it up, or they don’t. The mission itself is introduced a bit late, but as we’ll see, it is set up quite clearly from the moment the adventure on Tatooine is finished. 

Q4: What is his need?

Need is the human quality or piece of wisdom that the character lacks at the beginning of the story. Now, this is where things really get interesting. Luke is our protagonist… but what does he learn? In other words: does Luke change? I think it’s debatable. He’s certainly ‘challenged’, and he overcomes that challenge despite faltering at times. But, as I’ll talk about later, after learning the lessons of both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Luke feels pretty fully formed by the start of Return of the Jedi. What there is no question about, however, is that “someone” changes: none other than Darth Vader. And as we will see, Vader’s arc is typical of a protagonist’s arc of change. So, does that make Vader the protagonist then? One could make the argument, but I don’t think so. Rather, I think Return of the Jedi is a classic example of the Guardian Angel Protagonist. Just like Ferris Bueller or Paddington Bear, Luke Skywalker is a protagonist who does not need to change himself, but nevertheless drives the plot forward and acts as an example of the change that those around him need to make. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s Cameron who needs to change. In The Last Crusade, it’s Indiana Jones’s father who needs to change. And here, Darth Vader needs the courage and the love that his son shows. In A New Hope, Luke eventually believes in himself because Obi Wan believed in him. Now that comes full circle. Obi Wan’s former apprentice believes in himself because now Luke believes in him. But let’s put it in Star Wars terms: in A New Hope, Luke was but the learner. Now, he is the master.

Q5: Do they get what they want and/or what they need?
So, at the end of Act II, things don’t look good and it seems like the Death Star will remain indestructible. But by the end of our story, not only will Luke have resisted the Dark Side and turned Vader, but the rebels will infiltrate the base and destroy the Death Star. It’s not quite as built up to one single action as A New Hope, but it’s not far off it.  

Ok, now that I’ve attempted to answer the 5 key questions, let’s have a look at Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’s sequences. 


The Sequences

There is normally, but not always, 8 sequences, or stages, in a film. A sequence is a combination of scenes that are tied together by having a single overriding dramatic question or tension, and they tend to be between 10 and 15 minutes in length. A good way to think about it is that every 10-15 minutes, the audience should be on some level asking themselves a different dramatic question. There are definitely 8 stages to Jedi, but I’m going to say there’s probably 9 sequences, as I’ll get into.

So we start with Sequence I, life as it is. And of course Star Wars has its own distinct mechanic to explain life as it is. The iconic scrawl tells us that Luke has returned to Tatooine to rescue Han from Jabba The Hut while the Empire constructs a new Death Star. Apparently this one is even more powerful than the last one, perhaps because they’re planning to put a grill over the exhaust port, but we really don’t know. Also, I can’t help but wonder: if Jabba lives on Tatooine, then why the hell was Han previously hanging out on Tatooine in A New Hope?! Well, this is Star Wars, we’re not here for the details. But we begin our story properly with Vader middle managing the crap out of his subordinates, and in doing so we learn the vital difference between Return of the Jedi and A New Hope with this film’s inciting incident, or: the event without which our story as it is would not happen. There might be another Death Star, but this time the Emperor has made the decision to come on board. The stakes are upped immediately. But at that, we’re off to Tatooine where once again C3PO and R2D2 find themselves wandering the desert plains of Tatooine. Once again, just like A New Hope. But this time, they are going to see Jabba, and whereas in A New Hope, Luke met them for the first time and their journey was set with a hologram, here, Luke’s hologram appears to offer them to Jabba. There are echoes all over the place. But anyways, Leia soon arrives in disguise with Chewbacca and breaks Han out of his frozen carbonite, but — and this is a theme here — it’s a trap. So now Jabba has Han, Leia, Chewie, C3PO, and R2D2. Things are looking bad, and so we wonder if Luke Skywalker can really save all of his friends, and so at a surprisingly late minute 22, we enter sequence II.

Again, another major echo of A New Hope is that our protagonist does not enter properly until the second sequence. Now, in The Empire Strikes Back podcast, I noted that Luke is upside-down 3 times in that film: at the beginning, middle, and end. And here, something like that is repeated. Luke allows himself to be captured 3 times in Return of the Jedi: in the beginning by Jabba, in the middle by Ewoks, and at the end by Vader and the Emperor. Furthermore, Jabba has Han. Then, the Ewoks have Leia. And finally, the Emperor has his father. What’s more: the Emperor is just like Jabba. He knows that Luke is coming because he possesses someone Luke loves, but their arrogance proves their undoing. This is all just great adventure movie plotting. It gives everything real cohesion. And so, Luke shows that he has become a powerful fighter by slaying Jabba’s pet monster, and the whole crew are taken to the mighty Sarlacc pit. And then Luke shows his grown resolve and steadiness from The Empire Strikes Back. On the edge of the pit, he does not falter; and right when it appears that Luke is utterly doomed, R2D2 reveals his lightsaber, and Luke takes down the entire frigate. A quick note here: Luke’s story is bookended by grabbing his lightsaber in the climax of Act I and throwing away his lightsaber in the climax of Act III. Star Wars is full of this kind of stuff. Anyways, the crew make a daring escape, and leave the planet to begin their main adventure. It’s worth noting here that in The Empire Strikes Back, they leave Hoth at minute 36. In Return of the Jedi, they leave Tatooine at minute 37. George Lucas knows what he likes, and he likes to do it. And, we also discover that just like in Empire, Luke once again has somewhere else to be. As Han and Leia head back to the fleet, Luke heads to the Dagobah system to finish his training. And so we end Act I, and we enter Act II.

Act II begins with sequence III, the first attempts to solve the problem. You could also call it the “refusal of the call” sequence. The hero is called to action or to their need, and they initially refuse. But first, right at the bridge between Act I and Act II, we generally have what we call a “What’s the plan?” scene, which tells us what our long Act II is going to look like. And so, right after Luke and Han and Leia split up to do their respective tasks, the Emperor arrives on the Death Star and tells Vader that Luke will come to his father, and when he does, Vader is to bring him before the Emperor. Han and Leia working with the fleet on one side, while Luke and the Emperor compete for Vader’s soul on the other: this is the rest of our film. So, Luke heads to Dagobah, and we wonder some version of the question “Will Luke finish his Jedi training?” But when Luke arrives, he discovers that Yoda is in fact dying. Now, you have to hand it to Luke. In the space of a few minutes, his only teacher tells him he’s not long for this galaxy, and that in order to become a Jedi he has to kill his father, and also that he has a secret sibling. That’s a lot to take on, so no wonder Luke exhibits a refusal of the call as he tells R2 that he cannot go on alone. But at that, Obi Wan appears and explains that he is not alone: that Yoda, like Obi Wan himself, will always be with Luke. But here is where something interesting appears, at least to my mind. When I looked at A New Hope, I came to figure that the signature characteristic that defines Luke is that he listens to people, and he believes in them. So while Yoda and Obi Wan tell Luke that he must face and defeat Vader, Luke insists that he ‘knows’ there is still good in Vader. Now, we know that Luke is right here, but Obi Wan does not believe him. Obi Wan has good reason to hold his beliefs, but he is wrong. Again, we see here that over the course of 3 films, the student has finally become the master. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We are approaching the end of this sequence, and so we need Luke to make his first conscious move towards his need: to accept the call. And so, Luke learns that Leia is his sister. With this putting Leia in danger of being turned, at minute 48 Luke accepts the call to his need. He resolves to do what he must to protect those he loves: he must face his father. 

Just a side note here: if you ever want to get a sense of how George Lucas got from the original trilogy to the prequel trilogy, it’s worth reading the original script for this scene. There is a lot more dialogue and Obi Wan explains everything. He explains the whole point of The Empire Strikes Back, and then goes into detail about the Organa family’s political history. Finally, what we are told in the finished film with a look of resolve on Luke’s face is spelled out in conversation in the script. It is highly reminiscent of flaws that will become prevalent in Lucas’s later movies. 

But anyways, right now, we’ve got a 4th sequence to get started. We rejoin the fleet and we discover the real plan. It’s another attack on the Death Star, and Han — who ran off the last time they attacked a Death Star — is now leading a strike team. Luke is not the only one who has changed. And speaking of Luke, he now returns and he now volunteers to join Han’s mission, perhaps sensing that it will lead to him confronting his father. So, our new tension is something like: will the crew make it to the shield generator on Endor?

Now, this is really a series of mini-tensions: the first of which is “will they get past the imperial fleet and onto Endor?” If you subscribe to the notion that Vader is actually the one whose change we need to be tracking, he makes his first unconscious move towards his need here at minute 55. This is the moment when he first senses Luke, and decides to deal with it personally.

And so, the gang make it on to Endor, and soon blunder into a patrol. Then — again an echo of A New Hope —we find ourselves wondering if Han and Luke will find Leia after she’s disappeared. And soon, in looking for Leia, Luke, Han, and co get captured by Return of the Jedi’s most controversial element: the Ewoks — small, furry, cute locals who continue the rich, storied tradition of creatures who take an instant dislike to Luke. 

And here, we’re at our midpoint, or the protagonist’s first conscious move towards their Need. And so there’s a few things to note. At minute 70, when Han wants to fight the Ewoks, Luke tells him not to, and insists it’s going to be ok. Once again, Luke allows himself to be captured, but crucially, unlike with Jabba, this time he is banking on the good nature of his captors. Luke will eventually win them over, and they will help him defeat the group’s true enemies. Which is all going to sound very familiar soon. But arguably, even more importantly, just before Luke’s midpoint, Darth Vader actually has his own really clear first conscious move towards his Need. Completely out of keeping with his normal behaviour, he goes against the Emperor’s instructions and leaves his post to tell the Emperor that he has sensed Luke. The Emperor is surprised and questions whether or not Vader is clear headed on this issue. Vader insists that he is, and is told to go to Endor to await Luke. A sliver of daylight has come between Vader and the Emperor as he heads to see his own son. It’s a foreshadowing of the climactic action, a first conscious move towards his need, and a textbook midpoint. 

Now, we’ve had our midpoint and an answer to our previous tension: the heroes have not made it to the generator, and have instead been captured. So, we are now in Sequence V, the honeymoon sequence. Here, the protagonist begins to act in accordance with their Need. And so, Luke keeps his resolve and trusts those around him. When he is tied up and to be burned by the Ewoks, he uses his powers to lift C3PO and convince the creatures that the droid is indeed a powerful god. Of course, the impact all this will have for generations of future Ewoks and their belief structure is incalculable and a concern, but we don’t have to worry about that right now. C3PO then tells the Ewoks their story, and the heroes are brought into their tribe. Again, in this honeymoon sequence, foreshadowing the climax, Luke has imperilled himself for the greater good, and in doing so, inspires those around them to do right. 

Luke then tells Leia of their relationship, and at the height of his honeymoon period, he heads off — on his own now — to confront and turn Vader. So I guess to at least some degree, Luke has clearly changed since his refusal of the call. But, there is a sign of trouble. Leia can’t entrust this information to anyone, so she can’t tell Han, which leads him to misunderstand the situation. Then, Luke confronts Vader, and despite his best efforts to convince his father of the power of good still within him, Vader is not ready to believe. And so, the Dark Lord sends his own son to see the Emperor — as the Emperor had foreseen. Luke might be wrong, and Vader might not turn. Things don’t look so good after all, and so we end the honeymoon sequence, and we enter sequence VI: the bridge to the low point.

Now, at first things appear to be going well for Han and Leia as they burst into the generator, but unfortunately we discover that for the 3rd time in this story, our heroes have walked into a trap. We know this because when Luke is brought before the Emperor, he tells the young Jedi so. So I’m wondering some version of the question: “Will Han and Leia succeed in blowing up the generator despite the Emperor’s plans?” Now, things are really turning to the disastrous side of bad, and it’s worth noting here a back and forth between Luke and the Emperor. Luke tells him that his overconfidence is his weakness, and the Emperor offers as a counterargument to Luke and to the story overall: your faith in your friends is yours. Once again, as in A New Hope: we have good vs evil as power vs hope. It’s also worth noting here that this is a game that both Luke and the Emperor have in some way agreed to. Luke must have known that there was a good chance he would be brought to the Emperor, and the Emperor foresaw that Luke would come. Either the Emperor is overconfident in his hold over Vader, or Luke’s belief in the good within his father is misplaced. Great stories often personify ideas, and then tests those ideas through dramatic action. By introducing the Emperor, Star Wars personifies this battle between good and evil, or hope and power, within Darth Vader. Everyone else has given up on Vader, but Luke has not. So, Return of the Jedi asks: is Luke correct? Should we believe this much in people? Right now of course, the odds are against it. Luke entrusted his life to his father, and his father handed him over to the emperor. Luke believed that his friends could defeat the empire, but it appears they’ve been outmanoeuvred. The central idea of Return of the Jedi is being seriously challenged here, but we’re not at the nadir yet. This is story telling, and god damn I love it! Han and Leia are led out of the generator, the Ewoks attack, but the might of the Empire appears too great. The loyalty and bravery of the Ewoks is coming up against cold, hard empirical might. And then, the Emperor reveals that the Death Star is actually fully operational, and the rebel fleet starts taking a pounding. Things are so bad that a stormtrooper even manages to actually hit something, with R2D2 taking a frazzling while trying to get Han and back into the Generator. So, Han and Leia are locked out and in a vulnerable position. For all the world, it looks their mission is a failure. As a result, the rebel fleet looks doomed. And the Emperor, from the safety of his impregnable Death Star, is goading Luke like nobody’s business. Luke can no longer resist his anger and fear, and so he grabs his lightsaber and lashes out, only to be repelled… by his father. Luke does not really believe the counterargument, that he should not believe in those he loves, but the argument seems impossible. This is a classic low point. And so, we end Act II, and we enter Act III.

Act III, as ever, has 2 sequences: a false resolution and a true resolution. Now it’s worth noting here that this film is known for having a really influential 3 prong structure for editing purposes. We are jumping here between Luke and Vader, Han and Leia, and Lando and the fleet. There’s always something to cut to, and it really makes the ending move. But we have a clear central tension, which is “Will Luke kill his own father?” But also, we have a clear B, and probably C, story. And things unsurprisingly start to go well in the B and C stories before they do in the A story. Chewie especially manages to turn the tide of battle on Endor, and Han and Leia are soon back in the generator. These plotlines are tied up before the main story so that there is no sense of anti-climax. So, of course, Luke is still very much in his false resolution phase. We see that he is now a match for Vader, but he is still trying desperately not to fight his father. We do eventually get to the height of the false resolution though, when Vader senses Luke’s feelings for his friends, and realises that he has a twin sister. Threatening to turn her to the Dark Side, Luke can’t but react and lashes out at his father with real vitriol now. He bashes him to the ground, Vader unable to fight off the younger man’s angry energy. Luke, tested to his limits, might just end up committing patricide, from which there would be no coming back. Just ask Oedipus. It’s a sticky wicket. And so, it’s time we end the false resolution, and enter the final sequence of the entire original Star Wars trilogy: Return of the Jedi’s true resolution.

True to form, the Emperor is overconfident and intervenes when he should really keep his mouth shut. Luke considers his robotic hand, looks at Vader’s now missing hand, and reflects on who and what he is becoming. And so, with redoubled vigour, Luke throws away his lightsaber and declares that he is a Jedi, like his father before him. He still believes in his father despite everything, and it appears that Luke will sacrifice himself for his faith in people. His journey is complete. At that, the generator is destroyed, and the Death Star’s shield is down. But Luke might not live to see it. He’d be unaware of what’s going on even if he wasn’t currently being torched alive by the Emperor’s lightning. Now, I think it’s quite telling here that really, the Death Star at this point is going to get blown up one way or the other. From a practical standpoint, the only difference the rest of Luke’s story will really make here is whether or not Luke himself will survive. But this is story, and stories are personal and normally to at least some degree spiritual, at least in the human spirit sense of things. Yes, we want Luke to live, but it would be far more important that Luke retain his spirit to the end, then to lose his spirit and survive.  

Anyways, Luke begs his father for help, and eventually something deep within Darth Vader can’t take it. He grabs his master, absorbs the murderous lightning, and tosses the Emperor into an opportunely positioned bottomless shaft. As Lando dares to fly through the internal superstructure of the Death Star, Luke drags his dying father to a shuttle. He helps Vader take his mask off, and sees the face of his father for the very first time. Luke refuses to leave him, and insists he must save him. And his father responds that Luke already has. Lando hits the reactor, and Luke escapes the imploding Death Star just in time. Back on Endor, he burns his father’s body. Then there is an unforgivable Lucas edit to other planets from the prequels, before Luke joins the party as everyone celebrates the end of the Empire. Luke remains somewhat distant as he sees the force ghosts of Obi Wan and Yoda, who are then joined by his father: confirmation that his soul has been saved. Luke is summoned back to the party, and fittingly the trilogy ends with a shot of the young jedi joining the group of people that he has inspired and who have proven beyond a doubt that they were indeed worth believing in.


God, I love Star Wars. But as ever, I will try to limit myself at this juncture to 2 main related points. And if you’re talking about Star Wars: Return of The Jedi, how can you talk about anything else but ‘endings’.

First, I’d like to talk about the strongest element of Return of the Jedi — its ending in the Throne Room, and then I’d like to talk about how Return of the Jedi is such a wonderful and effective ending to the most enduring trilogy in cinematic history.

There’s a maxim in screenwriting that an audience has to know what is going to happen, but not know how it’s going to happen. Even in something as enigmatic as 2001: A Space Odyssey, we know that contact will be made with alien intelligence. But who could predict the ending that comes? We know that Marty has to make his parents fall in love and then get back to 1985 in Back To The Future, but by the time he’s locked in the boot of a car, we don’t know how he’s going to do it. And Return of the Jedi has one of the all-time great setups in this regard. Luke Skywalker is in the Emperor’s throne room. If he kills Vader or the Emperor, he will lose his soul. If he doesn’t kill them, it appears like his friends — and his father’s soul — are doomed. So, what can he do? The genius of Return of the Jedi is that it somehow makes Luke’s passivity active. He’s not waiting. He’s fighting the urge to fight. And then his low point is when he can’t resist that urge anymore. His false resolution is when it feels like he might kill Vader. His true resolution is that he refuses to fight. And anyone who has listened to my polemic on The Last Jedi will not be surprised to hear that what I appreciate about everything here is that there are, y’know, reasons. The greatest threat to Luke’s resolve is when his sister’s life and soul are threatened. But he finally, utterly renounces the temptation by — for the first time — disarming himself. The argument of the film made by its protagonist is dramatised by the tossing of a lightsaber. Wow. I can’t believe I’m still thinking of more reasons to be annoyed at Rian Johnson, but the first time Luke tosses away a lightsaber, it’s a conclusion to an argument presented across 3 films. The next time he does it, it’s a cheap joke. Johnson… Where was I? Oh yes, learning to rise above our hatreds. Hmmm. Anyways, willing to die rather than descend into violence, Luke’s forbearance in the face of cruelty inspires the observer to interfere on his behalf. In this way, Luke is very much Gandhi-ing his way to victory here, which is of course completely in keeping with Star Wars’ kind of “mashing together” of religious beliefs. Or perhaps, it’s more appropriate to say Star Wars’ insight into the universalities undergirding religions around the world. I’m no theologian, but I don’t know of any major religion whose central tenet is “Hey, y’know your neighbour? Screw ‘em.”

Which brings me to my second point: how Return of the Jedi ends a trilogy of films. A trilogy that is about many things: how Luke becomes a Jedi — or really ‘A Man’, about family, but more than anything, about the fight between good and evil within ourselves. In this way, Star Wars is, if not religious, certainly deeply spiritual. The first film asks “Can Good defeat Evil?” by using the proxy battle of Hope vs Power. The second film is “Can Good resist the lure of Evil?” The third film finally asks “Can Good redeem Evil?” Luke is the perfect protagonist for the entire trilogy as he and his signature characteristic embodies all of these arguments. When looking at A New Hope, I was struck by how Luke’s main trait is his willingness to listen and believe in people. He ultimately believes in himself because he believes in Obi Wan, and this allows his hope to defeat the power of the Death Star. In The Empire Strikes Back, this hope must be tempered, as hope without caution can curdle and turn rotten. It’s this second film that really makes Star Wars stand out so much, and what makes it so spiritually resonant. The final film then does what any great climax should: it puts everything on the line. Either Luke will turn Vader, or Vader will turn Luke. There’s no getting away from that now, and all the odds are against Luke. But this is not the Luke of A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back. He possesses his original belief, faith, and hope, but he is also now a man, with an appropriate sense of caution, forbearance, and willingness to sacrifice himself. The Serenity Prayer states: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” And when you mix up the order a little, that is pretty much our thesis-antithesis-synthesis structure of the original trilogy of Star Wars. Side note: as I’ll discuss when I do Back To The Future, it is also the structure of that trilogy. Both trilogies involve young men being told to be brave, but not stupid. Combined with its mix of pacing, tone, spectacle, grandeur, and focus, the fact that it has this crystal clear structure providing a sense of growth and unity is, to my mind, what makes Star Wars my favourite film trilogy that we have ever had. So thankfully, everyone agreed to leave it at that.

This has been Mark Overanalyses Film. Next time, I’ll be looking at something a bit different: 2021’s The Worst Person In The World. It doesn’t have C3PO, but it’s not bad. If you enjoyed this episode, please like, rate, follow, recommend, and whatever else it is that’s good for this kind of thing! A special thanks as always to Mary Kate O’Flanagan who taught me just about everything I know. Thanks for listening. Take care of yourselves, and see you soon.