Mark Hamill Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford Han Solo
Carrie Fisher Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams Lando Calrissian
Anthony Daniels See Threepio (C-3PO)
Peter Mayhew Chewbacca
James Earl Jones Voice of Darth Vader
Alec Guinness Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi
Frank Oz Yoda
Ian McDiarmid Emperor Palpatine
David Prowse Darth Vader
Sebastian Shaw Anakin Skywalker
Kenny Baker Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2)

Directed by Richard Marquand. Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas (based on a story by Lucas). 1983. Running time: 133 Minutes.

With the much-hyped and eagerly awaited re-release of the three films that make up the Star Wars Trilogy on the horizon, I recently rented the remastered video edition of Return of the Jedi that went on sale last year. While I made a point of seeing Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back when it came out in this format, I must admit that I didn't bother with Jedi. Ever since I saw it way back in 1983 it has never been my favourite film in the trilogy. When I had the chance to see the film on the big screen again in 1990 at a film festival, I declined the opportunity. I did, however, see Star Wars again on the big screen again at said film festival - for the first time since its original release in 1977 . . .

Yes, like most sci-fi movie fans I have seen the Star Wars films more than I can be bothered to count. And I have always found myself in the "loved Star Wars but couldn't stomach Return of the Jedi camp." Did seeing Return of the Jedi on video for the first time since 1983 change my mind? No. And here's why: the film is too hasty in trying to wrap up the story arch and leaves the characters' development dead in its wake. Sure, the Star Wars films can't exactly be noted for its in-depth characterisation and psychological depth but Return pushes it. Making Leia Luke's sister (sorry if I spoiled it for you, but the odds are that you already knew that) is like a plot device thrown in to forever resolve the rivalry between the two friends so that Han Solo and Princess can kiss at the end whilst fireworks (literally) goes off in the distance. In fact the film rushes so many aspects of the storyline that one cannot help but feel cheated. The battle in the woods as the Ewoks outwit the storm troopers is contrived and seems ripped out of a lesser film. Did they really manage all those neatly planned traps in what must have been one evening?

There's more. The special effects are downright shoddy in several scenes. Blue matte lines abound especially in the early scenes where Luke finally rescues Han Solo. And it seems all too easy . . . The special effects may be touched up in the Special Edition, but I doubt whether there's much that can be done to save the film. Even though the film tries to cram in a lot (the attack on the new Death Star, the Ewoks on Endor and Luke fighting it out with Darth Vader) it seems both too long and yet too short. What do I mean? On the hand hand Jedi bores because it is rushing madly from one (predictable) climax to the next - the film is very obvious in what it is trying to achieve. On the other, all the scenes are anti-climatic. The duel between Vader and Skywalker is hardly a match of equals. It doesn't come anywhere near the similar fight scenes in Empire.

I can go on, but I won't. Sci-fi magazine Sci-Fi Universe recently published an article titled "50 reasons why we hated Return of the Jedi although we loved Star Wars!" I can only add my own voice to it. Perhaps it was only inevitable that one would be disappointed with Return of the Jedi after the brilliant Empire Strikes Back, but I don't think so . . . So does this mean that I won't be bothered seeing the special edition of Return of the Jedi when it strikes the big screen here? Don't be daft . . .

Copyright © March 1997 James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page



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Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).