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Film Review: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Updated on December 18, 2015


In 1983, Richard Marquand released Return of the Jedi, the third film in the Star Wars franchise and the third and final film of the original trilogy. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Sebastian Shaw, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, Denis Lawson, Warwick Davis, Jeremy Bulloch, David Barclay, and Caroline Blakiston, the film grossed $527.1 million at the box office. Nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound and Best Music, Original Score, the film received the Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects as well as the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.


After Luke and the heroes rescue Han from Jabba’s palace, the Galactic Rebellion regroups to deal with the Empire, which is now building a second Death Star. A strike team is sent in to disable its defenses on the forest moon of Endor while Luke is drawn to his destiny, confronting his father and Emperor Palpatine.


As an ending to the original trilogy Return of the Jedi closes out the story well while being a great film in and of itself, though not as good as the one before it. The film provides a good capstone to the trilogy-long conflict by displaying three different fights as one climactic battle. There’s the ground battle on the forest moon, the space battle above the moon and the battle between Luke and Darth Vader on the Death Star and they all have different elements to them. The ground battle is reminiscent of Vietnam, having a technologically superior force (The Empire), being beaten by an inferior military who knew the terrain better (the rebels and Ewoks), and is done remarkably well. With the space battle, the Rebel Fleet realizes that this is their only chance to destroy the new Death Star and so it moves to point blank range with the Imperial ships as a method to survive. These two demonstrate quite well the struggle and the resilience the rebels had after being so badly beaten in the last film. There’s even a well-done instance where it shows just how scrappy the rebels where, with an A-Wing able to ram into the Super Star Destroyer as it broke apart, with the mere hope that it would provide some sort of advantage. What’s more is it works.

But then there’s that fight with Luke and Darth Vader, the one that completes both characters’ developmental story arcs. For the former, he completes his path towards becoming a Jedi and this is the only film where he makes use of a lightsaber more than he does a blaster. Interestingly though, any references to Luke being a Jedi is met with incredulity from other characters, showing disbelief that he’s ready to be a Jedi (Which shows some interesting character development in the way of Han Solo, who believes Luke’s calling himself a Jedi Knight is a delusion of grandeur, which is a change from his stance in the first film where he expressed flat out disbelief in the Force.), with Yoda even saying he must confront Vader before he can call himself a Jedi. Interestingly, the only one to call him a Jedi is Emperor Palpatine, who tries to kill him shortly after. But when all is said and done, he confronts his father and is able to reign himself in after unleashing his anger, realizing that he must be in control before losing himself the in the same manner his father fell.

For the latter, it completes his path towards redemption with him becoming an anti-villain. The film hints that his original attempts to get Luke to succumb to the dark side were an effort to protect him, with him outright stating that he cans turn from the dark side because he believes he’s unable to be redeemed, despite the good that Luke says he feels in him. However, when Emperor Palpatine is trying to kill Luke, he understands that he doesn’t have to let Luke die and realizes his son was right. His final words are to tell Luke that he was right, completing his character arc towards redemption by dying.

The film also gives the aforementioned Emperor Palpatine a bigger spotlight than he had in the previous film. And it paints him as a monster who is so evil that he can’t comprehend ideals such as goodness and love, mocking Luke’s attempts to find the good in Darth Vader. His environment also wonderfully portrays the darkness the character omits. His throne room is muted and angular with the only color coming from his royal guards, who are quickly sent away, making it so the only colors during the fight are from the lightsabers and Luke’s face. The window behind him also looks like a web, showing that he’s the master planner behind everything that happens in the movie.

The original trilogy also gets some good bookends. Back in Star Wars, the first lightsaber activated is Anakin’s old lightsaber, which now belongs to Luke. And now the final one to be deactivated is Luke’s as well.

4 stars for Return of the Jedi

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinions.


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