First off, before I get crucified by any die-hard Star Wars fans that believe anything with "Star Wars" in the title is considered holy, let me just say that I love the Star Wars franchise. I am a newer fan than many who may be reading this. I've started my fandom later in life so, I believe that I am privileged in having more of an "objective" point of view.
I guess "objective" wouldn't be the right word as it would lead one to assume that I am not blinded by fandom and anyone who is a fan is. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm merely trying to say is is that I try to see things from different perspectives and my expectations of movies, especially Star Wars movies, may not coincide with traditional fans due to the fact that I'm a late-bloomer in the Star Wars fandom.
With that awkward introduction out of the way, I wanted to take a moment and point out, what I consider to be a (minor) flaw in the last installment of the Star Wars original trilogy: Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi.
I enjoyed the movie, don't get me wrong their either. But coming from someone who had not seen the movies too many times growing up who then decided to start watching the original series all at once now, as a grown man, I have to say that I felt like it could have struck a higher note on the ending, especially considering how well Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back ended.
The way the second movie ended was mind-blowing. We see Luke get his hand chopped off while in an unfortunate duel with Darth Vader...
...then we had discovered that Darth Vader, the Emperor's terrifying puppet, was non other than our protagonist's long lost father...
...and not only that, but our favorite space-bound scoundrel, Han Solo, was left to an uncertain fate of being cryogenically-frozen in carbonite and delivered as a trophy from Boba Fett to Jabba the Hutt. All of this right before Leia expresses her true feelings for Han.
Needless to say, a LOT happened in The Empire Strikes Back that struck a positive chord with fans new and old. There was something larger at work, something epic, and something that had true emotional depth with excellent character development.
Quick thought about Anakin in 'Return of the Jedi'
Now, obviously, the George Lucas re-cut of the final installment of the Original Star Wars Trilogy had a plethora of problems, in my opinion (though it still didn't ruin the movie for me like it did for other fans). One of the biggest problems that many (myself included) had with the extras that Lucas threw into the film was the addition of Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker ghost at the very end of the film, thus, replacing Sebastian Shaw. Kind of seemed like a jerk move since this was the one time that Shaw got to have a full on face shot without it being marred with make-up and technology.
But this is just sort of a nitpick of the ending. Although it does bother me that they had to shoehorn Hayden Christensen into the Original Trilogy, there were other issues I had with the film even looking at just the original cut without focusing on George Lucas' weird edits.
Analyzing the End of 'Return of the Jedi'
The story of Return of the Jedi was a good one and I was glad to see things end up good for our three heroes in the end (even if Harrison Ford begged George Lucas to kill Han Solo in Episode V). I was glad that despite Darth Vader's constant push for Luke to join the Dark Side of the Force, that at the end, Darth Vader is the one who switches sides and takes down the Emperor (a fitting end for Darth Sidious in my opinion).
You're probably thinking: "Aaron, if you're able to overlook Hayden Christensen and you're happy about the final battle of the movie, where is your issue with the ending of the film?"
Well, it's here:
Despite the fact that I'm not the biggest fan of the Ewoks, I just didn't feel that the ending to one of the greatest movie franchises should be on Endor with the Ewoks. I get that they wanted to show how the galaxy was saved and they did show, in the George Lucas re-mastered version, the victory celebration of other planets that were set free from the Empire's tyranny but I felt like it needed more than just this general realization. It need more character focus.
Leaving the Characters Open-Ended
Looking at each of our three main heroes: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, I feel they are all great characters that could have been awarded a more suitable ending to this chapter of their lives. Starting off first, we'll look at Leia and one of her last, but crucial scenes where the story could have left her.
I wold have Leia address the New Republic and give a heart-felt speech about change and hope. Something inspiring that would let us know (when we first watched the movie with no knowledge of Star Wars) that there was still work to be done by the more than just franchises main protagonists, but also the Republic.
Then we would move on to Han's ending, which would then coincide with more Princess Leia.
We already see that the two of them end up madly in love with each other and we know that they are destined to belong to each other forever so why not dive into that part of the story just a little bit more? I love love-stories, I'd consider myself somewhat of a romantic (it's why my marriage is so good). I think there should have been a wedding scene similar to the 1993 novel, Prophets of the Dark Side:
"Standing at the far end of the red carpet, Princess Leia, who was holding her wedding bouquet, looked over at Luke and smiled at him. She then glanced around and saw Ken and all her other friends. Chewbacca was on hand to serve as Han's Best Man. And See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo were there to share the title of Best Droid, both of them showing off their gleaming polish." ~excerpt from 'Prophets of the Dark Side'
I personally would have liked to have seen this scene in live-action with both Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher and have their marriage set-in-stone via movie format. That's just my personal thoughts on this particular portion of the story.
Speaking of open-ended endings, we can't forget about the Original Trilogy's main hero, Luke Skywalker, here is what I would have done differently in his case. You could still have a short clip of the immediate aftermath of what happened on the Death Star over Endor. I also think it was great that they had the burning of Darth Vader's body by Luke Skywalker as that sort of provides closure for Luke regarding his father.
But I think Luke needed a little more, something to show that his being a Jedi journey was nowhere near from over. He hadn't learned all there is to being a Jedi just yet (we know this from digging around in the Expanded Universe).
His would be the last scene of the film. He would bid farewell to Han Solo and Princess Leia as he would be leaving for an indefinite amount of time to search for more answers of what it means to be a Jedi. It would be a bitter sweet moment as he hugs his sister and his now brother-in-law.
After all the goodbyes are said, Luke would sneak off and allow the wedding celebration to continue and we would see Luke fly off into space in his ship, hopeful to learn more of the Jedi way. Maybe he goes to Dagobah or maybe the Force leads him to find an old Jedi temple where he can begin to meditate on the Force and it can be there that he sees the visions of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin (Sebastian Shaw's version).
End picture and roll credits.
It's important to me, that big franchise movies end on a very strong and very high note. I love Star Wars, I think the movies are amazing and I love Return of the Jedi (just not as much as Empire Strikes Back). The story was always going to continue, even George Lucas and those who worked on the Original Trilogy knew it would happen. Mark Hamill even said it himself in 1983 when speaking to the Times:
"If he does carry the story any further, he will probably go back to the beginning, before these characters were born, and make what he calls a 'prequel,' another trilogy that would explain how the Republic fell. Only after that — and certainly not before the 1990s — would he do the sequel and show what happens to the Star Wars trio after Jedi." ~Mark Hamill
So, that is why I felt it was best to show in this article, an option of showing that our heroes still aren't done with their journey and that they are all still young and that there would be many adventures beyond what the Original Trilogy contained. I will always be on the side of leaving an open-ended option to allow for expansion to a story.
There you have it! That's exactly how I would create an alternate ending to Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi.