Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor
James Earl Jones and David Prowse as Darth Vader
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
David Barclay as Jabba the Hutt
Frank Oz as Yoda
Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan/Ben Kenobi
Timothy M. Rose as Admiral Ackbar
Originally intended to be titled Revenge of the Jedi (changed because that would be out of character), Return of the Jedi marks the end of the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s also the third movie in the entire series to be made. That is a low point in most series of films. There are exceptions. Rocky didn’t decline until its fifth try and Iron Man had a so-so second movie and bounced back in the third go. But the vast majority of series get worse at about this time. From that perspective, Return of the Jedi fares well.
The first stage of the story is as you’d expect. Remember that The Empire Strikes Back ended with Han Solo having been frozen in carbonite and is being taken by a bounty hunter to Jabba the Hutt, the mob boss who is owed money by Han. Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2 make the save, only to discover that a new and improved Death Star is under construction. While Lando prepares to lead the attack on it, the others use a stolen imperial shuttle to reach Endor, the forest moon where the power source of the Death Star’s deflector shield is located. But is Luke being sidetracked by the knowledge that Darth Vader is his father and a desire to reach what little good remains in the Dark Lord of the Sith?
The first issue is the actors. Half of them, while not bad, haven’t much energy put into them. Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones stand out particularly as notable offenders. Many members of the cast seem to have been anxious to move on to other films but were required by contract to return.
Another issue is that the script isn’t as strong as in the first two. I’ve always believed that the rescue of Han takes up too much screen time. This part showcases some impressive Muppeteering, but lasts for some time, despite being very simple and straightforward. The result is that the core of the plot has to be somewhat rushed.
Having said that, you know what’s the worst Star Wars nitpick ever? “Why doesn’t the Rebel fleet just blast the shield generator from orbit?” I’ll tell you why: because the Empire had another shield generated by the Death Star and guarding ships to protect Endor. When our heroes are pretending to be Imperial soldiers seeking passage to Endor, we’re told about the need to get the shield lowered. Han even says, “if they don’t go for this, we’re gonna have to get outta here pretty quick, Chewie.” “Get outta here” doesn’t exactly mean, “break for Endor,” does it?
Tangent over. For all its flaws, Return of the Jedi does resolve things effectively. The relationship between Han and Leia concludes well, especially compared to the one between Anakin and Padme in the original trilogy (and you better believe that’s gonna get a rant from me). Also, the way, the Luke/Vader thing is settled is shocking but heartwarming. I don’t think any of us weren’t surprised by that the first time we saw it.
Return of the Jedi may not be on par with its predecessors, but it’s a competent movie that wraps things up well.
Overall: 7 out of 10