Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Carlrissian
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
David Prowse as Darth Vader
James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (Voice)
Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor
Frank Oz as Yoda
Director: Richard Marquand
After a daring mission to rescues Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels to Endor to destroy the second Death Star. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) struggles to help Darth Vader (David Prowse) back from the dark side without falling into the Emperor’s trap.
I remember when I was younger finding Return of the Jedi to be my favourite of the original Star Wars trilogy. In rewatching it more recently however, I admit that I’m not that impressed with it anymore, honestly I was rather underwhelmed by the movie on the whole. It’s no doubt got some great parts to it, and its acted and directed relatively well, but most of the movie is generally just ‘fine’.
I’m not really sure how most people view the early section of rescuing Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, but to me it wasn’t that good, and actually had me a bit worried for the rest of the movie. It keeps you there for quite a while, gradually watch the droids go into Jabba’s place, then watch Leia’s unsuccessful attempt at rescuing Han, then there’s Luke making his attempt. It’s just rather boring and sort of a pain to sit through. One of the absolute worst parts of the movie is the worst scene to ever ‘grace’ a Star Wars movie, which is also one of the worst changes George Lucas made to the original trilogy. I’m talking about what is known as Jedi Rocks. Now originally there was a scene of a band playing a song in Jabba’s Palace, and watching it online, it’s actually alright. The song was subtle, simple, and it lasted for less than a minute. It seems that Lucas was never satisfied with how this was done however, and added way more to this sequence, replacing the song, making it longer, louder, and having these random aliens take up the screentime, and it’s incredibly obnoxious. It’s even worse if you’re like me and you’re just not liking the Jabba Palace section, and it just tests your patience. It’s the single most painful moment to watch in the entire series. Back to that whole first act, it improves a little when Luke appears (and established himself as a much more powerful Jedi now) and ends up fighting a Rancor, but it really starts to pick up to being kind of good once he gets his new green lightsaber and starts fighting Jabba’s people, along with the other main characters. That action scene was satisfying and almost made up for everything that came before… almost. Also, every time I hear about Boba Fett being apparently great, I’m instantly reminded of his part in this movie where he gets accidently knocked down by a partially blind Han Solo and then eaten. Just thought it was worth mentioning as well.
So the first act wasn’t all that good, but I really didn’t care much about the storyline on Endor either. This is where they are going to down the shields on the second Death Star. This is the big conclusion, and I felt like I really should’ve felt the stakes, or some degree of emotion really. However it feels oddly inconsequential and nothing much happens in here. There’s not even a lot of scenes between Han and Leia where they talk about things that aren’t the objective. It’s just about the rebels trying to take the base, and also the Ewoks are in it. Now as for the Ewoks themselves, I don’t hate them but I don’t particularly like them either. Maybe if they were Wookies or some other species that was at least more credible (or one you can take somewhat seriously), I would’ve liked it a lot better. But as it is, it honestly felt like Lucas just went with these just for making toys. Let’s just say that the Ewoks are something that you’d expect from The Phantom Menace more than any other Star Wars movie. Not to mention, I almost feel like they only just pad out the runtime so that this section isn’t 20 minutes long. However it’s not like they’re the reason I didn’t like the storyline, on its own it wasn’t that interesting or engaging either. When they finally get to the battles at the end it picks up, for the Endor bits the Ewoks unfortunately make it hard to take it seriously. The ship battles to take down the Death Star 2 are pretty good however.
It’s really a shame that I don’t love this movie, because the storyline with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is pretty much pitch perfection. Luke is a full on Jedi now, and has learned a lot since Empire. The movie really builds up their eventual next meeting that happens in the second half of the movie, with now the knowledge that Luke is his son of course. The movie also adds the part about Leia also being his sister, which I’m all good with, but their kiss in Empire Strikes Back is still going to feel weird forever. It all comes to a head in the throne room scene during the attack on the second Death Star, and there’s a fight between Luke and Vader. I also liked where it actually showed Luke for a brief moment give into the dark side as he even chops off Vader’s hand, but doesn’t follow through with killing him. This moment along with bits in Empire Strikes Back cements Luke as an imperfect and flawed character instead of a perfect Jedi (which The Last Jedi also follows along with), which just made him all the more compelling. Then there’s the moment where The Emperor is electrocuting Luke and then you have that fantastic moment of Vader choosing to save him by throwing Palpatine over the edge, fulfilling Anakin’s prophecy of bringing balance to the force (until suddenly when the Emperor returned again from the dead in a later movie for some reason but whatever). The worst change from George Lucas is possibly when he added in Darth Vader saying “No. NOOOOOOOOOOO” just before he ‘kills’ Palpatine. It was such a powerful moment requiring no lines at all, just the physical acting by Prowse was enough to convey everything. But for some reason ever since that change was made, it was kept for future versions of the movie, and I’ve never liked it, and its much less to do with the silliness of the lines. Despite this plotline having large stakes, it feels very personal and intimate, and that made it even better. Also while we are on the topic of changes, I’m more than fine with Anakin’s force ghost being updated to be that of Hayden Christensen’s appearance.
The cast are all good. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams and others return and provide some good work once again. This movie also introduced Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor and he’s having an absolute blast in this role, perfect casting.
The direction isn’t quite as good as the previous movies, but it has its moments. Some of the CGI still looks a little off, the green screen of the speeder section on Endor particularly looked like it was out of a Bond film from the 60s and 70s. Whenever it came to the action with the Ewoks, it was just rather silly, and not in a good way. The rest of the action however is generally filmed well. The fights with the lightsabre are good, especially the end Darth Vader and Luke battle. John Williams of course scores this movie excellently.
Return of the Jedi has a lot of issues, and I’m not really that much of a fan of it. Outside of the cast who play their roles well, as well as some aspects on the technical side, it’s just sort of whatever. The first act drags and is borderline straight up bad, and even much of the rest of the movie after that wasn’t particularly engaging or entertaining. What ultimately saves this movie is that Luke and Vader storyline, which is genuinely fantastic and I couldn’t think of a better way of ending that. The movie has some merit, but ultimately I can’t say that it’s better than ‘just good’.