April 1, 2016

Redux - Special Edition: Return of the Jedi.

Review #115: Return of the Jedi.

Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), David Prowse (Darth Vader (voice by James Earl Jones), Sebastian Shaw (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor), Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Frank Oz (Yoda), Denis Lawson (Wedge Antilles), and Timothy M. Rose (Admiral Ackbar, Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb) Directed by Richard Marquand.

In my original review (#115 - April 1, 2012), I had given the movie a 9/10 rating, and while I stand by the rating, I regretted not saying more about the movie, with regards to the characters, action and effects. Because of this, I decided to finally make a Redux - Special Edition (which I had done for A Christmas Story, Halloween, Licence to Kill, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service). Enjoy.

Return of the Jedi is admittedly not as great as the other two movies of the Original Trilogy. On an emotional level, the movie is a bit too safe, particularly with the ending. The other two films had bright endings (with the ending to A New Hope being more optimistic), but Return of the Jedi's ending is one in which our heroes win without having lost much. Sure, Luke loses his father, but since taking down the Emperor overrides years of taking down any Jedi survivors (and what are probably multitudes of Imperial soldiers) makes you a Force ghost that can talk to you at pretty much any time, it really can't be that bad.

Of all the cast in the movie, the one actor with the most impact is the one with little screen time and only 24 words, Sebastian Shaw, who manages to evoke the dying words of an redeemed but withered man with such little time and be one of the more memorable aspects of the film. The Emperor, after being seen briefly in the previous film, is given his time to showcase his power over the Empire and Vader himself. McDiarmid plays this master of deception with an unsettling tone of voice that makes the villain more than just a hammy bad guy, compelling even without much revealed about him (until the prequels, anyway). Hamill's best scenes are with McDiarmid & Jones, and they make for compelling entertainment, with the lightsaber duel being a key highlight.

While the trio of Hamill, Ford & Fisher doesn't really cover any new ground, it is nice to see them again. It's interesting that Ford wanted his character to die as a "self-sacrifice" for a character that progressed from a rogue who didn't particularly care about the Rebellion (while caring mostly about himself) all those years ago to one who decides to die for his friends. But oh well. The reveal of Leia being Luke's sister isn't a bad scene, but after everything the two characters had gone through (such as the kiss in Empire to make Han jealous - at least I hope so), it comes off as somewhat strange, especially with Leia stating that she apparently always knew. The movie ends with everyone happy (complete with celebratory music in both the original and Special Editions), but does an Empire truly end just because you take down the leader? By this point, Lucas wanted to end the trilogy and curtail any plans he (supposedly) had for Episodes VII-IX and just end it, even if it wasn't as poignant as it could've been.

With regards to the Ewok battle on Endor, it is a particular bone of contention, especially with the fact that a group of teddy bears that believed a golden robot was a deity manage to take down Empire soldiers with logs and...overpowering them. The idea of a technological empire losing to a primitive tribe isn't exactly a new idea, but the original idea involved Wookies instead of Ewoks, which most likely would've made the playing field more. With the Ewoks, it happens comes off less than seriously, as opposed to the space part of the battle, which is impressive to watch. Once again, the music by John Williams is excellent, being entertaining (any of the themes from the Battle of Endor, with one of my favorites being "Into The Trap", but "Emperor's Throne Room" is also a chilling brilliant one). For all I said about how it seems too safe at times, Return of the Jedi an enjoyable film, full of spectacle that has enough fun to mostly overcome its emotional shortcomings.

32 years later, The Force Awakens bridged its continuation to the old and new generations of fans, doing a fine job as a beginning of a new trilogy. Time will tell how the new trilogy (and spinoff films) will go, but as someone who saw Episode VII on opening day and enjoyed himself, I sure can't wait.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

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