Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Directed by Richard Marquand
Every trilogy has the equivalent of a “Return of the Jedi.” It’s not the best movie of the trilogy, but it’s the most entertaining, enjoyable, re-watchable. “Die Hard: With a Vengeance.” “Shrek 2.” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid, who later reprises his role in the original trilogy) have set to rebuild the Death Star in a last-ditch attempt to stifle the rebellion and kill Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). But Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher) are en route to Tatooine to save the carbon-frozen Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Once that’s done, they’ll lead their own attack on the new Death Star via the Ewok-filled planet nearby. But Vader isn’t easily tricked, and the Emperor even less so.
Ewoks are like giant, adorably feisty Furbies. They’re creepy, but also incredibly loving. It’d be like if Jar-Jar didn’t talk. You couldn’t hate him so much, right? Kinda cute. Anyway, they define the mood of the second half of “Return of the Jedi.” A childish, slapstick appeal. The Ewoks are like the 300 Stooges. It’s a lot of fun, though it strays from the sci-fi action and deadly shootouts. It’s what “The Hobbit” did to “Lord of the Rings.” Enjoyable, fun to watch, just a little more PG. The first half is wildly different, with the dank atmosphere of Jabba the Hutt’s palace thick enough to smell through the screen. Here, we see half-naked female human-line creatures dancing to pop music, some experimentation with ‘80s-like animation (think “Beetlejuice”), and a slave-drab Leia being licked by a two-ton slug. It’s not very appealing. But, nevertheless, still exciting.
For the most part, we see the same cast giving the same commendable performances. Ford can be annoying when in full cocky-‘80s-rebel mode, especially when he’s trying to impress his lady friend. But you forgive him. It’s the ‘80s.
You have fun when you watch “Return of the Jedi.” It sets itself apart from the others in the same way that “The Phantom Menace” is the odd man out in the prequel trilogy. They both give you entertaining (if sometimes childish) excitement without apologies. Escapism at its finest. What more do you expect from the greatest sci-fi franchise of all time?