Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi – Film Review
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid
Director: Richard Marquand
Synopsis: With the Empire seemingly victorious, the small band of surviving rebels must retrieve Han Solo from Jabba the Hut, and prevent the Empire from claiming total victory over the Rebellion by destroying the Empire’s brand new Death Star battle station. While Luke is battling to try and restore his father to the good side.
Review: When the previous film in your franchise got pretty much everything right and made one of the best movies anyone has ever made ever, the sequel to said film was always going to have a very tough act to follow. Thus sadly for Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, it doesn’t live up to either The Empires Strikes Back, nor George Lucas’s original. It does have its shortcomings, yet despite this, it does have something to say for itself. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had and it does wrap up the original trilogy nicely.
The Empire struck back hard in the last film, and aims to move in for the kill with the construction of a brand new Death Star in a bid to defeat the Rebel Alliance once and for all. Similarly, the Rebels seek to make a last ditch effort to destroy the Empire’s brand new battle station. All the while, following the revelation at the end of Empire, Luke is determined that he can bring his father back to the good side. With Empire, the tone was understandably a lot more darker with the Empire claiming a glorious win over the rebels, Han Solo trapped in carbonite, Luke’s hand chopped off, and while that tone is maintained in numerous parts, there is a return to a bit more jovial and upbeat moods, starting with the scene in Jabba’s Palace.
R2D2 as a waiter, ridiculous music by some sort of 80s style pop band, dancing, it’s all a bit ridiculous at times, but you cannot help but laugh and smile, for the most part, as there are some more annoying changes (we’ll get to more of that later.) Unnecessary CGI creatures but they’re thankfully not on show for very long. The true introduction of Jabba the Hutt and he’s this slimy nasty slug like being that you just detest every time you see him on screen, and cheer when he duly gets strangled by Princess Leia in her slave outfit, which quite possibly make some people lose their minds. Criticism has been aimed at the fact that she’s being totally devalued and reduced to a sex object, which is fair enough but ultimately that is the point, and it’s one of many reasons to dislike Jabba.
It’s here that we come to the crux of the story. We have seen Luke transition from a whiny brat (remind you of anyone?) to an awesome badass Jedi, courtesy of Yoda, who we see again briefly who has some more vital information to part before he goes to “forever sleep.” The scene with Yoda is enjoyable and there is more humour to be found, but it is ultimately a bit too short. There could and should have been more scenes with our little green friend before his passing. His training complete he goes off to try and turn his father back to the good side, enter Emperor Palpatine, the one who is truly pulling Vader’s strings and the one who has overseen all the death and destruction in the Galaxy. Ian McDiarmid plays him brilliantly, from his posture, to the make up to his voice. Like Jabba there is something just abhorrently grotesque about him, but he provides some fascinating viewing with some more memorable dialogue, and another very emotional ending with Vader redeeming himself by saving Luke from being fried by the Emperor’s Force Lightning.
While all this is happening, the Rebels are preparing their attack on the second Death Star: from space in the Battle of Endor, and down on Endor itself with Han, Leia, Chewie and co aiming to take down the shield that is protecting the Death Star. All these scenes are very well handled but mainly the Battle of Endor. It doesn’t quite reach Battle of Hoth levels of awesomeness but it isn’t far away. Similarly, the ensuing battle on Endor is also thrilling, albeit the presence of those fuzzy bears, otherwise known as Ewoks, does irritate some, and it is easy to see why. Although cute and fuzzy, these bears do feel somewhat out of place, and the fact that they helped to topple the evil Empire with sticks and stones, does leave some scratching their heads in bewilderment.
Empire was spared from a lot of changes, just because it was so damn good, but Jedi has had some rather grating changes. The aforementioned CGI creatures in Jabba’s Palace. The stupid “noo” Vader makes when throwing the Emperor to his doom. The brilliance of that scene is that even though he has a mask on, you can see from the camera work that Vader is conflicted as he watches his son seemingly die in front of him. The addition of the stupid “noo” just ruins the greatness of the scene. But by far the most infuriating change is the replacing of Sebastian Shaw as the ghost Anakin right at the end, with the actor who played him in the prequels (I refuse to even say his name.) With Obi Wan and Yoda in their older bodies, the change to make Anakin his younger self just makes ZERO sense.
But with all that said, there is still much to be enjoyed with the closing chapter of the original trilogy. John Williams’s score remains as perfect as ever, and there’s plenty of action to keep the pulses up right to the end, and it closed the book on the trilogy that remains to many one of the best trilogies ever put to film, and for good reason, because it deserves to be.