MRR Movie Review: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

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The film is set approximately one year after The Empire Strikes Back. Rebel leader and Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker struggles to bring Darth Vader, who is his father and a fallen Jedi, back from the Dark Side of the Force.
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Movie Review: "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi"

-- Rating: PG
Release Date: May 25, 1983
Directed by: Richard Marquand
Cast: Full Cast and Crew

"Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" is the final installment in the famous saga. Directed by Richard Marquand, the film wraps up all the loose ends from the previous films, concluding the tale of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, now known as Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones). While a fine film, "Return of the Jedi" suffers in comparison to its immediate predecessor, "The Empire Strikes Back." Where "Empire" was dark, "Jedi" suffers from too many childish elements, an issue that continued to plague the "Star Wars" saga in the movies of the prequel trilogy.

The film begins some time after the events of "Empire." The Imperials have begun to build a new Death Star, and the project is overseen by Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Meanwhile, the droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) have traveled to Tattooine to rescue Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from Jabba the Hutt. The droids are joined by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). This group immediately causes trouble for Jabba, which ends in a spectacular battle that frees Solo for good.

Following the battle, Luke travels to Dagobah where he learns from Yoda (Frank Oz) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alex Guiness) that he must defeat Vader if he is to become a Jedi. As Luke struggles with the knowledge that he may have to kill his own father, he and his fellow rebels head to the forest moon of Endor to begin a military strike against the Death Star.

Living up to the first two "Star Wars" films is a difficult task. While "Jedi" is a great film, it suffers when compared to the classic originals, as it doesn't have either the wide-eyed fun of the first film or the dark, mystical themes of "Empire." While some of the darkness from the second movie is here, it's mostly been replaced by a childish feeling that is out of place in this film. The Ewoks are the biggest culprits, and Han Solo's characterization also adds moments of disappointment.

In "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back," Solo was a roguish hero who helped Skywalker and the Rebels defeat the Imperials in a number of close calls. His charm, quick wit, and bravery made him a favorite among fans and helped catapult Harrison Ford into superstardom. In "Jedi," Solo has none of these qualities. Instead, he basically becomes a background character with little of the fun and intrigue that made Solo special.

Solo and his companion Chewbacca stumble onto the trap that leads to the introduction of the Ewoks. This tribe of cuddly little bears helps the Rebel Alliance defeat the Empire with a set of ground attacks, allowing the fleet to attack the Death Star. From a plot perspective, this development is fine, and it provides a nice contrast between the technology of the Empire and the Ewoks' simple weaponry. However, it is simply unbelievable that the Rebellion would have so much trouble with the Empire, but could then beat imperial forces so easily with help from the least technological species in the galaxy. Ultimately, the Ewoks represent a move by creator George Lucas towards a more kid-friendly story.

That said, there is plenty here for fans of the series to enjoy. The best part of the film deals with the fallout from Darth Vader's revelation that he is Luke's father. Considered within the context of all six "Star Wars" films, it's clear that Vader is struggling to maintain his allegiance to the Emperor, making it easy to compare this dilemma to his struggle as Anakin Skywalker in "Revenge of the Sith." Luke's attempt to kill his father also mirrors some of the problems Anakin faced as a Jedi. Even though this movie was written eighteen years before the prequel trilogy, the way all six movies tie together is testament to Lucas' storytelling abilities.

"Return of the Jedi" also gave viewers their first glimpse of Emperor Palpatine. Actor Ian McDiarmid plays the Emperor as a purely evil being, relishing the mind games he uses on Vader and Skywalker. It's a masterful performance that grows better with time.

The film does a great job of tying up all of the loose ends from the previous films. From Solo's debt to Jabba the Hutt to the revelation of the "Other" that Yoda spoke of in "Empire," "Return of the Jedi" ensures that no question is left unanswered.

Overall, "Return of the Jedi" provides a fine ending to one of the most beloved film sagas of all time. It was followed sixteen years after its release by the prequel trilogy. Recently, it was announced that the first film of a sequel trilogy would debut in 2015, giving fans what they have wanted for years: more adventures featuring Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.

Rating 4 out of 5