When David Lynch directed Return Of The Jedi instead of Dune

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In the unknowable, infinite quantum tangle of the fifth dimension there is a parallel universe which broke away at a tangent from our own in 1980. On a Wednesday.

On this particular Wednesday, David Lynch had lunch with George Lucas and, in a schism from our reality, accepted the offer to direct Return Of The Jedi.

The resulting motion picture was a startling conclusion to the Star Wars Trilogy. The only trailer that was shown ahead of the release featured a time-lapse shot of a melting snowman followed by the one word query, ‘JEDI?’ strobing wildly on the screen for 30 seconds in complete silence.

By the time of the opening weekend in 1983, anticipation was at fever pitch. Fans queued days in advance and media coverage was at complete saturation.

The first audiences were immediately concerned to find that most of the principle cast had been replaced by geriatric dwarfs, covered in cobwebs. They were further surprised by a non-linear, dream-like plot seemingly concerned with the discovery of an evil mirror. It ran for 263 minutes and contained:

  • Very few clear references to events or characters from the previous films, apart from a repeated sequence featuring Mark Hamill being wrapped in clingfilm while slurring “My Uncle Owen. He know karate. He know it real good”.
  • Documentary footage from an abattoir which flashed across the screen every time the word ‘Force’ was used.
  • A soundtrack composed almost entirely of sampled wolf howls played backwards at very low speed.
  • An ambiguous conclusion in which Darth Vader’s head split open to reveal a small, wizened duck. The duck sang ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ in a menacing baritone while a skinless Han Solo jumped backwards through a hoop of fire.

Return Of The Jedi played to sold out cinemas around the world for two solid years, becoming the most successful and widely seen film of all time. Lucas’ percentage facilitated his controversial purchase of the Vatican and appointment as Pope. Lynch retreated to a mansion in the Catskills, speaking to no-one for three years before suddenly releasing what would be considered his avant-garde masterpiece: Basil, The Great Mouse Detective.

1983 was a cultural landmark in the tangent universe. The film industry shifted its focus towards the surreal, challenging and experimental. As a result, previously obscure filmmakers and artists have shaped the cinematic landscape for the last 30 years: Jodorowsky got to make his 32 hour version of Dune, Jim Jarmusch has made the last five Bond Films and no-one has ever heard of Zack Snyder.

But we don’t live in that universe, so here we are.

Note: This pointless meandering was originally written as the introduction to Underclass Issue 1 – which you can download for free from the Publications page.

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