You know something special is happening when people give a standing ovation to the opening of a movie. For those who have never experienced it, rabid fans of the “Star Wars” series tend to go crazy when the Lucasfilm logo appears on the theater screen, stop for a brief second, and then let loose a second time when the flawless John Williams’ theme signals the beginning. It’s an experience only matched by the films themselves.
Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has secretly begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star. When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of Rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy.
“Return of the Jedi” is the weakest entry in the original set of films, but that doesn’t really make it any less enjoyable. Too much is recycled here from the previous films to make it a wholly original experience, particularly the Death Star once again begin built for the Empire’s purpose (why would they think it would succeed this time?). It is also a bit uneven, switching in tone more than just a few times.
With the re-edit of “A New Hope,” Jabba the Hut’s big reveal doesn’t quite have the impact it once did even though it still builds towards it. Another edit, a newly inserted musical number, is without a doubt the most cringe-worthy sequence out of the current set of five films. This adds up to a rough start, but once Luke manages to conquer the Rancor and slice up guards on the sail barge (including fan favorite Boba Fett), things move up to the usual level the previous films attained.
This is obviously a movie created to cater to the core toy audience, all the wandering 8-year old minds running up and down the theater aisles. The introduction of the Ewoks is a decision criticized over the years, but when they finally get their moment to shine, these little fuzzballs take out just about anything the Empire could throw at them. The light layer of comedy they provide makes the film a bit more appealing to all audiences and surely kept multiple generations of kids glued to their seats.
Then the film takes a wild turn, toning down the colors and light as Luke fights off the temptation of the dark side. While the Emperor tries to break him down, Luke and Vader engage in a lightsaber battle, the result of countless hours in rehearsal and it shows. It’s an epic fight, one that ends up a being a fine way to end the series.
But yet again, it’s the all out assault on the Death Star that remains the most spectacular action sequence in the film. A quick shot from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon showcases what seems like 100′s of Tie Fighters flying directly into the camera, a shot which had to be one of the most excruciating to work on in the series. The speeder bike forest chase, as unbelievable as it is, has nothing on that one brief moment.
Like the other films in this DVD set, “Jedi” has been tweaked again. The most controversial is the removal of Sebastian Shaw from brief shot at the end showing the three deceased Jedi as ghosts. Replacing him is Hayden Christensen to make the film gel better with the prequels. It’s a logical switch and makes sense. A few other effect shots have been cleaned up (especially the Rancor attack) and a brief celebration on Naboo is shown briefly after the destruction of the Death Star.
No, this isn’t “Empire” and the overall mood change is a bit jarring, but “Jedi” is still a blast to watch and that’s the important part. All the dangling loose ends have been cleaned up so no questions should remain, the action is some of the best in the series, and a twist towards the end likely threw audiences into another frenzy. There’s not much more you could ask for from a movie. (***** out of *****)
With all of the forest scenery, “Jedi” has the potential to suffer from some serious problems on the DVD format, but this gorgeous transfer does a fine job. The flickering problems of both “New Hope” and “Empire” are much less noticeable here, though still a minor problem in the forest as expected. Again, the strong color and unbelievably deep black levels (maybe even too dark) bring out the cinematography and action better than any other print of the movie before it. The light sabers look great when contrasting with the dark backgrounds and are a great way to show off a new TV. (*****)
Being the newest film of the series, Jedi sounds the best out of the group. The speeder bike chase is shocking with the fast moving vehicles entering and exiting the sound field. When they collide, the resulting bass shakes the room like it should. The final attack into the core of the unfinished Death Star is just another scene in this trilogy enhanced by the new 5.1 EX mix. It would be almost impossible to listen to these films in any other way after this. (*****)
The same crew who provided commentary for the initial film in the series returns here. George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher speak for most of the running time, but you’ll hardly find any new information here after watching “Empire of Dreams” over on disc 4. (**)
Rumors have begun to circulate that there is some potential for three more films in this series to be created which will continue the story that has ended here. There’s no need for it. “Return of the Jedi” is the perfect finale to a nearly perfect series of films, one that need not be ruined or changed.