Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

star wars return of the jedi

“That blast came from the Death Star! That thing’s operational!”

The Scoop: 1983 PG, directed by Richard Marquand and starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher

Tagline: The Saga Continues.

Summary Capsule: The Rebel Alliance ™ and the Imperial Empire ™ go toe-to-toe with a butt-load of Muppets ©

Justin’s rating: Do the Rancor Dance!

Justin’s review: Prepare for The History of Justin Vol 15: The Somewhat Early Years. I hold Return of the Jedi (aka when nobody called it “Episode Six” unless they wanted to be called “Weirdos” in return) near and dear to my heart. Of course, I’ve had to lose a lung to make room, but it was worth it. You see, when I was a wee lad of seven, my Aunt Bea brought me and my brother to see Jedi when it was in the theaters. It happened on the same day I decided to grab a recently used iron to see if it was still hot (it was).

I recall experiencing emotions rarely felt outside of my G.I. Joe play sessions — the fear of Rancor attacking Luke, the sheer thrill of seeing all the X-Wings zooming into the Death Star, and the smug knowledge that I was so much more mature than my five-year old brother, who left the theater shortly after a trailer for a Friday the 13th film (also true).

Everything was bigger and cooler in this last chapter of the Holy Trilogy. Luke was finally a Jedi (sort of), Yoda died (sort of), a new Death Star had been constructed (mostly), and the Rebels had obtained a number of funky spaceships from a garage sale. Many people cite Empire Strikes Back as their favorite of the trilogy, but I kindly disagree with a frying pan.

Everything gets tied up in Jedi. Luke goes to the most messed-up family reunion in the galaxy, and struggles between saving his father (James Earl Jones, when he was into his robotic phase) or slicing his head off with one of those nifty lightsabers. Han and Leia consumate their relationship amidst a flock of furry teddy bears. The Emperor comes out of the shadows to reveal himself as one of the most diabolical characters in movie history (hey, the Empire was THAT close to winning, if you think about it). Jabba the Hutt sends movie patrons packing for Jenny Craig in droves.

Jedi also contains bar-none, the best space combat sequence ever. Even with our modern CGI and whatnot, nothing has reached the level of seeing a rather big space fleet get caught between a moon-sized space station and an even bigger fleet. I always salute the A-Wing pilot that makes the kamakazi run into the Super Star Destroyer bridge. And there was always a tradition in our family: when that 10-second scene where the Rebel fleet goes into hyperspace, we ALWAYS rewind it to watch that once or twice more. I just love how Jedi whips us through an expanse of plot and space while constantly showcasing all sorts of cool techno gadgets. Who out there hasn’t wanted a lightsaber, or Boba Fett’s rocket pack, or your own AT-AT to bring you to school and demand that your teacher take a better look at those grades, okay?

Two little notes before I end. The first is a minor minor bit of trivia. When the Ewoks are picking up C3PO and the gang for the first time, the scene goes to two Ewoks conversing in their own language. Now, I’ve played this scene over and over again, and I SWEAR they say, “It eats spice” and “Moderately short”. My friends whom I’ve pointed this out to agree as well (probably to shut me up).

The other note is my major quibble with the film. NO WOODEN ARROWS OR LITTLE ROCKS WOULD EVER PENETRATE STORMTROOPER ARMOR! If they should’ve fixed anything in the Special Edition, it should have shown Stormtroopers laughing as pitiful sticks boinged off their armor, and then the Men in White spraying down the little furballs with a gatling laser. Come to think of it, this calls for a Justin script re-write:

Stormtrooper #1: What a nice planet. Look at that lush foliage!

Stormtrooper #2: Yeah, I think I’ll bring the wife and kids here when… [wooden arrows begin to ping off their armor] What the hell?

ST1: Hey monkey-things! Don’t you know these suits are capable of absorbing direct blasts from… [a hand-sized rock bounces off his helmet] What the!

ST2: That’s it, endangered species or no, we’re gonna have Ewok barbeque tonight!

[They open up with their blaster rifles, punching holes in the furballs as they scream “Sorry! We didn’t mean it!”]

ST1: Ah, this job does have its perks, doesn’t it?

Han Solo: Hey, would you guys mind blowing a hole in this R2 unit? I can’t understand a stinkin’ thing it says. I think it’s saying discouraging remarks about my mommy.

Kyle’s rating: I know there is good in this film. The legions haven’t driven it from Jedi completely.

Kyle’s review: When I was a kid, I watched the Star Wars movies more time than I can count. I mean we’re talking thousands and thousands of times. Whenever I pulled out my SW action figures (and I had a lot of them) and my playsets, I’d put in a Star Wars movie. They all got plenty of play. I can honestly say I don’t think I even considered ranking them. I thought of them as one big movie that happened to be spread over three VHS tapes. And life was good.

No, life was great. And you know what? In retrospect, I bet Return of the Jedi got more play than the other two.

If that fact seems like sacrilege to you, or the exact opposite of your own SW experience (I overhead someone at a sci-fi con say “I’m proud to say I’ve only seen Jedi twice in my entire life!”), you may want to stop reading now. Because I’ve got a few more revelations in store that just might freak your stuff out completely. Here’s two of the bigger ones: I like the Ewoks and I like(d) the original “Yub Yub” final song. That was good stuff!

Writing this review is a kind of schizophrenic experience. Because there is the Return of the Jedi I grew up with, and there is the Return of the Jedi that I’m watching on DVD as I type. I guess there was a Special Edition in there, too, but things were pretty crazy that summer when my friends and I went to see the Special Editions in the theaters. It was summer, right? Oh, man. Those were some times I can’t really talk about here, but feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

Oh, yeah, this is funny: I guess Jedi was one of the first films my parents took me to see in the theaters when I was a little kid. My mom was a huge SW fan and my dad was, too, and they knew (or wanted it to be true) that I would be, too, someday. They also bought all the toys and held onto them until I was old enough to play with them without eating the lightsabers. How cool are they? Anyway, I guess I was an exemplary audience member, even at 4 or so, but I apparently totally lost it when the Emperor busts out the force lightning. According to my mom I was tense the entire time Palpatine was onscreen anyway, but once he started electrocuting Luke (uh, spoiler) I went crazy. My mom had promised the kids across the street (my usual babysitters) that she would take them to see Jedi a couple days later, and she seems to remember it took toys, food, and money to convince me to tag along and close my eyes at the scary Emperor parts (as my mom says, “Bribes were involved. Goods were exchanged.”). Even today, the Emperor remains one scary dude, as far as I’m concerned. Yikes! His sinister presence helps offset a lot of the “kiddie” stuff that is inarguably ingrained in Jedi. Nice!

I totally understand why Jedi gets such a bad rap, but at the same time I just want to tell people to chill out. Plus, I don’t really care. It’s fun. The final duel between Luke and Vader, with the Emperor laughing in the background, is crazy. I love it! Who doesn’t like Lando as a cool dude? And we don’t get any ice planet action, but there are some pretty locales thrown in here. Nice knowing you, Yoda. Most importantly, despite the overall seismic tonal shift between The Empire Strikes Back and Jedi, it’s a great finale to the trilogy and it feels like an essential film. Compare it to the now-completed prequels, where Revenge of the Sith is pretty much the only film you really need to see, and you can appreciate how much of a complete story the original trilogy really was. Good job, Lucas!

But now I have to say that the DVD incarnation of Jedi isn’t the Jedi I grew up with. But we all knew that, yeah? There’s a new musical number that my friend Luke considers “unforgivable” and there is the inclusion of Hayden Christensen in spirit form at the end, as a final reminder that the prequels exist and weren’t just a bad pop culture nightmare, brought on by old pizza and red Mountain Dew. And did James Earl Jones rerecord every line of Vader dialogue? Or did it just get remastered into something completely different? Weird. I’ll hold onto my VHS copies, which are pre-Special Editions and the closest to the original theatrical versions you can (legally) get, and swear to never buy the DVD set…

…although that ended today, because I encountered a great sale where I got the DVD set for $30. I knew I’d consider buying the set used if I ever saw it for cheap, but finding it cheap and brand new was just too much to pass up. And despite the weird changes and inclusions and idiotic kid-friendly quirks, it’s still great sci-fi fun!

I also feel a certain contentedness in some things about Jedi being timeless and unchangeable. No amount of Lucas’ tinkering will ever coming close to answering one of those age-old questions that will continue good-naturedly haunting me to my death: Why does the Imperial guy like jump to his death before Han smacks him with that bag of chargers?


  • 3D computer schematics… and in 1983 no less!
  • SFX crew claim to have included a “sneaker” as one of the spaceships in a complex dog-fight scene.
  • The dancer that Jabba drops into the Rancor pit loses her top as she falls in (although I swear I can’t see this)
  • Darth Vader’s body was played by David Prowse, stunts done by Bob Anderson, his voice by James Earl Jones, his original face by Sebastian Shaw, and his new face by Hayden Christensen.
  • Portions of the partially completed Death Star model resemble the San Francisco skyline.
  • The Millenium Falcons used for this movie were either models or matte paintings.
  • When Vader throws the Emperor into the shaft, the brief image of a skull can be seen superimposed on his visor.
  • Princess Leia is the best shot. She almost never misses.
  • Jabba’s sail barge was filmed in Yuma, Arizona. The film crew had problems avoiding the 35,000 dune buggy enthusiasts in the area. To preserve secrecy, the producers claimed to be making a horror film called “Blue Harvest” (Horror beyond your imagination), and even had caps and t-shirts made up for the crew. A chain-link fence and a 24-hour security service could not prevent die-hard fans from entering the set and sneaking some photographs.
  • The primitive warrior tribe at the end of this film was originally supposed to be a tribe of Wookiees.
  • At the time, the climactic battle in outer space featured more optical effects in one scene than had ever been previously committed to film.
  • The film originally included a sandstorm scene that occurred after Han’s rescue. It was cut because it was unnecessary and was hectic to shoot.

Groovy Quotes

Luke: Master Yoda, you can’t die.
Yoda: Strong am I with the Force, but not that strong.

Han: Chewie and I will check it out, you two stay here.
Luke: Quietly. There may be more of them out there.
Han: Hey, it’s me.

Han: I think my eyes are getting better. Instead of a big dark blur I see a big light blur.
Luke: There’s nothing to see. I used to live here you know.
Han: You’re gonna die here you know. Convenient.

C3PO: It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.

Han: I love you.
Leia: I know.

Obi-Wan: He’s more machine now than man; twisted and evil.

Lando: We won’t get another chance of this, Admiral.
Admiral Ackbar: We have no choice, General Calrissian. Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude.
Lando: Han will have that shield down. We’ve got to give him more time.

Han Solo: Boba Fett? Boba Fett? Where?

Lando: That blast came from the Death Star! That thing’s operational!

Luke: Search your feelings, Father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.
Darth Vader: It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.
Luke: Then my father is truly dead.

The Emperor: The alliance… will die. As will your friends. Good, I can feel your anger. I am unarmed. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete.

The Emperor: Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design. Your friends, up there on the sanctuary moon, are walking into a trap, as is your Rebel fleet. It was *I* who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator. It is quite safe from your pitiful little band. An entire legion of my best troops awaits them. Oh, I’m afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive.

C-3PO: It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.

Lando: But how could they be jamming us if they don’t know… that we’re coming?

C-3PO: You will therefore be taken to the Dune Sea, and cast into the pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlaac.
Han Solo: Doesn’t sound so bad.
C-3PO: In his belly you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.

Yoda: There is… another… Sky… walker.

Lando: Don’t worry, my friend’s down there. He’ll have that shield down in time… Or this’ll be the shortest offensive of all time.

Han Solo: Now don’t get jittery, Luke. There are a lot of command ships. Keep your distance, though, Chewie, but don’t look like you’re trying to keeping your distance.
[Chewie barks a question]
Han Solo: I don’t know. Fly casual.

Admiral Ackbar: It’s a trap!

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