A Flawed But Whole Bookend – Return of the Jedi Review

The Sandcrawler Blog has partnered with Fred Clancy, a fantastic writer from 21st Century Critic, a wonderful movie review site.

The finale to George Lucas’ Star Wars.

[Spoiler Alert: The following article will cover spoilers for Return Of The Jedi and Empire Strikes Back. Discretion advised]

Frederick Clancy:

There’s an old superstition in Hollywood that usually the third movie in a franchise or a trilogy is deemed as the weakest. And it has been kind of proven time and again. The franchise that rocked the world of pop-culture in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Star Wars, in a very structural fashion, went through almost the same kind of arc. A New Hope was a groundbreaking stride in the realm of storytelling, The Empire Strikes Back challenged the notion of what a sequel can do. Considering the strengths and impact of the first two films, Return Of The Jedi had a lot to live up to. Aside from the slight clutches and hiccups, Return Of The Jedi, in our opinion, is a solid bookend to the Original Trilogy, while also suffering from the “third movie in the trilogy is the weakest” curse. It’s a very contradictory problem while also a solid entry in what is possibly George Lucas’ magnum opus.

After 3 years of anticipation carried from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the finale Return Of The Jedi, with much finesse, puts a bookend to Luke and the Rebels’ adventure and fight against the vile Empire’s unjust and fascistic rule and spread peace once and for all. And there’s so much to cover here. Lucas gives us a satisfactory ending, Richard Marquand shows his capable directing skills and the cast’s usual dedication shines through and through.

In the second half of Return Of The Jedi, on their mission to take down the Empire, Luke, Leia, and Han meet the cute-but-tactful Ewoks and team up with them to put an end to the Empire’s villainous reign and establish peace forever. Today, I, Fred Clancy from Home | www.competencimaan.com – Wix.com have joined with Jake Mahady, from The Sandcrawler Blog (Twitter: @sandcrawlerblog) to present a uniformed and collaborative review on the finale to George Lucas’ original Star Wars. I’ll let my friend, Jake delve into his thoughts first.

Jake Mahady:

There is so much about this movie that makes it an instant classic. The desperate clinging for survival has shifted for this film and the heroes are taking action. 

The team needs to retrieve Han back from the nasty Jabba the Hutt and his band of bounty hunters on his payroll and return to the dunes of Tatooine before they can make their advances on the Empire. Here, George Lucas offers an interesting insight into the Star Wars crime world. We had seen Jabba the Hutt in A New Hope, but we didn’t fully understand his power and position in the Galaxy, not like how we do in Return of The Jedi. A ruthless crime lord who only cares about a profit shows us his luxurious desert lifestyle. 

Their task won’t be easy…

There are brand new terrifying monsters never before seen in Star Wars, both utilized by Jabba the Hutt to terrorize his enemies, as well as plenty of new bounty hunters, guards, and a new type of entertainment differing from the Star Wars Cantina Song from A New Hope. This opened up Star Wars to an even larger scale than what Empire Strikes Back had done with introducing the beautiful Bespin, overgrown Dagobah, and icy Hoth. George Lucas had kept the spirit of groundbreaking ways of doing things. Even though Tatooine is a familiar planet, Lucas was able to show us so much more of it, giving the idea that it isn’t as desolate as we originally thought. 

There is also the journey that Luke began in Empire Strikes Back, where he went to Yoda to begin his training as a Jedi 3 years before this movie takes place. He must return to Dagobah to find out if he has done enough training to fully become a Jedi and realize not only his powers but his destiny. The final movie really highlights Luke’s inner conflict. You will notice his outfit hints at the dark side that tempts him and that turned his father away from the light. 

 There is much for him to still learn from Yoda and Obi-Wan, but Luke is approaching his moment of truth and must eventually face not only his father but the evil Emperor, Darth Sidious. The force is expanded even further, too. Luke gains new powers, the Emperor shows off his abilities in the dark side and Darth Vader highlights his abilities that are much deeper with the force than we could ever imagine. 

This, of course, won’t be easy. The Empire had already begun secret construction on a new technological terror that will help keep the Galaxy in line and squash the Rebellion. So the Rebels must band together again and put together a Navy that will push the Empire back on their heels. But similar to their experience with Jabba, the Empire is not so willing to let go of their grip on the galaxy and the team must land on an unfamiliar forest moon, under Imperial control. A whole new tactic than before the team must all use their skills to save the galaxy and free them from the fascist rule of the Empire. 

F.C:

What Lucas really understands is the central hero’s structured journey and puts a very multi-layered thematicity to it. The characters are fleshed-out, the story is easy to follow but very emotionally resonating and impactful. The strides and ups-and-downs our heroes face result in making the ending only that much more cathartic and bittersweet. There’s a reason why Star Wars resonates so much with so many people. In the end, after hours of dissection and analysis, Star Wars boils down to a human, empathetic story. One that rings with us, sticks with us, roams in our memory for years to come.

This is a solid, monumental finale to the Original Trilogy that marks a historic 6-year run starting from 1977 to 1983. It is powerful, it is satisfying. Lucas once again managed to capture the essence of Star Wars, the homely feeling of the galaxy, the unknown regions, the risky treads, they are all here. The very blueprint of a goshdarn amazing Star Wars movie is omnipresent. Locations are again crisp, detailed, beautiful. The storytelling is very strong. The third act is very, very riveting, especially the Luke vs Palpatine ideology battle and Luke vs Vader physical battle. The Death Star II trench run is also fantastic. In my opinion, this dogfight is one of the best space battles ever put to the big screen. Vader’s turn to light and redemption is very convincing and moving. His death is one of the most cathartic deaths ever, never fails to bring me to tears. The ending with the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin looking contempt at Luke’s finalized arc and the Rebel’s victory and establishment of peace is very telling and very resonating.
John Williams, ladies and gentlemen, once again, treat us to his masterful compositions. The soundtrack is bar none amazing. And the addition of newer tracks like “A Jedi’s Fury” makes Return Of The Jedi that much more monumental. It’s loud, it’s epic, it’s John Williams.

But, and here starts a little bit of criticism that I have, the very first sentence of this article is resonant for Return Of The Jedi. The first quarter of the movie deals with the rescue of Han Solo, after his doomed fate in Empire Strikes Back. And while this sequence is amazing on its own and lets us peek a bit more into the friendship dynamic Luke and Han share and the growing romantic bond between Han and Leia, and of course, just the strong theme of friends coming together to help another friend in need, it feels a bit dragging in the bigger picture and feels like its own subplot or one that could’ve fared better as a short film. Oh and the “Jedi Rocks” number (Or “Lapti Nek” for you Special Edition protesters/theatrical cut purists). Hardcore facepalm at that, mate. And then, during the Endor attack plan meeting, Han and Lando meet and greet each other as if Lando didn’t just sell him out a few weeks ago during the events of Empire, which, okay, you could say that in the while between evading from Tatooine and rendezvousing at the meeting, Han and Lando made reparations of their friendship, but still, a thing to mention. Another minor qualm would be the Ewoks.

Star Wars: Squadrons
Star Wars: Squadrons Pre-Order

I have nothing against the Ewoks in general, but they feel more like a gimmick to sell toys than anything else. Also, the fact that their rocks and sticks did formidable damage to Stormtroopers’ armor as if it’s made of fricking plastic is still hilarious and outlandish, even for a space opera.

There’s also the rehash of Death Star. I wish they went with something a bit different. I mean, obviously, have a weapon of terror to keep the galaxy in check, but recycling the Death Star renders the Empire as a little bit, what the French would say, les incompétents. (Wink if you understood the reference.) And another fight for survival would’ve been just a rehash of Empire. A little nitpick, but still something that could’ve been done better.

J.M:

Overall, even with those hiccups and complaints, the essence of Return of the Jedi remains one of the most successful and popular films. The final installment of the Original Trilogy gave us the satisfactory ending that fans were craving. The Empire Strikes Back had left fans angry, dazed, and confused, but had gotten them to come back 3 years later to see how it all ends. Like any great trilogy each film plays off the last and as George Lucas himself would say, it’s like poetry, it rhymes. 

F.C:
Return Of The Jedi remains a massive feat, especially for an era like the 80’s and is a flawed but solid bookend to the Original Trilogy. It’s emotional, substantial, cathartic and spawned generations of episodic storytelling, even though none of the successors have quite lived up to its stature for the cultural effect it holds over filmmaking. It’s a solid entry that really succeeds to make the Original Trilogy whole and epic.

I would like to thank my friend Jake Mahady once again for teaming up with me to write this review about a movie that undoubtedly shaped our childhood and inspired us to write articles like this.

May the Force be with you.

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