Continuing with my Star Wars marathon leading up to the release of Rise of Skywalker, I am now at the end of the original trilogy and the second trilogy in the Star Wars timeline. Return of the Jedi released in theaters in 1983, and as a child, this was the movie I watched the most often. Upon revisit, it is still a fun movie but very flawed and the weakest movie of the original trilogy.
The film takes place a year after the events of Empire Strikes Back, and Luke Skywalker returns to his home planet of Tatooine to rescue Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite at the end of the previous movie, from the clutches of the evil gangster, Jabba the Hutt. After he is eventually rescued, the Rebel Alliance come together to plan an attack against the Galactic Empire.
The film once again stars Mark Hamil as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Hamil is once again fantastic as Luke and he plays a cool and confident Luke who has matured greatly after the events of the last film. He is very entertaining to watch, and he also does a great job of portraying emotional moments where Luke must deal with conflict.
As for Fisher and Ford, they are passable in this film, as are the characters they play. The emotional weight the characters had in the last movie was watered down for a more light-hearted tone, and their characters are good but not great. They don’t have a huge role in the overall story of the film, and they don’t have any arcs in the movie that improves their characters.
The look of the movie is great, but not as great as Empire Strikes Back. There is couple of green screens that look obvious, but it still looks very good. The best-looking scene is the space battle at the second Death Star. It is shot very well, and one can follow everything that is happening. While the film looks good and the performances are solid, the issues with the movie are story-related.
First, the whole first act in the movie takes place in Jabba’s palace and while they’re a lot of cool scenes, like Luke tearing through Jabba’s goons with his new green Lightsaber, it drags on too long. The whole trilogy is about the battle against the empire and being there for a third of the movie detracts from the overall narrative.
Also, after the group rescues Han, Lando and Han are good friends after this and that is a problem. Lando, although coerced by the empire, betrayed Han and caused him to be frozen in carbonite. Han immediately forgives and trusts him with his ship, which is Han’s most treasured possession. There is not even a conversation of Han forgiving him or showing even some distrust. Lando winning back the trust of Han would have been a great arc in the movie, and it would have made the film so much better.
Lastly, the Ewoks. They are a divisive topic amongst the Star Wars community, and I think that while the intent behind them is great and they are entertaining to watch, the execution of them taking down an imperial army is weak. The Ewoks are amusing and the whole scene where the rebels win their trust is great. But the battle on Endor is laughably bad at times. It does not make any sense to me how fully armored stormtroopers and imperial walkers are defeated so easily by tiny and furry creatures using only logs, sticks, rocks, and arrows. The arrows and rocks are understandable, but for, again, fully armored stormtroopers to get taken down by sticks is ridiculous. Also, an imperial walker was blown up by wooden logs and that might be the worst scene in the entire saga. It makes no sense and it just seems like the Ewoks’ victory was scripted and not earned.
The saving grace of the film is the entire throne room sequence with Emperor Palpatine, portrayed awesomely by Ian McDiarmid, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Every shot and line of dialogue is excellent, and the build-up and conclusion are satisfying and breath-taking. There is a shot where Darth Vader is trying to convince Luke to turn to the dark side and you see Luke’s face split between light and dark and it perfectly demonstrates the tension in that scene. Darth Vader turning and killing the emperor is very satisfying to see and it ends that arc on a great note.
The last two minutes are joyous to watch as the galaxy celebrates the empire’s defeat, and you see Anakin’s force ghost along with Obi-Wan and Yoda’s force ghosts and it is beautiful. The celebration is a perfect way to end one of cinema’s best trilogies.
Overall, Return of the Jedi is a decent way to end the original trilogy but some flaws bring down the quality of the movie. Star Wars went safe and light-hearted after Empire Strikes Back received some criticism upon release and it shows as it’s a more kid-friendly film. It is still enjoyable and I would recommend watching it.