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Return of the Jedi Tag

It was a three year wait to find out what happened to Han Solo, who was last seen frozen in carbonite and loaded onto Boba Fett’s spaceship. 30 years ago, on May 25, 1983, Return of the Jedi, one of the most anticipated films of my youth, finally hit theater screens.

JediBattle1I saw this movie on opening day at the Stamm Theatre in Antioch California with my friend Zant Burdine. As related in a previous article on WarGames, Zant and I went through a time when we liked to sit in the front row of the theater. For a period of about one year, our ideal movie seat was front row center. As Zant always said, “We like to get the full effect.” Call it a poor man’s IMAX if you will. We were first in line that opening day to madly scramble for two seats that no one wanted.

For my friend and I, Return of the Jedi delivered as promised — spectacular space battles, a few unexpected character revelations, plus (spoiler alert) some ominous foreshadowing regarding Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon that doesn’t come to pass. After the movie, which of course we both thought was awesome, I saw my friend Alex Baker standing in line for the next showing. He immediately covered his ears and went into full “Shields Up” anti-spoiler mode. But of course I never would have spoiled anything for him. I just smiled and moved along, much to his relief. Alex later told me that he also loved the deceptive foreshadowing.

As the latest round of would-be blockbusters lines up at a theater near you, Popdose looks back at the box office totals of yesteryear. This week, we revisit the Top 10 films of July 9, 1983!

10. The Survivors
Michael Ritchie directed The Candidate and The Bad News Bears in the ’70s, but by 1983, he’d fallen on hard times, slumming his way through turkeys like The Island and Student Bodies. On paper, teaming Robin Williams’ cocaine-fueled jackassery with Walter Matthau’s dry wit must have looked like a home run, but Survivors went down as one of the year’s biggest duds, limping its way through a pitiful gross and savage reviews (Roger Ebert called it “aimless,” “self-indulgent,” and “confusing”). It’s a shame, but really, what else could anyone expect from a movie featuring Robin Williams being fired by a parrot and shrieking “honky mofo”?

Sometimes a key actor can’t — or won’t — return for a sequel, so the filmmakers decide to write his or her character out of the series. Maybe they’ll reduce it to a phone conversation in which you can’t see or hear the actor, or perhaps they’ll resort to letting us know that the  character died sometime between the sequel you’re watching now and the previous installment. Or perhaps they killed off a character in the original film without knowing how popular that character would become, so for the sequel the writer has to figure out some kind of ludicrous way to bring him or her back. Perchance the writers think they’re really clever, they’ll play this card: “The events in the first film were only the beginning — there’s much deeper stuff going on here that you never knew about (neither did we, of course).” In the world of television it’s called “jumping the shark,” but in cinema I call it a Lame Sequel Premise. (The following article contains many spoilers, so proceed with caution.)

Alien³ (1992): Newt and Hicks died in hypersleep.

Alien3Had anyone told me that the director of this mess (also known as “Alien 3,” or “Alien Cubed,” or whatever else you want to call it) would end up being one of my favorite filmmakers, I would’ve laughed in their face. Granted, David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac) lost creative control while making the movie and now virtually disowns it, but still, the opening of Alien³ is beyond unforgivable: we find out that Rebecca “Newt” Jorden (Carrie Henn) and Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn), two beloved characters from the previous installment, 1986’s Aliens, died during hypersleep. Aliens‘s director, James Cameron, reportedly called this plot development “a slap in the face” of the franchise’s fans, and that’s precisely what it felt like to this fan. As far as I’m concerned, the series consists of Ridley Scott’s original Alien (1979) and Cameron’s sequel and that’s where it ends. I’m not even going to get into the lame “Ripley was cloned” business that made 1997’s Alien: Resurrection possible.

Off-Screen Character Death Lame-o-meter Rating: Should’ve Quit While They Were Ahead.