After not one, but two magnificent movies, the final film in the Original Star Wars Trilogy had quite the hype to fulfill. And while it occasionally stumbles, it ties up the many looses ends surprisingly well and still stands as a great ending to even greater trilogy.
Return of the Jedi starts approximately one year after the end of the previous film, and has Luke, Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca trying to take back Han, whose been frozen in carbonite for Jabba the Hutt’s viewing pleasure. In some ways, ROTJ has a better opening than both its predecessors, as Jabba’s Palace is an exciting, memorable locale that carries both a humorous and suspenseful tone with it.
When you add the fact that it took three years for Episode VI to be released after the shocking cliffhanger in Empire, fans were no doubt on the edge of their seat when they saw Luke make his first appearance clothed in black robes, and Force choking guards like it’s no big deal. Pretty dark stuff for a farm boy.
However, Return of the Jedi does occasionally loose its footing as it tries to do a little too much during the climax. While Luke’s final confrontation with Darth Vader is one of the bestscenes in the franchise, balancing the mental and physical qualities of a great duel incredibly well, the other two aspects of the finale seem to lack that intensity.
First off, it just felt weird having Lando flying the Mllenium Falcon to destroy the Death Star II with the rebels. Not only does it take some heavy imagination to imagine the Empire rebuilding an almost entirely new Death Star in just a few years, but, while I love Lando, it felt a little off having someone other than Han in the cockpit of the iconic spaceship.
And as far as the battle on Endor goes, well it’s kind of a mixed bag. There are some great scenes there, especially when Luke’s still with the team, but towards the end, when the infamous Ewoks come into the picture, things become a little too comical, and you can tell Lucas was trying to appeal to the younger crowd a little too much.
That’s not to say its not an exciting climax, quite the opposite, I’m just saying that I think the movie tries to do too much, resulting in three, almost totally separate finales, that aren’t as good as they could have been. However, like I previously said, the final showdown between Luke and Vader, father and son, pretty much makes up for anything the other two scenarios lacked in.
Equal parts mind game and physical confrontation, this scene is one of the best duels in all the Star Wars films. It dominates the whole movie, and I almost wish it got more attention.
The Emperor is characterized perfectly here as well, more than making up for his limited attention in the previous films. He acts as a great contrast to the now relatable villain Darth Vader, and, in some ways, is even more terrifying than Vader was. Oh, and he also wins award for ‘Best Prune Face’, which is always a plus in my book.
Even though Return of the Jedi takes a few missteps, it still stands as a fantastic movie. It adds more depth to all the characters, and gives fan favorites like Lando Calrissian and Yoda some more screen time and, in most cases, makes them that much more memorable.
Return of the Jedi, more so than any of the other movies I think, really captures that sense of victory in its resolution, and is actually able to satisfactorily tie up every loose end in a way that it touching and celebratory. Exactly how it should be.
Even though some characters, Han specifically, don’t have as many memorable scenes here as they may have had in the previous films, they don’t feel like they’ve overstayed their welcome at all, and still do nothing but add to the film. Probably because the actors here are all just so great.
If you were looking for a movie equally as dark and intense as The Empire Strikes Back, than you may have been disappointed in Return of the Jedi. However, if you were like me and were open to whatever Lucas threw at you, then you most likely had a great time with this movie.
Sure, it’s not perfect, but it is a near perfect conclusion to one of the most beloved Trilogy’s of all time. And that is more than enough for me.