Return of the Jedi ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Wars-A-Thon '18: JMN Strikes Back
Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

Despecialized Edition V2.5

"The Force is strong in my family.
My father has it. I have it.
My... sister has it."

Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were both tough acts to follow, so it was only natural that Return of the Jedi would be viewed as a disappointment by some fans. Lord knows the same continues to happen with the third instalment of any ongoing franchise. Nonetheless, the climactic chapter of the Original Trilogy is a respectable sci-fi blockbuster by any standard, irrespective of the burden of lofty fan expectations.

Admittedly, Return of the Jedi does strike me as a tad unenterprising when juxtaposed with its predecessors. Where the first entries were eccentric oddities that accidentally became cultural touchstones, this threequel seems more deliberately aimed at a mass audience: for one, the repetition of key plot beats from the previous adventures implies a desire to play it safer than before. And as much as I don't mind the Ewoks - those furballs were going to eat the rebels, after all - they do smack of a more commercial approach that's at odds with the original's maverick nature: let's put these cute creatures in, so we can sell toys!

But I don't let this critique colour my overall opinion, even as an otherwise jaded adult. I still love Return of the Jedi, and enjoy myself immensely whenever I sit down for a re-watch. The characters' journeys all finish in a fulfilling manner, the set pieces persist in being exceptionally entertaining, and it's comfortably the funniest episode of the series to date: from Threepio's "Godhood" to Han and Leia's banter, Jedi never fails to make me chuckle like a simpleton.

At the end of the day, being a bronze medallist is hardly a shameful fate, and Return of the Jedi can settle for being the third-best film in one of the most beloved cinematic trilogies of all time. No small feat for a silly space opera, eh?

The Good:

Richard Marquand doesn't get much praise from fans, which is a shame: although his direction is more conventional than Irvin Kershner's, he still made Return of the Jedi a very good-looking film. Check out the lighting and compositions in the Emperor's throne room again, they're pretty great.

The skirmish at the sarlaac pit. Sublime serial action in the vein of Flash Gordon, made ten times better by Luke being a badass with a lightsaber.

Slave Leia. Because I'm a man, and I notice these things.

The Battle of Endor, or at least the space portion. Given the advancements of special effects since Star Wars, it's easily the most technically astounding space combat this trilogy gave us. Plus, Lando and Wedge get their moment to shine.

The throne room scene. Luke and Vader's fight is solid - though admittedly tamer than the Bespin duel - and Luke's confrontation with the Emperor is dripping with antagonism.

The two songs which were cut out for the Special Edition, "Lapti Nek" and "Yub Nub". C'mon, you know they rock.

The Bad:

A few of the background actors appear oddly disinterested in proceedings. Hell, Admiral Piett looks practically comatose compared to how he was in Empire.

Endor. We go from an ice planet, to a swamp planet, to a gas planet, to... a forest moon? Eh, not very inspiring.

The Williams:

"Luke and Leia" As epic as Luke's theme, and as elegant as Leia's. Its reprisal in The Last Jedi made me feel a feeling.

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