Regardless of what you think of Return of the Jedi, one thing that it does very well is the art of the reveal. There are a lot of reasons why people like Star Wars, and nowadays there are various entry points through which people will first experience the saga. Back in 1983 though there was only one Trilogy and Return of the Jedi was to act as it’s closing installment. As a result, most people in ’83 were buying their popcorn waiting to see the three main characters around which the saga rotated. That’s right; everyone wanted to see how Han, Luke and Leia – the big three – had fared since The Empire Strikes Back. To it’s eternal credit Return of the Jedi handled the unveiling of those characters in a masterly fashion. All three characters would be revealed partially at first, before getting a full reveal, as the film teased viewers with its opening sequence.
As with many things in Star Wars, Threepio and Artoo were used as a means of facilitation. The movie opens with a familiar scenario of Artoo on mission and Threepio not fully up to speed with plans. They make their way through the desert of Tatooine, and approaching the entrance to Jabba’s palace. Much to Threepio’s disappointment there are plenty of people at home when they knock.
Partial Reveal 1 – Luke (Hologram)
Once inside, Artoo uses the audience the pair gain with “His Excellency” Jabba the Hutt, to begin to reveal our beloved heroes. Luke is up first…except not quite. Rather than seeing Luke Skywalker in the flesh, we get a partial reveal of his character, rendered as a hologram. So Marquand and Lucas give us Luke, but hold back on letting us see him presented in person.
Partial Reveal 2 – Han (in Carbonite)
It is revealed through the hologram that Luke, who announces himself as a Jedi, is seeking an audience with Jabba to negotiate for Han Solo’s life. He offers the two droids (much to Threepio’s horror) as a token of his goodwill. The following is Jabba’s response, and Threepio’s exclamation, as we get a further partial reveal that shows us the second of the three lead characters, Han Solo without us actually seeing the character in person…
Jabba: “I will not give up my favourite decoration…I like Captain Solo where he is”
Threepio: “Artoo, look! Its Captain Solo and he’s still frozen in carbonite!”
See scene here.
Partial Reveal 3 – Leia (as Boushh)
So far the film has presented Luke and Han to us, without us actually seeing them in person within the scene. That leaves us with Leia Organa, and guess what…again viewers are introduced to her…but without actually knowing it.
Chewbacca is used in this section as a diversion to offset the viewer. We see him hauled into the Palace by a bounty hunter in the garb of Boushh. The negotiation between the bounty hunter and Jabba over Chewie’s price tag proves one thing, that this bounty hunter is a dab hand at aggressive negotiations. [See scene here]
Full Reveal 1 – Han
It is only later, when we see Boussh creeping about at night time, moving towards the carbonite form of Han Solo that we get the best reveal of the film. Boussh unfreezes Solo, and we finally get the full reveal of Han in person. Han is the first of the three central characters to greet us “in the flesh” on screen and we see him in a weakened state.
Full Reveal 2 – Leia
As Solo grapples with hibernation sickness and blindness he asks who it was that saved him. The reply, as the bounty hunter pulls off the distinctive mask, gives us the second full reveal, as Leia is revealed as the one donning the bounty hunter garb. “Someone who loves you” is her reply, and the audience almost whoops with joy at the reuniting of the pair. It is an important exchange that shows Leia as the first line rescuer, and Han as the dependent. [see scene here]. It is a reassuring scene also, given the trauma of the pair’s parting in The Empire Strikes Back.
Full Reveal 3 – Luke
All this leaves us ready for the Original Trilogy triumvirate to be reunited in one location with the appearance of Luke Skywalker, the Original Trilogy’s central character. Although the planning of the rescue mission is only made clear later, it is in the initial dramatic scenes of his entrance to Jabba’s Palace that we know this is a different Luke than we have seen before. He is in charge and in control, and he’s mastered the old Jedi Mind Trick even if it doesn’t work on Hutts. Yes, after a long and masterly process we finally have all three main stars in person. Luke has arrived…Rancors beware.
It is not uncommon for fans to complain about the length of this opening segment in Jabba’s Palace. For me though it is a carefully crafted sequence of events that excels in deferred gratification through the process of partial and full character reveals. It would be remiss, however, if this article were to conclude without a mention of everyone’s favorite gambler Lando Calrissian (or should that be Tamtel Skreej?) who is to be seen throughout the sequence in disguise. It’s a fun costume, but Lando’s appearance throughout this sequence is important, remember we don’t fully know at this point if he is trustworthy. After we see him pop up here, and on the sail barge, we know that he is on board with the Rebel’s mission.
So remember, next time you feel like skipping the opening scenes of Return of the Jedi, you may want to watch instead – there is an interesting choreography at play that’s worth paying attention to.
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