Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Director:  Richard Marquand
Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher 

Plot:  After rescuing Han Solo from the palace of Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels attempt to destroy the Second Death Star, while Luke Skywalker tries to bring his father back to the Light Side of the Force.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Awards: Won 1 Oscar - Special Achievement in Visual Effects.  Nom. for 4 Oscars - Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Score.
Runtime:  135min
Rating:  PG for sci-fi action violence. 

The last of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi follows Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as he faces the twin evils - Darth Vader and The Emperor – in a desperate last-gasp attempt to convert the former back to the good side, and destroy the latter whose near-completion of a new Death Star (a massive weapon capable of nuking a planet to smithereens) spells devastation for the galaxy.

Another sub-narrative deals with the rescue of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt after he had been frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). 

Directed by Richard Marquand (who made awful films such as The Legacy (1978) and Until September (1984)), Return of the Jedi is surprisingly competent in its execution. George Lucas’ influence is obvious and his overseeing of the screenplay together with Lawrence Kasdan ensure that the narrative consistency is upheld from A New Hope (1977) to this.

Return of the Jedi features all things prerequisite of a Star Wars film – intense light-saber duels, kinetic space battles, an assortment of strange creatures (read: Jabba’s people, the Ewoks), and the obligatory remark about “sensing a disturbance in the Force”. 

On its own, Marquand’s film is a lesser film than its two direct prequels. However, it naturally benefits from the effect of “sequel continuity” – the idea that a sequel requires less focus on story building and character development as compared to its mandatory devotion to please viewers by continuing the narrative in the best possible direction.

A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back are strong films, masterpieces in their own right. Their positive vibes rub onto Return of the Jedi and allow it to appear as though it is a crucial addition for the “complete narration” of the Star Wars saga. From that perspective, Marquand’s film achieves its purpose. His film allows the saga to come to a (quite) satisfying close and over the years, it has gained respect as an excellent (but flawed) film on its own.

Return of the Jedi discloses the true relationship between Luke and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), the nature of which is comparable to that of the “father-son” revelation in The Empire Strikes Back

I notice no considerable improvement in the visual effects department but it remains in line with Lucas’ overall artistic vision albeit done in a hokey manner. What then to make of Marquand’s film? Respected film blogger James Berardinelli sums it up best: “Return of the Jedi is easily the weakest of the (original) series, but its position as the conclusion makes it a must-see for anyone who has enjoyed its predecessors.” 

Verdict:  A respectable conclusion to a brilliant science-fiction saga.

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