Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Review

“Star Wars Return of the Jedi” is the final installment of the George Lucas franchise that delivers an epic conclusion to the Skywalker story.  After his defeat from Darth Vader, Luke goes into hiding while becoming more knowledgeable with the Force.  During this interim period, Luke constructs a new lightsaber and he concocts a plan to rescue Han Solo from the bounty hunter Jabba the Hut.  And after the successful rescue mission, Luke and the Rebel Alliance learn that a new Death Star is almost complete, which causes the great battle of our time, in which our heroes attempt to destroy the Empire, once and for all.  However Luke’s mission and destiny is not to aid the Rebels, but to face Darth Vader once more, with the hopes of turning Vader back to the good side.

“Return of the Jedi” was always my favorite movie as a kid.  It is filled with tremendous amounts of action, adventure and space opera fun.  The rescue sequence on Tatooine was a blast, as was the Battle for Endor with the little Ewoks.  But some of the most breathtaking sequences take place with Lando, leading the squad in the Millenium Falcon as they try to extinguish the nearly completed Death Star.  Those space sequences are still to this day, so much fun to watch.  The other great thing about “Return of the Jedi,” is the fully integrated introduction to the Puppet Master himself, Emperor Palpatine.  We finally see him in this movie and he looks and sounds more sinister than ever.  The showdown between Luke and Vader isn’t quite as epic as “Empire,” but it was a really great sequence.

As I’ve touched on before, “Star Wars” is the Skywalker story and the best moments in this movie delve into the family drama.  My two favorite sequences to this day are all about the family dynamic.  My first favorite scene involves Luke confronting Leia and basically telling her that she is his twin sister, and that Vader is their father.  The way this scene was handled was beautiful and it’s such a powerful moment for the development and realization of these characters.  My second favorite scene involves Luke’s surrender as he gives himself up to Darth Vader.  Luke finally acknowledges that Vader is his father and the entire exchange and the sympathy that Luke feels towards him is magnifying.  I truly love this scene just for the dialogue alone.  One thing I haven’t mentioned at all in these reviews is James Earl Jones.  Jones provided the voice for Darth Vader and he absolutely kills it for all the movies.  His voice is deep, sepulchral and gives Vader the ultimate identity.  And when Vader and Luke exchange words, it is so believable and real.

The special effects in this movie are incredible and one of the best chase sequences involves the speeder bikes where Luke and Leia are trying to neutralize a duo of Storm troopers.  This is a great scene, and for the time period, it was a revolutionary thing regarding green screen.  It still holds up pretty well by today’s standards.  It’s hard for me to be really objective about the original trilogy of films because they are like the Bible to me.  They are amazing trips to my imagination and have been out for so long, to me they feel perfect.  I know that there are a number of people out their who don’t like “Return of the Jedi” and I get it, but for myself I love every minute of it.  Once again, the John Williams score is seamlessly woven in to match the story perfectly, giving this movie a grand sendoff.

The biggest issue that I have with this movie concerns itself with the “tampered” George Lucas special edition which is the only version you can now watch.  I said before that the special editions changed some sequences in all the films.  In the first “Star Wars” movie, a handful of scenes were added, and “Empire” was barely touched, but “Return of the Jedi” has been botched.  The biggest standout change is the Jabba’s Palace sequence.  CGI characters were replaced over the original puppet characters and new music was added.  I don’t know why they changed it like this, but it was a horrible change and I cringe every time I see it.  Another big change is Vader’s “NOOOOOOO” scream after he throws Palpatine to his death; completely unnecessary.  But the thing that bothers me probably more than Jabba’s Palace is the very end of the movie.  They take out the “Yub Yub” Ewoks song and replace it with this stupid flute sounding theme, before showing all the worlds around the galaxy celebrating, bringing more horrible CGI into this movie which is completely out of place.  And then to make things worse, they replaced Anakin’s older Force Ghost with Hayden Christensen’s Force Ghost.  Why!?  Anakin was not young when he died, he would be Obi-Wan’s age.  I understand Lucas wanted younger viewers to see that connection with the prequels but it doesn’t make a lick of sense according to the timeline and I just despise that moment.  So unfortunately that’s what we have now and we have to live with it, but I wouldn’t mind watching those original cut versions that I grew up with as a kid again.

What’s interesting is now that “Jedi” is one and done, with “The Force Awakens” we are going to see what happened to our characters after this point; after the Battle of Endor.  What became of Han, Chewie, Luke, and Leia?  All will be revealed on December 18.  And what’s even more cool, is that we will see these actors having aged in real time because “The Force Awakens” takes place 30 years later.  So the progression is something every one is extremely excited to see.  One thing I do know for sure.  If the prequel films weren’t as bad as they were, then we would either not be getting another “Star Wars” movie, or “The Force Awakens” would exist as something completely different than what we are getting.  I think because “Star Wars” fans were so let down, the excitement for this new movie, in the hands of a new director and visionary is something that we may never see again in the movies.  I have never seen hype as great as this before, even more so than “The Phantom Menace.”

“Return of the Jedi” is one of the greatest closing chapters to one of the greatest mythologies ever created.  Luke vanquished evil, and the Alliance wins to live another day, closing the book to the “Star Wars” legend.  But just because “Jedi” was the closure, it doesn’t mean that we won’t see our characters back, we will and we hopefully will see them back in action in “The Force Awakens.”  “Return of the Jedi” is a crowd pleasing action adventure, with twists and turns and a lot of excitement.  The space battles are epic and the darkness of the series becomes drowned in light, as Luke Skywalker ultimately becomes the hero that he dreamed of being from “A New Hope.”  As Darth Vader said before, “The Circle Is Now Complete.”

Grade:  A-

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