In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.
Here’s my review of Return of the Jedi, originally published February 29, 2016.
Title: Return of the Jedi
Release Date: 1983
Director: Richard Marquand
And so we conclude introducing the children to the classic trilogy of Star Wars films. The kids enjoyed this and certainly got a lot more laughs than the previous two installments. Return of the Jedi certainly does have more humor and a positive spirit of bonhomie that is a big tonal shift from Empire Strikes Back. On the other hand the Luke-Vader-Emperor scenes have an undertone of menace I didn’t catch as a child (although at least one of my kids was spooked). The portions at Jabba’s palace really creeped me out as a kid, and they’re still pretty creepy (I didn’t recall just how gruesome it is when Leia chokes Jabba to death)
Over the years, Return of the Jedi has gotten a bad rap, but I loved it as a kid and I think it still holds up. People criticize the Ewoks, but dammit, I love the Ewoks. Not only are they cute, but the whole success of the Rebellion hinges on the fact that the Emperor is too narrow to foresee that a small, non-human species will ally with the Rebels and turn the tide of the battle.
Of all the changes made for the Special Editions, this one fares the worst in my opinion. Give me back my Ewok celebration song and the ghost of Sebastian Shaw! All things considered, it was a delight to revisit this series of childhood memories with my own kids.
Some stray post-rewatch thoughts:
- In the prequels, Palpatine has a charming public persona and he even plays his “deformity” for sympathy. In Return of the Jedi we only see the cackling, controlling villain. I wonder if he maintained the charming persona for public appearances after declaring himself Emperor?
- Leia has the fighting and tactical skills equal to the men around her, but her scene with Wicket W. Warrick shows her great diplomatic skills that Han, and even Luke, lack.
- I’m still angry that Leia clearly remembers her mother and they still had Palme die in childbirth for no reason. I’m surprised Lucas didn’t edit that scene out when he stuck Hayden Christensen in.
- Speaking of edits, I never noticed that freakin’ Jar Jar is shouting “Wesa free!” in the celebration scene on Naboo. 🙄
- It never occurred to me how much Han is the comic relief character in this movie, probably cause Harrison Ford does it so well. Perhaps they should have cast Ford to play Jar Jar too.