Star Wars Marathon: Review: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi (Special Edition, 1983)

The Star Wars Marathon comes to a close, and as sad as I am to see it go Star Wars doesn’t end here for me, so it’s all gravy, baby!

Screenplay By: Lawrence Kasdan & George Lucas
Directed By: Richard Marquand

It’s always been hard for me to watch Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi. Coming off of the extreme high of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, otherwise known as the most epic movie ever made, there was very little chance that Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi wouldn’t be anything but a letdown. It certainly does try, and it feels like Star Wars, but it can’t match that previous high and thus no matter how much it tries it can never be good enough. It is in all but production order, the middle child of the family, it can do some things greater than the oldest or youngest child, but because it has to follow directly in the footsteps of its overachieving older sibling it’s always going to get the shaft so to speak.

It’s also a bit harder to write about Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi, and that has nothing to do with any of the previous films but with the structure of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi itself. The last thirty to forty minutes of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi really grabbed me and drew me in to what was happening on screen, yes, even the Ewoks. The problem, however, is all those preceding minutes that are formulaic and seem to exist only to buy time until the final moments. It’s a bit of a rough haul, that first hour and a half. We know where the story is going and the wrap-up effect that the screenplay goes into, “This is the final movie in the saga, we have to tie up as many loose ends as possible, so let’s tie this bow nicely, and then this one, and then this one before we get to the finale,” makes that haul even more tedious. I know I sound harsh, and I am being a bit harsh, but with each new viewing of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi the first two-thirds of the film take on a more and more tedious feel.

Let’s take a break from the negativity for a second, and I’m going to do so by letting my readers at The Domain Of Nihilus know that I do have issues with Vader becoming a Force Ghost, the way Yoda and Ben treat Luke like an assassin and a few other meta subjects. But, as I said in a previous film review, I’m going to save my thoughts on those subjects for other avenues from the Expanded Universe.

One last major area of negativity before I move on to what I liked about Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi, the character of Leia Organa. In my review of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith I took George Lucas and company to task for what they did to Padmé’s character. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi leaves Leia in much the same neutered state. No, Leia was never quite as independent or as strong of a character as her mother was portrayed as, but she was still her own woman. In Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi, her independent streak is gone, replaced by a rather meek character who exists only for information to be expressed by either Han or Luke. Although, as chauvinistic as it may be, she did look smoking hot in the slave outfit!

Okay, negativity go away, let’s dig into what I liked about Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi. I already talked a bit about those final forty or so minutes, but the reason I love them so much and why in the end they make this movie for me is because it is about the redemption of a character I really love. The action is still there, the wit is present, the sense of epic has returned, but more than any of that the finale is about bringing a hero back from the brink. Good triumphs over evil, Vader redeems himself and finally finds an avenue for himself other than self-hatred.

That does bring us to an interesting dilemma, the lightsaber duel between Vader and Luke. It is perhaps my favorite duel of the entire saga, this and the Obi-Wan/Anakin duel from Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith switch places for me after every viewing, and the reason for that resides in how emotionally charged the atmosphere of this duel is. As a physical display it works fine and is structured well, but the true greatness in the duel can be found in the atmosphere the score and the emotions present in the duel create. The dilemma I spoke of comes out in the fact that Vader loses to Luke. I’m sorry, but no amount of arguing will ever convince me that Vader didn’t hold back in this duel, and I think it’s thematically important that he does hold back. Vader holding back represents the conflict that is raging within him, with each lightsaber strike a little bit of Vader leaves and more of Anakin seeps back in. Yes, Vader does hold back, but if he doesn’t hold back then the theme of redemption falls apart.

Deserving is the word I will leave you with. Most of the sentences I wrote in my notebook while watching Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi had the word deserving in them. “Boba Fett deserves a better end (I know he’s still alive but you know what I mean)”, “The Empire deserves more than to lose to a bunch of fur balls”, “Leia’s character deserved more,” and so on. I like Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi, it is a fun movie and a nice return to the universe of Star Wars but ultimately it is my least favorite film of the entire saga because I as a fan deserved so much more.

That is that, I know I still have a rebuttal to go, but it is a bit of a downer knowing that Edgar’s thoughts on this movie will represent the finality of our marathon, but either way I look forward yet again to reading what Edgar has to say.

You can check out Edgar’s review at Between The Seats.




6 responses to “Star Wars Marathon: Review: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi (Special Edition, 1983)

  1. Understandable. Your review sounds much like mine although I still gave it much greater credit – mostly due to the fact that I love the Star Wars universe and this does feel like Star Wars. I like Attack of the Clones least, and if it wasn’t for exactly what you liked about it, I would put it 5th in my Star Wars 6.

    BUT the Vader/Luke/Emperor bit saves it and is my favorite moments of the entire saga.

    I always love to argue with people about the title. Return of the Jedi. It’s not about Luke becoming a Jedi and bringing them back or what not….it never was. it’s Return of THE Jedi. Anakin Skywalker. Thus the Nice cue from Willimas when Anakin breaks his chains and kills Palpatine…what plays? The Jedi theme.

    And as for holding back…I can’t honestly see a compelling argument against it. I mean Luke is a noob Jedi at this point still. I mean he’s barely a padawan. He takes on the greatest Jedi warrior ever. If Vader didn’t hold back Luke would have been toasty!

  2. Kind od reads like you Phantom Menace review. There were things you didn’t like, but overall the film still did enough for you to enjoy it. I can understand that.

    Sadly, I didn’t spend any time on the actual lightsaber clash between Luke and Vader. I think I distracted by all the things I didn’t like. It was decent enough. I’m not part of any circle of Star Wars fans though: is there some sort of debate about whether Vader held back in the final fight. It never crossed my mind, but I can see why that might be.

  3. Paul,

    I probably wasn’t clear enough in my review, but it is the Luke/Vader/Emperor bit that makes the film for me, I love their entire end sequence, like one of the top moments of all of Star Wars for me.

    I’ve also gone along with your take on the title, I think I’ve always viewed it that way actually, it makes the most sense to me I think.


    Yeah, there was plenty I didn’t like, but in the end I had enough fun, and loved the end sequence so much, that I was more forgiving.

    Yes, there has been a debate for a long time about whether or not Vader held back in that duel. There are scores of Star Wars fans who don’t think he held back, they believe that Luke was strong enough to beat him on his own. I have a hard time with that, because that really downplays Vader’s power and I don’t think the saga functions if you do that. So, as I said in my review, and Paul said in his comment, Vader did hold back, because if he didn’t then Luke would have been toasty, very toasty.

  4. I can understand how Vader holding back would support the idea of him becoming Anakin once more. Still, perhaps Luke, now more in tune with the Force than in ‘Empire’, was more athletic and a superior warrior than Vader. Wouldn’t that count for something?

  5. Not when viewed within the idea of the Force as a whole? He’s barely been trained, by his own admission and Yoda’s still has a lot more to learn, and if you say that Vader didn’t hold back then that’s saying that someone who has only been training in the Force for about a year or so was able to beat the most powerful Force user of all time and possibly the best duelist of all time. Maybe that can work for you, but it doesn’t for me, that’s why I’ve always held true to the notion that Vader holds back.

  6. Pingback: Retro Week In Cinema: September 05-11, 2013 | Bill's Movie Emporium

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