Return of the Jedi, The (1983)

Return of the Jedi, The (1983)

“Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you — the conflict.”

As Emperor Palpatin (Ian McDiarmid) and Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) attempt to lure Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to the Dark Side, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) — with help from Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), and a host of furry forest creatures known as Ewoks — continue their rebellion against the evil Imperial forces.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Father and Child
  • Rebellion
  • Science Fiction
  • Space Opera

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “final installment in the [original] Star Wars trilogy” — third after Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) — has “marvelous special effects” (yes), “exciting battles” (definitely), “and one great new creature: enormous, blubbery villain Jabba the Hut” (nope! I’m not a fan).

However, Peary doesn’t “like the way executive producer George Lucas and his co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan tie loose ends together”, and he argues that “everything is too pat; moreover, when we discover who everybody is in relation to one another, it’s hard not to be disappointed.” (One wonders what Peary thinks of all the recent additions to the series, if he’s seen them…) He further posits that the “script is too simple, returning the characters to the shallow comic-strip figures they were in the first film”, and that there’s “too much talk about light and dark, good and evil — eventually that’s all the bad guys, who want Luke to join them, discuss.”

Peary continues his review by noting that while he doesn’t “object to Fisher wearing skimpy outfits”, the “change in her wardrobe reflects too drastic a change in her personality from The Empire Strikes Back” (I disagree, though it’s sad knowing Fisher was forced to lose a quarter of her body weight to play the role.)

He adds that while he likes “the idea of a tribe of rebel warriors”, the “fur-ball Ewoks — inspired by Lucas’s dog — aren’t what I had in mind.”

(I’m also not a fan, though I watched this film with my 9 and 10 year old kids, and they were absolutely delighted with the Ewoks — which shows the intended audience.) Peary writes that the film’s “highlight is the speed-cycle chase through a heavily wooded area” — most definitely! — and points out what a surprise it is “not to see James Earl Jones when Darth Vader is unmasked.” Overall, Peary’s review seems to reflect his ambivalence about this film, which I share; this one is ultimately only must-see for fans of the franchise.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The exciting speed cycle chase
  • Fine special effects and cinematography

Must See?
No, though of course fans of the series will certainly consider it must-see.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


2 thoughts on “Return of the Jedi, The (1983)

  1. I remember ROTJ as being something to race out to the theaters and see when I was a kid. I mean, Star Wars and then Empire were such spectacular experiences, how could you not want to watch the one that wraps everything up, particularly if you’re a kid. Even if it wasn’t going to be as good, you were assured that it would probably still be good or at least worth the watch. That’s the way I feel about it still, it’s worth the watch, and the craftsmanship of the original franchise deserves praise. But the brand had gotten so big, and the production scale by then being gargantuan, how could it not begin to lose that inventive, spontaneous quality that initially made it so great?

    I think it could have been a bit better had Irvin Kershner been director rather than Richard Marquand. Kershner was able to evoke richer performances from the cast in Empire than did Marquand in ROTJ, and it’s possible that he could have influenced the script in a less ham-handed direction.

    And while perhaps not intentionally, ROTJ basically set the tone for the later and now latest movies in the series as the cast sizes have grown and grown large enough to the point where it seems as though the script was having a hard time keeping up with everybody. I wish I could say that any of the later entries come close to being as good as even ROTJ. Unfortunately, they’re all effectively fan fiction novels with whopper-sized budgets, and all lack the key ingredient that made the initial trilogy so successful: chemistry.

  2. First viewing. Not must-see, though I’m in agreement that fans of the first two installments will want to check it out.

    The well-stated points (esp. re: the Ewoks though, yes, they’re no doubt great for younger audience members) attest to why this trilogy finale is a step back after ‘Empire’ and why those who aren’t particularly fans needn’t feel compelled to see it. The script is a bit of a letdown after ‘Empire’ and there’s a sense that things sort of plod along.

    That said… the speed-cycle chases are certainly of note and exciting and the film’s last 30 minutes afford a general lift in the storytelling.

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