SUB-GENRES: Action / Adventure
DIRECTED BY: Richard Marquand
WRITTEN BY: Lawrence Kasdan & George Lucas (screenplay); George Lucas (story)
PEW PEW: This movie is a wonderful blend of the two movies that preceded it. It is altogether more fun than the first and second, and the depth adds new stakes to the action. The series positively glows with, and is perhaps the greatest example of pure ‘pew pew!’
CAT FOOD: There is a great deal more depth to the morality in this picture, which makes it special, and the presence of unlikely heroes like the ewoks makes its own series of statements. The series is still more about its action and excitment than it is about social commentary.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I shamelessly present to you my favourite of the original trilogy of Star Wars films. The third film (sixth in the saga’s overall continuity), Return of the Jedi combines the depth of Empire with the fun and adventure of the original film.
The film begins six months (if I remember my expanded universe chronology well enough) after The Empire Strikes Back. We’re back on Luke Skywalker’s home planet, where we find out the newly confident Jedi trainee has put together a (don’t analyse it too thoroughly) plan to rescue his (douchey) friend Han Solo from the clutches of evil crimelord Jabba the Hutt.
After we get introduced to one of the sexiest costumes ever designed, Boba Fett dies like a bitch, and the rescue is a success, our team of heroes divides once again to wage two battles of equal immensity, despite their comparative scales. Luke Skywalker returns to complete his training with Yoda, while Leia, Lando, Chewie, and Douche reconnect with the Rebel Alliance, who are planning a full-scale assault on a second Death Star, which has the evil Galactic Emperor on board.
So what exactly makes this one so good?
Character development. While most of the character development has happened in the time between movies, the new found maturity of the characters shines through tremendously. Leia is still strong, but a lot softer than before. You fear for her safety a few times in this one, despite the fact that you’ve seen her strength before. Luke has become more confident but a lot more troubled since we found out Vader was his father. He presents himself as a badass, black-clad Jedi and pulls off some incredible feats. I like Han a lot in this picture actually, and you can tell his experience as Jabba’s wall decoration has humbled him quite a bit. Even Lando is quite likable — we get the feeling that we judged his position a little hastily in the last film. With the bombshell that was dropped at the end of Empire, Vader’s character has added depth, and Kenobi’s ghost helps to paint a struggling human face on that forbidding obsidian mask. And, best of all, Threepio has his moment to shine as the plot allows him a purpose and a station that gives him sass and the ability to stand up to those who’d previously pushed him around.
Fun. Unlike the last film, Return of the Jedi is replete with exciting and extremely fun sequences. Jabba’s palace returns us to a place filled with strange alien goons like we saw in the cantina in the original film. The crimelord himself is a sight to behold in his own right. The slimy, bloated, anthropomorphic slug draws from a hookah pipe, eats helpless, frog-like creatures, speaks in a foreign basso profondo, and completely and utterly objectifies our leading lady. Not that I support female love slavery, but he is a villain and villains do that kind of stuff — plus, Carrie Fisher was a hottie in that outfit and for fuck sake, how about we celebrate that instead of complaining about the apparently applied sexism.
The speeder bike sequence and the battle sequences on Endor are incredibly thrilling as well, and even the space battles (which, oddly enough, I don’t care for in these films) are quite a bit more enjoyable this time round — possibly due to the screen presence of the squid-like rebel Admiral, and the banter between Lando and his quirky co-pilot.
Depth. The battle Luke wages against his father and the one his father wages against himself is the highlight of the picture. The Emperor being established as the saga’s true villain really pulls things together. That scabby old git increases the stakes, and the final lightsaber battle is electric, emotional, and wholly tragic. We get a glimpse of ‘Luke Skywalker: Ultimate Hero’ as we find out that he’s willing to crush his father in order to save his sister from harm, and more: that he’s willing to put his faith in his formerly evil father to save the entire fucking galaxy. Damn, Luke really friggin grew up.
Motherfuckin’ ewoks. Quite obviously created for the children who would be watching the film, ewoks are cuddly little teddy bear creatures who come to ally themselves with the Rebel Alliance and wage a guerilla war against the Imperial forces on Endor. I’m torn in two by these little buggers. Half of me loves the things because of my childhood, and half of me really does get insulted that the things were able to defeat one of the most badassed empires ever. While the things detract from the film’s seriousness (there is, however, a rather heavy scene where one ewok tries to wake his dead friend), they also add to the film’s message a sense that all peoples can be mighty, regardless of stature or intellect.
Despite an element of tragedy, Return of the Jedi ends on a truly triumphant note that pleases fans like me tremendously. I really do love this picture, and for a time, it was my favourite in the series. More on this later.