Pros: End of the series, Mark Hammill, Special effects
Cons: Ewoks, Story running out of ideas
Return of the Jedi (1983)
"You must confront Vader; only then a Jedi will you be." Yoda
The third episode in the continuing space opera of Star Wars was 1983's Return of the Jedi.
The brainchild of George Lucas, this episode was directed by Richard Marquand. The screenplay was developed from Lucas' draft of the story by Lawrence Kasdan and several interviews with Lucas whom Kasdan taped.
The script, like that all of the Star Wars movies is fairly simplistic but the fairy tale treatment led to lots of mimics that made their own space operas and wizard tales, too. I hesitate to call this a return of the epic genre, except that that seems to be what this is for a new generation that didn't get in on the first run of Ben Hur, Spartacus, and El Cid. The Star Wars trilogy - the original three films - is a group of movies that parents can watch with their children without too much apprehension. Lucas had patterned his idea after the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials shown in the Saturday afternoon matinees and later as a staple on local teevee channels. There are doses of mythology and legend in there also in the constantly evolving storyline.
It seems that there was also a generous dose of capitalism included in Lucas' storyline that featured many characters that could easily be converted to toy action figures and even fuzzy teddy bear-like critters called Ewoks, featured in this episode.
In the build up to the film's big screen release the early mentions called it Revenge of the Jedi, and there were posters and advertising issued but when the movie was released it was named Return of the Jedi, apparently one of those changes on the fly that Lucas is known for. The video, released in 1997, even had been doctored by Lucas to strengthen various weaknesses identified by viewers in the original release.
The story continues from where we left off in The Empire Strikes Back with an undetermined time having elapsed. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the Rebel Alliance go to Luke's home planet Tatooine where Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is a captive of Jabba the Hut. Luke had lost his hand in a battle with Darth Vader and had adopted all black garb, leading you to wonder if he was going to turn to the Dark Side. He also yearns for another crack at villain Darth Vader, the evil leader of the Empire's forces.
Meanwhile an epic battle results on Tatooine and Skywalker and the rebels beats Jabba and his minions rescuing Solo. This all happens early in the movie and there is much more action and special effects to come. The Empire is building a new Death Star - the first one was destroyed in Star Wars - and under the personal supervision of the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid), no less. The Emperor turns out to be an even bigger villain than Darth Vader, as we see... But first, Luke must complete his training under the Jedi Master, Yoda.
The movie does get wrapped up by even more fighting and shooting and Luke has his encounter with Darth Vader, who takes on his old persona as a surprise and repents, too, in a satisfying twist. The final battle features hordes of Ewoks, teddy bear like critters that are probably best seen as Lucas' idea of a good marketing opportunity for toys based on the series.
The Fox DVD Special Edition dated 2006 is a 2-disc set that features the 2004 reissue of the movie with a few changes as well as the 1983 theatrical cut, which is the same as audiences saw back in the theaters. Both versions are color and in 2.35:1 theatrical format. Another version is available with pan and scan but I recommend the wide screen version if you opt to add it to your collection. There is a commentary from George Lucas and a few others on the Enhanced 2004 reissue disk as well as a couple of other extra features on the disks. The 1983 version is not anamorphic so it won't display properly on 16x9 format teevees.