Star Wars Return of the Jedi

  • Title:  Star Wars Return of the Jedi
  • Director:  Richard Marquand
  • Date:  1983
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Nevertheless, I’m taking Captain Solo and his friends you can either profit by this or be destroyed.  It’s your choice but I warn you not to underestimate my powers.”  — Luke

“When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not.”  — Yoda

“Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall, that is the way of  things, the way of the Force.”  — Yoda

“Anger, fear, oppression, the Dark Side are they.  Once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny.”  — Yoda

“Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of  the Force.  He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Dark Vader.  When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.  So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

Return of the Jedi again starts with a crawl updating the audience to the plot, and reminiscent of very old movie serials.  There is an impressive opening shot of a very large and long ship approaching a partially constructed Death Star.  The sequence has several impressive model shots as well, including:  two star destroyers, shuttles, and the moon with the Death Star itself.

On Tatooine, R2-D2 and C3PO are in the desert, they approach Jabba’s palace.  Inside, R2-D2 plays a message from Luke Skywalker.  He wishes to bargain for Han Solo’s life, and gives Jabba R2-D2 and C3PO as gifts (don’t worry it’s all part of the plan).  The droids are indoctrinated into Jabba’s workforce in a scene which includes shots of droids being tortured (one is having it’s feet burned with red-hot horseshoes, another is being pulled apart at the arm and hip sockets).  Jabba’s palace has an 1001 Nights aspect to it, and it’s full of music, aliens, and dancing girls.  Jabba kills his slave girl, dropping her into a pit.  A bounty hunter comes in with Chewbacca, haggling with Jabba (via C3PO’s translations) to get a higher price.  Lando is also hiding in Jabba’s palace in disguise.  Later that night, the “bounty hunter” rescues Han.  He’s frozen in Carbonite and she de-freezes him.  She’s Princess Leia.  Han is basically OK, though temporarily blind.  Jabba quickly captures Han again.  Leia is brought to be Jabba’s slave girl, and Han is imprisoned with Chewbacca.  Luke, dressed in black and cloaked, arrives.  Luke uses his Jedi mind tricks on one of Jabba’s guards, but they don’t work on Jabba.  Luke threatens Jabba for Han and Leia’s lives, but Jabba is over-confident and drops Luke in the Bantha pit.  Luke kills the Bantha monster and the Bantha Keeper is devastated.  However, Luke in unable to rescue Han at the time and the entire group is taken to Jabba’s sail barge to be taken to the desert where they will be executed by another monster – Jabba thinks.

On the barge, Luke will be forced to walk the plank – but instead he performs some very impressive gymnastics and grabs his light-sabre that R2-D2 has sent sailing into the air.  The Star Wars theme swells.  Luke fights Jabba’s creatures and rescues Han and Chewbacca, then heads to rescue Lando. Leia tries to free herself and also kills  Jabba.  Leia also rescues R2-D2.  She points the huge gun on the sail barge at the deck, set to blow.  Luke and Leia swing to safety on a smaller desert hover boat where Han, Chewbacca, and Lando await.  The two droids dive into the desert sand, and are picked up by the smaller boat.  The sail barge is destroyed.

Luke heads off to Dagobah with R2-D2.  The rest are on the Millennium Falcon heading for the alliance fleet.

Meanwhile, Darth Vader and an extremely impressive parade of troops great the Emperor.  The Emperor urges Vader to wait for Luke to seek him out and together they will turn Luke to the Dark Side.

Meanwhile, Luke visits Yoda on Dagobah.  Yoda is dying.  Luke is devastated to lose his mentor, but handles it without the anger of his younger days.  Yoda also avoids Luke’s questions, but mentions a mysterious “other”.  After Yoda’s demise, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi appears.  He confirms what Luke knows – Vader is his father … and also tells him Leia is his sister (Luke half figures this out himself).  Luke now knows he must confront Vader — but he’s convinced there is still good in his father.

Meanwhile the Alliance, including Han Solo, Lando, Chewbacca, Leia, and in the background, Wedge, as well as a full room of others goes over their plans.  A female general/diplomat reviews information received from “Bonthan spies”, then turns the meeting over to Admiral Ackbar to explain the details of the attack.  Lando will lead the fighter strike team in the Millennium Falcon which Han gives him.  Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO, and R2-D2 will go to Endor to knock out the Shield Generator.  Luke arrives just as the plans and teams are being finalized and joins Han and Leia.

On Endor, Han and Luke encounter a pair of Storm Troopers and the speeder bike chase ensues.  Leia falls off her bike.  Luke returns to Han and company.  Meanwhile, Leia meets and befriends an Ewok – a sort of primitive walking teddy bear.  Leia is nearly captured by a pair of storm-troopers but she manages to defeat them herself.

Meanwhile, on the Emperor’s ship, Vader reports that a Rebel force has landed on Endor, including Luke. The Emperor orders Vader to Endor.  Luke will come to Vader who will bring him to the Emperor.

Meanwhile, Luke, Han, and company are looking for Leia — they don’t find her, but get caught in a trap. Though they get themselves free, they are captured by Ewoks.  The Ewoks worship C3PO.

They are taken to the Ewok village.  Leia appears.  Luke uses the Force to raise C3PO’s chair and the group is set free.  Leia kisses Han.  At the feast that evening, C3PO tells the gathered Ewoks the story so far complete with sound effects.  The Ewoks look on in stunned amazement.  Luke, Han, and everyone are inducted into the Tribe.

Luke and Leia speak to each other.  First, Luke asks Leia about her mother.  He then tells her, Darth Vader is his father.  Then he tells Leia she truly is the last hope of  the alliance, she’s his sister and has the power of the Force too.  He wanders off, because he’s a danger to the main Alliance mission.  Han arrives.  Han gets a bit angry that Leia’s honest with Luke but won’t tell him what’s wrong.  Of course, Han has no idea what Luke’s just told Leia.

Luke turns himself  in to Vader.  Despite Luke insisting there’s good in Anakin Skywalker, Vader turns him over to the Emperor.

Han and his team check out the shield generator on Endor.

Lando and his space fleet make the jump to hyperspace under Ackbar’s orders.

The Ewoks lead Han and his team to the back door of the bunker.  An Ewok steals a speeder bike and draws off some of  the troops.  Unforunately when they walk into the bunker…

Vader brings Luke to the Emperor.  The Emperor gloats that Luke’s friends are walking into a trap.  The space battle attack on the death star has to break off and a space battle ensues.

Han, Leia, and Chewbacca face a legion of storm troopers.  C3PO baits the storm troopers into a trap and the Ewoks attack.  Before long an all-out battle occurs between storm troopers and Ewoks.  The Ewoks do well but many are also killed.

The Ewok battle on Endor is intercut with the battle in space between Lando’s group and the Emperor’s fighters.

The Emperor, again, gloating has the Death Star attack and destroy a rebel ship.

On Endor, R2-D2 gets hit by laser fire.  Han tries to hot wire the bunker door.  More Ewoks are killed. Lando continues to lead the fight.

The Emperor continues to goad Luke.  Luke grabs his light-sabre but Vader blocks his attack on the Emperor.

The Ewoks begin to succeed again in their battle with the Emperor’s troops.

Leia is injured as she tries to cover Han at the door.  Chewbacca commandeers an Imperial Walker.

Luke fights Vader, then stops.  Vader strikes out at Luke and Luke counters him.  Vader throws his light-sabre at Luke,

The space battle continues.

Han and Chewbacca pull one over on the Imperial troops.

Luke plays cat-and-mouse with Vader and insists he won’t fight him.  When Vader realizes Leia is Luke’s sister and says he will convert her to the Dark Side.  Luke fights back, hard, now angry.  The Emperor arrives, and Luke, looking at his own mechanical hand, and Vader’s wrist where he’s cut off his hand, stops, and tells the Emperor he’ll never turn to the Dark Side.  Luke throws aside his light-sabre.

Back on Endor, the bunker is destroyed.  In space, the attack on the Death Star commences.

The Emperor attacks Luke with lightening bolts.  Luke pleas to his father for help.  Vader grabs the Emperor and throws him into the well of a power reactor, saving Luke, but getting electrocuted in the process.

During the space battle a rebel ship hits a star destroyer and it sinks, crashing into the planet.  Luke drags Vader to an escape craft.  Vader asks Luke to remove his mask so he can look at Luke with his own eyes.

Luke escapes in the shuttle.  The Death Star is destroyed.  Han assures Leia that Luke wasn’t on the Death Star when it blew.  Leia quietly responds that she knows.  Han offers to not get in the way when Luke returns.  Leia explains Luke is her brother, then kisses Han.

Luke burns his father’s body.

Everyone reunites at the Ewok celebration.  Luke wanders off and he sees the ghosts of his father, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi before Leia brings him back to the party.

The conclusion to the Star Wars trilogy is actually quite good and satisfying.  It’s best in it’s quiet moments – Luke’s conversations with Yoda and Ben (Obi-Wan); Luke’s explaining his background to Leia; even Leia explaining to Han that Luke’s actually her brother and she’s in love with Han.  The film also uses short set pieces and in the last half-hour/forty-five minutes a lot of inter-cutting.  This stops the film from bogging down.  Yes, the film is the Hero’s Journey but it’s well executed, especially as at the time true fantasy heroes journey’s were seldom the subject of  popular entertainment films.  Luke is much more mature here, so much so, that I wondered just how long Han was stuck in Carbonite, since Luke has finished his training.  Leia also seems a bit older, and more ready to take on responsibility, though her character doesn’t grow as much as Luke or even Han.

Return of  the Jedi also has a lot of great lines.  Like all of  the Star Wars trilogy the writing is very quotable, which makes the film fun to watch.  All the leads also do a good job.  Mark Hamill is no longer playing the “whiny farm boy” but has grown and matured. Han Solo has discovered the importance of caring for people instead of just himself and Chewie.  Only Leia, though always strong, seems to have not changed much… though she does more or less propose to Han.

Recommendation:  See it, a true classic.
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Sting

Star Wars

  • Title:  Star Wars (aka Star Wars IV:  A New Hope)
  • Director:  George Lucas
  • Date:  1977
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Adventure
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Your father’s light sabre.  This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight.  Not as clumsy or random as a blaster.  An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

“The force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds the Galaxy together.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

“I want to come with you to Alderaan.  There’s nothing for me here now.  I want to learn the ways of  the force and become a Jedi like my father.”  — Luke

“I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you!”  — Luke

Hands down one of my favorite movies, ever!  Star Wars is the classic science fantasy film, mixing the cultural mysticism of Old Japan, with the classic tale of farm boy who wants adventure, then he becomes very important.

The film opens with a scroll revealing this is “Episode IV” like the old movie serials from the 1930s. This catches up on the plot for a “pre-quel” that in 1977 didn’t exist, but it explains the background for what’s going on.  We see an impressive, but small ship being chased and shot at — then a shot of a much, much larger ship chasing it.  The ship seems to go on forever.  It’s blasting lasers at the smaller ship.

Inside the ship we meet two ‘Droids (or androids), R2-D2 and C3PO.  R2-D2 communicates only in whistles and beeps (meant to suggest machine language) though we have an idea what he’s saying from C3PO’s responses.  C3PO, a “protocol” droid and translator, seems a bit like a bad butler.  The entire ship is swallowed by the larger one.  Imperial Storm Troopers in metallic white armor burst in. Vader strangles one of the rebels, and Princess Leia is stunned unconscious.

R2-D2 and C3PO leave the ship in an escape pod.  Because the pod registers no life signs, the Imperial troops let it get away.  They land on a dessert planet.  Jawas, dessert scavengers, pick up the two droids.
The Storm Troopers arrive, thinking the “plans” are hidden in the pod, then find evidence of droids and tracks.

Meanwhile, the Jawas arrange their droids to sell.  Luke and his Uncle Owen take first C3PO and then R2-D2 from the Jawas and bring them back to their farm.

Luke stumbles on to part of Leia’s message while cleaning R2-D2.  He claims he’s the property of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Luke discusses going to “the Academy” with Uncle Owen, but Owen wants him to stay and help with the harvest.  R2-D2 goes off on his own in search of Kenobi.

The next morning, Luke and C3PO search for R2-D2 and find him.  They’re attacked by Sand People.  Obi-Wan Kenobi rescues Luke, and the droids.  Obi-Wan fills Luke in on some of  his father’s history, and gives him a light sabre.  He starts to teach Luke about the Force, and they listen to Leia’s full message hologram.  Kenobi asks Luke to help go to Alderaan.  Luke says he can’t.  Then they find the Jawas attacked and destroyed, it’s meant to look like Sand People were responsible, but Obi-Wan realizes Imperial Storm Troopers were responsible.

On Vader’s ship they discuss the disappearance of  the plans, and Vadar strangles a man using the Force.

Luke rushes home, but the farm’s been destroyed and his Aunt and Uncle burned to death.  He returns to the Jawa site, meets with Kenobi, and vows to go with him, learn the ways of  the Force, and become a Jedi Knight like his father.  They head for Mos Eisley spaceport, the famous “hive of scum and villainy”. There they meet Chewbacca and Han Solo and book passage on the Millennium Falcon.  Luke sells his speeder to get cash.

Imperial troopers show up at the space port and there’s a brief laser gun fight.  The Millennium Falcon escapes the Imperial cruisers by making the jump to light speed and cruising into hyperspace.  During the brief trip, Obi-Wan Kenobi begins to train Luke in the use of  a light sabre.  When they arrive at Alderaan, it’s in the middle of  a meteor shower.  And the planet isn’t there.

We’d seen Vader coldly and calmly use the Death Star to destroy the entire planet, Leia’s home, and one she insists is peaceful with no weapons.  Obi-Wan Kenobi had felt the tremor in the force, the millions of lives silenced, and nearly collapsed, while aboard the Falcon, in hyper-space.

Back on the Falcon, they see a small moon near Alderaan, or what was, Alderaan.  Quickly, Luke, Han, and Obi-Wan realize it’s a space station and they better get out of there.  But they are pulled into a tractor beam.  When the ship lands, the Imperial Troopers think no one’s on board, as they had all hidden in Han’s smuggling compartments.

Obi-Wan Kenobi will take care of the tractor beam.  The rest are to check for info, but stay put.  However, R2-D2 plugs into a Imperial computer port, downloads data, and finds Leia and that she’s scheduled for execution.  Luke convinces Han to rescue Leia.  Han reluctantly agrees.  They rescue Leia, get caught by troopers trying to escape, and Leia blows a hole in the wall with a blaster rifle and they end up in the garbage compactor.  Luke calls C3PO for help and they barely escape.

Getting back to the Falcon isn’t so easy, with more blaster battles.  Everyone gets to the Falcon, but Kenobi is fighting Vader.  Luke sees this on the other side of the hanger deck.  Vader kills Kenobi, and Luke angrily fires at any Imperial storm trooper he can.  The Falcon escapes, after a space battle against TIE fighters, but Leia insists “they let us escape”.

She’s right, the Death Star follows them to the rebel base at Yavin, on a nearby moon. The rebels study the plans and come up with a plan.  Small, one-man fighters (X-wings), will fly through a trench and send photon torpedoes through a 2-meter thermal vent.  If placed directly, and perfectly on target, the torpedo will reach the center of  the moon’s reactor, blow it up and cause a chain reaction to blow up the entire Death Star.

Luke, Wedge, and two squadrons of rebel pilots, head for the Death Star to make their attack run. Meanwhile, Leia and the rebels watch battle screens and listen.  They watch as the Death Star comes closer and closer, knowing that when or if  it clears the planet, they are all dead.  And they listen as the rebel pilots, one by one, die — either in collisions in the trench, blown up by Imperial TIE fighters, or destroyed by anti-aircraft batteries on the Death Star.  Finally, it’s down to Wedge and Luke.  Wedge gets a bit cooked and has to pull out (but he survives).  Han Solo arrives in the Falcon, and destroys two TIE fighters, and clips Vader’s fighter so it rolls off  into space.  Luke disables his targeting computer, and let’s the force guide him to make the shot.  He succeeds.

Later he and Han reunite with Leia and are congratulated.  Both receive awards at a huge ceremony. Chewbacca is also honored and  R2-D2 and C3PO are present at the ceremony.

Star Wars is a fun movie – but it has a lot to say too.

The color palette is bright white, black, and grey.  There’s occasional pops of blue, orange, and brown. But mostly it’s white, black and grey – which gives the film an almost monochromatic look, even though it’s a color film.  And, the sharp whites and blacks add to the feel of being in space.  Despite the obvious fantasy elements of  the film, the star fields, uni-directional lighting and such, feel like space.  Even when R2-D2 is in the back of Luke’s X-Wing fighter, his normally blue markings look black because there’s no light in space to see the blue.

The plot, about an orphan who discovers he is meant for greater things also isn’t that different – after all Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter are also orphans.  The farm boy who longs for adventure, and finds it is an old idea, a classic idea.  And in part, Star Wars, is a classic fantasy tale – with a princess to be rescued and plenty of sword play and (blaster) gun battles.  We even have the old mentor, Merlin-like, teaching the young boy.

But far from being derivative – Star Wars brings all these elements together and cooks them up into something no one had seen in 1977, and the film is still popular, even legendary today.  Because of  the futuristic fantasy setting, it doesn’t feel “old”, unlike many science fiction films (or even buddy cop films or musicals or other genre films).  And that is because the film was made with so much care and precision and the young cast is brilliant.  The script is also brilliant – as the many famous quotes from it bare out. After all, who doesn’t know what “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for?” means or where “May the Force be with you” comes from?  It’s just a brilliant, brilliant film.

The film, like Raiders of  the Lost Ark (1981), is actually split into relatively short sections (again, inspired by movie serials), which allow for a more complicated plot and prevent any boredom from setting to setting.  Star Wars moves at a break-neck speed, and with surprising amounts of humor, although the overall tone is that of sheer fun adventure.

I saw Star Wars when it came out in 1977 – I was eight years old, and the perfect age to fall in love with this movie.  It, like the Indiana Jones films, inspired a life-long love of film.  It also inspired my interest in not only watching science fiction, but reading it.  And reading fantasy also.  A couple of  years ago I had the privilege of showing Empire and Jedi to my at-the-time eight-year-old niece and nephew (they’d seen Star Wars) and it was fun to see the films as new through their eyes.  Because I must admit, I’ve seen these three films so many times I’ve memorize whole sections of dialog from them.

Recommendation:  A must see!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back