With The Force Awakens finally hitting theaters this Thursday night, it's about time we wrap this up.
|Of course we included slave Leia.|
Despite three decades of fanboy backlash over Ewoks and the Lucas propensity to make things all about the kids, Return of the Jedi was a tidy ribbon on the package known as the original trilogy. Giving fans a conclusion that nearly saw the turn of Luke Skywalker to the dark side, a massive space battle over the moon of Endor, slave Leia, and the end of the Empire as we knew it, Return of the Jedi is a much better Star Wars film than most let on. This third chapter brings our characters full circle as their lives are once again in the throes of battle against the sinister Palpatine and his loyal Force choker in command, Darth Vader. However childish the film may be at times, director Richard Marquand, working from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, had a true challenge trying to follow up The Empire Strikes Back. His work is nearly flawless.
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For some, Return of the Jedi ranks just behind the prequel trilogies when naming their favorites. Yet, Episode VI is a fitting end that puts all the heroes in peril as our the main focal point fully shifts to the fate of Luke Skywalker and whether his father can be turned back to the light side of the Force. With Palpatine the most visceral and manipulative of the entire series, and his powers at full tilt, the final sequences are some of the most hardcore of the six existing films and continue to amaze with emotive detail from every key player. Mark Hamill's dramatic performance is the best of the three movies while the ever evolving romance between Han and Leia finds clarity and solidarity that makes the forest moon battle an astute presentation of their undying love for each other. Once again, setting aside the bemusing idea of Ewoks (Lucas) and a terrible musical number (Lucas), Marquand's ROTJ fully realized a fitting end game for our heroes, never knowing that we might get a sequel 30 years later.
|"Soooo, I hear you made out with|
your sister. Care to tell me how
that doesn't qualify
as 'joining the dark side' "?
Not only does the film bring the saga to an end but it also features some of the best special effects of the original trilogy. With excellent puppet work on Jabba the Hut, nearly flawless looking model designs, and space fights that will easily contend with modern CGI, ROTJ delivers on most fronts, only shrugging off more realistic looking FX in a few lesser defined areas that suffer due to the era much less than dedication the craft. With an ever expanding crew of ILM effects wizards, Jedi truly pushed the envelope for visuals during a time when other movies were no match for their ever elusive creative techniques. Films like Krull and Space Hunter feverishly tried to cop the look and feel of the Star Wars franchise but undoubtedly failed while not being able to reach the impeccable heights of their marvelous looking visual elements.
Of course The Empire Strikes Back set a darkened theme for the series. With ROTJ starting off more family friendly, the tone shifts about halfway through with the struggle becoming bleaker and more resonant in its themes of father versus son and then the ultimate sacrifice of life for the good of all. While Jedi will never meets the psychological prowess of Empire, it's hard to imagine a better conclusion to the three films. With Luke shrugging off the dark side as his father finds the light of forgiveness, this third chapter still holds true as a nearly perfect finale. If you haven't seen it in a while, watch it again.
With that said, I truly hope that The Force Awakens doesn't try to change the mythology as it stands by altering the finality of Luke Skywalker's story. His fate as a Jedi should hold true. He chose well.