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Return of the Jedi

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Return of the Jedi

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford
Director: Richard Marquand
Rated: PG
RunTime: 132 Minutes
Release Date: May 1983
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action, Classic

*Also starring: Jeremy Bulloch, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Alec Guinness, Peter Mayhew, Sebastian Shaw, Ian McDiarmid, David Prowse

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

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

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