Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: May 25, 1983
DIRECTOR: Richard Marquand
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Alan Hume
WRITERS: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas
MUSIC: John Williams
If there is one thing that was certain back in 1983, it is that “Return of the Jedi” had a lot to live up to after the massively successful story found in “The Empire Strikes Back”. With that in mind, it is understandable that there was probably no way that “Return” was going to be able to totally live up to that high bar. Thankfully, though, the original trilogy comes to an absolutely satisfying close as our original characters get a proper conclusion to the story that started in “A New Hope” in 1977.
The story picks up roughly a year after the events of “Empire” and our heroes find themselves back on Luke’s (Mark Hamill) home world of Tatooine. They are there in order to rescue Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the evil clutches of Jabba the Hutt. Eventually, our heroes are captured by Jabba and thankfully Luke has a plan that will free them all.
After this, they learn of a second deadly Death Star that is being constructed in orbit around the forest moon of Endor. Luke, Han and Leia (Carrie Fisher) will lead a team to the moon’s surface in order to destroy a shield generator protecting the Death Star. The Rebels will be led by Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) to destroy the station itself. Finally, this plan will lead Luke on a path to his final confrontation with Darth Vader (David Prowse) and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid).
The movie is at its weakest while our heroes are on Tatooine. While it was visually interesting to see the underworld of Luke’s home planet and the act does end with a spectacular finish, there just wasn’t that much happening in this act that was all that interesting. Once the film gets beyond this, though, it never lets up.
The action sequences, which in this case include daring speeder bike chases and the fantastic space battle near the end, are definitely some of the best featured in the series. Like “Empire”, most of the effects also hold up to this day. Before I continue, I would like to address the Ewoks that our heroes encounter on the planet.
Yes, they are adorable little creatures that I’m sure sold a lot of toys. However, I disagree with a lot of fans who hate the little space bears. While they are adorable, they also represent that if there is a will, there is a way for people to overcome seemingly overwhelming odds. It is a victory for those who feel they are powerless and for that reason, I love the Ewoks!
In addition to the action, though, we definitely get good conclusions to everyone’s stories as well. Luke is the one who benefits the most by this film’s story. While listening to the Emperor confidently talk about how he has foreseen Luke’s submission and the defeat of the Rebels, you can see Luke battling on the inside with his hope for his father and the hate for the Emperor. This is a true testament to Hamill’s acting talents and it is a battle that is just as harrowing as anything that the Rebels are doing.
“Return” may not have been able to reach the heights of the earlier films, but it did manage to give the original trilogy a thrilling and ultimately satisfying close.