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Return of the Jedi

A movie directed by Richard Marquand

< read all 4 reviews

Episode VI: Full Circle Back to The Force

  • May 29, 2005
Pros: Includes every aspect about Star Wars we love

Cons: Sometimes looks like George Lucas was too ambitious for its own good

The Bottom Line: One more Star Wars movie to review...

There’s a reason Return of the Jedi was snubbed for any Oscar nominations back in 1983: From a purely technical standpoint, this is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The performances just aren’t as good as they were previously, the editing stinks, the dialogue is of poor quality, and the movie takes place in three very disticnt sections. The first is the story of Han’s rescue on Tatooine, the second is a bunch of random character mishmash that hhappens in space and on Dagobah, and the third is a very consistent montage of scenarios - one on the forest moon of Endor in which Han’s crew takes out the new Death Star’s shield generator, the humongous space battle taking place near the Death Star, and the scenario between Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker on the Death Star itself. It would be really bad if it wasn’t so gosh darn fun.

In Return of the Jedi, Lucas comes off like he just got too ambitious and tried to include the best aspects of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. To a point it works out quite well, but the constant scene switches tend to throw you off just as you’re growing comfortable with the scene you’re currently seeing. Watch Lando destroy an Imperial TIE Fighter, switch! Han shoots a few Stormtroopers, snapshot! Emperor Palpatine says ten more lines to temp Luke, then the cycle repeats itself. And if you own the special edition of Jedi, I feel truly sorry for you. Hope’s only noteworthy upgrade was a wasted scene featuring Jabba the Hutt, who in the scene looks like he’d been dieting right before the events chronicled. Empire got off completely unscathed, more helped than hurt by its upgrades. In Jedi, however, you’d need extra fingers to count the horrors: The Rancor Monster has an unsightly black outline, the movie periodically switches from grainy old 80s footage to cleaner footage, actors sometimes become silhouettes when walking off into the distance, the music in the end scene was changed, and the Max Rebo Band scene was completely destroyed - the music changed, and the computer effects clash with the puppets. The only decent upgrade was a view of a heard of Banthas seen just before the execution at the Pit of the Sarlac.

These changes don’t mean the end of the universe, though. If you’re strong enough to endure the distractions, the only end that will come about in the special edition of Jedi is the same it always had - that of Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and the entire Galactic Empire. The whole Jabba the Hutt matter is also resolved when Luke’s attempt to peacefully negotiate the release of Han results in Jabba’s death and the rather spectacular blowing up of his personal sail barge. Yoda, after 800 years of training Jedi Knights, calls it quits, tells Luke he must face Vader before he becomes a full-fledged Jedi, and becomes one with The Force. I guess I’m currently giving the long-winded version of the phrase “everything is wrapped up in a neat little package” in reference to both the original trilogy and the entire saga altogether.

Return of the Jedi begins on the Death Star. Yes, there’s another one, much bigger and more powerful than the original, and protected by a special shield generated on the nearby forest moon of Endor since the Empire is now aware of the fact that their invincible battle station is extremely vulnerable to the average Rebel starfighter. It’s not quite finished yet, but it’s operational by the big battle scene, which pleases Emperor Palpatine, who visits to be blown up when the Rebels destroy it in the end. Meanwhile, C-3PO and R2-D2 are back where they started in A New Hope - on Luke’s home planet of Tatooine, only this time they’re walking up to the door of Jabba the Hutt’s palace so they can knock on the door and ask to be let in. They’re there to give Mighty Jabba a message from Luke Skywalker negotiating Han’s release. Jabba refuses, but he keeps the gift Luke offered - C-3PO and R2-D2 - anyway. 3PO is put to work as Jabba’s personal translator while R2 is given the demeaning task of serving drinks from the bar on the Master’s sail barge. Obviously forseeing the result, Lando, Leia, Chewbacca, and Luke all manage some very creative ways into the palace to rescue their friend. Of course they’re found out, and after Jabba’s attempt to feed Luke to his pet Rancor falls through, an angry Jabba treats everyone at his palace to a public execution at the pit of the Sarlac. This goes awry when Luke shows off his new Jedi powers, and everyone leaves Tatooine in one piece.

Luke then goes to Dagobah to finish his training, but learns that he’s already done and only has to pass the Jedi bar exam - face Darth Vader. He also gets confirmation that Vader is indeed his father, only to be burdened by another paternal secret that Obi-wan never bothered to tell him. Han and gang reunite with the Rebel fleet to learn the new Death Star’s weakness, organize a crew for a ground strike, get the fleet organized for an offensive, and start out their missions. Then we go to Endor, where our heroes meet Ewoks, cute teddy-bear-like creatures that help them destroy the shield generator that’s invulnerable-ating the Death Star, so the Rebel fleet can knock it out. Somewhere along the line, Luke is taken to the Death Star by Vader, where he not only passes his bar exam with flying colors, but exposes his father’s good side and brings balance back to The Force.

At this point, there’s barely anything left for me to write about, since I’ve reviewed every movie in the Star Wars saga except for Episode III (and only because I haven’t been able to see it yet). But Jabba the Hutt, for the first time in the original trilogy, (discounting his brief cameo in the special edition of A New Hope,) Jabba shows up in all his bloated glory. He’s not actually evil - not by the Star Wars usage of the phrase, anyway - but he’s got a bad temper, a short fuse, and an aura that’s actually pretty evil-feeling, especially for a puppet. Emperor Palpatine also shows up for the first time in the flesh, and he shows us what Force Lightning is during the post-lightsaber duel climactic scene.

I don’t mind the Ewoks. I’ll say that right now. They’re all over the place on Endor - especially the brown hunter known as Wicket - but I still don’t mind them being there, not one bit. I can accept the idea that the essential help they provide to the small band of Rebels on Endor is illogical, since they knock off stormtroopers using slingshots and stones, and knock off AT-STs using logs hung up in trees, but George Lucas recently said that the idea behind the Ewoks was to show that will and determination will beat out use of technology. And you have to admit, those cute little teddies certainly didn’t want those Imperials walking around on their turf or beating on their new friends or their god. (They seem to believe C-3PO is some sort of deity.)

The person originally slated to direct this thing was none other than master filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Unfortunately - and obviously - Spielberg wasn’t able add his magic touch to Return of the Jedi. What a shame - if Spielberg at the helm, I’m certain that some of the scenes would definitely have been more interesting. The final space shootout is very big and very ambitious, but it’s not nearly as well-choreographed as the space shootout in A New Hope. What we get are short scenes revolving around the Millennium Falcon (which Lando is piloting for the big show this time). Rarely more than two minutes long, we’re given just enough time to get used to the fact that Han isn’t in the cockpit, then a couple of outside shots usually involving the Falcon destroying one or two TIE Fighters. The scene only allows you to really get into it at the very end, when Lando leads a handfull of Alliance pilots into the center of the Death Star through a very narrow space while being tailed by Imperial fighters - and at that point is doesn’t matter very much anymore because the shield generator quest has been completed and Luke is in the midst of getting zapped by Palpatine’s Force Lightning. The lightsaber duel has similar problems - it’s furious and action-packed, but there’s nothing interesting to note about it, and the editors cut away from it at regular intervals. The Endor scenes give you the most idea of what’s going on, but I’m bothered by one thing - how did so many Stormtroopers show up in the short period betweeen the time the Rebel strike team entered the Imperial shield bunker for the first time and the time they were captured and forced out? I guess it’s just another bit of weird Star Warsian logic.

Performances are undoubtedly the worst of the original trilogy. Not that they’re that bad, mind you, especially considering the sorry excuses for performances churned out by the new breed of actors appearing in the prequels. It’s just that none of them are given a whole lot to do. The character studies were put out of the way in The Empire Strikes Back and, to a lesser extent, A New Hope. So the focus in Return of the Jedi is pretty much straight up action, with just a little bit of humor thrown in for some scenes which are free of any action. Only the short series of scenarios between the Tatooine and Endor scenarios are completely free of either to offer any semblance of character development, but even then it’s not so much development as it is character review.

Return of the Jedi may have its weak points, but it’s a very fitting, perfect, conclusion to what is arguably the greatest film saga ever made. There’s lots of action, drama, heroes, villains, and even a taken shot at redemption at the end. While in my own humble opinion it was recently topped by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, George Lucas changed the face of filmmaking with this classic, incredible saga. The whole thing is worth owning - well, at least the first five movies. I had to save Episode III for the last because I’m still trying to see it. Rest assured, however, that moment will be soon, and May The Force be with You.


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More Return of the Jedi reviews
review by . July 06, 2009
Return of the Jedi originally came out in 1983, and marks the end of the original Star Wars trilogy.  At the time of its release it was critically acclaimed and well accepted.  At least more so than The Empire Strikes Back when it first came.  Nowadays it is often considered the weakest of the original trilogy.  Although people will always be debating what the best Star Wars movie is.  Return of the Jedi, despite some of its problems has some of the most emotional moments …
Quick Tip by . January 07, 2010
Uneven and dul in a few spots maybe, The third Star Wars movie is still a step above many of it's peers.
review by . July 28, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Han and Luke captured by Jabba's thugs
Want some cheese to go with that whine?      It's really hard to guage Star Wars fans sometimes.  Some fans are diehards and will love ANYTHING that comes out the pipe like Attack of the Clones or the Special Editions.  Some are so tempermental that they get a bug up their behind about ANYTHING even from Empire Strikes Back.  One thing is certain though and thats universally Return of the Jedi is seen as the bottom of the original three films.  Even seeing …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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The third and final chapter in the wondrous STAR WARS saga is RETURN OF THE JEDI. Luke (Mark Hamill) must save Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the clutches of the monstrous Jabba the Hut, and bring down the newly reconstructed--and even more powerful--Death Star. With Solo imprisoned, Luke accompanies his faithful droids R2D2 (Kenny Baker) and C3PO (Anthony Daniels) in a rescue bid, with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) also lending a hand. After they valiantly disentangle their friends from Jabba's clutches, Luke returns to his Jedi Knight training with Yoda. Meanwhile, the Rebel Troops amass in an attempt to see off the impending threat from Darth Vader (played by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) and his new Death Star, with the operation being lead by Han Solo. But Luke must face Vader himself if he is to become a true Jedi Knight, and as he enters into a spirited battle with his light saber-wielding enemy, some surprising revelations await the young warrior.
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