Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi

 Director: Richard Marquand

1983

“Executive producer Lucas […] and director Richard Marquand introduce a new race of teddy-bear-like creatures, the Ewoks, to entertain younger members of the audience.” (691, Joanna Berry, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You DieEpisode VI is probably my favourite and it does indeed have to do with the Ewoks. They certainly entertained me when I was first introduced to the films as a youngster and they remain just as adorable now as they were then.

There is a darker feel to this final installment; the enemy are regrouping and rebuilding their most formidable weapon, the Death Star. And of course Luke has changed in part due to the loss of his hand at the hand (no pun intended!) of his recently discovered father, none other than Darth Vader himself. “Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), an eager young Jedi trainee in the first installment, is now a brooding warrior (hence the black clothing).” (691) I mean encounters like that would darken any mood and Luke treads the very thin line between good and evil. After all as Yoda, in his infinite wisdom, says “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999, George Lucas)

R2 s a fearless little droid always entering dangerous situations without hesitation, usually leaving a worrisome C-3PO following along in his wake. The work of the Rebellion takes somewhat of a back seat here, especially in the first half when the focus is most definitely on reuniting our main trio. A journey that provides us with one of the most iconic images in cinema history – one that is still lusted over by men of all ages to this day (and even I can appreciate the beauty of it) and that is of course Leia in that gold bikini.

Jabba the Hut is still as repulsive as he was when we first encountered him in Episode IV. You really feel the absence of Han Solo in the first part of the film. Aside from a hologram of Luke it is nearly 20 minutes before we see any of the main human protagonists. But the wait is worth it to witness the reunion of Han and Leia. The first big set piece is the trio’s (plus Chewie and the droids of course) escape from Jabba’s sail boat. Made all the more impressive by Han’s blindness … a side effect from the time spent in carbonite. It’s really the first time we see Luke really flex his Jedi muscles as it were, and it turns out he’s a bit of a bad ass! Once again Leia proves just how capable she is by strangling the repulsive Jabba – no mean feat considering their sizes.

Yoda’s passing is actually pretty upsetting and yet he looks so peaceful at the end. Of course it must be remembered that just because he died it does not mean he is gone. We finally learn the true connection between Luke and Leia (if you hadn’t already worked it out by then). Watching the films again with all the knowledge I now have … both from the original trilogy but also the prequels … I find it hard to recall what it must have felt lk to find out that first time but I guess it was a fairly shocking reveal much in the same way the Vader reveal was in Episode V.

The speed of the action picks up in this final installment certainly when compared to Episode IV and Episode V. We move fairly swiftly from the fight of Tattooine to the battle (one of them anyway) on Endor. The flight through the wooded landscape of Endor is most definitely a precursor to the pod racing in Episode I. Dynamic piece of filmmaking with camera angles that immerse you in the action. The baby Ewoks are cuteness overload! The Ewoks have a strong tribal nature and an awesome living arrangement having created a treehouse city, more evidence they were created for the entertainment of children. Who didn’t want a treehouse when they were younger?

While the Rebellion is trying to bring down the Death Star (again!) Luke is on a mission to redeem his father and break the hold the Dark side has over him. The Emperor has a much more forceful presence in this final installment. Although a withered old man he is incredibly powerful evidenced in the deference that Vader shows him. His power is never really explained. He is voyeuristic, watching impotently from the sidelines; for the most part anyway. The scenes with the Emperor are dark, menacing and imposing with low light, heavy shadows and sharp angular sets.

Nothing ever seems to go smoothly for the Rebellion but then the films would be pretty boring if it did. Things look particularly bad for the Rebellion is this film – more so than at any other time in the saga. The deaths of the Ewoks are particularly moving due to their childlike stature.

Vader comes through in the end at enormous cost. As with the spiritual belief that no one truly leaves us even in death there is the belief that no-one is ever truly lost to the Dark side. There is good in everyone it just has to be found and fought for. Vader redeems himself by saving his son and at the same time ridding the universe of the Emperor’s tyranny. Montage of celebrations across different planets with a possible hint of the Gungans? It’s an immense conclusion with the destruction of the Death Star, imploding while Lando races to escape in the Millennium Falcon.

“The stars meanwhile are never eclipsed by cuddly muppets and impressive special effects, and skillfully bring Lucas’s version of intergalactic good-versus-evil to a close.” (691)

Now the ending of my copy of Episode VI differs from the original release as it is a remastered version done after the release of the prequels. As a result the appearance of Luke’s 3 Jedi companions as been altered so that his father, Anakin, is portrayed by Hayden Christensen as opposed to Sebastian Shaw who played him in the original. Watching the original trilogy again has made me want to watch prequels again (despite them being considered inferior films) and has made me question how Disney could possibly take the story further with the planned Episodes VII, VIII and IX.

 

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