Pros: Plenty of action and adventure, Luke's battle with the Dark Side...
Cons: Loses some of the zest of the previous films, too much reliance on uninteresting creatures
Return of the Jedi is the final part of the original Star Wars trilogy (before they started doing the prequels). It does seem a bit strange that parts 4, 5, and 6 of a saga would be considered a trilogy, but that seems to be how creator George Lucas envisaged it three distinct story arcs each covering 3 episodes, with am main thread tying them all together. (Not sure about who the characters were planned to be for the as yet unmade, purportedly never to be made episodes 7-9, but a few characters manage to appear in all 6 episodes so far.)
The first trilogy covered the arc of the creation of Darth Vader, the major villain of the piece in Episode 4 (Star Wars) and 5 (The Empire Strikes Back). The story arc covered in 4,5, and 6 is that of Luke Skywalkers training to become a Jedi Knight, learn to use the Force (a mystical energy field surrounding everything), and defeat the Empire, with its mega-evil Emperor and Darth Vader.
In the original Star Wars, the Rebel Alliance, of which Luke becomes a member, has to destroy the Death Star, an immensely powerful weapon that would make the Empire all-powerful. Thwarted by the Alliance back then, the Empire starts making a new one, protected by an energy field thus impervious to attack by space ships. The Alliance must find a way to get through that shield
However, before we get to that theres some serious Jedi handiwork to be done as Han Solo, roguish mercenary and now galactic hero, is frozen as a decoration for Jabba the Hutt at the beginning of the film. The Hutts are a very rich race of very large slugs, who surround themselves with strange creatures of an equally unpleasant disposition to themselves. Cue one rescue mission that doesnt quite go as intended
and plenty of other heroics, action sequences, small green wrinkly things muttering on about the Force, and more revelations about the family Skywalker. Romance has blossomed between Han Solo and Princess Leia, though certain things threaten to come between them Small annoying creatures called Ewoks are to be found on the Sanctuary Moon of Endor (thanks AlexDG1 for the galactic geography correction!), but theyre not quite the teddy bears they resemble
There, I think Ive given you a flavour of the storyline while hopefully not giving too much away for the 1% of the worlds population who doesnt already know it off by heart. There are action scenes and space battles in plentiful abundance, and quite a bit of humour though not as much as the previous 2 episodes. A key aspect of the storyline is Luke Skywalkers battle as he tries to resist turning to the Dark Side of the Force. This is played out in an interesting way alongside a duel, and is paralleled by another characters inward fight to turn to the Light Side of the Force. Meanwhile, Sole, Leia, and some other characters are finding out just how annoying the Ewoks are. Apart from a certain lack of gusto in the performances overall, it is over-reliance on creatures not just the Ewoks that make this film the weakest of the original trilogy. (Whereas if truth be told the underlying themes in the plot are probably more involving than either Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back.) While the action and adventure are still there, the special effects are still great, and the music is as good as ever, the spark that lit the imagination of millions with the first two films just isnt quite there in Return of the Jedi.
Thats not to say that it isnt an enjoyable film though. Mark Hamill fighting the lure of the Dark Side is pretty compelling, and while Solo and Leias romance did (like many of the relationships in this particular film) seem just a bit too conveniently cosy for much of the film, there is a scene where it becomes a bit more dramatic nearer the end. Richard Marquand took the helm as Director this time and didnt seem to know quite what mood he wanted to take with this film the cheerful exuberance of Star Wars of the darker, brooding atmosphere of Empire Strikes back. The film appears to veer between the two extremes, but somehow lacks balance in key scenes. Maybe its a bit of an age thing too when I first saw it at the cinema as a child all those years ago (ahem not all that many years ago!), I really didnt like it much. Seeing it on TV a few years later though, I did start to appreciate it more. Nowadays I view it as a satisfying end to the original trilogy, but not as good as the first two movies.
(Tried to resist mentioning it but failed... some people might think that seeing Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in a particular outfit in this film is reason enough to watch it... but I'm saying nothing!!)
Year of release: 1983
Length: 134 minutes
Rating: PG f
At the time of writing this review, Return of the Jedi was listed at #110 in IMDBs all-time top 250 movies list with an average score of 8.2
The Empire Strikes Back was #8 with an average rating of 8.8
Star Wars was #10 with the same average rating.
Revenge of the Sith weighed in at #207 with an average rating of 8.0
Attack of the Clones managed an average rating of 6.9, while Phantom Menace got 6.4. People must have been being kind to them!
More Star Wars Reviews
Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars Episode VI: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Clone Wars Volume 1
The Clone Wars Volume 2
Jedi Academy from the Jedi Knights series, published by LucasArts.
Knights of the Old Republic, also by LucasArts, the first real attempt at a Star Wars RPG.
See also my Top Ten Science Fiction Films of All Time