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The Geek Life: 30th Anniversary Screening of Return of the Jedi
At Celebration Europe 2!
By Robert T. Trate
July 30, 2013
The Geek Life is a look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week, the Geek Life watches Return of the Jedi in Germany.
For the past several months, Lucasfilm has been celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Return of the Jedi. When I heard that it was a part of Entertainment Weekly’s CapeTown Film Festival in Los Angeles, I was really upset with myself. It was playing at the historic Egyptian Theater on May the 4th and in the exact same location where it premiered! Why was I upset? Well, because I USED to live less than 3 miles from there and visited the Egyptian often. What further enraged me was the Alamo Drafthouse ran it less than a month later. Now, I am all for everyone in those areas getting to see the movie, but what about the rest of us?
To my sheer delight, Lucasfilm scheduled another 30th Anniversary screening at their Star Wars Celebration Europe 2 in Messe Essen, Germany. So instead of driving/ flying 2500 miles or 1500 miles, I flew all the way to Germany to see the final installment of the original holy trilogy. Sure, it wasn’t logical, but it was damn worth it.
The film was being screened at the Tummelwiese, Grugapark, an incredible location directly next to the convention center. It was a brisk walk though one of Germany’s finer parks that had tiny cafes, a small zoo, and food vendors selling everything from beer to ice cream. The screening was set up in a meadow with incredible shade and almost a beer garden-like atmosphere.
Now, I have seen a few movies in other countries before. I saw a film in Dublin on a particularly rainy day. I saw three films in Bulgaria while visiting my parents. Trust me on this, despite the films being played in English, movies that have characters speaking in other other languages is not good. Those languages always get translated in the subtitles. This actually kept me from seeing The Wolverine in Germany. I was positive there was going to be a lot of Japanese in that one and I wasn’t going to get to read a word of it.
What I started to wonder was the following: Will the film be in German? If not, will there be subtitles? Not that it mattered with Return of the Jedi as I have heard enough Huttese in my life to know what was going on. Anyone else lip sync the translation? While I was making these mental notes, I realized that this film is now owned by Disney. Would the 20th Century Fox logo still appear? Would it be preceded by the Disney logo? I had heard nothing from the Geek community on these matters at the other screenings. Yet, one last thought came to mind. Would I see Hayden Christensen at the end?
Now, this audience was not only German. In fact, later, I spoke with people from Scotland, Argentina, and Hong Kong at the convention about the screening. So it wasn’t a true German cinematic experience. Besides the opening scroll, the crowd was particularly subdued. It wasn’t until Han and Leia were reunited that the crowd started to cheer again.
My question to you Maniacs is, when did they add the Dug to Return of the Jedi? Not everything has to sync up from original trilogy to the prequels. I missed this addition in the Blu-ray release. I guess I was too upset about Vader’s “No” at the end to care.
What I became aware of was that, inadvertently or probably by years of practice, I was mouthing the lines from the film. All of them. In a darkened theater this is all right, I suppose. Here, I was sitting in a huge park, in daylight. It doesn’t get dark until at least 9:30 in Germany this time of year. I was sitting around total strangers in plain view. Geek? Yeah, right here. I stopped myself but then I started looking around to see if anyone else was doing it, too.
Because this was Star Wars Celebration, I learned a lot about the film I never knew before. This time I was thrilled to look for Legendary Sound Designer Ben Burtt’s cameo in Return of the Jedi. He is an Imperial Officer in the bunker that tells Han Solo to "Freeze". I didn’t know this until I saw that very same image in the autograph line and his name under it. I learned a few other things this weekend, but I’ll save them for my wrap up on Celebration 2.
There were two really big cheers during the Battle of Endor, only one of which I expected. The place, naturally, erupted for “It’s a trap!”. The other was when the Ewoks smashed one of the AT-ST’s heads in. A big cheer for that.
Then there came that final moment. The one that let me know I was with my people. The insertion of Hayden Christensen is wrong for one reason and one reason only. Obi-Wan and Yoda do not revert back to their younger selves as spirits, so why does Anakin? Lucas could have fixed that with Ewan McGregor and a Yoda puppet or, at the very least, insert Yoda from Revenge of the Sith digitally. When Young Anakin appeared, the crowd grumbled and booed. These Star Wars fans from all over the world were just like me. We hate him being in that scene.
On the ride back, I spoke with a few Germans on the train to the hotel. I was shocked that for this mother and son duo, this was the first time seeing the film in English. Eva, who wore a Star Wars Celebration V (Florida, 2010) t-shirt, said it was still fun. Her son, Stephan, told me that he knew all the lines and had heard them before, but (from start to finish) he had never seen the film in English. They were a delight to talk to and we shared our first day Celebration experiences. It did get me thinking, though. How many Americans didn’t come because of the fear that everything would be in German at Celebration? In actuality, everything was in English. Not one subtitled or translated interview, either. I even went to a French documentary about The Empire Strikes Back and learned the program had been misprinted. It was also in English. I have no doubt that I will being seeing my new friends at Celebration VII in Anaheim come 2015.
Seeing Return of the Jedi again ranks right up there with my 30th Anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark (read about that here). Sure, there wasn’t a star or a director 5 feet in front of me doing a Q&A like last time. No, this was something better. I got to witness the unifying power of Star Wars on a whole new level.
Robert Trate writes three columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.