Can Star Wars: The Last Jedi rehabilitate Yoda? | Film | The Guardian – The Guardian (blog)

The big story this week for fans of hairy green aliens with a penchant for eccentric syntax is that Yoda looks set to return in upcoming Star Wars sequel The Last Jedi. “Fake news, this is,” I hear you exclaim, in a voice that sounds a bit like Miss Piggy with a cold. “For dead he is.” And you’d be right, from a certain point of view. The erstwhile leader of the Jedi council passed away at the beginning of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, but returned in Force ghost form for the movie’s denouement, so there’s no reason he can’t come back for Rian Johnson’s film – hopefully this time without Hayden Christensen’s leering Anakin Skywalker to keep him company.

There have been rumours for some time that Frank Oz, who voiced Yoda in both the prequels and the original trilogy, was spotted on the set of The Last Jedi at Pinewood Studios last year. Now Oz has been moved to neither confirm nor deny his involvement in an interview with Variety, albeit in a manner that makes it pretty clear he’ll be there or thereabouts when the movie hits multiplexes this December.

“I feel like I’m a prisoner at war here, and I can only give you my name, rank and serial number,” he said. “To be true to the people who asked me, and they are kind of my family, I have to say I’ve been asked not to talk about it. I love Yoda. I would be happy to talk to you about it at the time they let me.”

The Yoda puppet used in the original movies.



The Yoda puppet used in the original movies. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Oz, who was also the voice of Yoda on Star Wars prequels The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, went on to praise JJ Abrams’ work on 2015’s The Force Awakens, while offering a nod to his old chum George Lucas. “I thought JJ Abrams did a great job of synthesising all this information,” he said. “It was a tough thing for JJ to be asked to do – to transition to a new family of Star Wars and still pay homage and respect to the others.

“George would probably have had a more overall arch that would follow the other stories and have a moral depth,” he added. “But, my gosh, what JJ did was really entertaining. It was so much fun.”

So how do we feel about the return of Oz? Part of the problem is that we’ve been here before, back in those halcyon days when Yoda still felt like a creature shrouded in glorious space myth, rather than the irritating CGI homunculus who turns up on a regular basis to try and sell us a new mobile phone. The Jedi master’s appearances in the prequels were a classic case of being careful what you wish for. Fans were desperate to see what the extra-terrestrial was like in his prime, long before he became an aged exile living in a stinky swamp on Dagobah. Only on discovering that the pre-prequels Yoda was an annoying, po-faced blend of Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout and Sonic the Hedgehog, did we realise our mistake.

It may be that Yoda only appears fleetingly in The Last Jedi, but Johnson still has to make sure he gets it right. One of The Force Awakens’ key achievements, despite the movie’s many flaws, is that it successfully wiped clean our memories of the awful prequels and made Star Wars feel like Star Wars again. It turned out that most of us would accept any number of plot holes, borrowed ideas and lost threads as the price of returning the saga to its knockabout space opera roots.

In similar fashion, the return of the Jedi master will need to restore Yoda’s classic appearance, while ensuring he looks as if he belongs in Star Wars’ brave new post-Lucas world. A combination of Oz’s voice and old-school puppetry with additional CGI special effects to add life to the emerald-skinned alien’s features – a la Steven Spielberg’s subtle work on ET for the 20th anniversary version in 2002 – appears to be the most sensible approach. But Johnson also has to bear in mind that there is more at stake here than just The Last Jedi. If Yoda’s return proves popular, that potentially sets Luke’s mentor up for further adventures in the past, via one of Disney’s standalone Star Wars Story movies. A younger version of Yoda will require a level of dexterity and flexibility that would only be made possible with motion-capture CGI. It would therefore be sensible to make such a leap for the alien’s appearance in The Last Jedi, if only to ensure continuity.

Fans will be keeping a close eye on events, and let’s hope the hate, suffering and anger is kept to a minimum when audiences get to see the new Star Wars film for the first time this December. For no amount of sage advice from our big-eared extra-terrestrial friend on the dangers of losing one’s temper will be enough to prevent Star Wars fans going seriously dark side on social media if Johnson gets this one wrong.

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