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Review: Return of the Jedi

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (and the end of The Skywalker Saga) arrives on December 20th, 2019. That’s Entertainment will be celebrating the next month, until the release of Episode 9. Check out yesterday’s coverage here and Garrett’s review of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.


Return of the Jedi Poster ImageDirector: Richard Marquand
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford

Editors note: Garrett originally watched Star Wars Episodes 1-6 in numbered order before seeing The Force Awakens. Theses reviews have been posted in release order.

I don’t have a whole lot to say regarding Return of the Jedi, but I never really have. It is a fitting conclusion to the original trilogy, and the tragedy of the end plays even better with the context of the prequels. But overall it’s rather silly, full of hi-jinks and pratfalls that the rest of this particular trilogy only touches on. It would seem to me if the prequels have any basis in any of the original trilogy, this movie is the blueprint that was used. I don’t dislike that tone here, it is well balanced with the much darker, more serious tone of Luke’s plot thread throughout the film, but it does diminish the overall effect of the film quite a bit.

The one truly impressive thing about Return of the Jedi is the way it juggles multiple plot threads simultaneously, especially in the finale, and cuts back and forth between all of them at just right the moments, at an absolutely perfect pace. This is something I will gripe about in my Episode VII review. But here, it’s pulled off with incredible precision that makes for a truly thrilling finale.


Also noteworthy about this whole trilogy—I briefly mentioned this in my Episode IV review but it bares more exploration—is the way laser blasts are handled. In the prequels, everything is so clean and digital that when people are shot they simply fall over. If they’re missed, and the laser hits the wall, there’s maybe a little flame and a small scorch mark left on the wall. But in the originals, if you get shot; huge, practical sparks fly out of your body as real smoke rises from the wound creating a fog of war for your compatriots. Same goes for any object that gets hit. It makes the stakes more real, gives the action more weight, and ultimately makes the world a bit grimier and more lived in.

It’s sad to say that Return of the Jedi doesn’t live up to the high bar set by Episodes IV and V, but it brings me great pleasure to know it’s at least on par with the best of the prequels, if not slightly better. I almost gave it 4 stars to properly denote this, but I don’t think it’s quite deserving. That fate lies in future episodes of Star Wars.

The above was originally written in 2015, during Garrett’s rewatch of the series leading up to the release of The Force Awakens.

Score: ★★★☆☆

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