Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
1983 saw the end to Star Wars, or so we thought at the time. The Return of the Jedi hit theaters by storm, bringing back all the characters everyone knew and loved. The adventure, the action, and the fun had returned.
SPOILER LEVEL: High
First up, the movie couldn’t get too far in without bringing Harrison Ford back onto the screen, so the gang had to go save Han. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back he’d been taken, frozen in carbonite, to galactic criminal Jabba the Hutt. Everyone convening at Jabba’s palace for the rescue results in one of the coolest battles of the franchise. The tension builds as all the familiar faces make their entrances in various ways to the violent, seedy palace. Then, with Jabba overlooking, the cast has to battle a litany of monstrous guards while hovering above a pit with a giant creature in it that will eat anyone who falls into it. The scene is gritty, fun, and action-packed, everything a Star Wars movie should have.
As Luke fights off one villain after another, a momentarily blind Han is attacked by Boba Fett, and Lando dangles precariously just outside the Sarlacc pit monster’s reach. It is all so very edge of your seat! The only problem with this otherwise amazing scene is how easily Boba Fett was dispatched. After his appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, he’d quickly become a fan favorite character. Then, instead of an epic battle, he’s comically knocked into the Sarlacc pit to his doom. With a burp from the creature. His character deserved better.
While Jabba could have commanded an entire movie, Return of the Jedi has a lot more to accomplish before its end. The climactic chapter of Luke Skywalker’s story must resolve the ongoing conflict of the Empire versus the Rebellion as well as the story of Darth Vader, Luke’s father. So, after Jabba and his goons are dispatched, the movie takes us to the Rebel leaders who have devised a plan to attack the Empire and destroy the new Death Star before its completion.
Luke, meanwhile, seeks out Yoda to finish his training. Luke instead finds out his training as a Jedi is complete and that Yoda is dying. However, before Yoda’s death, one more secret is revealed of Luke’s lineage. Leia is his twin sister. Of course this makes their kiss scene in Empire quite awkward, but the revelation adds a familial element to the group, solidifying the way Luke, Leia, and Han all already act like a family. The other element added by the revelation is one of danger for Luke. After all, if “there is another Skywalker,” Luke could feasibly die and the story go on. So, though he was the hero of the story, his survival was no longer assured.
Han, Leia, Chewy, and Luke all go to Endor to destroy the shields of the still-under-construction Death Star. Lando, meanwhile, flies the Millennium Falcon as the leader of the mission to destroy the Death Star once the ground crew kill the shields.
Then came the Ewoks.
When the group lands on Endor, they come across the little teddy bear creatures known as the Ewoks. They’re little and cute but dangerous with their primitive weapons. Many viewers didn’t like the Ewoks, thinking they were too cute and silly for the Star Wars saga. Star Wars had always been gritty and dirty, so when the cutesy stuffed animals showed up with their spears, many thought George Lucas included them just to sell toys. However, another key element of the Star Wars franchise has always been the fun and adventure of the movies, and the Ewoks definitely brought these elements.
Luke tells Leia that they are twins before running off to the Death Star to confront Vader and the Emperor. This is, of course, the same Death Star everyone is trying to destroy. For all the evil Darth Vader had been known for, the Emperor’s first real appearance in the Star Wars movies made Vader’s level of evil pale in comparison. The emperor was more evil, more powerful, and reveled in the pain of others.
After an epic speeder bike chase scene while Luke is still with them, the crew on Endor have an awesome battle with storm troopers, biker scouts, and AT-STs all with the help of the Ewoks. Something I found a little troubling in this scene was the lack of screen time given to rebel soldiers. They were there before the main cast was abducted by Ewoks. As the battle approached, some were shown, meaning they’d reconnected with Han and the rest. However, during the actual battle, you barely see them. All screen time is devoted to the stars and the Ewoks. The troops should have been shown so that it didn’t appear as if the Ewoks almost single-handedly saved the day with spears and rocks against blasters.
During this battle, Lando and the rest of the Rebellion face an onslaught of Empire ships in an epic space battle before discovering the Death Star is, in fact, operational and starts blasting their biggest ships out of existence. With the Rebels being killed, the shields of the Death Star not yet down, and Luke at the mercy of Vader and the Emperor, all hope seems lost.
Han and Leia turn things around on Endor, destroying the shields of the Death Star. First, though, they have a reversal of the famous “I love you” line from Empire Strikes Back where, this time, Han tells Leia he loves her, and she says, “I know.” It was good to hear Han confess his true feelings rather than his normal snarkiness.
Back on the Death Star, after a tremendous lightsaber duel between Vader and Luke ends with Luke cutting off Vader’s hand, Luke begins to see how he and his father are two sides of the same coin. A string of bad decisions may have sent Vader to the Dark side, but in that moment, Luke sees how similar he and his father still are.
As this realization hits him, though, the Emperor begins his merciless attack against Luke. Seeing the Emperor slowly killing his son, Vader comes to his senses, picks up the Emperor, and throws him to his death. Again, so we thought. Palpatine’s signature laugh can be heard in the previews of The Rise of Skywalker, so we’ll have to see what that means.
At this point, though, the Empire goes to pieces, and the Rebels are able to get the upper hand in the space battle. Lando flies the Falcon into the heart of the Death Star and blows it up. First, though, Luke gets to have a touching scene with the dying, unmasked Vader. Finally having returned from his life in the Dark side of the Force, Vader is once again Anakin. This scene is a testament to the heartfelt writing of Star Wars. Even though Vader had been one of the scariest movie villains of all time, audiences were saddened by his death, with him dying while saying goodbye to the son he’d never really gotten to know.
The movie ends with celebration and triumph. The Empire was destroyed. The Rebels won. The dystopic universe everyone had lived in during the rule of the Empire was gone with something much better to come, since the Rebels would restore order to the galaxy. Audiences sat back, listened to the Ewoks sing “jub jub” and enjoyed the happy ending where even dead and gone characters returned to the party as Force ghosts.
The Return of the Jedi was the perfect way to end Luke’s Star Wars trilogy. It was triumphant stand up and cheer fun and action-packed. All the heroes we loved got the happy ending they deserved. Or so we thought, who knew the galaxy would go to hell in a hand basket just 30 years later?
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – An End to an Amazing Trilogy
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Acting - 9.8/109.8/10
Music - 10/1010/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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