Return of the Jedi (1983) (Star Wars Episode VI)

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Return of the Jedi (1983) (Star Wars Episode VI)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:22 pm


The 2nd sequel to Star Wars (77) after The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and the 6th chapter of the film series (George Lucas intended it to be a 6-part saga so this one would have been the final chapter, but the 7th chapter finally arrives in 2015).  The first act finds our heroes back on Tatooine, in the domain of Jabba the Hut, the local head gangster who looks like a giant slug. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) had been captured and frozen near the end of the 5th episode so now, about a year later, his friends have figured out a plan to rescue him. It's a strange, 2-pronged plan: both Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Lando (Billy Dee Williams) infiltrate Jabba's organization but Leia is swiftly found out and made Jabba's pet slave. It then falls to Luke (Mark Hamill), now well-versed in the ways of "The Force," to directly challenge Jabba's authority. This act also features the bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) in action.

As first acts go, the entire sequence is fairly entertaining, perhaps more-than-ever a big budget variation of old-fashioned action serials. But, it may also be a sad commentary that the FX puppet playing Jabba probably remains the most entertaining character of the film; he or it is a cheerful expression of larger-than-life villainy - again, straight out of the old serials - and you may be almost sad to see him go so early in the film. After Han's rescue, the film switches gears to get on with the business of the rebellion. Luke briefly returns to Dagobah to witness Yoda's death and then joins everyone in the latest plan against the Empire which has an oddly deja vu feeling about it: the rebels need to destroy a 2nd version of the Death Star, shown as under construction. The difference with this is that the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) himself has arrived to join Darth Vader on the Death Star, which orbits the forested moon of Endor.

ABOVE: The Emperor or the Ewoks - which inspire more fear?

It's in this big forest that the real drawbacks of the film begin: we are soon introduced to the local residents, small teddy bear characters called Ewoks. The film, until now appropriate for young teens and people of all ages, now suddenly becomes geared towards 10-year-olds and younger. This was the latest bid of George Lucas to expand the merchandising potential, i.e. sell more toys to the kids. It's also what prevents this film series from reaching truly classic status. The Ewoks capture Leia first and then the other heroes, but are cowed when Luke levitates C3PO, whom the little creatures regard as a godling. From then on, the Ewoks becomes serious allies of the rebels in defeating the Imperial troops. Isn't that magnificent? No, not so, because all the scenes of the Ewoks are too sharp a contrast with the dark tone of the Emperor's scenes with Vader and Luke. It's almost like watching two different films.
Where the film does excel - and this makes it similar to late scenes in The Empire Strikes Back  - is in concluding the story arc of Luke and Vader, with the Emperor thrown in to offer a truly creepy portrait of rancid evil. In showing us this Emperor, the film underlines what the menace of this Empire really is and what power Vader has been following over the course of these films. McDiarmid was an inspired choice to play the dark ruler - he reeks of evil and his voice is most unsettling. His backstory was, of course, later revealed in the prequels, but this was at the time - 1983 - our only glimpse of this terrible figure and it was unpleasantly intense, also piquing our curiosity about who this Satanic villain really was and where he came from. There was a further revelation about Luke and Leia, settling things for the Luke-Leia-Han triangle, and an unexpected finale for Vader. BoG's Score: 7.5 out of 10
Return of the Trivia: as with the previous two films, this was the highest-grossing film of the year (1983); actor McDiarmid would reprise his role in the prequels, even though he was over 15 years older when the prequels were made and his character - only then named Palpatine - was over 20 years younger; in the 2004 video release version of this film, actor Hayden Christensen was inserted digitally in the final shot as a ghostly Anakin; before, it was actor Sebastian Shaw as an older Anakin; the next episode, VII, to be released in 2015, takes place about 30 years after the events here.
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Post  BoG on Sun Dec 07, 2014 1:19 am




More Jedi Trivia: also the biggest opening weekend to that point, at $23 million, far surpassing the previous year's record of a $14+ million opening weekend gross by Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan; however, the Jedi record would fall in the next year, taken by the 2nd Indiana Jones film, The Temple of Doom, which opened to $25+ million.
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