Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones
Directed by: Richard Marquand
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 2 hr 14 min
I think Return of the Jedi was the first film I ever saw in the theater. Being 11 years old at the time, I remember thinking it was the best film I’d ever seen, and if I had access to an internet connection I would have used my ZX81 computer (Timex Sinclair 1000 in the US,) and blogged 6 out of 5 asterisks! However, the years have passed by, and I have matured (somewhat). My opinion of Return of the Jedi has matured too.
Jedi is certainly the weakest entry from the original trilogy. Sadly weighed down by two slow-moving and vapid opening acts. First the extremely dull segment in Jabba’s palace, and later as our intrepid heroes first encounter the Ewoks on Endor. Both take a great deal of time to communicate very little story. These sections are also sloppily scripted, and surprisingly, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill turn in pretty lazy performances.
Thankfully, this film is partially saved by an amazing third act. Three levels of intense action. The battle on the moon of Endor to destroy the defense shield. The epic battle in orbit to take out the partially constructed Death Star, and the final confrontation between The Emperor, Vader and Luke Skywalker.
The 20th Anniversary Changes:
In 1997 George Lucas released the original trilogy again to celebrate 20 years of Star Wars (and bolster his bank balance!) Jedi’s changes were odd to say the least, and I’ll cover a few here.
Jabba’s Palace: The original theatrical music number is replaced with a new song – Jedi Rocks – and the performers are replaced with overly in your face CGI. Unnecessary, and it looks pretty bad.
Boba Fett: This change was actually kind-a-fun. Watching ‘lady killer’ Fett, flirt with dancers in Jabba’s palace.
Sarlacc: The new and improved Sarlacc now sports a large CGI beak along with some new tentacles.
The Ewok Celebration: At the end of the theatrical release, all our heroes gather on Endor and dance the night away to the latest chart topping Ewok pop song. The special edition changes the music, and shows scenes of crowds celebrating on Bespin, Tatoonie and Curusant. I have to admin, I thought this change was one of the better ones.
If you’re approaching this for the first time, make sure you’ve already watched Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back. Hey, it’s possible. I’ve met people who have never watched a single Star Wars film in their clearly CLUELESS lives! 🙂 After watching those two classics, keep your expectations low as you head into Jedi. Your patients during the first two acts will be paid back during the brilliant finale.
As with the other Star Wars movies, this is a big screen experience all the way. If a local theater was screening the original theatrical versions, I’d jump at the chance to see those films in a theater again. At home, a HD copy for your collection is recommended. Maybe one day, Disney will actually release the Theatrical versions in HD. Until then, my movie collection will remain Star Wars free!
Best Moment: << spoiler! >>
Luke is refusing to play Jedi’s and Sith’s, so Vader starts messing with the young man’s mind. Exposing the fact Luke has a sister. Vader wonders if she might make a good addition to the Sith gang and Luke loses his mind! Attacking Vader with an energy and passion we’ve never seen before, and he quickly overpowers Vader. It’s part of that great closing third act, and a rare moment of emotion heft sadly missing from most of the film.