Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
RETURN OF THE JEDI is the third film in the original Star Wars trilogy and marks the end of the Star Wars saga. Although Jedi couldn’t live up to the exceedingly high standards of Hope or Empire, it’s still a quality film that manages to wrap up the story and entertain in the process. I can imagine that for fans of Star Wars back in 1980, the three years between the release of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI were excruciatingly painful. Empire has what is arguably the greatest cliffhanger in film history and the pressure was on Jedi to pick up right where Empire left off. Although it’s not the best Star Wars film, I find Jedi to be the easiest of the 6 movies to watch. It has a fast moving pace, plenty of Jedi action and the story flows nicely.
You’ll have to set aside pre-prejudiced bias for a bit and remember that Jedi was the first time the world had met Jabba The Hutt. Both Hutt and Slave Leia are common now in pop culture, but at the time, they were something to behold (for different reasons of course). The entire sequence at Jabba’s palace was a great way to get the film started as it introduced new characters and changes to the characters we already knew. Seeing Luke declare himself a Jedi to the hideous monster known as Jabba The Hutt was a powerful scene that was set up beautifully.
Hope and Empire were more serious, Menace and Clones were more clunky and Sith was confused. But Jedi managed to weave the seriousness of the events and the charm and humor of the characters wonderfully. By this time, Harrison Ford had turned Han Solo into more Indiana Jones and that extra smirk and charisma helped the film. Mark Hamill had gone the opposite direction, making Luke a serious Jedi, ready for the responsibilities that were sure to come along with his new abilities. And Leia was a far cry from her “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi” days. She turned into a mature leader, one that was sure to take her place atop the new alliance. And the beauty of the film is that all of the characters rounded out their arcs and gave the audience a satisfying ending to the Star Wars saga.
The Ewoks take a lot of flack from those that were looking for a darker, more dramatic finish to the end of Jedi, but I never really minded them. The only issue I ever had with them was their ridiculous song that played during the celebration. Of course, that’s been replaced with a decent music-only track that first appeared in the Special Edition re-release in 1997. The problem wasn’t really with the Ewoks, it was with the whole battle on Endor in the first place. It was hard to get too involved with their battle, the attack in space and then the duel between Luke and Vader. They had such varying degrees of intensity and seriousness that it kept the tone and feel of the last quarter of Jedi from ever getting going.
That said, the battle between Luke and Vader is so great, it’s hard to put the feeling you get watching it into words. But when you see Luke easily handle Vader, you can’t help but remember back to A NEW HOPE when he could barely dodge the bolts from the training tool that Obi-Wan gave him. And what made it even better was the fact that we actually believed he was now stronger and more skilled with the force than Vader. Although I got frustrated with how broken up the last battle was, it didn’t change the fact that watching Vader show a slight sliver of good was a spectacular way to end his story. Luke had achieved what he set out to achieve; he killed Darth Vader and saved his father.
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