The third and last (at the time) instalment of the original Star Wars saga, Return of the Jedi, tied up a lot of loose ends, showed off 942 special effects, introduced a few new scaly monsters and furry heroes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and managed to sign off respectably, if somewhat sentimentally. It also had a $32.5 million price tag.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the others return to the desert planet Tatooine to rescue Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the vile clutches of Jabba The Hutt – the slobbering, gelatinous, toad-like creature who rules the intergalactic underworld, and who had Han carbon frozen at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
After defeating Jabba and freeing Han, Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training.
There, Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) informs him that he requires no further training but that he must now face Darth Vader (Dave Prowse with the voice of James Earl Jones) to become a true Jedi Knight.
Soon the Rebels unite in one final stand to fight the Empire’s new bigger, better Death Star and destroy the Emperor, who is staying aboard it.
Return of the Jedi is full of shocks for Luke Skywalker . . .
Having discovered that Darth Vader really is his father – something we had suspected all along – there is worse still to come with the revelation that Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is actually his sister.
The big question here is: Now that he knows Darth Vader is his father, what will happen when they finally clash? Will Luke kill his own father and save the universe? Or will Vader turn him over to the powerful Emperor? Will Luke’s anger and fear seduce him into joining the dark side of the force, the way his father surrendered years ago?
All in good time . . .
First, there’s a visit to Endor and the land of the Ewoks, a ferocious tribe of tree creatures that look like cuddly teddy bears (and were clearly introduced as a strategy to sell toys).
Then there’s a dizzy chase through giant redwoods on supersonic “speeders” (air scooters) and lots of talk about “code clearances” and “moon-shield generators” that must be de-activated for the Millennium Falcon to attack the new Death Star.
There is also an incredible amount of ear-drum-shattering noise.
In the final tally, the special effects are neither as daring nor as innovative as they once were. It is quite a letdown to reach the inside of the forbidden Death Star, only to discover that it looks like a giant power plant.
The bombs and explosions seem all too familiar. The miracles and last-minute reprieves from mutilations and death seem cornier than ever.
And Billy Dee Williams might just as well not have turned up for all the impact his Lando Calrissian makes this time.
By now, it was clear that George Lucas was running out of ideas and the proud claims that the three Star Wars films were always intended to be the middle trilogy of a vast, 12-part epic were starting to look very dubious.
The subsequent “prequels” were like visiting the broken shell of a much-loved aunt in her nursing home: Ewan McGregor, that awful Kid Vader, Natalie Portman, J**-J** B***s . . . put it all in the trash compactor . . .
Darth Vader (voice)
James Earl Jones
Billy Dee Williams
Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi