2013 marks the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi. Last of the original Star Wars films, it finalised George Lucas’s trilogy wonderfully with some of the greatest and most memorable scenes of the franchise. Although it’s taken some negative criticism regarding those cuddly, little Ewoks and a few of the Endor scenes dragging, it is still a terrific film thirty years on. It was my favourite of the original three for about a decade until The Empire Strikes Back took that title. However, there is still lots and lots to like in Jedi and here are some of the reasons it’s such a fine movie.
1.) The Opening scene – The first five minutes after the opening crawl comprise of some great acting as Darth Vader’s ship lands upon the new Death Star. We then get to enjoy some great acting from the commander of newly constructed space station Moff Jejerrod, played exquisitely by English actor Michael Pennington. Every line of dialogue uttered between both Vader and himself is superbly crisp and memorable as they exchange lines in a wonderful back and forth that finishes with the chilling line “The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am”. A key scene of exposition made interesting and watchable by some great acting and sharp writing which builds suspense around The Emperor despite not seeing him first hand yet.
2.) Jabba’s Palace – For the best part of my adolescence the 45 minutes spent on Tatooine in the presence of Jabba the Hutt and his band of weird aliens was the pinnacle of all film for me. From C-3PO and R2-D2 arriving nervously at the huge gate (which didn’t really need to be made bigger in the blu-ray version) to the destruction of the sail barge it was wall to wall action, adventure and fun. The setting was whimsical, claustrophobic and full of peril and in the Rancor and Sarlacc were two threatening and distinctive movie monsters. Luke is finally coming into his own as a Jedi, Leia is freeing the man she loves and Lando is seeking redemption. Every character has their motive, the tactics are set and this gives life to a great piece of adventure cinema.
3.) Yoda becomes one with the force – Before the prequels, before the embarrassing Vodafone adverts and before Yoda became a springy, lightsaber wielding, green warrior this is what we knew. Yoda didn’t need to be a big, strong man to be the greatest Jedi Master. He was humble, wise and passed on his knowledge whilst training Luke. We went through his journey as well as Luke’s in Empire and sympathised with his character. Luke was the last hope of the Jedi and Yoda has to train him. Although Luke’s mind wondered to his friends he was the last chance for the Jedi Order and the only way to defeat the Galactic Empire that had all but eradicated the Jedi and all of Yoda’s former friends and colleagues. There was so much at stake with Yoda and that’s why so many people well up at the death a little puppet voiced by Frank Oz. He is believable, he has a story and his passing is tragic. His passing leaves all but two Jedi in the universe, he has done all he can and we hope his legacy can pass on. It is a fine scene and both Mark Hamill and Frank Oz are wonderful.
4.) The Minor Characters – With the diverse range of aliens and people from a myriad of worlds Return treats us with a number of minor characters that ingrain themselves into our memories and help audiences take a further step into the Star Wars Universe. Lando’s incoherent co-pilot Nien Numb, Jabba’s Gamorrean Guards, Max Rebo, palace “jester” Salacious Crumb and that baby Ewok to name but a few are fantastic examples of Star Wars’ ability to build a world with real characters, which is what makes it so rich. However, the greatest and most memorable of these characters is Mr Admiral Akbar, the Mon Calamari born leader of the rebel fleet in their attempt to blow up the second Death Star. His one liner “It’s a Trap” was enough to secure him a cult following and a place in all true Star Wars’ fans heart. Although he was a strange looking fish general, that sigh of relief he expels as his objective is complete is more real than some human acting.
5.) The Emperor – The more you watch this film the more you realise how much it revolves around Emperor Palpatine. In fact you realise how much the entire trilogy does. A character that clocked about three minutes of screen time in the saga until now has been behind everything. He’s been the one instructing Vader and now we see the full extent of his manipulation and pure evil. His character is rich with hate and his relentless pursuit of Skywalker at whatever cost is gripping. Ian McDiarmid is truly engaging, even by just sitting in his huge chair, taunting and playing mind games with Luke. He knows he is close to turning Luke to the dark side and his dialogue and actions whilst doing this are wonderful thing to see. This then leads to the best lightsaber duel in the franchise as John Williams produces a wonderful choral score to match the anguish in the fight between father and son. Culminating in the demise of the Emperor as Vader overthrows his master, Palpatine remains defiant and hateful until the end.
Happy 30th Birthday Return of The Jedi