Winner - Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects

LUCASFILM LTD. / 20th CENTURY FOX (1983)

Director: Richard Marquand

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid,

Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz

The original ending to the saga, Return of the Jedi had a lot to live up to following the explosion of A New Hope and the heights of The Empire Strikes Back. Of course the only question is does it reach the same lofty heights as its predecessors? Almost, but not quite.

 

The movie becomes more of an adventure than the previous entries, with the initial (drawn out) rescue of Han, then Leia, and then all of them with our heroes utilising almost every trick possible and scraping through every situation.

Following this is the espionage and infiltration of the Imperial shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, in order to destroy Death Star Mk. II and finally, the end duel, the fracas on Endor and Lando’s swashbuckling raid in the Millennium Falcon. All come together to create a fun action movie, and broken up by a visit to Dagobah again, which is entertaining but many of the scenes are drawn out as mentioned and there are a few flaws (for me) with the final execution.

 

The gang return from the previous two (yes, they managed to lure Harrison Ford back) and continue where they left off. Mark Hamill now gets to portray a more serene (bad ass?) Luke, no whining here as he stands toe to toe with Vader in the face of the Emperor himself, and he has progressed a lot since the 1977 original. Ford doesn’t get an awful lot to work with here, the character taking more a back seat this time around. Carrie Fisher’s main contribution was donning the now-famous bikini as a slave. Sebastian Shaw is the movies newest addition as ‘old’ Anakin – Darth under the mask – though part of his performance was edited out of the denouement for Hayden Christensen (a decision met with much derision)

 

Again visually, the movie is just fine, Jabba the Hutt looks great as the slovenly, slimy slug beast (certainly better than CGI monstrosity of later years) providing a different type of foe for the gang to battle and outwit. The speeder chase on Endor still looks good now, and the space battles will never not look cool. I particularly like the look of Endor, Redwood National Park being made to look otherworldy with some impressive Ewok villages (and the use of imagination) plus the coast redwood trees (the tallest tree species on Earth) just look great on screen and lend a different aesthetic instead of ‘bog standard’ woodland. The epic duel in the Throne Room is fantastic, as Luke and Vader battle in the front of the Emperor with the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance.

 

For me, the inclusion of the battling teddy bears, the Ewoks, damages the conclusion of the saga, not just the movie. By having legions of Stormtroopers being taken out in various Home Alone-esque ways, including heavily armoured AT-ST’s, diminishes the Empire’s might and should have been used as a plot point for something less monumental. The merchandise ideas were strong here. Also, the inclusion of a second Death Star doesn’t scream of originality – the genius Emperor rehashing an old idea that didn’t end particularly well – it would have been a more satisfying ending without the need for a superweapon (a half-finished one at that) an epic space battle, or even a large ground battle would’ve been awesome (minus Ewoks as the main threat)

 

The Boba Fett scene in the Dune Seas is not cool.

 

With the addition of the prequel trilogy, certain aspects now don’t add up entirely – the main line of dialogue being from Leia as she tells Luke that she has memories of her birth mother…the one who died immediately after giving birth to the twins.

 

Return of the Jedi is a fitting, if not quite spectacular, end to a classic trilogy that is still beloved today. It provided closure to the story and rounded off the characters arcs neatly, and showed that Ewoks are potentially cannibals. The lack of ideas in the superweapon and the teddy bears uprising damage the movie, but it is still an entertaining and engaging watch.

 

Many Bothans died bringing you this review.

December 14th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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