I finally got around to my Return of the Jedi rewatch and I realised how much I had missed this film.
It’s so fun and exciting.
I had to watch it over multiple sessions, most of which between 6.15 – 6.45 AM when I wake up and lay in bed contemplating the day ahead, which is more fun when Star Wars is on, so it took a while.
I don’t fully remember my first time watching the film when I was younger but as a child I remember I enjoyed this one the most for the action. As I got older I moved more to the Empire Strikes Back camp. The one this I do remember about that first viewing was that during the Battle of Endor when the Ewoks are under attack from the AT-ST’s a pair of Ewoks are caught in an explosion. One survives and tries to wake the other up and the cries when they realise the other is dead. That broke me as a kid and I wept. What made it worse was that I thought the dead Ewok was Wicket! I mean dude! Talk about the relief I felt when he came back later on.
Another time I watched it, when I was a bit older, I was watching it in bed and when Vader asks Like to take off his mask I started to well up. Something about it just hit me, Vader had returned to being Anakin Skywalker and he was good and loved his children. Boy did that do a number on me that night.
Return of the Jedi always captured my attention, all of the creatures in Jabba’s Palace just fascinated me and I wanted to know as much about them as possible. When I read ‘The Essential Guide to Characters’ I dove right in to Jabba’s goons. I have no clue why but I really liked Ephant Mon.
I was the right age to enjoy the Ewoks, and still do. In get that the concept of these little Teddy Bear creatures taking down the Empire is far-fetched but come on, it’s Star Wars not real life. Plus the Woklings are adorable.
As a child I was in absolute awe of the whole third act. The ground battle was like nothing I had ever seen before and then the space battle took that awe and ramped it up to 11 and finally the Luke/Vader/Palpatine had me on edge. I was honestly afraid for Luke. Would he turn? Would he die? And in that moment where Vader threatens to turn Leia and Luke gives in to his anger, everything from the choreography of the dual to the music filled me with wonder and dread. Could Luke really turn? But of course hope returns when he throws his weapon down and defies the Emperor.
The story isn’t just about Luke at this point and when Vader saves his son and kills his master you know you can finally relax… for a moment that is because Lando and the Falcon are still in danger.
The great thing about all three parts of the final act is that anything could happen to any of the main characters. It feels like Lando’s death and the destruction of the Falcon is being set up from the scene in the Home One hanger bay between Han and Lando. And in the ground battle Leia and R2 are both shot by Stormtroopers (now those two Stormtroopers deserve medals for actually hitting something). It is only by sheer dumb luck (and Chewie stealing an AT-ST with a couple of Ewoks) that the Rebels got in the Shield Generator Bunker at all.
Of course the film isn’t all action. We get some very important scenes which really showcase the acting talent of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in a way that we don’t really get from the previous two films.
Again Hamill kills it whilst acting with a puppet in the Yoda death scene which confirms Vader’s revelation from Empire Strikes Back which leads to Luke and Obi-Wan talking about Anakin/Vader which also reveals Luke and Leia to be twins. This leads to a beautiful scene between Luke and Leia on Endor which is so touching and heartfelt it really hits you in the feels and gives Carrie Fisher a brilliant moment to shine.
The creature work is amazing too, a massive step up from the already brilliant Cantina scene from A New Hope, this time we get Jabba’s Palace and in it we are introduced to a whole myriad of creatures all are people in outfits or large puppets. Jabba’s himself if an impressive feat of puppetry, with seven people inside to operate him. The Rancor again a puppet, filmed at high speed to simulate a large living monster. And then, to top it off we have Admiral Ackbar and the rest of the Mon Cala race on board Home One and Lando’s co-pilot Nein Numb.
Of course, like A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back we have had a few revisions to the film made by George Lucas through the years. Jedi Rocks, the new music from Jabba’s Palace is a bit much especially with the new CGI version of Sy Snootles the singer, the addition of Joh Yowzah the other singer and a brand new song and dance number… not the best really.
The beak that now comes out of the Sarlaac Pit makes the whole sequence not work, it felt a lot scarier when it was just an open mouth in the desert.
For the Blu-Ray editions Lucas had blinking eyelids added to the Ewoks… utterly pointless.
Lucas had the original final musical number changed from Yub Nub to a much more melodic tune and had scenes of celebration from around the Galaxy added, including Bespin, Tatooine and Coruscant. Naboo was added in the DVD releases in 2004 as was the Senate and Jedi Temple buildings to the Coruscant skyline. This was the one change I could understand, it makes the Rebels victory feel much bigger and shows the Empire’s grip on the Galaxy begin to crumble.
And finally… Hayden Christensen as Force Ghost Anakin. He looks incredibly uncomfortable and out of place, which after a few years of harsh criticism it came to light that there was very little direction given to him for this moment. Should it have been added? I can’t decide. It’s not like Luke would recognise the younger Anakin but at the same time it brings the two trilogies together.
Return of the Jedi beautifully closes the Original Trilogy and leaves enough story untold that we could get new stories in the future, which of course we have many times over with the Expanded Universe/Legends stories, the new Canon novels and of course the Sequel Trilogy.
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