Director: Richard Marquand
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford
My love for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ means that the sequel, ‘Return Of The Jedi’ has always been somewhat overshadowed and neglected. I’m fully aware of the successes of this film and the way it brilliantly concludes the trilogy, but I always end up so hyped from watching its predecessor that I forget to focus. This time, I sat down and devoted everything to the third instalment, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the gang are desperate to retrieve Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the detestable Jabba the Hut and free him from his carbon prison. Meanwhile, Darth Vader and the Emperor press on with plans to rebuild the Death Star and turn Luke to the ways of the Dark Side. As the Rebels plot their attack on the Empire, Luke revisits Jedi Master Yoda and realises that to become a true Jedi, he must confront Darth Vader. He also realises that sharing a kiss with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) was a big mistake. Whilst Han and Leia lead a team into the forests of the planet Endor to shut down the Death Star forcefield, Luke and Vader do battle for the last time, with the evil Emperor Palpatine watching on gleefully.
The character development hits new levels in ‘Return Of The Jedi’, with Luke becoming all wise and powerful. Leia and Han are now very much in love and they both know it, but they still maintain their endearing hostility towards each other. The highlight of it all however, is once again the depth to the character of Darth Vader. We delve into his past and discover new truths which help us to understand exactly how this ultimate villain was created. Aside from the unusual mix of CGI and puppet characters, this film is probably the most advanced in terms of special effects and visual experience. Unfortunately, at times the experience verges on bizarre and the narrative is a little slow and drawn out in periods. Luckily, the final fight scene is dramatic and thrilling enough to compensate for this, even matching the standards of the climactic scenes in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.
As far as the three films from the original trilogy go, I would say this one lands right in the middle. Whilst it’s not as consistently action-packed and exciting as ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, it does present better characters and a better story than ‘A New Hope’. The suspense of the previous film, the way it builds so much tension and leaves us hanging just as Luke Skywalker so famously does, is the exact reason why ‘Return Of The Jedi’ could never quite live up to that standard. Because this film is tasked with concluding the whole thing, and maybe I feel a touch of resentment that this film signals the end (for now at least). But in fairness, we are treated to a rather fitting farewell to a superb franchise.
This revisiting of the trilogy has cemented ‘Star Wars’ as my favourite franchise of all time. It has been so enjoyable to dive back into the magical world and so many fond memories have come flooding back to me. In today’s world of endless sequels and tired anthologies, it is quite special to see a set of films which are ALL so brilliant; not one of these episodes is a let down to the trilogy. I just pray that my excitement for ‘The Force Awakens’ is not misplaced.