CLASSIC REVIEW: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Theatrical Release Poster – Art by Kazuhiko Sano

The following is a classic review of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, a Richard Marquand film. Expect spoilers.

1983 – Return of the Jedi – the end of the original trilogy. While Empire Strikes Back is definitely the best film, Return of the Jedi was my favorite film when I was younger. And there is a simple reason why this film, though not the best of the three, is remembered so fondly by so many people. Return of the Jedi is the most satisfying Star Wars film.

Return of the Jedi once again follows our three heroes – Han, Leia, and Luke. Continuing the story from The Empire Strikes Back, Leia and Luke are trying to free Han Solo from his carbonite container. But the evil crimelord Jabba the Hutt is not interested in making any deal with them, so Luke and Leia must actively take part in freeing Han, which doesn’t go as well as they had hoped.

Meanwhile, Luke knows that the ultimate battle with Vader and the Emperor awaits. Still, Luke is certain that he can turn his father back to the light side of the Force. In one of the most exciting final acts of any film, Luke must keep the Empire and the Dark Lords busy on the second Death Star, while the Rebel Alliance attacks the shield generators on Endor; so that they can finally destroy the Death Star in question, thus striking down the Emperor once and for all.

Now, this all sounds very serious, but a huge chunk of this film really isn’t. Parts of the first and second acts are incredibly silly, with the Ewoks being the best example. I actually like the Ewoks. Seeing as Star Wars, ultimately, is a fairytale set in a galaxy far, far away, I don’t think it should be a problem to have these cute little creatures. With that having been said, the scene where our heroes encounter the Ewoks for the first time is probably the worst part of the film. It feels like a completely different film when C-3PO saves them and becomes somewhat of a God to them.

It is no secret that I absolutely love Luke Skywalker. Luke is, without a doubt, my favorite character in the Star Wars universe. Luke’s growth continues in Return of the Jedi, but so does Mark Hamill’s. Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi might be Mark Hamill’s best live-action performance ever. In this installment, Luke is finally a Jedi Knight – his Jedi training is complete, and now he must face Darth Vader and the Emperor.

Luke is much more certain of himself, and, as he shows in Jabba’s palace, he is much more comfortable and strong in the Force. Still, conflict is within him. We see weakness when Luke battles Vader. As Vader tries to lure Luke to the Dark Side, there is a shot of Luke in the shadows – one half of his face in the light, and another half in the dark – stunning, but simple, symbolism.

Luke has always taken an active part in the trilogy, but Leia has sometimes been sidelined. I love how Leia is incredibly active in Return of the Jedi. As Boushh (Leia disguised), Leia is the one actively trying to save Han. And even when she is forced to become Jabba’s slave, you still see her strength. Leia is the one taking Jabba down.

When you watch the entire saga from start to finish, you don’t initially realize how little information you get about the Emperor in the original trilogy. He isn’t in A New Hope, and he’s barely in The Empire Strikes Back. Seeing as the Emperor is an essential part of the final act in Return of the Jedi, Marquand, Lucas, and Kasdan had to present him in an appropriate manner. They do that in one of the best ways imaginable. In the opening scene, you see Darth Vader speaking to a Commander – Vader ends the conversation by stating that: “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am. ” – I love how they build up his character like that.

Ultimately, while Return of the Jedi is not as groundbreaking as A New Hope was, and is not a masterpiece like The Empire Strikes Back is, it is still one of the best endings to a trilogy, if not the best ending ever made. The original trilogy truly is the best trilogy ever made, as it has a masterful beginning, a perfect middle, and a solid ending.

Final Score: 9 out of 10 – While Return of the Jedi is not the best film in the original trilogy, it is the most satisfying Star Wars film.

I’m Jeffrey Rex