RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) features the same old cast as the first
two STAR WARS episodes in a rehash of previous themes. Now with a cast
this talented and material this strong, rehashing is not necessarily
bad. This time the Galactic Empire's forces lead by Lord Darth Vader
(David Prowse acting with James Earl Jones's voice) has again build a
Death Star and is still out to destroy the Rebel Alliance. This Death
Star is, of course, even more powerful than the previous one and has
the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) personally supervising its construction.
You may remember from the last episode that Han Solo (Harrison
Ford) owed Jabba the Hutt (Mike Edmonds) money so Jabba in a fit of
rage had him frozen and sent to Jabba's planet. The film starts with
the rescue of Han from Jabba by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess
Leia (Carrie Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), C-3PO
(Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
The rest of the movie is ostensibly about the destruction of the Death
Star by the rebels, but actually the film is about the inherit conflict
in the duality of man and the thin line between good and evil. Will
Darth Vader turn Luke to the dark side or will Luke turn Darth Vader to
the good? Each is confident, and until the end it is not clear whose
power will prove stronger.
The character creations in all the STAR WARS series are
delightfully imaginative. Jabba and his minions are testaments to the
grotesque and the obese. After being grossed out by Jabba's huge rolls
of jelly like fat, I suspect a large number of people must have run out
of the theater to hit the pay phones to call 1-800-OutFat or some such
number. A better advertisement for fat clinics I have not seen. By
the way, I thought one of Jabba's entourage was at least a kissing
cousin to the gargoyles that populate the movie GREMLINS.
Yoda (Frank Oz) appears again in the show to complete Luke's
training as a Jedi. Luke thinks he is already one, but Yoda admonishes
him, "Not yet. One thing remains. One things remains, Vader. You
must confront Vader, and then a Jedi you will be." I love the flowery
language the writers (Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas) give Yoda.
Yoda poetically warns Luke, "Anger, fear, depression. The dark side
are they." Luke's training also needs help from his old mentor Obi-Wan
(Alec Guinness). He appears in a vision telling Luke, "You will find
that many of the truths we cling to depend upon your point of view."
This is a show of secrets revealed, but you will not find them out
here. See the movie.
The sets (Norman Reynolds) and visual effects (Richard Edlund,
Dennis Muren, and Ken Ralston) are even more elaborate than in the
first two episodes. My favorite is the little hover-bikes on which
they go screaming through the California redwood trees. That they
could control the bikes while traveling at the high speed they are
going makes no sense, but hey, this is science fiction afterall. The
special effects continue to be a great blend of the old and the new:
bows and arrows vs. blasters (laser guns) and hang gliders vs. large
mechanical dinosaurs outfitted with laser cannons.
RETURN OF THE JEDI introduces sweet furry new creatures called
Ewoks. They were a hit at the time, but I am surprised there wasn't at
even a bigger marketing tie in with them. Looked like great toys for
the age 2-9 set to me.
The acting in the movie was good. My favorite was James Earl
Jones. His voice must be the richest and most powerful of any actor
living today. Hamill, whom I found to be a big disappointment in the
last episode, has more energy and does his part less on autopilot in
this one. His performance here still pales in significance to his work
in STAR WARS, which is the only film he has ever been great in.
Although the show was excellent, there were several letdowns for
me. First and foremost, I missed the incredible humor from the first
two. There are laughs in RETURN OF THE JEDI, but overall the writers
and the director (Richard Marquand) approach the show too
reverentially. Second, I missed the romantic angle. There was some
aspects of it in this episode, but not much.
RETURN OF THE JEDI runs a bit long at 2:14. The film is correctly
rated PG and the scariest part is the monsters which I suspect will be
more than most kids under 5 or 6 can handle. There is no sex, nudity
or profanity I can remember, but the STAR WARS groupies will
undoubtedly send me one or two minor cuss words I missed. Most of them
pointed out after my review of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that Mark Hamill
had been in a car accident with some sure that it was before the movie
and others equally sure it was after. I recommend RETURN OF THE JEDI
strongly as does my son Jeffrey (just turned 7). Since my favorite was
STAR WARS, I asked Jeffrey which one of the three he liked best, and he
said this one, but would refused to say why. In the end he voluntarily
confessed that the reason was the skimpy harem outfit that Jabba has
Princess Leia wear. Not a reason I would have guessed! I give the
movie *** 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes