We now come to the final entry in what used to be known as the Star Wars Trilogy, which was also the golden age for Star Wars and its most loyal fans. It’s also the second non-George Lucas-directed entry, yet feels somehow MORE George Lucas-y than the last one. It’s really the movie that made trilogies into trilogies, tying up all loose ends and still having enough wondrous adventure to give the fans something they can watch over and over again until the day they die. (And believe me, they’re really trying!)
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) has been captured by Jabba the Hutt, and most of the first half is devoted to his explosive desert rescue. After that, the heroes head off to the forest moon of Endor, close to where the Empire has built a second, more powerful Death Star. Accompanying them is an army of Ewoks, which are like cute little Wookiees. But Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has a personal matter to settle with his father Darth Vader, and voluntarily gives himself over to the Empire. But the even more evil Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) is aboard the Death Star, and he may just be conniving and enticing enough to finally turn Luke over to the Dark Side of the Force.
We finally get to see the Emperor in this one! After dealing with the Empire for so long, we finally get to see the guy at the top, and he’s just…evil. And he’s the slimy kind of evil that gets under your skin. He’s old and wrinkled, but he doesn’t talk or move like a normal person, and that’s perfect, as only someone who’s really not human anymore could have caused so much pain and suffering in the galaxy. The rest of the movie is just as interesting. The infiltration at Jabba’s palace, the daring escape at the sarlacc pit, the speeder bike chase through the forest, and the nearly hour-long climactic battle that perfectly demonstrates the epicness of this great franchise.
Unfortunately, it does have its flaws. First and foremost, I was never entirely sold on Leia being Luke’s twin sister. Of all the girls in the universe, it turns out to be the only one he’s ever met? And the fact that she’s not even surprised, well, surprised me, since she willingly kissed him on the lips in the previous movie. Han’s desert rescue, while exciting, seems inconsequential to the rest of the movie, since he sort of just tags along afterwards rather than making some kind of worthy contribution only he could have made. The dialogue begins to suffer as well; an early version of the infamous wooden dialogue we would later see in the Prequel Trilogy. That and the Ewoks, which were clearly intended to appeal to kids, pull the viewer away from the masterful darkness of The Empire Strikes Back. And then there are the changes George Lucas has made through re-releases over the last 18 years, which I won’t get into here, but I will say this: stay out of this movie, Hayden!
Still though, this third and final entry ends more satisfyingly than most trilogies you’re likely to find. Whereas in Revenge of the Sith evil flat-out won, here in Return of the Jedi we get to see the good guys prevail once and for all, destroying the evil Empire and restoring balance to the entire galaxy as well as to the Force. It’s exactly the kind of ending you’d want and expect from an epic sci-fi/fantasy adventure. And if you’ve watched all six movies, it’s an even better ending. But like a lot of epic franchises that try to put themselves to bed, I for one can’t wait for this one to … “Awaken”.
4 out of 5