Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Revisiting Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

The rewatch continues, and I now move to the film which used to be the conclusion to the Saga…

Highlights:

  • I love the Jabba’s Palace sequence. The production design of his headquarters is outstanding, and the Jabba puppet itself is so unique and tactile; it really looks great. I also love the atmosphere set up in the palace, mostly accomplished through the ambient echos, music, and crowd noises. And, of course, Salacious Crumb’s iconic laugh.
  • The conclusion of the Vader-Luke storyline is pretty much perfect. Adding the element of the Emperor as this outside force swaying the bond between the two in various directions works very well. And of course, Vader’s ultimate decision really strengthens both this storyline and the whole trilogy in general. Having these throne room scenes really amps up the personal stakes to go along with the larger-scale stakes of the battle outside.
  • I love that we visit a forest planet this time around. It really contrasts with the desert and ice planets of the previous films. And of course there is the speeder chase, which is an excellent set piece that still holds up. I especially like the shots at night, including that amazing shot above the landing platform with the AT-AT moving through the trees.
  • The space battle at the end. I mean, c’mon! Its awesome.
  • Speaking of the last act, I think the editing in this section is incredible. I had just talked about this with The Phantom Menace, but the cross-cutting between the three story-lines happening consecutively is expertly done. I was thinking as I was watching that this is probably a pretty influential movie in this regard; in the way that an action climax is broken into various parts all intercut together. And though the tone of all the three parts (throne room, space battle, forest battle) are all quite different, it flows together beautifully.
  • The musical beat when Vader threatens to turn Leia is awesome.
  • I love how Threepio gets his own moment here. The Ewoks think he’s a god when they see him, and treat him as such. This is such a fun part and its nice to see our beloved goldenrod have that.
  • This is a small thing, but I really like Admiral Piett. He really stands out among the Imperial officers. While most of them disappoint Vader and are usually killed, Piett seems to have figured out a way to confidently survive at the top.
  • I know people complain about how the first act with Jabba has nothing to do with the overall plot, but I think it really adds to the film as an adventure movie. Our favourite characters are going from encounter to encounter, which I really like.

Downfalls:

  • I love this movie, but I will say that the acting here feels just slightly off-par a lot of the time. This is especially evident with Carrie Fisher (I’ve never liked her performance on the ewok bridge scene), but it also happens with Billy Dee and even Ford a bit too. Some of their lines just aren’t delivered with as much gusto or authenticity as usual. On the other hand, I highly appreciated Mark Hamill this time around. Its probably his best performance of the three. He really brings it.
  • Speaking of the bridge scene, I know that Leia being Luke’s sister is such an essential part of the lore, but… really??
  • We never see Han in the Falcon the entire movie, which is a drag.
  • I know you want me to say something about the Ewoks here, but I’m not going to. I have no issue with Ewoks.

Special Edition Alert!

  • The ROTJ SE is definitely the most egregious, if for no other reason than for the added song performance at Jabba’s palace. How on earth did anyone think this was a good idea?? The CGI characters really clash with the aesthetic, the song is awful, and the close ups of said characters are so bad I shudder in recalling them. It wrecks that carefully crafted atmosphere I mentioned earlier, especially with how it ruins the impact of Oola’s death and gives us a bunch of unnecessary garbage in an otherwise great sequence.
  • I am against all changes, as you can tell, but I don’t mind the shot of the Bantha herd.
  • When the special editions first came out, I was most excited with the new closing scene that they gave us. I always thought the Ewok song was a goofy way to end things, so I liked that they added new music and showed us celebrations of other planets (including an as-of-yet never seen Coruscant). But now… I want the Ewok song back. There is so much nostalgia loaded in that goofy melody, and I like the way it contrasts from the pathos of Vader’s funeral to the uplifting celebration. Bring back Yub Nub!
  • This isn’t an original SE change, but rather was added in after the prequels. They added Vader saying “No… Nooo!” when he kills the Emperor. I really can’t express how awful this is. It robs the moment of a lot of its power. Remove this immediately! The Jabba’s Palace song is incredibly bad, but this is worse. And going off of this point…
  • Adding Hayden Christensen to the ghost ending? Really??? First, it makes no sense to go to a younger form. Second, don’t throw elements from the weaker films into a classic. Third, its once again disrespectful to the original actor, Sebastien Shaw. Sigh… I’m okay with the special editions existing, but not at the expense of the original films. Come on Disney! What is taking you so long?? Do what is right.

Current Re-ranking List:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Return of the Jedi
  3. The Last Jedi
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. The Phantom Menace
  6. Attack of the Clones

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