Return of the Jedi is the first Star Wars movie I ever saw in the theater though if we’re honest I don’t remember the event. I was five years old and according to my parents immediately hooked. That birthday and Christmas I racked up on Star Wars toys. I had lightsabers with holes at the top to make the noise, an Ewok village and ALL of the Ewoks, every Main character and stormies, X-wings, TIE fighters, speeder bikes, you name it I had it*. My parents weren’t rich or willing to spoil me but I was the only grandson and one of two Grand kids at the time and my grandparents were more than willing to spoil me. Thanks Papa and Grandma! To say that Return of the Jedi started me on the Path of Geek is one percent correct. All that said lets jump into the final review before The Force Awakens.
What I Liked
The first shot mimics ANH opening and that is just a great sign. Vader really sets the tone when he uses the line “The emperor is not as forgiving as I am”. I really liked just about everything that happens at Jabba’s palace. Real Jabba over CGI Jabba any day of the week too, the CGI Jabba from the prequels and ANH:SE just aren’t the same character to me. Jabba is no fool and he proves it when he prevents Leia from rescuing Han and once Luke shows up by trying to dispatch him quickly. Leia shows us once again she’s a bad ass by taking down Jabba single-handedly. This highlights the failure of Padme’s arc in the prequels to me. Luke is obviously more powerful and confident and adds to his total as a mass murderer.
The Emperor is still so cool, I want to join the darkside as soon as he starts to speak. Yoda dying is actually really sad and yet he still jokes! Once back with everyone learning of the Rebels plans, Han’s incredulous look when Leia’s says “who’d they get to pull that off” is just… Han. As is the Han’s line later when they arrive at Endor “Fly Casual” I enjoyed the speeder bike chase and the introduction to both Leia and the rest of the group to the Ewoks. I know Ewoks aren’t the most popular of creatures but I like them. People act like 3-4 foot bears aren’t terrifying… really? Intelligent 3 -4 ft bears are absolutely terrifying to me. Anyway. Luke using C3PO and C3PO’s reaction are great. As is Han’s orders to C3PO about getting there stuff and the other 5 questions/commands he had.
Everything after Luke meets up with Vader is pure gold. The final battle is raging across three fields and the one with least amount of impact on the outcome for the Rebellion is one we care about the most. Luke vs Vader and the Emperor. Luke could lose that battle and still the rebellion could win if he wins the rebellion could still lose. The battle between these three is emotional with Luke trying to turn his Father and the Emperor trying to turn Luke. The Emperor is good but he blows it in his overconfidence. He unwittingly prevent Luke from truly going dark with his comments. Luke is willing to die to save his friends Anakin was willing to kill, the Emperor thought they were of the same cloth. Vader looking to his son and then teh emperor you can feel his conflict. Knowing what we know about the prequels you can make a guess of what is going through his head. Padme died, the Emperor couldn’t help me save her. If I let him kill Luke then everything I’ve done has been for nothing. Boom dead Emperor. I could go into the other battles but they don’t have the impact of this one. They are visually great and Han has a great moment with Leia after the Death Star 2.0 is destroyed. Act three is as good as ESB in my mind, no need to wax poetic.
What doesn’t work for me
ROTJ works on just about every level so there is very little to dislike. The special edition additions of the CGI band in Jabba’s place are kinda terrible as is the new song. I also can’t stand the new mouth on the Sarlacc. The only two other things I’d change about the first act are Boba goes down like lil punk and Yoda kinda should have given Luke a better warning about the Emperor. As far as the second and final acts I only have two issues. One is the scene after Luke leaves to face Vader. Leia and Han have what is at best an awkward scene, not quite Anakin and Padme in AotC but not great. The second would be the traps the Ewoks had set up for the Imperials in the woods. Seriously that would require tons of planning and work and they just didn’t have the time.
I mean in the orginal first draft of ANH we have an Ewok/rebels team up that was wookiees instead. How cool would that have been? I still like my Ewoks but Wookiees man. We could have had Wookiees!
RotJ is and always will be a great way to end Anakin’s story. If it weren’t for nostalgia and the way ANH changed the game RotJ would probably most people’s number 2. After my re-watch I have come to new conclusions on how I rank these films. ESB, RotJ, TPM(you read that right), ANH, RotS and AotC. This has also heightened my excitement for next Thursday first viewing of The Force Awakens to levels I’ve not felt for any movie since TPM. I will probably watch the OT Thursday then go right into TFA after seeing RotJ twice in a as many weeks. Expect my review of TFA to be bonkers.