A new Return of the Jedi trailer has hit the internet — technically it’s the oldest one. Considering it’s been decades since the film’s release, it’s easy to forget that this trailer was released so early in the film’s production that they hadn’t even settled on the title.
The original title for Episode VI had a bit more in common with Episode III, still a few decades later. It was originally called Revenge of the Jedi. It appears George Lucas (or his wife) decided to change the first word before further trailers could be made. Lucas’ wife was very influential in the first trilogy.
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One of the most notable things aside from the change of title in what was actually the first Return of the Jedi trailer was the use of still frames to tease the film’s characters. It didn’t give away the clash with Emperor Palpatine or the Ewoks, but it did spoil the fact that Han Solo would make a comeback after having been frozen in carbonite for delivery to Jabba the Hutt.
Technically, Han Solo’s return didn’t really change the story much. For the first part after being freed, he was blind and couldn’t do much of anything, a fact that Lando Calrissian regretted during the infamous Sarlacc Pit scene. Even then, he didn’t do much and even handed the Millennium Falcon to Lando to finish off the second Death Star.
The Return of the Jedi trailer wasn’t the first one to spoil his return either. Decades later, when J.J. Abrams made its first sequel, he decided to spoil Han’s return once more. Of course, this was for the emotional impact to get the fans excited to see it.
Trailers these days often go for the minor spoiler, such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which revealed Doomsday as the final villain. Sadly, Doomsday wasn’t even in the movie until close to the end, after the DC superheroes already clashed, much like the Dinobots in Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Some of the better trailers these days are made by people who know that less is more. For example, look at the new Beauty and the Beast trailer, which eerily mirrors the original almost beat for beat. It doesn’t give much away for newcomers, and you literally see no one until the very end, when Belle (Emma Watson) stops to stare at a rose.
The Return of the Jedi trailer also teased something fans might have mistaken: a shot of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in what appears to be an elevator. For the uninitiated, this could have indicated his turn to the dark side, something Mark Hamill had actually tried to convince George Lucas to do. Standing side by side with a villain who turned out to be his father in the previous film would make most think the worst. With a title like Revenge of the Jedi, it would have mirrored what George Lucas did to set up the story of Darth Vader in the prequels.
If more trailers like the early Return of the Jedi one were made today, movies might be more enticing and draw a bigger audience. Too many, like the ones for Minions, basically give away half of the movie.
We can thank the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science for this trip down memory lane, with a Return of the Jedi trailer which gives little away and does a lot right.
[Image via Lucasfilm]