A Hyperspace Ride Through The Star Wars Saga: Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Once deemed the final film of the Star Wars saga until Disney came to awaken the Force in 2015, this was generally the weaker” of the three original films. Clearly it’s just the end of a winning trilogy and so it combines everything about the first two films into one, so appears that nothing is new and thus it becomes…too familiar? It’s unclear if it’s that familiarity or the increase of humour that was shoehorned in, but it retains the excitement, the fun and the thrills that made ‘A New Hope’ just as iconic. Without this bookend to the trilogy, you wouldn’t have a successful trilogy at all.
The opening 45 minutes focus on the rescue of Harrison Ford’s loveable Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt in a wonderfully staged action sequence on Tatooine, which is a nice change of pace from another Rebels vs Empire skirmish. We see some great fantastical creativity, outrageous creatures and more evidence that Jeremey Bulloch’s near mute Boba Fett looks tough, but can’t cut it as a fearsome bounty hunter when he’s taken out like such a punk.
Still, it’s aimed at family fun, and it does with some easy humour for the youth, but also plenty of dark moments and action for the grown-up fans as the likes of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams and Ford continue to show they still have passion for the story they are telling, and they come across perfectly evolved once more as the characters we met six years earlier.
Divided neatly in two, the intermission to the two great action sequences serves as time to reflect with Luke, Yoda (with Frank Oz returning) and Alex Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi about the fate of what lies ahead, and has some real tender moments and haunting messages that echo across the saga. This has all led up to each character becoming who they were destined to be, and we get the pay-off when the Rebel Alliance give us an epic 3-way battle against the Galactic Empire for the last hour.
Split between the tactical and breath-taking space dog-fight and Death Star II assault, the Moon of Endor ground attack on the shield generator with the help of those annoyingly loveable Ewoks, and the final duel between Luke and Darth Vader, this builds the tension and drama over each stage. The clock counts down for each group in their goal and really gives you up and down thrills as they battle their own enemy to get their objective done, all the while with the Empire seemingly one step ahead.
It’s a brilliant culmination of tactical and military minds and we see everything about Star Wars we love in one final flourish. Exciting space battles with new characters shining in their roles such as Admiral Ackbar or Moff Jerjerrod, cutting edge special effects throw us into the heart of war and the violent rasp of Vader’s lightsaber against Luke’s present an emotional journey we saw start in ‘The Phantom Menace’ finally come to an end…or so we thought… and all swept up with John Williams and his heart-pounding score.
There’s so much to take in, it can over-whelm at times, but it’s sheer entertainment. The darker story has been told and now it’s time to the pay-off where the good guys win and we remember this is a family orientated Star Wars film for all ages. It’s a fitting and emotive continuation to the then six film story arc, and at one point was THE perfect ending.
But with Episode VII only 32 years away, that entry now makes this ending a somehow sinister cliff-hanger that peace in the galaxy won’t be around for much too long…