#73: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

When and how did I watch this?

December 3rd, 2016, on DVD.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

The final installment of the original Star Wars trilogy. I remembered how the story ends.  How it arrives at that point was foggy. One of my favorite moments is when Han finally discovers Luke is Leia’s brother, giving him an opening to move in on Leia for good. Vader dies, the Emperor dies, and pretty much all of the good guys stay alive, miraculously.

What do I know about it now?

One of the questions I had about this film was whether it could stand alone or if it required help from the rest of the trilogy. The answer is yes. The film CAN stand alone; the introductory text gives us a barebones back story, and everything else is introduced expediently throughout the film, though at the price of sacrificing dialogue. The biggest issue I have with Return of the Jedi is the inability of its characters say believable things beyond the informative or the exclamation. But really, this is a nit-picky criticism, for Star Wars as a concept is a spectrum of imagination that we could not possibly conjure up in our own minds.  The bizarre and inventive characters, the soaring colors and textures, the blinding action sequences (namely the Speeder chase through the forest and fighters throttling in and out of the disintegrating Death Star), and the breathtaking climactic showdown between Luke and Vader are unique to this film, but also symbolic of the series’ qualities.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, good vs. evil, destiny/fate, self-control

Did this affect me personally?

Visually, the aforementioned action sequences are unforgettable.  Emotionally, there’s the internal pushing and pulling going on between father, son, and evil entity, and of course the touching climax.

Why is this ranked #73?

It’s Star Wars — that’s all there is to it.  Frankly, this one could’ve been off the list as a single film.  While the effects are all there (and certainly innovative for the time), the character interaction and some of the acting is pretty poor.

Did my wife watch/like it?

Her and another buddy of mine who came over were chatty the whole time.  It’s a classic that’s been seen tons of times — turns into discussion fodder more so than entertainment after a number of viewings.

Would I watch it again?

Sure, but probably as a series.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Who hasn’t seen this?

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Here’s that series-or-single-film argument again.  I had a problem with Harry Potter’s finale because it didn’t work by itself, but I had peers tell me the entire series is worth watching, and that “as a whole” it belongs on a great movie list.  Another aspect you have to consider is its plausibility. The great films are great because the world we’re thrust into is believable.  Likewise, we are forced to accept Lucas’ fantasy world, and that’s fine, but the film loses credibility when you start analyzing some of its finer details: where were all of the resources to build the Death Star? How do the Speeders propel themselves (fuel, laws of gravity, etc.)?  How do a band of primitive Ewoks, armed with rudimentary tools and outnumbered, overtake a clearly dominant and technologically advanced Empire force? Why is the dialogue so bad, and the acting even worse? These questions get thrown out because Star Wars bears credibility in its name and proves to be too innovative to deny, and in the end, no one really cares.  The good guys win, the bad guys lose, the tough hero gets the girl, and everyone is happy.  Roll credits.

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