Original Release: May 25, 1983
Directed By: Richard Marquand
And so we reach the end of the original trilogy. The final battle is at hand. Han is still in carbonite. Luke still thinks he can save his father. C-3PO is still annoying. Yet things are about to get epic because this film not only wraps up the story of Darth Vader, but also has provided the “end” of the Star Wars Saga for many decades. While this will soon be changed, a lot was riding on this film and there were a lot of questions to be answered. The third in a trilogy can often have a hard time standing up, trying to top the second while still giving fitting conclusions for all the characters. Return of the Jedi does all this and more thanks to the adorable Ewoks. But just how did this grand finale of a film come to be made at all? Let’s take a look.
Much like The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas chose to the fund the film out of pocket, and was determined to stay on schedule this time around. He approached many directors before finally convincing Marquand to take the job as many directors were afraid to take on the massive project. Marquand was not as adept at special effects though, so Lucas stayed close at hand, even directing a few scenes himself. The screenplay itself went through many versions, not being finished until late in production. Many ideas were thrown around including that of Han Solo dying, as Ford was not contracted for another film, or even Obi-Wan coming back from the dead. Many of the decisions of the film were actually made based on what would help the merchandise sell the best. I find this fact personally interesting as Lucas wanted to be separate from the Hollywood world, while in effect he basically fell into the same habits. If Han dies, we can’t sell as many action figures of him. Obviously.
The film was given a code name of “Blue Harvest,” in order to hide from the press as well as avoid price gouging by companies being hired for locations or services. Much of the film was filmed in the Redwood Forrest of Northern California in order to capture the jungle sequences of the moon, Endor. The speeder sequences were filmed by walking through the forest and shooting in first person at less than one frame per second.
Special effects work on the film, which was once again done by Industrial Light and Magic was extremely difficult. Given the fact that so many more special effects were needed to top the first two films, the company was forced into 20 hour work days, 6 days a week. The company was also taking on other projects meaning that they were under a hefty amount of pressure to meet deadlines. There were about 900 special effects shots in Jedi alone. One other fun fact about the film is that it was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi but after releasing the first Teaser Trailer, Lucas decided Revenge didn’t really match the message of the Jedi so he changed it.
Return of the Jedi certainly raises the stakes and scope of the Star Wars franchise to new heights. In the opening sequences on Tatooine, we are taken to Jabba’s palace and right off the bat we can see the hefty amount of new aliens, costume designs and creatures which give a richness to this world. There is so much going on in the background that I often found myself pausing the film to get a better look. One such costume is that of Bobba Fett. Seriously, please tell me why this character is so popular. He seriously does nothing. He looks cool, that’s about it. Is that really why he is such a pivotal piece of Star Wars culture? He seems pretty useless to me and fairly throwaway.
Jabba himself is fairly grotesque to look at but that’s sort of the point. He rules the scum of the galaxy and really knows how to seem imposing. I actually like that the scene was added to episode IV to show us Jabba and Han talking as it gives us a real sense of this character and who Han owes money to early on. I also like that Jabba’s palace feels a bit like a brothel meets a prison. It’s a den of sin and it feels dark and grimy, more so than anything else in the Star Wars universe. The rancor is truly horrifying and I like watching Luke think on his toes in how to defeat it. Also, completely random is the gentleman who I’m guessing ‘owns’ the rancor, who cries over its death. It’s a bit odd but it definitely adds a light peppering of character to the world.
I think we need to talk about Leia in the slave costume. I have very mixed feelings. If you’ve been reading this series, you know that Leia has come to be one of, if not my favorite character of this trilogy. She is so powerful and witty and strong and I love seeing that in a female character in a big Hollywood film. In some ways, this costume devalues this a bit, making her seem a like just another pretty face. Sure she doesn’t choose to be in this outfit, but you can almost hear the filmmakers saying “Guys will love it if we…” and that part is really disappointing. Really? There was no other story line for Leia than to be a sex symbol? On the other side of this coin, her beauty is quite powerful and I like that she can command an army and still be gorgeous. I think that part is great. Plus, I like that she is the one who ultimately kills Jabba. She is strong enough to save herself. I’ll leave your opinion on this matter up to you of course, but it had me pondering to say the least.
The Ewoks are a pretty distinct part of this film. Adorable and basically walking Teddy Bears, they really add an element of cuteness to the film. I don’t always believe that they could take on the Imperial forces as well as they do. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Stormtroopers are incredibly dumb. Maybe that’s because they’re clones? I’ve watched The Clone Wars TV show though and the clones seem quite astute so to see them fall to the mercy of falling rocks is a bit surprising. The Ewoks also worship C-3PO which means he gets significantly more screen time which I found to be a big downer. Seriously, why is this guy still on the mission? 3PO is so self centered and ready to give up on his friends that I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t just get rid of him. He is the only one who provides no real addition to the team. He’s seriously ready to let his friends die instead of telling the Ewoks to stop from burning them alive. He’s useless. If a single character gets the axe in Episode VII, I vote 3PO all the way.
I love absolutely everything about the final confrontation between Luke, Vader and the Emperor. I think it’s great that Luke wants to save his father and that he is tested in this way. I also like that the one thing that triggers his anger is the threat of his sister Leia. I think that says a lot about Luke as a character. He has compassion, which Jedi’s frown upon, but in the end, he uses that to show that he is the better person. It’s also pretty powerful to watch Vader ultimately save his son from death and throw the Emperor to his doom. A lot of speculation is out there that Luke might be the villain of Episode VII and I certainly hope that isn’t the case. I think it devalues his character and all three of these original films. I do however like the theory that Jar Jar is the villain.
You may have noticed that in re-watching these films, we are watching the newest versions with all the added stuff. I don’t mind any of this, though I know there’s a bit of controversy. The ONLY scene that doesn’t work for me is the replacing of Anakin’s older self with his prequel self in the final scene where he stands next to ghost Yoda and ghost Obi-Wan. It bothers me mainly because I think it lacks a trust in the viewer. Are we so simple minded that we can’t connect that they are the same man? Did we really need it to be full circle that much? If anything, I think Anakin is a better man in death than he ever was as a young man, which we’ll get to in the coming weeks. It’s entirely unnecessary.
There’s so much that’s great about this movie that I hope if you love Star Wars you too get to
investigating the film’s rich history. The characters are superb and it provides a compelling end to a series while keeping the pace fast and furious. With this film complete, I can’t wait to see what is in store in Episode VII like so many others. But first, we’re about to go down a dark and winding path of sequels. Bring your bibles and some Ibuprofen. We’re going to need a prayer and pill for this.
Next Week: The Phantom Menace
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NOTE: Obviously all the photos are courtesy of Disney Entertainment and I would never in a million years claim them as my own. That being said, all are actually taken with my phone during our viewing in order to capture the moment in a slightly different way than originally intended.
ALSO: My Fiancee has a blog too and he is talking about all the classics we are currently watching, which involves more than just Disney. Head over HERE and check it out!