You should have bargained, Lucas
October 6, 2009 10:38 PM   Subscribe

I watched a film called "Return Of The Jedi" recently. Perhaps some of you have seen it. In the first act, a motley band of heroes executes an ingenious plan to rescue a comrade from an obese crime lord. Wait, what exactly was their ingenious plan?

Because it seems like the plan was that they would all get captured and then Luke would save them. There's this whole thing that Luke is going to trade the droids for Han Solo, but I can't imagine that that was a good faith offer. Leia unfreezes Han Solo, seemingly intending to sneak out of the palace, but that fails, and even if it had worked, you've traded one captured ally for three -- the droids for Solo and Chewbacca. Luke takes a blaster from a guard and tries to shoot Jabba, so maybe the plan was for Luke to take the palace by force, but why endanger the others?

I'm aware that there's probably not an answer to this other than "it's a dumb movie," but I'm often amazed at the ability of Star Wars fans and critics to make sense of the senseless pieces of these movies, and I've never read a satisfying explanation for this. Anybody have any ideas or know of any sources that shed light?
posted by chrchr to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
The basic idea is that you can feel patterns in The Force and they will guide you in ways that will ultimately be to your advantage even if you don't really understand at the time what they're up to.

There wasn't a plan. What they had was Luke's intuition based on his sensitivity to The Force that each of them should do what they were shown doing.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:41 PM on October 6, 2009

The movies, by and large, aren't all that well written. Most of the joy taken from the dialogue of the original films was due to adlibbing by the actors. Apocryphally, Harrison Ford supposedly told Lucas, 'You can write this stuff, but we certainly can't say it.' when complaining about the jargon filled scripts.

The Jabba's Palace rescue is the sign of a hack writter trying to find a way to get all the main players in one place, so all the fans will be happy. Fanservice does not usually equal good screenwriting.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:45 PM on October 6, 2009

The screenplays to Empire and Return of the Jedi were written by Lawrence Kasdan, and are excellent by any standard.

I think there were several plans:

Luke and his direct-challenge/Jedi powers/fake-droid-offer thingie.
Leia and her fake bounty hunter thing.
Lando and his pretend-to-be-a-guard thing.

The point, besides getting all the characters together, is that Han, who once cared only about himself, has become a good friend and a lot of people care about him.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:58 PM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Because it seems like the plan was that they would all get captured and then Luke would save them.

The plan is that R2D2 will save them by giving Luke his lightsaber at a critical juncture. This works because Artoo is actually the most important and competent agent of the Rebel Alliance.
posted by dersins at 11:02 PM on October 6, 2009 [45 favorites]

Besides rescuing their friend, each one is also doing something important to him or her character

Luke is proving he is a full-fledged Jedi and unafraid of confronting any enemy directly. He's also repaying his friend who saved him in Star Wars. Furthermore, he tries to be a good Jedi by looking for a non-violent solution before he starts killing. (It is unclear if he really would have sold the droids into slavery in order to rescue Han.)

Leia is showing her love for Han by taking such a risk to save him on her own.

Lando is trying to make up for his betrayal of Han in Empire.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:04 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't think Lando forgot the plan. He was the mole, totally unnoticed and, well, not really good for much of anything except dangling over the Sarlaac, providing an opportunity for witty banter.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:05 PM on October 6, 2009

In summary, the characters act each according to their own internal motivations and needs- not necessarily in the most coldly logical way. JUST LIKE ALL CHARACTERS IN ALL GOOD FILMS AND LITERATURE THROUGHOUT HISTORY.

If you honestly think it is a poorly written screenplay- well, no. All great movies contain situations at least this contrived.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:08 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

She spent at least 3 months as Jabba's plaything before Luke showed up.

No, not possible. Han was still suffering from the after effects of having been frozen when they were out in the desert. Ordinarily those effects wear off in a few hours. Leia unfroze Han in the night, and Luke showed up the next morning.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:15 PM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to mention that in an earlier draft, Lando dies in the attack on Death Star II, atoning for his betrayal of Han.
posted by Kirklander at 11:41 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's well plotted, except in the sense that it offers a roller-coaster ride of suspense: what are they doing? ooh, it's a trick! damn, it didn't work! what will they do now? ooh!

But some of the tricks would have required planning, so I imagine the elements were a) get the droids inside; b) Leia unfreezes Han; c) Luke gets his light saber from R2 at a key moment. Luke's confidence is pretty damn high, but this is a guy ready to take on Darth Vader-- crimelords are just a warmup for him.

It does seem like there are holes in the plan... every successful infiltration is also one more hostage to rescue; Lando doesn't seem to help much; and I can't figure out why getting Chewbacca imprisoned accomplishes anything at all. And what if Jabba had decided to leave the droids at home during the Sarlacc picnic?
posted by zompist at 11:42 PM on October 6, 2009

Shortly before the Battle of Endor, Luke Skywalker infiltrated the palace of Jabba the Hutt. He simply strolled in, unarmed, using his Jedi talents to bypass guards and servants, and presented the Hutt with an ultimatum -- free his captive friends or die. It would seem Luke's bid failed miserably, for his attempt resulted in his capture.

But it was all part of Luke's plan. With the rancor dead by Skywalker's hand, Jabba plotted to have the Jedi killed by his second-favorite form of execution -- by feeding him to the Sarlacc. Jabba, aboard his stately sail barge, led an execution party into the desert. Skywalker achieved his objective of bringing all his friends outside the palace. In the heart of Dune Sea, Skywalker triggered his escape plan, which culminated in the death of Jabba the Hutt, and the collapse of the gangster's criminal empire.
So I guess the plan was to get an inside man for assistance, droids for the lightsaber, Leia to free Han, and Luke to kill the Rancor so they could get out of the palace. Only if Han was out of the palace could they effect an escape. It is a bad plan, but what do you want from a guy who didn't even finish Jedi school.
posted by arruns at 11:44 PM on October 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

It's easy enough for third parties to flesh out the plot of a film retrospectively by ascribing complex motivations and creating imaginary off-screen events.

I can't read Star Wars as anything other than a set of action set-pieces with a plot thrown on top to link them into a story. Which is not a criticism. The film is what it is - a family adventure yarn in the spirit of Flash Gordon or Zorro. It was unfortunately that in his later films, Lucas bought into the entire preposterous alternative reality dreamt up by his fans, and the whole thing got bogged down in silliness.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:11 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites] which I mean don't try to read anything into the apparent lack of a coherent plan.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:12 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that Leia is Luke's twin (not identical, obviously) and probably has the genetic Force powers, too, even if she doesn't know it. But that gal could work a blaster and knew how all the politics worked.

Didn't Yoda and ObiWan mention her as "the other one" at some point before it was revealed Luke and Leia were siblings?

So, two of them on the same rescue team...
posted by lilywing13 at 2:13 AM on October 7, 2009

I just wanted to mention that in an earlier draft, Lando dies in the attack on Death Star II, atoning for his betrayal of Han.

A more sensible bit of closure, that. Pulled back from the brink when audiences objected to losing such a beloved spaceship as the Millennium Falcon.

I always read the rescue 'plan' as a whole lot of bickering, as each character tried their own independent gambit that failed before Luke's finally worked.

It's easy to imagine Carrie Fisher's Leia saying "You're gonna lurk around with the guards for six months? Screw that, I'm bringing a grenade."
posted by rokusan at 4:02 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, this question has always bugged me as well. From memory Luke walks in there unarmed and offers Jabba some sort of deal to get back Solo, without mentioning the droids at all. He obviously expects the negotiation to fail, so why bother going in unarmed. Forget about a convoluted plan, just let Luke go in first armed with his magic sword set to dice!
The whole official "Jedi are guided by The Force so everything works out for them" idea is stupid - there are a thousand more straightforward ways a rescue could have been effected, none of them involving the droids or the princess at all.
It seems to me that if the rebels really wanted Solo back so badly they could have mustered a decent assault force to take out the 6 guards in the palace if they wanted to. And if they didn't really need Solo, why let their best pilot and the princess go off on some side mission while a big attack was planned?
posted by AndrewStephens at 4:03 AM on October 7, 2009

If plans in movies ever went the way they were supposed to without a hitch, every movie would be about 11 minutes long.

I read somewhere a little while ago that every single plot in the Indiana Jones series would have worked out exactly the same way had Indiana Jones simply not shown up. If you think about it too hard, most movie plans kind of go like that.
posted by xingcat at 4:48 AM on October 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

Well remember, if everyone in every story behaved in an entirely rational way, there would be no conflict and thus no story. I mean, why did Hitler invade France, nobody could be that dumb it's just not believable!

Anyway, besides that I was always under the impression that Luke and Leia had totally unrelated plans. She goes to save him on her own, and just happens to be there when Luke shows up trying his plan. She did get him unfrozen.

Also the more people fighting on the sand cruiser, the better.
posted by delmoi at 4:51 AM on October 7, 2009

I always saw the plan as one setup for contingencies. Lando went in simply to be the man inside, there if needed should problems arise. The droids were sent in again, to get sources of information in, and also, to smuggle a lightsaber into the place. That way Luke could get as far as he did and try to use a naive attempt at impressing Jabba that he was a Jedi. I'd guess the plan would have been, Leia gets Han out, Lando grabs Chewie and the droids, and everyone meets outside. The lightsaber was the back up, if all else fails plan.

Chewie was Leia's legitimacy to get to hang out in Jabba's court.

Don't try and see it as some masterful plan, but just a plan.

Also, the Rebel Alliance wouldn't have anything to gain from taking on one of the largest crime syndicates in the Outer Rim, if not the galaxy. Any confrontation against Jabba would have to have been just by Luke and Co.
posted by Atreides at 5:09 AM on October 7, 2009

The plan all along was to kill up Boba Fett. You can't have Boba Fett on the loose when your trying to get things done.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:38 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm aware that there's probably not an answer to this other than "it's a dumb movie,"

It's needs to be seen in a thematic light as opposed to strictly literal. At the end of Empire, the heroes were scattered, weak and injured. Rescuing Han showed that they were back together and in full force. Luke comes into his own, Lando redeems himself and Han forgives him, Leia kills Jabba. That point isn't that it was a bad plan, but rather that when those group of people are working together, not even a bad plan can stop them from achieving victory. The Rebels are constantly improvising, being organic and doing the best they can against the static gray forces of the Empire and because of that they win.

I still want to know how Luke became a Jedi without a mentor to help him finish and why his sister kept kissing him through the other two movies. Awkward Thanksgiving dinners, you know?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 AM on October 7, 2009

I still want to know how Luke became a Jedi without a mentor to help him finish

Haven't you noticed by now that no one actually completes Jedi training? Qui-Gon dies while Obi-Wan is still technically under his tutelage. No wonder Anakin left his Jedi Master for the Sith Lord carnival up the street. He could only fail Jedi basketweaving so many times before he realized the whole thing is a tuition scam.

As for the original question: I don't think any of the trade offers were legitimate. There's a whole bad-guys-hang-by-their-own-rope mentality in the Star Wars universe, and our motley band of adventurers were counting on that piece of philosophy more than any other.

And infiltration followed by one man's rescue of all players absolutely has precedence. Where would any of them be if Obi-Wan hadn't disabled the tractor beam in episode 4? A lunch special at the Death Star canteen, that's where.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:12 AM on October 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

You know, it always struck me that Luke had a moment of overconfidence in being a Jedi Knight when he went into Jabba's Palace. I mean, even Yoda and Obi-Wan later on said he can't be a true Jedi Knight until he faces Vader, and if you look at Mark Hamill's acting [insert fangirl sigh here], it would seem that Luke is trying to be something he isn't quite yet. He's almost there, but not yet. And you can tell because his intended plan --- whatever it is, goes wrong.

My thought was that at some key point, the plan goes wrong ---- I mean, Luke was expecting his Jedi mind tricks to work on Jabba and they didn't. Artoo having the lightsaber was Plan B, either through Artoo's incredible competence or because Luke had doubts about his abilities.

That said, I don't think most of "Jedi" makes sense until you've watched "Empire Strikes Back". Skipping "A New Hope" is okay because "A New Hope" is almost a one-off -- like, if it hadn't done so well I wonder if "Empire" would ever have been made? "A New Hope" introduces everyone. "Empire" solidifies and binds the trilogy, and "Jedi" ends the story --- arguably not as well as it should, but I happen to like the Ewoks. But viewing "Empire" is really necessary to following the beginning of "Jedi." And it is the best in the trilogy.
posted by zizzle at 6:20 AM on October 7, 2009

What spoilsports. The first act of Jedi may be a bit illogical but it is pure joy -- action / comedy / geekery entirely up to the mark of the Empire. It's the second and third acts where it all falls down -- Ewoks and "let's once again go after the secret flaw in the Death Star."
posted by MattD at 6:25 AM on October 7, 2009

Mod note: few comments removed - can we maybe leave the "I wrote my own ending" parts out of this? thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:46 AM on October 7, 2009

Luke trying to make a deal with Jabba is a kind of feint, which Jabba might well expect from a Jedi. Had Luke just gone in blasting, then gotten captured, Jabba might have regarded that act as a feint - and might have been more suspicious that there were other elements at play (droids showing up at about the same time). This way, Jabba would have figured that, yes, the Jedi guy had a somewhat complex plan, but by foiling plan B (the blasting/fighting following the failed deal), he'd foiled the totality of the plan.
posted by amtho at 6:53 AM on October 7, 2009

Look, Lando wasn't sent in. It was his job. You think he could get top-shelf work after cutting the deal with Vader? No! You think that he was allowed to work in the Rebel alliance after betraying them? No! Working as a "guard" for Jabba was pretty much the best job he could get. So take that out of the picture entirely.

Leia isn't part of the "plan" either. She has her own plan motivated by wanting to rub herself all of Han. Chewie, now a not-so-closeted bondage freak (after the Star Wars binder incident and the Empire imprisonment), agrees to come along just to be in shackles. You'd think he could get that anywhere, but it's the edge that gets to him - play is not simply enough. What can I say? Wookiees are complicated.

Anyway Leia's loin motivated actions only let her think far enough ahead to bring a thermal detonator. She should have brought two and used at least one. Nonetheless, it was ill-conceived and Luke knew it, which is why he sent in the droids first, figuring he'd have to cut everyone up. Luke knows that Jabba is experienced with Jedi and would confiscate any weaponry he brought, so he hid the light saber on R2. Meanwhile, Luke attempted to rescue the Rancor, as per PETA's directives, but that failed when he accidentally killed it while trying to open the outside door and instead closing the inside door. Then he actually succeeded in the second part of PETA's directives which were to prevent Jabba from continuing to feed alien meat to Sarlacc. That the rest of the people could be rescued too was an added bonus.

Lando was granted a token position in the rebellion. A highly dangerous token position. Coincidence? I think not.
posted by plinth at 7:17 AM on October 7, 2009 [7 favorites]

Remember the scene on Endor when C3PO is relating the entirety of our Heroes' Adventures™, complete with sound effects, to the highly flammable race of delicious teddy bears? C3PO is George Lucas and we're the highly flammable race of delicious teddy bears and the currency that 3PO values so highly is our oohs and ahhs because it makes us want more. It doesn't matter if it makes sense. As a matter of fact, the less cohesive the storyline, the more allowable shiny! The more shiny, the more ohhs and ahhs!

And in the end? Exploding NotMoons, dead ewoks, ghost Jedi! Yay! Moremoremoredrool!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:23 AM on October 7, 2009

If memory serves, I believe the plan was to just use the Jedi Mind trick on Jabba, but it turns out that he's immune to it. The wacky plan happened only after Luke failed. Luke just didnt know that Jabba's race is immune to the mind trick.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:37 AM on October 7, 2009

The was awesome. I don't know what all of you people are talking about. Droids getting captured. Brilliant! Leia and Chewy getting captured. Great strategy. Lando moonlighting as a guard. An excellent way to fund the rebel alliance. As for Luke coming in unarmed and getting captured only to be led to the sand pit monster, he knew that a climatic desert battle was going to take place and that they would win. Why didn't they send in a squad of rebel commandos led by a jedi knight? Explosions are fun that's why.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:56 AM on October 7, 2009

Luke ignores the whole "Empirical Evidence Strikes Back" factor; and know that he has faith in the force. With that knowledge; everything works out fine.

It's religion for atheists.
posted by buzzman at 8:22 AM on October 7, 2009

There's a book called Shadows of the Empire covering the time between ESB and RotJ. It's been ten years since I read it, but I think it covers the planning stages of the rescue. I don't remember any of the details, though. More info here, maybe?
posted by supercres at 8:30 AM on October 7, 2009

Turns out my memory isnt so bad afterall:
BIB (in Huttese subtitled)
He must be allowed to speak.

Jabba, furious, clobbers Bib and shoves him away.

JABBA (in Huttese subtitled)
You weak-minded fool! He's using an old Jedi
mind trick.

Luke stares hard at Jabba.

You will bring Captain Solo and the Wookiee
to me.

JABBA (in Huttese subtitled)
Your mind powers will not work on me, boy.
This is where Luke pisses his pants.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:33 AM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

If memory serves, I believe the plan was to just use the Jedi Mind trick on Jabba, but it turns out that he's immune to it. The wacky plan happened only after Luke failed. Luke just didnt know that Jabba's race is immune to the mind trick.

This is the answer, at least to the question of Luke's plan. Luke was still getting the hang of his Jedi powers and was planning to mind trick Jabba into releasing Han. Fortunately, he had prepared a Plan B by giving his lightsaber to R2D2 in case he was captured.
posted by hayvac at 8:56 AM on October 7, 2009

The Sarlacc is actually calling all of the shots. You would not _believe_ the strings it had to pull to get that Boba Fett snack.
posted by Caviar at 11:07 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ahh, mandalorian clone meat... bred for dociliciousness.
posted by condour75 at 6:34 PM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

The screenplays to Empire and Return of the Jedi were written by Lawrence Kasdan, and are excellent by any standard.

And Empire was actually by Leigh Brackett^ (then script-doctored by Kasdan), who performed the script doctoring for many films, often uncredited -- but notably for William Faulkner on The Big Sleep. It's why it's easily the best of the entire series. Sorry, Ghidorah.

I think the "all the characters in one place, performing their story function" rationale works best. It's one of those things that works on film, but not necessarily on paper, and may not stand up to years of rewatching.

I think ape has a point, though -- if Luke's plan had worked, there would have been no tension in the scene. So for story purposes it had to fail, and then everybody came into play with all their POW-fighting-in-the-rear prowess.
posted by dhartung at 9:34 PM on October 7, 2009

So for story purposes it had to fail, and then everybody came into play with all their POW-fighting-in-the-rear prowess.

Isn't this the point of dramatic storytelling anyway? If all plans always worked, most stories would be kind of boring.
posted by Caviar at 7:33 AM on October 8, 2009

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