Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Posted by Joel Copling on December 17, 2015

"Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" is made better by the fact that it follows the likes of 1977's "A New Hope" and 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back," but there are instances here of the old adage about being too much of a good thing. The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas boils down to three major plot points, retaining the sense of efficiency shared by its predecessors, but something gets a bit dislodged when director Richard Marquand is asked to transition between them. It's not an enormous flaw in the long run, as a glorious climax proves near-iconic in its greatness, a fun opening act climaxes itself into a terrific action sequence, and final revelations are, well, revealed.

We might remember the finale of the last movie, which found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) discovering a harsh and bitter truth regarding the connection between his father and the evil Darth Vader (David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) frozen in a carbonite state and sold to a gangster named Jabba (voice of Larry Ward), and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) on a desperate mission with Han's old friendly rival Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) to save him. It was one zinger of a cliffhanger, and here is the payoff to those different strands. The payoff to one of them is immediate, as Han is rescued from Jabba's palace by Leia, Lando, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and steadfast droids/comic relief C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker).

There's a hitch in the rescue attempt, though, which calls for Luke's direct involvement. They barely escape from the wrath of an enormous creature kept in Jabba's basement and from a desert monster that digests its victims over the course of a millennia, only to discover that Vader and his boss the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) are creating another Death Star, this one bigger and more powerful than the last. Luke's conflicted feelings toward his father's identity and a path laid before him by Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) just before the ancient Jedi master's death to defeat Darth Vader are where the real drama lay in this installment of the franchise, and it's intensely compelling stuff.

Less successful is a stint on a moon of Endor, where fluffy creatures known as Ewoks reside. Led by Warwick Davis as Wicket, who provides support for Han and the others when stormtroopers track them to a secret entrance into the nearby battle station, they are cute enough to get some grins, but the film halts in its tracks during a sequence where the creatures consider C-3PO to be a deity due to his gold-plated visage. This is redeemed some by what follows--an invasion of the Ewok village by a horde of imperial troops, including giant "walker" robots, who somehow stand little chance against the Ewoks' primitive bows, arrows, rocks, and trip ropes. It's as thrilling as the battle that occurs high above them between Lando's troops and the imperial starfleet.

A series of revelations about one of the central characters fuels the passion underneath a climax that pits Luke against Vader and the Emperor (in the process, showcasing the original trilogy's best bit of lightsaber choreography). The unsaid things that transpire between Luke and Vader transcend those things that are said between them, transforming Luke's character arc instead of merely completing it. That's worth far more than an excess of time spent on a planet inhabit by silly creatures. "Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" falls short of its predecessors in its fudging of the pace of the middle section, but this climax is more than worth the wait.

Film Information

Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor), Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi), Sebastian Shaw (Anakin Skywalker), Denis Lawson (Wedge Antilles), Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Warwick Davis (Wicket), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Caroline Blakiston (Bib Fortuna), Femi Taylor (Oola), Claire Davenport (Yarna d'al Gargan).

Featuring the voices of James Earl Jones (Darth Vader), Frank Oz (Yoda), and Larry Ward (Jabba the Hutt).

Directed by Richard Marquand and written by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas.

Rated PG (sci-fi action violence).

134 minutes.

Released on May 25, 1983.