Sunday, December 27, 2015

Return Of The Jedi (1983) Review

I don't care what anybody says, Return Of The Jedi is the best of the Star Wars movies or at the very least, the originals. Not only does it perfectly send off the series without losing any of its steam, but it manages to perfectly combine the wonder and imagination of the first movie with the upped emotional drama and atmosphere of the second.

As the gang are busy rescuing Han Solo from the Tatooine gangster Jabba the Hutt in a crackling opening(some complain that it's overlong, but I think making it shorter would've taken away from the threat that Jabba as a character had), the Empire has constructed a second Death Star, now under the supervision of the Emperor himself. Once the Rebels reunite in proper, it's up to the heroes to destroy the shield generator that protects the Death Star on the forest moon of Endor.

Meanwhile, Luke confers with Yoda and Obi-Wan and finds out that Leia is his sister who was hidden away at birth and that he is now ready to confront Vader and the Emperor for an ultimate showdown to decide the destiny of the galaxy...

Although Empire is a magnificient film that truly made Star Wars what it is, I feel like Return is the perfect final product, combining Lucas's cheesy, space adventure vision with the emotional rollercoaster that the series had gotten into by declaring Darth Vader to be Luke's father. That single fact is what elevated the series into a saga.

To be fair, the reuse of the Death Star gives me mixed feelings. On one hand, it's a nice callback to the original film, but on the other, it's a bit too much of a callback. It feels a bit anticlimactic since the Death Star II is not really any different from the original beyond being in the process of construction. I know they needed to send off the franchise with a bang, but I wish they could've found some other way or at the very least, made the Death Star II a bit more interesting or dangerous than its previous incarnation.


Mark Hamill really makes the role his own here as he portrays a far more wizened and peaceful Luke, whose teenage passion has evolved into confidence and deeper understanding of the Force. This, and his determination to save Vader from the dark side makes him a far more interesting and likable character. The Jedi get-up also helps.

Similarly, Darth Vader's newfound relationships turn him into a wholly different character than the more generic evil villain of the previous movies. You can see him suffering now and truly questioning his identity. All his scenes with Luke(or anyone, really) are exquisite.

Now replacing Clive Revill and Elaine Baker is Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, who... let's just say not many franchises can produce two iconic villains, let alone one. But with his spidery, gleefully evil performance, the Emperor puts his stamp on this film.

We also have newcomer Jabba the Hutt, the most brilliant puppet in Star Wars since Yoda. Though he doesn't move that much, his appereance is striking, coming off as a big fat pile of cash, blood and other people's sweat. Even his name adds to the atmosphere of the character - Jabba. As I mentioned earlier, it's nice that they devote enough time to this character so that overcoming him feels like an achievement. The whole first act is basically centered around him and after two movies of build-up, it's exactly what he deserves.

The Ewoks. Are good. Why do people hate the Ewoks? I think their silly appereance works perfectly to disguise the spirit they have underneath. Yes, of course they were added in for the kids, but that doesn't mean they can't work for adults too. These Ewoks were smart enough to overthrow a Stormtrooper legion. Appereances can be deceiving is all I'm saying. Besides, I think they're pretty funny characters overall and give this movie levity and even charm without going overboard with it. Ask yourself: can you really imagine Return Of The Jedi without the Ewoks in it?

Han Solo and Princess Leia are back, going through that final phase before properly stepping into a relationship("I thought you were in love with him?"). However, they've both definitely become more responsible and have left most of their defensive snark behind(give or take a tease). In fact, Luke, Han and Leia in this movie being such a closely knitted group is another reason why I love Return. All members of the trio have taken a massive step forward and Luke and Leia especially have gone through and dealt with personal trauma. Return is the culmination of their character arc, making them richer characters than in any other film.

In the last film, I complained about Lando being more of an annoying caricature than anything and... yeah. Here, he still annoys me. Fortunately, it's not really the performance, he doesn't ham it up nearly as bad(and when he does, it's appropriate and actually awesome), but what bothers me is that they never reference his betrayal or rather(since I don't think he actually betrayed them), the rift between him and the others. I suppose Chewie would've told him that Lando's on their side now, but I would've liked to see it resolved better.


Music-wise, there's not much to say. The score for this film isn't particularly iconic(apart from maybe the Emperor's theme, when he's electrocuting Luke), but it is still extremely fun, powerful and fitting for every scene.

Special effects are better than ever. You can see from the space battle above Endor how much bigger and better they've gotten since the clunkier first flick.

Also, is it just me or do the lightsaber blades look a lot... stiffer in this film? I know it's a weird thing to point out, but there's something different about them.

Set design is, naturally, on the top of their game. My particular favourites are Jabba's throne room and the Emperor's... well, throne room. I'm not sure whether they reused or rebuilt the Death Star corridors from the first film.

One of the funny things about Star Wars is that practically everything about it has become the stuff of legend amongst fandom and yet so much of just appears in the background for a few seconds with no fanfare. A great example are the starfighters. Everyone knows and loves the TIE designs, yet most of them(apart from the generic version) were introduced in this movie and appeared just during the space battle. Same goes for the Lambda class shuttle, which does make extensive appereances, but just comes out of nowhere.
The AT-AT appears on Endor for like ten seconds too.

But really, what can I say? They're Star Wars sets. They were great before, they're great still.


Well, that was the original trilogy? What can I say?

It all started out with a crazy 70s sci-fi flick that managed to reap in so much love and adoration(read: money) that the sequel inevitably received so much attention from everyone it had to top literally everything the first film offered. And it did. But now we're here. Lucas has made his magnum opus and more than saved it from a potential following disaster. Here he makes his finale by giving it what he wants and giving it what the fans want. Lightning is caught in the bottle and the most amazing Star Wars film of all comes out, at least in my eyes. Dark, dramatic, light and campy, this film has it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment