Rewind Reviews – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Posted on 11 June 2018
By Andrew Siddall
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Back before prequels and Disney takeovers, there was only the original trilogy. In the first of many Rewind Reviews, we turn the clocks back 35 years, when George Lucas brought the Star Wars trilogy to an end with 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

Episode VI, as it is now known, sees Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa and the rest of the crew attempting to rescue Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt. Meanwhile, across the galaxy, the Empire has begun the construction of a second Death Star under the watch of Darth Vader and his master, the Emperor, who plans to turn Luke to the dark side.

All of the main cast returns, including a rather reluctant Harrison Ford as smuggler, Han Solo, who was previous frozen in carbonite and delivered to Jabba. We even sees a few new additions, including Ian McDiarmid’s first appearance as the Emperor and a young Warwick Davis as Wicket, the teddy bear-like Ewok.

From the opening scenes, it becomes obvious that this film will stick closer to the tone of the original Star Wars, rather than Empire Strikes Back. It briefly re-establishes the power of the Empire by showing the forces of Stormtroopers aboard the Death Star, before cutting to Tatooine to catch up with R2-D2 and C-3PO, who are on their way to Jabba’s palace.

This sequence does a fantastic job of re-establishing each character and shows how far Luke has come since his first appearance. He is definitely not a young moisture farmer anymore. Mark Hamill is amazing as always and manages to find the human side of Luke again, even though he’s much more powerful than ever before.

Princess Leia has some good development, played by the late, great Carrie Fisher. Her introduction is awesome, disguised as a Bounty Hunter, but she also has some really great moments throughout the film, such as single-handedly defeating Jabba aboard his sail barge and pursuing Stormtroopers through the forests of Endor.

Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, makes his return after being frozen in carbonite during the events of Empire. Even though he’s one of the pillars of Star Wars and his presence is always welcome, he doesn’t have much to do or much development, hence why Harrison Ford wanted Han to be killed off during Empire.

The rest of the heroes, including Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams are given a good amount of screen time with some fantastic scenes, including Chewie swinging through the trees of Endor like Tarzan and Lando piloting the Falcon through the core of the Death Star.

Return does try to be a lot more emotional than its predecessors, and in most cases it succeeds, especially towards the end. But at times, it doesn’t quite manage to reach its high potential. Han’s reaction to Leia’s backstory is rather quick and Leia herself doesn’t seem particularly fazed by that same shocking discovery.

The most surprising development comes from Darth Vader, whose complex relationship with Luke comes to a head. With the shocking revelation in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke attempts to bring Vader back into the light, believing that he is the key to Vader’s freedom.

This forms the emotional backbone of the story and carries the most weight. This is the film that truly fleshed out Vader in unimaginable ways, played brilliantly by David Prowse and voiced by the fantastic James Earl Jones.

Just like the previous films, Return of the Jedi has superb costumes and designs, such as the incredibly detailed puppetry on Jabba the Hutt and some incredible use of stop-motion for the gigantic and deadly Rancor.

The costume design is great, but at times it feels like they were trying to produce more merchandise, since this was meant to be the final film, an example of this is Princess Leia somehow managing to get changed twice whilst stranded on Endor.

Puppet master, Frank Oz, returns to bring the lovable Jedi Master, Yoda, to life again. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time compared to Empire, but it helps to establish the continuity of the saga and confirms the big reveal at the end of Empire to be true.

The effects were great for their time, but unfortunately they haven’t aged as well as the previous two movies, with the green screen sticking out a lot and recent enhancements looking strangely out of place. But even so, this film perfected the space sequences and lightsaber effects, which all still look fantastic today.

Return of the Jedi

Speaking of the lightsaber effects, prior to this film, there was only two colours: red and blue. But due to the way Luke’s blue sabre looked against the desert background during the movies first act, the effects team changed the colour to green, which has become commonplace in recent instalments, but back in 1983, this was both a shock and delight.

The soundtrack is once again created by music maestro John Williams, who opts for a much more sombre and touching score, suiting the more emotional story and is able to communicate to the audience what the characters are feeling, and even heightens the emotional journey that the characters are on, such as Luke’s final confrontation with Vader.

Overall, this is a good addition to the Star Wars saga and brings the original trilogy to a close in a satisfying way. It does feel a little more tailored to a younger audience this time around and tries to produce as much merchandise as possible (it was originally the last one, after all), but it does a good job of bringing Vader’s story to a close.

Purple Revolver rating: 4/5. The satisfying finale to the original Star Wars trilogy.