By: Muneeb Arshid
REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
EWOKS! How cute are they? Well, they are, dammit!
Ladies and Gents, this is our review of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi….. DUH! Of course, this movie is the finale in the original trilogy of Star Wars movies (you may have read our reviews for Episode IV and V) and there is definitely a case to be made that this is the weakest of the trilogy itself.
We’ll get to that eventually. Jedi concludes Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) story in his battle to turn his father (Darth Vader/Anakin) to the good side. The story also has side plots with the rebels defeating the Empire one last time as well as saving Han’s (Harrison Ford) ass from the sleazy Jabba the Hutt.
Let’s get one thing clear, if you’ve seen this film, say on some highly reactive hallucinogenic drug, I’m sorry that you had to go through the movie under the influence. WAIT, if you watched this film sober, there’s about at least 45 minutes of the total running time (way too long!), where you, as a sober viewer would’ve thought you were having a bad acid trip. The whole sequence early on in the movie with Jabba the Hutt and his weird obsessions with frogs and alien dancers, and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) felt like something I’d seen in a nightmare of mine. And also, the entire sequence of Ewoks acknowledging C3P-0 as their king and the ceremony was also quite the mind-trip.
ANDDDD, Obligatory Slave Leia mention at this point. Seriously George; yes I know, every boy’s fantasy was fulfilled with that sequence, but was it necessarily needed?
Let’s rewind a little bit and let me give my own thoughts on the original trilogy, as the other two movies have been reviewed by my colleagues. I, unlike both Samar and Akram, was watching these movies for the first time. YES, I know, I’m a loser for not watching them earlier, but what this allowed me to do was view this films through a more critical lens rather than the fanboy eye.
Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope for you millennials) was the first of the series and you have to remember that when this movie came out in 1977, it was being plugged as the first major sci-fi trilogy series, something that had people very excited. I can totally understand all the hype around this back in the 70s. But for me, as I’d never seen these before, I just couldn’t latch onto what was going on in the film. You had the first hour of the movie bombarding me with exposition and, for me, the film didn’t pick up until the battle to destroy the Death Star commenced. The problem with this movie ultimately goes back to George Lucas at the helm in terms of the direction and the script, seemingly without an editor. I understand the need to establish the characters, but the pacing of this film really brought it down to extreme boredom levels for the first half.
This is why Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back was welcomed so passionately in 1980. Now this movie was extremely well made. The film had no pacing issues, the story got going right off the bat and continued all the way through, and the character interplay was great. You got more Han and Leia, more Luke and Vader and loads more C3P-0 and R2D2. You know why this film was so great? NO GEORGE LUCAS, in either the direction or even the writing of this film. This is probably the earliest example of a film that shows that the sequel in a series can be superior to the original. We would actually – arguably – see better sequels released in different series such as Terminator and Alien – both of which came after Empire. But what I equate Empire to be is the movie that started it all for the limited number of sequels that have been better than their originals.
Which brings me to Return of the Jedi. If Empire is seen as the first movie, then Jedi is the cliché disappointment that you expect a sequel to be. And once again, there’s a commonality to that which is that George Lucas was one of the credited screenwriters for this film. As we will see in a couple days with The Phantom Menace and the rest of the prequels, he’s also the major force (some may argue, the Force!) behind the conception of those films. The problem with Jedi, apart from the apparent weird dream sequence like scenes, is the fact that the writers felt that rehashing material from Star Wars again would bring back the nostalgia for this film and cover up their lack of originality. You have the construction of the brand new, apparently stronger, yet ever incompletely built, Death Star which harks back to the first film; there’s the return of Luke and Yoda as promised from Empire, which seemed as if it was kind of forced into the film; thankfully, it produced one of the best dialogue moments between the Master and his apprentice. Additionally, the action sequence that occurs at the end is again similar to what happens in Star Wars but on a considerably grander scale (surprisingly!); it consists of cutting back between the battle on the moon of Endor with Han and Leia against part of the Empire to Luke vs. Vader vs. The Emperor and then finally to the battle in space led by Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars – esque battle. You get loads of other scenes which hark back to the previous films but on a larger scale, with more action, more lightsabers, and more space ship blaster 80s CGI stuff.
Finally, we have those cute little Ewoks. The first appearance of an Ewok is when Leia is stranded and was a cute little moment, where you have this tiny bear/wookie-like creature trying to understand what this “thing” is in front it. But, when they become an integral part for the narrative, that’s where the movie lost me. They’re cute and all, but was all that C3P-0 stuff really needed in this film? Probably not. Of course, the Star Wars fans will say that if the rebels had not gained the trust of the Ewoks, then well the Empire may just have won. But, this is one of those things, where as a viewer you take it for what it is, because the alternative is getting into George Lucas’ head, and that is something no wants to be doing… EVER.
There was, however, one masterful piece of genius in all these movies, which started the more modern trend of using a massive orchestral score, and that was the score by John Williams. You have the iconic Star Wars theme music that plays to begin the movies, and then you had the constant, masterful use of the score when certain characters would show up; Most notable was the playing of The Imperial March whenever Vader showed up. But the important aspect is the legacy that said orchestral score has left since the 80s. You have big sci-fi directors that now supplement their films with massive scores (e.g. Hans Zimmer for Interstellar or any major Christopher Nolan film).
Other than that, there’s not much more to this film. It’s definitely better than any of the prequels, but it surely is the weakest of the original trilogy. A lot of that is due to the fact that there wasn’t a lot of new stuff occurring. The character interplay was great, the action sequences looked a little better than Star Wars, but some of the dialogue did seem a little forced and wooden.
But for all of the problems that this movie had, I am certainly going to acknowledge the fanfare that the movie started which has continued right on to this day. The amount of hype behind the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been unreal with IMAX presales breaking records a month before the movie even opens. However, this hype hasn’t just been limited to Star Wars; it’s moved onto the plethora of comic book movies and the sci-fi movies that we receive like clockwork every year.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi is a perfectly serviceable ending to an important trilogy. It’s definitely the weakest of the three, but it closes the story very nicely albeit with some problems as we go along the movie. Part 3 of our Star Wars series get a grade of B- (7.4/10).
Stay tuned for our first review of the prequel trilogy with Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in two days time!