Director: Richard Marquand
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science-Fiction
Runtime: 131 minutes (original cut), 134 minutes (Special Edition)
MPAA Rating: PG
It’s surprisingly hard for me to choose whether Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) or Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi is my favorite of the two. The Empire Strikes Back is the better-made and tighter of the duo, but Return of the Jedi serves as the conclusion to the cinematic trilogy, tying up all of the loose ends. For those living under a rock, Return of the Jedi‘s plot is about the Rebel Alliance preparing for one final battle with the vile Galactic Empire over the Forest Moon of Endor. It’s not a perfect motion picture, but, when things are going right, things are going very, very right.
Return of the Jedi is on solid ground when focusing on the depraved, slimy, sleazy Jabba the Hutt’s (voiced by Larry Ward) Palace and, later, the titanic, three-way battle of wills among Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), and Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The latter scenes are the true source of the film’s greatness. These emotionally-charged sequences are some of the best of the series and might give this movie the edge over The Empire Strikes Back. The most controversial aspect of Return of the Jedi has always been the cuddly, teddy-bear-like Ewoks fighting a pitched battle with the elite troops of the Empire. Of course, kids love this part and it sold many a toy, but I’m more concerned with the flick’s pacing and plot structure issues (the recycled destroy-the-Death-Star aspect of the story and Hamill’s character’s, Luke’s, plan to save Han Solo [Harrison Ford] being unclear are also minor flaws).
As one has come to expect, John Williams really delivers the goods in this one when it comes to the musical score. Yes, he’s still cranking out great new themes, while still playing the classics from 1977 and 1980. The special effects are nothing short of phenomenal and there’s a wondrous display of costumes and puppets. The explosive, swashbuckling action scenes are fantastic, too. The characters inhabiting the Star Wars galaxy are also as charming as they’ve ever been.
Return of the Jedi may have more problems than The Empire Strikes Back, but its high points may be higher. It’s the spine-tingling grand finale to the trilogy that largely does justice to the movies that preceded it. It ended the saga on a near-perfect note, in my opinion, while continuing to expand the lore of the universe that it’s set in. If you’re in the mood to view it, make sure to watch the original 1983 cut, and not the Special Edition.
My rating is 10 outta 10.