When it comes to the Return of the Jedi, I have to admit that until very recently, it was my favourite of the Star Wars films. I’ve been swayed into considering The Empire Strikes Back as my favourite, but for the longest time, The Return of the Jedi had that honour for me. The reason being, I love R2-D2 and C-3PO in this film. The human characters, place a great deal of faith and trust in their two robotic companions, to help them defeat their enemies and overcome the obstacles in their path.
The relationship of R2-D2 and C-3PO in all of the films is something very special. They are barely companions in the prequels, and their roles are lesser in the prequels, at least C-3PO’s is not as developed. The explanation of his paranoia in the original trilogy, his fears of being taken apart and becoming useless to his masters are well founded when you learn that he has his memory wiped. He must know that it has happened, and it is hinted at in A New Hope that he vaguely remembers working on moisture farm before. Also there is no mention of what R2-D2 remembers from the prequels, and being described as eccentric by C-3PO probably stems from him mentioning what happened in the past that his friend can’t remember.
And that is what they are: they are friends. C-3PO frets over R2’s safety in battle, and offers parts to fix him when he’s damaged. His despair when he proclaims ‘Why do you have to be so brave?” on the forest moon of Endor can only be interpreted as an attachment to his companion; he is worried about his friend who charges into battle. It’s beautiful, and in the film the attachment that Luke has to them is equally as lovely to watch.
I don’t doubt that Luke is as concerned about the droids as he is about his living companions when they enter Jabba’s Palace. Leia trusts R2 to comply with her orders in A New Hope with completing a mission and protecting the Death Star plans, though she probably doesn’t expect the level of devotion R2-D2 give to his mission. It hints very strongly that he remembers exactly what his former master did and even recognises that it was wrong, and that with the addition of the prequels that determination is not simply his compliance with orders from a human. In Return of the Jedi Luke trusts R2 to be there in the crucial moments of the fight against Jabba. He also knows C-3PO well enough to know exactly how he would react to being given as a gift to Jabba, which makes the plot to get Han out all the more convincing.
The pair of droids are my far, some of my favourite characters in the entire series, and I love how their story and their rise to ‘god-like’ status culminates in the last film. I can’t wait to see how they are developed for the new films, because it wouldn’t be Star Wars without them.
Something else, though that has changed my opinion on the film, is the impact that prequels have on the character of the Emperor. The plotting and scheming to set up the rebellion in the trap, makes a hell of a lot more sense since the prequels. Of course he’s confident it’s going to work, he masterminded a civil war in the Republic in order to build armies and the mechanisms of his planned Empire, and destroyed the one threat in his way: the Jedi.
Of course he thinks that luring the rebellion into a simple trap is going to solve his problems. And Luke is right; his over-confidence is his weakness. The Emperor doesn’t see that having faith in his friends and the Ewoks is not weakness, but it Luke’s strength. He stays long enough to see that C-3PO had swayed the Ewoks into being their allies. He trusts that the Ewoks will help now, because of the importance they place on C-3PO and his position as a god. Given the Ewoks overpowered the rebels he knows they aren’t just a bunch of ‘teddy bears’ there to make the film appealing to children. They are fierce warriors in their natural environment who have accepted his friends as part of their tribe. He probably also knows that the Emperor, if he even knows about them existing, wouldn’t have anticipated their mark on his plans.
Having faith in the good man who was his father is Luke’s mission, even if he knows the redemption might cost him his life. It is a sacrifice he is willing to make in order to stand up for what he believes in and facing the Emperor is something no other Jedi can do.
The prequels also means that you know what it is that Darth Vader truly does in killing the Emperor at the end. He overthrows his Sith master, the one who tricked him down the path to the dark side. I don’t like the addition of Hayden Christenson’s Anakin at the end of the new editions of the film. I will admit it does make sense, because it was the father that saved his son, not the Sith Lord who killed his master. It’s nice to think, that he turned back into Anakin when he is glancing between his master and his son who is being tortured on the floor, by considering what Padme would have said and done in the same situation, and then he did it.