Directed by Richard Marquand
May 25, 1983 (United States)
The Empire has begun construction on a new Death Star and Luke is forced into a final confrontation with Darth Vader and the Emperor.
This is quite possibly the most perfect ending of any trilogy you could ask for. Each dangling plot thread gets resolved in some way. The characters fates are set on a future that fits with the film universe. The main villain of it all gets his just desserts. And there is even redemption in the character of Darth Vader.
We are introduced to some significant new characters in this film too. Characters that become an important part of Star Wars mythology. Name a film series that managed to introduce new and important characters that audiences remember in each film. I will wait.
Jabba the Hutt (like calling Han Solo “Han the Human”), another character that was only mentioned before, makes a full-on appearance in the final trilogy film (special edition of A New Hope not withstanding). And he is truly one of the most alien characters to ever hit movies up until that time. He was the culmination of what was first seriously tried with Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) in the last film. Puppetry like Yoda or Jabba was not really done to the best of my experience in science fiction movies beforehand and I am not sure if it was done that much afterwards. Filmmakers are a little cowardly in that regard. Some genuinely alien aliens could be created that way. Just check out Farscape and what they did there. Creators never really ran with it unfortunately.
The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid). A character that was mentioned in the first film and seen briefly in the second film becomes a full-fledged character here. He is all evil and because of his connection to the Force one step ahead of the good guys the whole time. And he is a bit of a dick. Really. His comment to Luke about how operational the Death Star is and the fate of his friends is probably one of the jerkiest deliverances of lines of any bad guy line in film. It made him very punchable.
Aside from the late comers, there were a few minor characters that have become well known after this movie. Jabba the Hutt’s distinctive looking aide Bib Fortuna (Michael Carter performing and voiced by Erik Bauersfeld). Admiral Ackbar (a puppet who was also voiced by Bauersfeld). Lando’s Millennium Falcon copilot Nien Nunb (portrayed by Richard Bonehill in costume for full body shots and a puppet operated by Mike Quinn and voiced by Kipsang Rotich). Salacious B. Crumb (a puppet voiced by Mark Dodson). Wicket (Warwick Davis). These are all memorable B Characters that are easily remembered by even many casual fans.
The rescue of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from Jabba’s Palace was just great. In the context of the film, they have all their bases covered but when you think about it was the plan to get everybody captured so they were in a good position for the actual rescue? Or were R2-D2 and C-3PO Plan A and when they failed was Princess Leia Plan B and when she failed was Luke Plan C with his lightsaber in R2-D2 just in case? Something I always wondered about when it came to the movie. Still the battle on the sand skiff at the Sarlacc Pit was just great. A perfectly crafted bit of old school daring do in a science fiction setting.
Luke (Mark Hamill) sensed good in his father. Exactly where that came from is a little fuzzy. It bothered me back then but given that Luke was also a space wizard there were any number of points that he could sense that. And this was a story about redemption. The main villain is not irredeemably evil. He just lost his way. Something to take with you in life: not all bad people are beyond redemption.
Luke is much more serious here than he was in the previous two films. He understands the gravity of his position and how important what he must do is. At the end of Empire, he understood how serious his position was, but this film is the only one where the weight of it comes into play.
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s (Sir Alec Guinness) honesty is exposed as famously fluid with the truth. Or you could take it as him simply trying to protect Luke from a horrible reality. After all Darth Vader was one of the most feared beings in the galaxy and I am not sure if most people could handle that well. Plus how many people might want to strike at Vader through Luke?
The confirmation of Leia (Carrie Fisher) being Luke’s sister was not quite as impactful as Luke being the son of Darth Vader, but it did nicely explain her force abilities that were implied at the very end of Empire. After all she could sense Luke dangling from the bottom of Cloud City and there was Yoda mentioning that Luke was not the only option they had. When he said that he did not seem too bothered that Luke just might be going foolishly to his death. They had a spare so screw Luke if he died.
I have heard some complaints about the Ewoks over the years. I am not sure why some people are really bothered by them. I know they are cute teddy bears but so? They were a different type of alien species. They did not have a bunch of individuals running around in weird costumes on this forest planet. They actually made them look like something non-human that might live there. These were primitive beings successfully taking on a superior force. It has happened in real life.
Speaking of teddy bears that were going to cook our heroes live, anybody ever wonder where the Ewoks got that dress for Princess Leia? I was not so bothered by their ability to intricately braid hair here as I was about these mostly naked aside from headgear creatures having cloth and knowing how to sow well enough to create a dress. They got the finer points of dressmaking down pretty good for a bunch of bears running nude around a forest planet. And I still get a little choked up during that brief moment in the final battle when the one Ewok realizes his friend has died. That is so incredibly sad to me.
Return of the Jedi is exciting. The final battle shifts between who is and is not winning. It is exciting with plenty of shooting and a little bit of humor and some creativity on the part of our heroes. So much is happening and just escalates throughout.
I admit Return of the Jedi is the weakest film in the original trilogy. The directing is not as strong and there is a little less going on in this film overall as compared to the first two. But in a series where all three films are stronger than most any film out there that is not a bad thing. It is a perfect end to the original trilogy. It satisfies the fans.
Star Wars: Episode VI–Return of the Jedi is a classic film and a classic ending. It is exciting and fun and an all-around great movie. Watch it!