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Return of the Jedi Movie Review

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1983, 1997 (Special Edition) – Richard Marquand –

The third chapter (actually Episode VI) in George Lucas' enormously successful Star Wars saga brings the trilogy to a sweeping, grand-scale conclusion with a story that involves heroic rescues, epic battles, the ultimate triumph of good over diabolical evil, and personal redemption. After saving Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the gangster Jabba the Hutt, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his friends embark on a quest with the Rebel Alliance to destroy the Empire's new Death Star space station, unaware that their plans have been foreseen by the evil Emperor Palpatine. Return of the Jedi has occasionally been criticized as being simply more of the same, essentially a retreading of territory already explored by its predecessors; however, even though its dazzling special effects and fascinating action sequences clearly resemble and invite comparison to those of the first two films, the movie stands well on its own as it further develops central themes touched on in the previous chapters and also introduces new ones that bring satisfying closure to the epic saga that began with Star Wars.

The Star Wars saga is very much the saga of the maturation of Luke Sky-walker. In the first film, Luke is an overly confident youth eager to become a hero, while in The Empire Strikes Back he begins to mature as he learns the complexity of good and evil and must face the realities of pain and loss. In Return of the Jedi, Luke has matured and mellowed into a man whose quest becomes not merely conquering an evil Empire but redeeming his fallen father. In the process, he must face his own “dark side” and resist the temptation to repeat his father's mistakes. When he finally succeeds in his quest—not by besting his enemies in a fight but by appealing to the good within his father and refusing to destroy him even when he has the opportunity—Luke becomes even more of a hero than he was in the first film when he destroyed the original Death Star.

Another interesting aspect of the film is its message concerning the fallibility of technology. In a galaxy full of technological wonders, from human-like robots and androids to faster-than-light spaceships and light sabers, ultimately it is a tribe of intelligent but primitive bear-like creatures (Ewoks) that foils the Emperor's plans and enables the Rebel Alliance to defeat the Empire. Ironically, while the saga is set in a technologically advanced universe that lends the story much of its appeal, the film ultimately suggests that superior technology does not equal superiority.

The character of the Emperor, who bears a striking resemblance to Death, supplies fascinating tension in some of the film's most dramatic scenes. In a role that could have come across as melodramatic or unbelievable, actor Ian McDiarmid provides some of Return of the Jedi's most memorable moments as he gives a delightfully diabolical performance as a man who has been so corrupted by power that he almost seems the very personification of evil.

In 1997, George Lucas released a special edition of the Star Wars trilogy, featuring new footage, digitally enhanced special effects, and an improved, remixed soundtrack. As with The Empire Strikes Back, there is very little new footage in Return of the Jedi, and much of it is not noticeable, but it does feature a new ending, re-scored by John Williams, that is an improvement over the original version.

Cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Frank Oz (voice of Yoda), Alec Guiness (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna) Screenwriter: George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan Cinematographer: Alan Hume Composer: John Williams, Jerry Hey (Special Edition) Producer: Howard Kazanjian for Lucas-film and Twentieth Century Fox; Rick McCallum (Special Edition) MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 134 minutes; 135 minutes (Special Edition) Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards 1983: Visual Effects; Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration, Sound, Score (John Williams); People's Choice Awards 1984: Film Budget: $32.5M Box Office: $309.13M (domestic gross).

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