Return of the Jedi

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Review #350: Return of the Jedi - My Favorite of All the Star Wars Movies

Nov 5, 2002 (Updated Apr 3, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Action Factor:
  • Special Effects:
  • Suspense:

Pros:action sequences, aliens, characters, funny moments

Cons:the digital additions aren't really necessary

The Bottom Line: A fantastic finale to the trilogy! Rent all three and enjoy some of the best science fiction storytelling ever.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie's plot.

I know the exact date I first saw this film. How do I know that? Well, I purposely scheduled my road test for my driver's license that morning so that after I - hopefully - passed, I could just hop in my parents' car and shoot over to the local multiplex for the first showing. And yes, it all worked out perfectly :-)

Of all the Star Wars movies, this one is my favorite. Sure, the first film (now known as A New Hope) has a special quality all its own; it was something so new and different in its time that it dazzled us in a way few films have ever been able to. The uneasy, dark storyline to The Empire Strikes Back also stands on its own, in its own way.

Return of the Jedi marks the real new beginning it confirms the belief that there is an endless struggle in the universe between good and evil; for a while evil may rule, but eventually goodness will triumph, if only for a little while before the struggle begins anew.

What also makes Return of the Jedi my favorite is the wonderful combination of comedy and drama; of action and a wonderful story; of the fact that the universe is not just black and white, good and evil. Oh, there are also some pretty cool effects. The story was still fresh and unfolding. For three years we had sometimes debated, more often argued whether or not Vader really was Luke Skywalker's father - as he had stated in The Empire Strikes Back.

In Return of the Jedi we first really see the pecking order between the evil Darth Vader and the Emperor. At the very beginning, Vader threatens those working on the new Death Star with the Emperor's arrival. That strikes more fear into them than Vader's ominous presence.

While Vader and the Emperor are plotting on how to lure Luke Skywalker to them and turn him towards the dark side, our heroes are attempting to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt's clutches. No onw knew how Luke, Leia, Lando, R2D2, Chewbacca, and C3PO were going to rescue Han Solo from that den. The anticipation as he was freed from the carbonite was incredible, and I hung on every word in the theater. You could hear the audience react when Leia revealed herself in Jabba's den.

It's almost 20 years later and I still cannot fathom what the original plan was to rescue Han Solo. Was it just "let's all go in there one at a time and see what happens?" If Luke intended to rescue Han himself and thought he could just walk out of there because of his Jedi powers, then why wasn't he the first one who just walked right in, got Han, and walked back out? This, however, is one of those endearing parts of the story.

The interaction when Han asks Luke "How are we doing?" and Luke replies "Same as always" implies that there were more adventures between the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. It's something that we aren't beaten over the head with, but one throwaway line leaves a whole world of possibilities open.

Luke brings a youthful belief to the story. Following the rescue of Han, he returns to the Dagobah moon and Yoda for what he thinks will be the completion of his Jedi training. Instead, it turns into a deep, philosophical discussion with Yoda and the dead Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi (trust me, it works). Where Ben is cynical about there still being good inside Vader, Luke still has the belief that it is there and he can yet be turned.

Armed with all of the knowledge Yoda and Ben can offer him, Luke returns as the Rebels are planning an all-out attack against the second Death Star before it is completed. He teams up with Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2 to land on the Endor moon and take out the shield generator that surrounds the Death Star.

There are also some wonderful introspective moments, when Luke has a heart-to-heart with Leia asking her about her (their) mother and reveals the truth to her. Han witnesses the moment and takes it a different way, not realizing the real connection between Luke and Leia.

When Luke realizes his presence is endangering the mission, he turns himself into Vader. This is when we first see Vader's facade wavering after a heart-to-heart with Luke where Luke talks of seeing the conflict within him. Without saying a word, or seeing a facial expression through the helmet, Vader conveys his own struggle simply with body language by walking over to a nearby handrail seemingly for support.

Why I like it better:

Mark Hammill as Luke Skywalker is perfect by this film. Luke was still somewhat immature, showing his whiny and petulant side in The Empire Strikes Back. Here he really has Luke with a self-assuredness necessary for the role, yet we still see the weaker side of him peek through at times, especially when Yoda dies and he hesitates about confronting Vader. Watching him fight Jabba's people and jump all by himself onto the other ship without hesitation shows the maturity he and confidence he has acquired over the years.

I like seeing everyone - Han, Leia, Luke, R2D2, C3PO - together for the bulk of the film. They are first working together to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt, and then later on the Endor moon. They are only separated in the very beginning and once Luke leaves to confront Vader feeling his presence endangers the mission.

More aliens! There are the wide variety of species in Jabba's den and on his sailbarge, plus there's the Ewoks. I know a lot of people didn't like the Ewoks, since they seemed instantly marketable as a plush toy, but I really liked them and enjoyed them. I liked how Leia was able to relate to them; reading their body language without knowing how to speak their language.

Comic moments as "the gang" is trying a clearance code to get past the Empire's security and Han instructs Chewbacca to "Keep your distance but don't look like you're keeping your distance - Fly casual". When Chewbacca gets all of the men caught up in the Ewok's net, C3PO being treated like a God by the Ewoks and responding to Han that "its against my programming to impersonate a deity". These moments of comic relief turning up in the middle of great tension is natural at times in life - haven't you ever laughed hysterically at a funeral?

More action sequences - and they don't seem to be plopped there for no reason. There is build up to the battle with Jabba the Hutt; build up to the final battle between the Rebels and the Empire. The chase on the scooters through the woods is incredible, in both effects and action. These action sequences are some of the best I've ever seen and the massive battle makes anything in the newest two Star Wars movies pale in comparison. The years may have given us better technology, but not clarity. We know who to root for here; we know who are "the good guys" and who "the bad guys" are.

Conversation with Yoda about Vader - Luke builds up to it rather than barging in and demanding to know the truth. Likewise, the revelation that Leia is his twin sister is not something that is thrust in our faces either. Sure, it makes those two kisses they shared in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back pretty gross, but sometimes life is a little messy. Could it be any worse than kissing a Wookie?

The video I have is of the Special Edition. It includes digitally added footage as well as a documentary about the Making of the Special Edition. George Lucas talks here about the changes he made and one of them I do take issue with. In the case of the Sarlac pit I don't believe his changes were for the better. I liked it without the "beak" Lucas talks about which looks like a giant worm to me. Not all aliens will look like what we think they will. One that is just sort of a hole in the ground would be very different from other science-fiction aliens.

This has always been my favorite of the Star Wars films and I don't see that changing any time soon. It doesn't stand up as well if you haven't seen the other two, so if you want the real feeling watch A New Hope, wait about two months, then watch The Empire Strikes Back, wait another two months and finish up with Return of the Jedi. You'll appreciate sci-fi in a whole new way.

Other Harrison Ford reviews:

Air Force One ~ American Graffiti ~ The Devil's Own ~ Force 10 from Navarone ~ Hanover Street ~ Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom Patriot Games ~ Raiders of the Lost Ark

© 2002 Patti Aliventi

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12

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