Exactly 30 years ago, George Lucas released the last of his original Star Wars trilogy of films. While the majority of fans feel it is the weakest of the bunch, our man Bash finds a movie that features some of the best moments in all six movies set in a Galaxay Far, Far Away. Here is his love letter to that film….
When the topic arises of which Star Wars film is best, Return of the Jedi rarely gains a mention among fans. It is, in a way, the forgotten gem of the original films. In fact, when I discuss this with friends while I may change my mind on whether A New Hope or Empire is best, I never change my thoughts on were Jedi sits. Fourth in fact behind the two aforementioned films and Revenge of the Sith.
But, and this is a big but, I still absolutely adore Richard Marquand’s film and feel it features some of the best emotional thrills in the whole series.
Jedi was my favourite Star Wars film as a child. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps it was because it’s the first one I watched, perhaps it was the lovable (for a child) Ewoks or perhaps it was the film’s amazing final between Vader and Luke, alongside the Emperor on the second Death Star. Either way, it’s a film that needs to be looked at again through fresh eyes.
But first of all, let’s get the bad bits or gripes out of the way. The Ewoks. Yes, they are fluffy and adorable but really, beating a garrison of Imperial Stormtroopers on Endor. C’mon. I believe George Lucas had initial thoughts of setting he final battle on Kashyyyk, the wookie homeworld, but opted instead for Wicket and co. Great move for selling toys – bad news for us fanboys who take these films so seriously.
Next: the dialogue. For the first time in the original trilogy (and some would say a precursor for the prequels) we find ourselves cringing at the moment Princess Leia tells Luke that she’d always known of their connection. Faster, more intense had obviously been forgotten at this point.
Finally, the fate of Han Solo. We now know that Harrison Ford pushed for the death of Han Solo, whether it be in Empire or Jedi. For me, I believe he is right. The saga would have had a lot more emotional weight if Solo had died. In fact, if you look at Jedi you could say that Leia and her rogish partner are pretty much wasted here. They don’t do much and at times Ford looks disinterested. However, on a more positive note he didn’t die and we will get to see our favourite smuggler return for Episode VII.
Right, onto what makes this film great.
Where do I start? How about the beginning and Jabba the Hut. What a wonderful character. Yes, he was a very large puppet but what a feat of engineering. Still looking better than the digital version to appear in the Special Editions 15 years later (followed by The Phantom Menace), Jabba personified the type of character he was… a vile gangster.
The fact that he could command such bounty hunters as Boba Fett showed how villainous he could be. I also loved the fact that he spoke in a foreign dialect and Lucas decided to relay most of his language via subtitles, something he should have done with the Neimoidian’s in TPM. Jabba’s palace had a wonderfully grotty feel to it with some gruesome looking cohorts including Bib Fortuna, a character that scared me as a child due in no small part to those teeth. I just love the look and feel of the place and still do after all these years.
It’s also during these early scenes that we discover Princess Leia in that slave outfit… yes, the gold bikini. Alongside Ursula Andress in Dr No, Carrie Fisher’s appearance is probably the biggest fanboy wet dream in movie history. Nothing more iconic has appeared on screen since. And while many could criticise Lucas for changing her from the feisty rebel in A New Hope to damsel in distress in Jedi, the fact that she so brilliantly takes out Jabba on his sail barge is a counter to this argument.
In one of the most emotional scenes in the movie, the arrival of Luke on Dagobah to resume his training is up there with the most powerful scenes in the original trilogy. Yoda’s death as he tells Luke that he must face his father if he is to truly become a Jedi is wonderfully shot. Frank Oz’s vocal work is top notch here and the dialogue is handled with due care and attention.
The triple whammy of a finale is the best that Star Wars has ever offered. Han, Leia and Chewie on Endor, the space battle above the Death Star and Luke’s final battle physically with Vader and emotionally with the Emperor is pure genius… it all plays out beautifully. I mean, have we ever watched a more brilliantly executed final 30 minutes?
I just love the space battle with Lando Calrissian leading the charge against the Imperial forces. The effects work for the time still holds up so well. To have so many ships on screen at one time back in 1983 is a testament of ILM’s effects work.
Then there is the final confrontation of Luke and Vader, with Ian McDiamid’s Emperor goading the wannabe Jedi from the sidelines. I think the British actor’s performance is the best in Jedi. He just inhabits the role. His verbal dual with Mark Hamill is a masterclass in acting.
As for the dual itself, while it doesn’t match the speed or physical intensity of the prequels it carries more emotional weight than any of them. Vader taunting Luke about turning his sister to the dark side before young Skywalker vents his rage and powerfully beats down his father is brilliant. What tops it off is John Williams’ haunting score. The composer did something similar with Dual of the Fates for TMP but he has never produced anything as emotionally satisfying before or since.
I really could go on more about why Return of the Jedi deserves more praise and respect than it gets. The sail barge battle at the beginning, the stunning speeder bike chase on Endor or the unveiling of Vader when Luke takes his father’s helmet off. Just a few more praiseworthy moments for a film that I still watch over and over again with as much enjoyment now as I did back in the 1980s.
So, as we celebrate 30 years of George Lucas’ final film in the original trilogy I urge you to dust down your DVD/Blu Ray copy, put your feet up and watch one hell of a Star Wars film.
May the Force be with you!