Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

jedi poster

” I am a Jedi, like my father before me” – Luke Skywalker

Anticipation was immensely high for the grand finale of the Star Wars saga and for good reason. The first two films in the trilogy were both critically acclaimed and financial successes. The last film The Empire Strikes Back, considered by most people as the best Star Wars film ever, ended on a tantalizing cliffhanger and with many unanswered questions. Given this background, it would be difficult for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi to match the previous films. Regrettably, that proved to be case, but nevertheless it was a generally rousing conclusion to the Star Wars saga.

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The film takes place long ago in a galaxy far, far away. A Galactic Civil War is reaching its conclusion with the evil Galactic Empire readying a decisive blow against the Rebel Alliance. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Empire’s battle station, the moon-sized Death Star, was destroyed by the fledging Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Now, the Empire is constructing a second Death Star that is orbiting the forest moon of Endor. Sith Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) arrives at the nearly complete battle station to oversee the finishing touches. He informs the nervous imperial officers that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) himself will arrive soon to ensure that the station is finished on schedule.

As the construction continues, Luke goes to his home planet Tatooine to rescue his friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) jabba 2from the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Han owed Jabba, a humongous slug-like alien, outstanding debts and in the previous film was captured by Darth Vader and the bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) and entombed in carbonite.

Luke sends his two droids C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) as gifts to Jabba at his lair and to relay a message about bargaining for Han’s release. Jabba refuses this offer and at that moment, a helmeted bounty hunter called Boushh enters the lair with Han’s friend Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), a Wookiee, in chains. Later that night, when Jabba and his minions are asleep, Boushh, who is actually Princes Leia (Carrie Fisher), frees Han. Before the lovers can celebrate, they’re captured by Jabba’s guards. Unknown to Jabba and the other criminals is that one of them is actually Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).

luke at jabbas

The next day Luke arrives in person and is also captured. Now he, Han and Chewbacca are sentenced to death while Leia is kept as a chain-bound slave. The trio are taken out to the desert wastes of the planet as Jabba and his entourage watch their sentence carried out from a nearby floating barge. At Luke’s signal, R2-D2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber at the Jedi and Luke uses it to free his friends and decimate Jabba’s forces. In the end, Han accidently kills Boba Fett, while Leia strangles Jabba and Luke destroys the barge.

sand barge battle

They leave the planet in Han’s ship the Millennium Falcon to rendezvous  with the Rebel fleet. Luke instead travels to the planet Dagobah to meet with Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) and complete his Jedi training. Visibly withered, Yoda admits that he is dying of old age and that Luke doesn’t need any further training, but needs to destroy Vader before he can become an actual Jedi. He also confirms that Vader is indeed Luke’s father and before he dies and fades away, reveals that there is another Skywalker.

Grief stricken, Luke is soon met by the ghost of his old mentor Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The old Jedi explains Luke’s family history, revealing the story of how Anakin Skywalker fell to the dark side of the Force, the mystical life/energy field that is used by the Jedi and their enemy the Sith. He also reveals that Leia is actually Luke’s twin sister and that he and Leia were hidden at birth to keep them away from Vader, who must be destroyed by Luke.

Later, he reaches the spaceborne Rebel fleet and joins his friends as they meet with the Rebel leaders. An assault is planned to destroy the Death Star before it’s completed. But, before the Rebel fleet can engage the lando at helm 2Death Star and its guarding ships, a strike force has to land on the forest moon and destroy an imperial base that is emitting a force field protecting the Death Star. Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca volunteer to head the strike force while Lando, now a general, will pilot the Millennium Falcon and a contingent of ships to destroy the Death Star.

The four reach the moon in a stolen imperial shuttle along with the droids and several Rebel soldiers. They soon discover imperial stormtroopers and engage in battle. During the fracas, a few soldiers escape using speeder bikes and Luke and Leia chase them down with a seized speeder bike. The twins successfully stop the soldiers but get separated. Leia later encounters a small, bear cub-like creature wearing tribal gear. He is Wicket (Warwick Davis), an Ewok, and takes her back to his village as his guest. Meanwhile, Luke, Han, Chewbacca and the droids try looking for Leia in the thick forest, but are captured by Ewoks. C-3P0, however, is mistaken to be a deity and treated as a revered guest.

speeder bike

At the Ewok village, the golden droid convinces the Ewoks to free his friends thanks to an assist by Luke, who uses the Force to levitate C-3P0. Soon, the group enlists the Ewoks to help against the imperial soldiers stationed at the moon. Luke, however, is troubled after sensing Vader’s presence and is afraid he is jeopardizing his friends. During some festivities in the village at night, he confides to Leia about their true relationship and Vader, who he thinks he can redeem. Luke bids her a sad farewell as he leaves the village and later surrenders to Vader. Despite Luke’s efforts, Vader refuses to denounce the dark side of the Force.

Luke is taken up to the Death Star and meets Emperor Palpatine, who is eager to corrupt the young Jedi as he did with his father years ago. With Vader at his side, the Emperor plays mind games with Luke and admits that he knows about the Rebels’ attack. In reality, the Emperor allowed this to lure them into a trap.

rotj death star attack

Down on the moon, an attack on the fortified imperial base by the Rebels is quickly defeated. However, the brave Ewoks mobilize their own army and join the fight against the Empire, but are clearly outmatched. Meanwhile, the Rebel armada arrives in the Endor system and Lando quickly realizes that they’ve jumped into a trap. Then, the Rebel fleet is swarmed by overwhelming imperial ships. As Luke witnesses the firefight outside in despair, the Emperor divulges that the station is operational by having it open fire on the Rebel ships. This goads Luke into lashing out at Palpatine with his lightsaber but Vader parries the would-be killing stroke. As the climatic battle rages outside and on the moon a final confrontation between father and son, good and evil commences.

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The Star Wars Films Ranked

 

star wars collage

2015 is shaping up to be the year of Star Wars with the continuation of the celebrated sci-fi saga in December with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Episode VII in the story. Here is a ranking of the previous six live-action films that came before and made movie history in order of personal preference.

darth and luke

1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Commonly considered as the best Star Wars film and in this instance, I agree with that sentiment. The reasons why are varied. It is a film that really explores the mystical side of the Star Wars universe with Jedi Master Yoda instructing Luke Skywalker all about the Force and the consequences of turning to the dark side. It is also a film that does not follow the traditional structure of an adventure film unlike the previous entry. Supporting this is the climatic battle between the Empire and Rebels, which occurs in the first half of the movie. Our heroes are put in constant jeopardy and there is no real resolution on the fate of Han Solo, setting up a cliffhanger ending that is almost jarring in its abruptness.

This was a risky move by George Lucas, since he could have just remade the original film and be done with it, but instead The Empire Strikes Back is an actual second part of an ongoing story and is very well done. It also introduces iconic characters like the aforementioned Yoda, and fan favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett. Plus, there is a wonderfully done lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vader that results (SPOILER!) in the shocking revelation by Vader that he is Luke’s father. Combine that with the epic battle of Hoth with snow speeders and AT- AT walkers and this film is a classic in every way.

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2. A New Hope (1977): The movie that changed everything. What more can be said about the original Star Wars? It tells the classic tale of good and evil. It is a fairy tale that is set in outer space and introduced to the world Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, R2D2 and C-3PO, plus incredible worlds like Tatooine and Yavin with exotic aliens and robots.

Even if someone has never seen it, they know who all of these characters are and how they look like. That is when you know it has crossed from pop culture to something else. I think the simplicity of the tale of the Rebels fighting against an oppressive Galactic Empire with classic archetype character (hero, rogue, princess, wizard, villain, and comical sidekicks) is its biggest strength and the core of its widespread appeal. Iconic fixtures of the saga like the now-famous X-Wings, TIE fighters, lightsabers and the Jedi all started with this film.

revenge of sith

3. Revenge of the Sith (2005): The best of the prequels, this film is George Lucas’ swan song and one of his best. It begins with a bang hurling viewers into the middle of a great space battle over the gleaming capital planet Coruscant. From there, the story does not let up with the prequel’s heroic Jedi, Anakin Skywalker beginning his descent to the dark side, which culminated in an epic lightsaber duel (one of the best of the whole saga) against his mentor and friend Obi-Wan Kenobi. This was something fans had been waiting to see for years ever since it was revealed that Vader and Kenobi were friends.

Unfortunately, this movie is sometimes attacked since it is a prequel, and there are hardcore original trilogy fans who want nothing to do with them. But despite that, this movie is excellent and belongs with the first two as great Star Wars films. Highlights include showing the widespread destruction of the Clone Wars, Anakin’s cruel actions at the Jedi council, him murdering his wife Padme, and the bringing of the whole saga full circle in the end with infant Luke being brought to Tatooine. These are all of the movie’s major strengths.

attack of the clones

4. Attack of the Clones (2002): The second of the prequels, this film improves on what was begun in The Phantom Menace. Anakin is shown as a troubled, if somewhat whiny apprentice to Obi-Wan. The film presents the murky beginnings of the infamous stormtroopers with Sith Lord Count Dooku’s shady dealings, and Anakin’s slow turn to evil under Chancellor Palpatine’s sinister influence. Something I like about this movie is its look: the clouds on the capital planet Coruscant in the film’s beginning, the underworld club scene, and the waterworld of Kamino are all striking to look at. The epic ground battle on Geonosis during the film’s climax is also a big highlight along with Yoda’s subsequent lightsaber duel with Dooku.

A problem the film has is the clunky romance between Anakin and Padme Amidala.  It is not done well and is somewhat of a drag thanks to wooden dialogue. Despite that, the movie is still a good effort by George Lucas.

end of return of jedi

5. Return of the Jedi (1983): As the last film in the original trilogy, it may not be as good as the first two movies, but is still a good Star Wars adventure. The fantastic Battle of Endor is still the best space battle ever seen more than 30 years later. Luke’s final clash with his father Darth Vader is also one of the best moments in the saga.

An issue with the movie is the fact that the plot is somewhat of a repeat of A New Hope with its start on Tatooine and having another Death Star to destroy. Another is that the cuddly Ewok characters somehow and unbelievably make Imperial stormtroopers seem like the Keystone Cops.  However, Return of the Jedi Is still lots of fun and the final celebration with our heroes is always great to see.

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6. The Phantom Menace (1999): Let’s be blunt, the first prequel, chronologically the first part of the saga, is the most polarizing Star Wars film by far.

This movie had huge expectations coming in after a very long wait since Return of the Jedi and many fans were not happy with it. They complained about Lucas’ rusty directing, over-reliance on CG, and the film’s pace. I myself like this flick and while it does have some problems, namely the somewhat childish humor with Jar Jar Binks and the slow middle portion on Coruscant, there are many things about it that I really enjoy. Just seeing old Ben Kenobi as a young Jedi cutting up battle droids was a big thrill. The multiple battles on Naboo in the end and the appearance of Darth Maul (one of Star Wars’ best villains) are all highlights and bring back good memories.

We’ll find out this December if The Force Awakens will also generate memorable viewing moments and where it ranks with the other films.

C.S. Link

Star Wars Returns With New Rebels

Star Wars is back with the long awaited premiere of the pilot for the animated show Star Wars: Rebels on Disney Channel.

Right off the bat the action kicks off with the introduction of the main character, a Jedi in hiding called Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.), who leads a crew of rebels on a ship called the Ghost in stealing weapons on a remote outer rim world Lothal. On the planet the crew encounters a young thief named Ezra (voiced by Taylor Gray), who is also strong in the Force.  This sets off a chain of events that lead them on a rescue mission to free wookie slaves on the spice world of Kessel. The show displays classic Star Wars action with a speeder chase right out of Return Of The Jedi, gun battles with imperial stormtroopers, who still have lousy aim, and dog fights in outer space with the iconic TIE fighters echoing scenes from A New Hope.

speederAll of this sets up the series nicely as a return to the Original Trilogy era, as this show is set between events in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and the original film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  The tyranny of the Empire is on display as well, the episode starts with an agent from the Imperial Security Bureau harassing citizens of the planet Lothal, and later wookies are being shipped to certain death as forced slave labor. As much as I liked the prequel era and Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, it is great to see a return to this time in the Star Wars universe.  But I hada few nitpicks with the pilot episode. Take the way Kanan reveals himself as a Jedi to the imperial forces in the end of the episode. It did seem somewhat sudden, as was the quickness that Ezra accepts Kanan’s offer to be trained as a Jedi. ezra lightsaberI thought that their identity as Force sensitive people would have been kept under wraps for a while and be gradually brought up as the series went on, but by the conclusion of the pilot, they basically lay their cards out on the table. This brings them to the attention of the next big Star Wars villain, the Inquisitor, who seems like a sinister character even though his screen time is only a few seconds. Having said that, it was nice to see some exciting lightsaber action, as was seeing our heroes help their fellow man. Whether it was feeding starving outcasts on Lothar or helping Wookie slaves escape from Imperial clutches.

ghost battleThis series is being executive produced by Dave Filoni, who oversaw the excellent Clone Wars  show and it will be interesting to see how Rebels develops in comparison. Star Wars: The Clone Wars had familiar characters and settings while Star Wars: Rebels is kind of in new territory with new characters (and a cameo by one of the beloved Star Wars characters) and a setting that has to bridge the gap between the trilogies.   Overall, this pilot gets the series off to a good start. The characters seem to have a good rapport with each other and have a history as a crew that will hopefully be explored in the coming episodes. It will be fun to see how they will fit into the overall story of the rebellion and hopefully we will see classic Star Wars characters interacting with the crew of the Ghost.

C.S. Link