Movie Name: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Release Date(s): May 25, 1983
MPAA Rating: PG
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is a prisoner of Jabba the Hutt. It is up to C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to free him. Now a Jedi, Luke finds himself more confident and destine to free his father Darth Vader (played by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones, and revealed to be Sebastian Shaw) from the control of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). A new Death Star is being constructed, and the Rebel Alliance must find a way to shut down the force field protecting it on the forest moon of Endor.
Richard Marquand directed Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (also called Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi), but David Lynch was considered before he opted to do Dune. Return of the Jedi was going to be Revenge of the Jedi for a while but Lucas returned to the original title before the release. Other changes included deciding not to kill Han Solo…which allegedly, they felt would hurt merchandising sales. Return of the Jedi was well received but has since been seen as the weakest movie in the original trilogy.
One problem is a trend that continued in the prequel movies is that it just doesn’t feel as dark as The Empire Strikes Back. Characters like the super cuddly Ewoks (originally intended to be Wookies) might bight the bullet, but they also provide a lot of comic relief. One of the original endings had Han dying and Luke going off alone…a much better idea in my opinion than the mega-happy Ewok ending.
Lucas claims that the whole series is about the rise and fall of Darth Vader and that he had planned his prequels earlier to state this but the redemption of Darth Vader seems a bit forced in this movie (before the release of the prequels). The idea that Luke could succumb to the darkness is a more interesting idea, and the idea of the son replacing the father is more compelling than the crusty old Darth Vader deciding to turn against the Emperor.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi did suffer a lot of changes in the 1997 releases. The Max Rebo Band number was make completely over-the-top, the Sarlac was made into more than just a big pit, the goofy Ewok music was replaced, and added scenes with celebrations around the Empire celebrating the fall were added. An even bigger change occurred in 2006 when Hayden Christiansen who played Anakin in the prequels replaced Sebastian Shaw’s ghost form at the end of the film). This is kind of a rude slight to the actor and wasn’t well received by fans.
Return of the Jedi might not be a great film, but it is still part of my childhood. If you were to fairly compare it with the other movies it might actually rank closer to Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith, but I think it stands up a bit better (especially before he tweaked it). The movie ended the series which has continued in books, comics, etc. and of course with rumor that another trilogy could be released to further tarnish the series.