Flashback to 1983 --
Return of the Jedi Internet Discussion
Most fans around today
were present for the initial reactions to the latest Star Wars
films, that is the prequel trilogy. Most remember the hype, the
criticism, the arguing of "bashers" and "gushers", the exploration of
new themes, upcoming plot points and future twists. Although the
prequels provoked way more discussion and polarized way more
opinions than any of the original films--if only due to the web
culture unto which they were released--many fans wondered "what
would we be saying if the internet had been around during the
original trilogy's run?" Well, the internet was around. And
there are archived discussions from that
Although the internet
as we know it now did not exist, net-connected discussion
groups did. These groups communicated through an e-mail based
network--usenet. It exists today as a popular networking means, as
many of you may know. Although small in scale back then, there were
specialty networks based on different categories, such as movies,
and even specialty sub-categories--such as Star Wars discussion.
Unfortunately, such technology only brings us as far back as 1981,
and most groups only go back to 1982 or 1983. At that time, Star
Wars was a huge phenomenon but one that had begun to move away from
the mass-audience powerhouse hit of 1977 and towards a somewhat more
niche fanbase. The films were also becoming increasingly
criticised--Star Wars was the biggest hit of the year,
while Empire had fans and critics divided, but with
Return of the Jedi many felt the material did not live up
to its potential. Within these postings you'll witness Star Wars at
its twilight; many of the comments and criticisms are surprisingly
familiar, while others seem amusingly dated (it seems that there was
a mass net trend in 1983 to term the Force ghosts "holograms" for
some strange reason). Speculation also frequently turns to what the
prequels and sequel trilogies will be like. A sample below gives us
some reactions from May and June 1983:
"I saw the movie last Friday, and I must admit,
although I liked it a great deal, the ending left a great deal to be
desired. I thought it was just *too* happy and too
predictable, with the good guys winning (with little or no harm done
- except for a few Ewoks) and the bad guys all dying. Be serious,
"I couldn't hardly understand Yoda,
either. But then, I could never understand Fozzie Bear from the
muppets, and of course, they sound exactly alike. It looked like
they were using a different puppet for Yoda than last movie.
Anyone else think that? "
"These are some impressions of Return of the
Jedi. The visuals are nothing short of fantastic. I especially
liked Jabba's floating `barge'. Before I go further with specifics, let's hit a
few general points. SW-ANH and TESB were good enough to stand by
themselves. NO WAY for this flick. There was very little continuity
of action, and contrary to other folks who have said that Mark
Hamill can't act, I feel that he had the only believably written
part in the story. The dramatic pace of the show was very
badly handled, and many important scenes weren't believable.
"Perhaps not quite as crafty an ending as I had
hoped, but a reasonably satisfying ending. I felt very good
leaving the theater... The crowd for the first showing at
Atlanta's Phipps theater (the only Atlanta 70mm
and cheered many scenes throughout the movie, and gave a standing
ovation at the end. Of course, some of these folks were die-hards
who camped out all night to be first in line. "
"ROTJ was a fine film, but not as good as the
other two. First, it was too busy getting all the things done
it had to, and second, it was not nearly as imaginative. There
were no surprises. So it's Leia - whoopdedo.
told the truth - tralala! I may not have predicted these
things, but the reason I didn't was because they were too obvious,
and from TESB I got the impression Lucas liked the "Big
Surprise"...What extra power does the Emporor have that he can shoot
blue bolts from his fingers? We have never seen the force
ever do anything like that before. Just who is the
emporor anyway? Is the force strong in his family?
Is he a member of the Skywalker Clan? Are the Skywalkers
like the Amber family? What about Obiwan's family.
I guess that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were not truly
related to Luke. "
"The reactions I hear from folks out here are
varied. Most seem to have liked it. I suspect only the hard core
finds it a disappointment... Sort of like the James Bond movies.
They peaked with Goldfinger for me and have been silly since
then... The movie may have been a poor execution or
interpretation of the SW epic--but the plot wasn't that bad. I even
think there is reason to suppose that Lucas made the plot up BEFORE
he was turned to the Dark side of the Force of money--and gave in to
those begging for more merchandisable
muppet toys in the film,
more cuteness, more salability. ...I think JEDI has been a success
so far because it is receiving the credits from the first two
movies. It is LIKE those movies from the point of view of what
appears on the screen--If they intercut scenes from the Empire
Strikes Back and Star Wars with those of Return of the Jedi you
would be hard pressed to say where they were from. The problem is
that in Jedi the emotional content of the story is lost. It's played
as though the audience didn't CARE about the deeper tones--the fatal
flaw, a kid's movie made by adults who don't think kid's have
discerning viewing capabilities. "
"I like Byron's idea (V7 #20) that burning Vader's body released
him to join Obi-wan and Yoda in hologram land. Watching
carefully tonight, I did notice that Anakin faded in after Yoda and
Obi-wan in the last scene. Did anyone else see them as a trinity?
The Father, the muppet, and the Holy Ghost, perhaps? "
"If you get a chance to see it when there are lots of little kids
in the sudience, pass it up. Go to the midnight show if you
have to, but the second time I saw it, some nearby tots made me
wish I had the powers of the Dark Side. The first time I
saw it (at the first local performance), the crowd went wild, and
the tension in the scene where Vader is deciding whether to
grab the emperor ran high -- chants of "Do it! Do it!"
"It may sound from my flames above that I didn't like RotJ. This
is not true. I truly enjoyed it, but I was disappointed because it
left the spirit of episodes IV and V. It was simply TOO CUTE to 'be
believed'. I am afraid that I will not pay to see this movie again,
as I did SW (17 times) and TESB(12 times), at least not in the near
future. Oh, well. I hope that Episodes I-III and VII-IX (if they are
made) return to the spirit of adventure that was in SW and TESB, but
seems to be lacking in RotJ."Other discussion
ranges from topics such as why Darth Vader's body didn't disappear,
whether or not R2-D2 could be considered the real hero of the films,
and whether or not Leia was really the 'other'. (Intriguingly, this
post states that producer Howard Kazanjian gave a slide
presentation for Revenge of the Jedi--and the crowd gave him flack
about how revenge is not a Jedi trait; could fan reaction such as
this have influenced the decision to revert back to "Return of the
Jedi" for these very reasons some time later?)
Just like Star Wars
internet discussion today, these should not be taken as a completely
accurate cross-section of fan opinion, being (especially for that
time) a specialised section of fans (most seem to be posted from
tech students at universities), but it gives an interesting
historical insight into the thoughts and opinions of certain viewers
of that time.
For a full viewing of
postings--which go straight through the 1980's and into the 1990's
with some groups (interesting to track the prequel
anticipation)--start with net.movies.sw.
The earliest postings begin at May 1983.
For an alternate
source, one might also want to check out net.sf-lovers.
A general sci-fi network rather than a Star Wars specific one, the
franchise is frequently discussed, and posting archives go even
farther back to 1982. A general movie-discussion network, net.movies,
also goes back to 1982 and contains much Star Wars discussion.
Google usenet archives also contain many other Star Wars newsgroups
from the early and mid 90's that may be of interest for tracing the
speculation and buildup to the prequel
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