The first STAR WARS trilogy comes to an end with RETURN OF THE JEDI, which opens on Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) home planet, the desert world Tatooine. R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are sent to the palace of loathsome space gangster Jabba the Hutt to deliver a
message from Luke, who asks that Jabba negotiate for the freedom of Han Solo (Harrison Ford). The droids are imprisoned, and soon Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Luke are all gathered in Jabba's lair. The giant slug dresses up Leia
in a revealing metal bikini and orders Chewbacca, Solo -- who's been released from his icy carbonite prison -- and Luke thrown to the Sarlacc, a tentacled monster that lives in a hole in the desert. After a daring escape -- during which Leia strangles the horrid Jabba with a chain -- Luke goes to
consult with Yoda about his destiny.
The dying Yoda (Frank Oz) confirms that Darth Vader is indeed Luke's father, and reveals that Leia is his twin sister. Meanwhile, the rebel alliance has come into some valuable intelligence and is planning a final assault on the Empire. A new Death Star, currently orbiting the planet Endor, is
under construction. Though protected by a force field generated on the planet surface its weapons are not yet fully operational, and the evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) himself is overseeing the project's completion. Solo -- accompanied by Chewbacca, Leia, Luke, and the droids -- agrees to
head a group that will destroy the force-field generator on Endor, while Calrissian, piloting the Millennium Falcon, will head up a strike on the Death Star itself.
On Endor, Solo's band meets up with the fuzzy Ewoks, a race of primitive teddy bear-like creatures who take C-3PO for a god. Luke reveals to Leia that they're brother and sister, then gives himself up to the Empire troops in hopes of forcing a reconciliation with Darth Vader. Solo and his men
attack the stronghold within which the generator is housed. To their dismay, they realize they've been tricked: the generator is protected by hundreds of Imperial Guards, who outgun and outnumber Solo and co. The Ewoks prove surprisingly fierce allies, but the force field stays up.
Meanwhile, on the Death Star, the Emperor tries to turn Luke to the dark side of the Force, making him watch as Calrissian's pilots are battered by Imperial starfighters, taunting him and trying to make him give in to his helpless anger. Luke and Darth Vader battle with light sabers; Luke wins but
refuses to kill his father. Luke is tortured by the Emperor, who intends to kill him. But the wounded Darth Vader intervenes and tosses his erstwhile master into an engine shaft. Father and son are briefly reunited: Luke removes Vader's sinister helmet, and the two reconcile before Vader dies.
Back on Endor, Solo's forces defeat the Imperial Guards and destroy the generator. The force field vanishes and Calrissian's pilots rout the Empire's forces. The Death Star is destroyed, just after Luke escapes. Leia and Solo declare their love for one another, and that night the Ewoks throw a
joyous jungle party. Luke has a vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Yoda and his father as he was before he turned to the dark side. At the same time, Lando Calrissian returns to Cloud City in triumph. The universe is again safe.
Though a favorite of fans, RETURN OF THE JEDI does not hold up particularly well independent of the preceding two films. Characterization is a given: if you don't know who Luke, Leia, Solo, et al. are and what they mean to one another, you won't find out by watching this film. The dialogue is
repetitive ("I won't give in to the dark side of the Force!" "You will!") and significant characters from earlier films -- notably bounty hunter Boba Fett and Yoda -- are dispatched without fanfare, and the whole business has a slightly rushed, perfunctory feel at the same time that it feels oddly
attenuated. The chattering, spear-rattling, calculatedly adorable Ewoks are unbearable -- it's no wonder that cynical viewers cheer when one finally bites the dust. Still, the space battles are well-staged (the debt owed to JEDI by the far slicker INDEPENDENCE DAY is conspicuous) and various loose
narrative threads are pulled together neatly.
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- Released: 1983
- Rating: PG
- Review: The first STAR WARS trilogy comes to an end with RETURN OF THE JEDI, which opens on Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) home planet, the desert world Tatooine. R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are sent to the palace of loathsome space gangster Ja… (more)