Time has not been kind to the Ewoks. The resourceful little fuzz balls with the bright eyes and preference for Monty Python and the Holy Grail-type preindustrial technology were clearly not in fashion at the screening of Return of the Jedi I attended; when one member of that squeaky clan was done in by steelier, more highly evolved enemies, many folks actually cheered.
I can’t say I share such blood lust — it’s like booing Tickle Me Elmo, no? — but I understand the inclination: With the third installment of the rereleased Star Wars trilogy, an audience already intimately up on every variation on Princess Leia’s ropey coiffure is bound to be a tougher crowd. And with the familiar pleasures of Darth’s voice box and Luke’s light saber growing a tad too familiar — at least when reexperienced one after the other, zip, zap, zoop — the discerning fan inevitably sharpens her preferences and dislikes.
So out go the Ewoks: too flippin’ Muppety. Out, too, goes Jabba the Hutt, who was always a boring, cartoonish lard ass with bad table manners. (Jabba’s only virtue was as a fashion consultant who urged a bikini on an otherwise dowdy Leia.) In retrospect, the dreaded Emperor comes off more like The Simpsons’ crotchety Mr. Burns than the Scariest Personage in the Cosmos. And, speaking of Muppets, doesn’t Yoda (courtesy of the inventive Frank Oz) sound more like Grover (ditto) than ever?
But with every Jedi disappointment comes a new appreciation: for the genius of John Williams’ music; for all that father-son stuff that once felt so mushy and now, with maturity, feels elemental; for Han’s ironic-hero stance, a blueprint for movie heroes ever since, right up to Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Best of all, a revisit with Jedi makes a viewer appreciate spectacle, presentation, mythology — that, and the power of a bitchin’ helmet to speak volumes in a language even an alien can understand.