[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B005HNV2OS][/pullquote] By 1983 George Lucas’ Star Wars saga was as recognisable as any film in history. The staggering commercial success of A New Hope and the critical success of The Empire Strikes Back meant that Star Wars: Episode VI “ Return of the Jedi was one of the most anticipated films in history. It promised to complete the trilogy and finally see a conclusion to the epic space opera pitting the hearty Rebel Alliance against the evil Galactic Empire. It also promised the first proper look at the Emperor, who other than the odd brief transmission had remained in the background, pulling the strings.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has finally completed his training as a Jedi and has to go on a mission to rescue his friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt. They heroes, along with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) discover that a second Death Star has been built by the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid). The race is then on to try and destroy the planet-sized weapon before it can wipe out the Rebel Alliance once and for all and Luke must face-off against his father, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in a battle for each others souls.
The two previous films had set the scene beautifully and fans of the series will have known the stakes before going to see Return of the Jedi. The revelation at the end of The Empire Strikes Back had been so shocking and unexpected that people were desperate to see what happened to the characters that many of them had grown to love in the previous 6 years. George Lucas who had handed the directorial reigns to Irvin Kershner decided that a change was due again, perhaps hoping to keep the franchise as fresh as possible and Richard Marquand took control.
There is a lot to recommend Return of the Jedi, whether it be the Sarlac Pit escape, the speeder bike chase of the epic confrontation between Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and the Emperor. Each of these events stand-out as quintessentially Star Wars, even the space battle between the Rebels and the Empire is worth singling out for praise, but where the film suffers, in a huge way is on the forest moon of Endor.
Despite impressive showing at the box office, time has not been as kind to Return of the Jedi as it has on the previous two episodes. The main reason quoted by fans of the series is simple: The Ewoks. These loveable, fluffy teddy bears, living in a primitive society have been as big a discussion point as Jar-Jar Binks proved to be in the prequel trilogy. The main problem with them is that it’s so unfeasibly unrealistic that these tiny bears, armed with nothing more than a few rocks and sticks could defeat the highly-trained, heavily equipped Imperial storm troopers.
It seems ridiculous that in a world populated by all sorts of creatures and aliens that something like this should make the blindest bit of difference. But the facts of the matter are that they do and no amount of Wicket (Warwick Davis) being as cute as anything can prevent their inclusion being a huge drag, not least because the most charismatic character, Han, is stuck with them for almost the entire duration. After the release of The Phantom Menace there has been an increase in love for Return of the Jedi, as people’s initial disappointment with it failing to live-up to Empire was starkly put into context by the terrible failings of Episode I.
The performances of Hamill, Ford, Fisher, Earl Jones and McDiarmid are all exemplary and when combined with the heart of the original Star Wars, the now familiar score and countless epic and memorable scenes.