Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Released:  1983

Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz

Oscar Wins:  Special Achievement Award (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, Phil Tippett)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe, Michael Ford), Best Sound (Ben Burtt, Gary Summers, Randy Thom, Tony Dawe), Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt), Best Music, Original Score (John Williams)

SUMMARY:  Han Solo (Harrison Ford) has been captured by Darth Vader, frozen in carbonite, and turned over to Jabba the Hutt for a bounty.  His friends, including Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2, form a plan to rescue him:  Leia dresses as a bounty hunter, bringing in the wanted Chewbacca, while Lando pretends to be a guard.  Leia is able to find Han and release him from the carbonite, but the pair are then discovered.  Leia becomes the personal slave of Jabba; Han and Luke, who has also been captured, are to be food for Jabba’s pit monster, Sarlacc.  On the way to the monster’s pit, Luke breaks free and fights off the guards; when Boba Fett tries to intervene, Han knocks him into the pit.  Leia also gets loose and kills Jabba, and Luke ends the fight by destroying Jabba’s sail barge.  Leia and Han head back to Rebel headquarters, but Luke goes back to Dagobah to see Yoda.  Yoda is dying, but does tell Luke that Darth Vader is his father:  he was once a Jedi known as Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader.  He also tells Luke that there is “another Skywalker”. From Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke learns that this is Leia, who is Luke’s twin sister.  He also learns that the only way to defeat the Galactic Empire is for Luke to defeat Darth Vader.  However, Obi Wan tells Luke to be careful with his emotions, as they make him both powerful (for the Force) and dangerous (for the Dark Side).  Back at Rebel headquarters, information is received that the Emperor is building a new Death Star.  This new Death Star has a protective energy shield around it, which is generated by a machine on the planet of Endor.  Before the Death Star can be destroyed, this shield must be disabled, so Han Solo takes a team to Endor to destroy the station:  Luke and Leia also go with the team.  On Endor, they meet a tribe of Ewoks, who help the Rebels get into the station.  During this time, Luke also tells Leia the truth about their parentage, and that he has to take down Darth Vader.  To get close to Darth Vader, Luke intentionally surrenders to Imperial troops.  Darth Vader tries once again to convince Luke to join him on the Dark Side, but again Luke refuses.

Luke is then taken to the Emperor, who also tries to entice him to join the Dark Side.  He also tells Luke that the Death Star is completely finished, a fact unknown to the Rebels:  when their strike team attacks, they will be destroyed.  Back on Endor, the strike team and the Ewoks are trying to fight off the Imperial forces.  Lando, in the Millennium Falcon, flies with the fleet toward the Death Star, but as the shield is still intact, the team cannot attack.  Unfortunately, the Imperial fleet is also waiting for them.  The Emperor shows all of this to Luke, who becomes increasingly angry.  The Emperor encourages him to give into this anger (essentially turning to the Dark Side), but Luke resists and instead begins dueling with Darth Vader.  Darth Vader provokes Luke even further by threatening Leia, and Luke cuts off Vader’s right hand (a prosthetic, like his own).  Even now, the Emperor does not give up on Luke:  he urges him to kill Darth Vader, then take his place.  Once again, Luke refuses.  Back on Endor, the strike team finally manages to get to the shield generator, and destroys it; the fleet then begins attacking the Death Star.  Inside, the Emperor realizes that he will not turn Luke, and begins to torture him.  Surprisingly, Darth Vader begins to defend his son, and kills the Emperor.  However, he is mortally injured in the process.  Luke cradles his father as he dies.  Elsewhere in the Death Star, Lando flies the Falcon into the center of the base and destroys the main reactor, which creates a huge explosion.  Luke puts Darth Vader’s body on a shuttle, and both he and Lando barely outrun the explosion.  On Endor, Han and Leia see the explosion, and after Han learns that Luke is Leia’s brother, he kisses her.  When Luke makes it back to Endor, he creates a funeral pyre for his father’s body.  After this somber moment, the Rebels and the Ewoks have a party to celebrate the Empire’s defeat.  During the party, Luke sees the ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker smiling at him.

MY TAKE:  Perhaps because this is the conclusion (in theory) of the Star Wars saga, I thought it was the best movie.  There’s epic final showdowns with the Imperial forces, Darth Vader and the Emperor, Luke and Leia learn that they’re twins, and Han and Leia finally get together.  I’m not really sure how nobody noticed that the Emperor was building another huge space ship, but apparently he managed to create a fully functional one basically during the time of the second movie.  It seems like a little bit of a rerun, like the fight for and destruction of the Death Star went so well in A New Hope that they decided to do it again, but it does make for a great explosion.  It also adds tension to the showdown between Luke and Darth Vader/the Emperor, as you know that he only has a limited amount of time before the whole thing blows up.  Naturally, things work out for the good, and even Darth Vader turns out to have a heart.  Everything appears to be peach in the Empire, which is why I was rather pissed to learn that they were making new movies that happen after this one.  Though the movie was extremely popular, it seemed to me to be one of those attempts to milk a good thing for all its worth:  the other movies were huge successes, so they just recycle the plot (rise of an evil empire, elimination of most Jedi) and make new ones.  They should have just left things alone:  this is a great ending.

RATING:  Best of the series.


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