Return of the Jedi (1983) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Return of the Jedi (1983)

When I was young, it was all about the Ewoks. I wanted the Ewok Village Playset so bad when I was little and was jealous of anyone that had one. While watching Return of the Jedi when I was very young, I could have cared less about Jaba the Hutt, a half naked Princess Leia or Luke finally becoming a Jedi, all I wanted was to get to Endor and see some speeders and then watch the Ewoks take down Storm Troopers.

It wasn’t until years later when the movies were rereleased in theaters did I realize that the Ewoks are annoying little pieces of cuteness that did not belong in the film. They not only are overly cute, they also ground all momentum to a halt when they show up on screen and take screen time away from other parts of the film which I would rather be watching. The fact that these little teddy bears were a crucial component on taking down the Empire is ludicrous and makes the Empire not seem as daunting a villain.

Even Luke Skywalker's amazing jumping abilities aren't much of a help.

Yet, the Ewoks are only one of a handful of problems that Return of the Jedi has and I believe it was the first of the Star Wars movies to start showing cracks in the story and mythology. The fact that Jedi was the final movie in the original trilogy set it up with very high expectations. Maybe it is not fair to compare Jedi to Empire Strikes Back because Empire was firing on all cylinders and did not have to worry about wrapping up the story; it's only goal was to get people to come back for part three. The battle between good and evil, father and son, light and dark were all going to be concluded in this film and I think the expectations were impossibly high. This doesn’t mean that Lucas did not drop the ball part way with the final piece of the trilogy.

On top of the aforementioned Ewoks, the movie spends way too much time at Jabba’s Palace in the beginning of the film, another run on the Death Star has a been there, done that feeling and the final fight between the Emperor, Vader and Luke is rather underwhelming. Be that as it may there is still some charm left in its bones. Harrison Ford was once again great as Han Solo, the speeder bike scene was entertaining and the big fight out in the sands of Tattoine was fun. The movie ends up as a film that was good enough, but one that could and should have been better.

Darth Vader wasn't exactly neutered here, but he sure wasn't humping every leg in sight like he had been in the last few movies.

A big question with Return of the Jedi that I have always had is was it the way that Lucas envisioned the story ending. Most fans of Star Wars know that Lucas originally wanted the final battle scene to take place on Chewbacca’s home planet (a scene he finally got to film in Revenge of the Sith) but he instead chose to lighten up the proceedings with the cheery Ewoks. Empire was a very dark chapter of the series and things could only get lighter after that point, but some of Jedi feels way to tame or kiddie. Starting with the name change from Revenge to Return of the Jedi, I feel like many times a punch was pulled back at the last second. It is hard to believe any character was actually in mortal danger through the film, and the battles didn't feel like they were life and death. Is Return of the Jedi when the franchise changed from films for all audiences to children’s films that older people talk them selves into liking?

There have been countless rants and ravings since the prequels came out that Lucas sold out or he lost his touch, but is that the truth? Maybe Lucas started creating films for children, the rest of the audience be damned if they didn’t like what he was making. Jedi was around the time that he adopted his first child, so maybe his ideas changed when becoming a dad. You can go and talk to children today and they will tell you they love the prequels and the Clone Wars cartoon, so there are still devout fans. Will they grow up and look at Revenge of the Sith the way people around my age look at Empire Strikes Back?

I don’t know the answers to the questions, but I can tell you this: I watched Jedi with my 1-year-old daughter and she loves those damn Ewoks.

Return of the Jedi (1983)

This film is currently available in several forms on DVD.

Directed by Richard Marquand
Starring Mark Hamill and Warwick Davis

Posted by Ryan

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  1. I understand your viewpoint here, even if I don’t entirely agree. I still think that Return of the Jedi is every bit the equal of the first film, just a bit more fantastical instead of working with the serial sci-fi area.

    One thing that’s always bugged me when people talk about how cute the Ewoks are is how murderous they are. They outright kill dozens of Stormtroopers by stoning and stabbing them to death, and the first time we see them they are planning on eating our heroes – and they manage to do it without the hideously racist overtones of that ‘other’ alien race.

    Still love everything else, and I think if it were released in any form other than as a sequel to The Empire Strikes Back then it would be looked on far more fondly.

  2. i agree. those fucking ewoks and director Marquand slowed this movie waaaay down(!

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