STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI (2017) is just around the corner. But why wait to review Star Wars movies? Until its inevitable release, I’m going to review all the core films in celebration! There may not be a lot of them, but there’s a lot to say about them. Everybody’s got their own opinion of the order in which the movies should be viewed, by release (IV through VI, then I through III) or in chronological order (I through VI), but others, like myself, think there’s a better way to view them. I’m going to review the core films in the following order, subsequently how I’ll be reviewing them:
- ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)
- EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
- EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
- EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
- EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
- EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
- EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
In addition, I’ll try and do a fresh review of my FORCE AWAKENS (2015) review. This is going to be so much fun, yo! This is my “LAST JEDI Celebration Until Release” special!
This is it. This was the big one. The end. The final film to a franchise that wouldn’t be revisited for another sixteen years. How could there not be excitement for this? Look at the title alone! “Return of the Jedi.” But the Jedi were all destroyed! Luke’s going to bring them back?! Does Luke count as a Jedi now?! How is everything going to end up?! Wait! Another Death Star?! What is going on here?! This is probably a fraction of what audiences had to say and ask about this final installment and for good bloody reason. After the gargantuan success and ground-breaking story that was EMPIRE, this movie was going to be extraordinary, no matter the outcome.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Mark Hamill (BRIGSBY BEAR , BATTLE FOR TERRA , VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED , and the upcoming CON MAN ), Harrison Ford (BLADE RUNNER 2049 , FIREWALL , AIR FORCE ONE , and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones film ), Carrie Fisher (FANBOYS , WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… , TV show FAMILY GUY [1998 – ongoing], and the upcoming WONDERWELL ), Ian McDiarmid (THE LOST CITY OF Z , SLEEPY HOLLOW , and DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS ), and playing Darth Vader is David Prowse (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE ) and voicing Vader, James Earl Jones (THE LION KING , FIELD OF DREAMS , EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC , DR. STRANGELOVE , 4 episodes TV show STAR WARS: REBELS [2014 – ongoing], and the upcoming THE LION KING ). In support, we have Frank Oz (INSIDE OUT , ZATHURA , MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND , LABYRINTH , and THE MUPPET MOVIE ), Anthony Daniels (THE LORD OF THE RINGS  and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 ), Kenny Baker (THE KING AND I , AMADEUS , and FLASH GORDON ), Billy Dee Williams (LEGO BATMAN , FANBOYS , and BATMAN ), and Alec Guinness (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA , THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI , and 7 episodes of TV show TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Richard Marquand, known for a ton of stuff I’ve never heard of. Co-writing the screenplay are George Lucas (AMERICAN GRAFFITI ) and Lawrence Kasdan (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS , DREAMCATCHER , WYATT EARP , RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK , and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY ). Composing the score is John Williams, known for THE BFG (2016), WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005), SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997), EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977), and upcoming films THE POST (2018) and Star Wars Episode IX (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Alan Hume, known for SUPERGIRL (1984), 007 OCTOPUSSY (1983), and THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS (1980).
This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI
Set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has just staged a harrowing rescue of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) at the hands of the gangster Jabba the Hutt, and now he, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and their friends are returning to the Rebel Fleet, while Luke returns to Master Yoda (Frank Oz) for his final stretch of life where Luke learns of some serious revelations about his past. Meanwhile, the Empire is nearly finished with the construction of a second Death Star, and even more disturbing, the final phases of its construction are being overlooked by the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) himself. The Rebels seize this opportunity and amass a huge fleet to attempt to destroy it before it’s completed.
Once again, this review is going to be totally unfiltered; major spoilers littered throughout. So if you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and catch up. At least see the original trilogy films before tackling the prequels if you have to, but this movie is directly tied into EMPIRE (1980). It really shouldn’t be seen as a standalone movie. It’s a sequel. With that said:
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This film has a reputation of being the worst of the original trilogy. While I agree, that doesn’t mean this movie is any less great. In fact, this movie has a lot of stuff in it that’s the best in the franchise.
I seem to have developed a habit of starting with the negative elements first, so… I’m going to continue the habit.
Yeah, I had a problem with the ewoks like a lot of people. A smaller reason for it, for those that don’t know, the original concept was that instead of the ewoks, it was going to be an army of wookies. Let’s face it, that would have been a 100 percent more awesome. But if I were to hazard a guess, cost efficiency factored into it, couldn’t find enough tall actors to fill the wookie suits that they probably didn’t have anyway, among other reasons that would probably be understandable if they were public… which they probably are and I’m too lazy to Google search it. Either way. But ultimately, the problem is that the ewoks do kind of ruin the tone of the film. I mean, you have Luke fighting his father to the death on the Death Star while being goaded into turning evil by the creepy and intimidating yellow-eyed Emperor. The Rebel fleet has flown right into a trap and unaware that the Death Star is full operational, which starts destroying cruisers left and right. Han and Leia have fallen into their own trap on the forest moon of Endor, surrounded by Imperial forces, including a few mean AT-STs. And what does this movie decide to throw in to the mix? Cute little tribal teddy bears.
Okay, let’s all be fair here. Cute and cuddly as Wicket (Warwick Davis) may be, the ewoks aren’t restricted by their appearances. They’re warriors. They’re not intimidated by the armored and superior firepower of the stormtroopers, or even the gargantuan AT-STs. They fearlessly fight the Empire’s forces and show results by killing both troopers and tanks alike. Respect should be given. And it’s easy to accept their place in the fight after awhile. Let’s also not forget that they’re not above eating other sentient lifeforms. After all, they were about to cook and eat Luke, Han, and Chewy. They’re primitives, but they’re not cowardly or stupid… well, okay, trying to trip an AT-ST with a rope and dropping rocks on it was pretty stupid, but these were pretty early on in the battle, so an easy argument was that they were sizing up the strength of these things.
But… yeah, you still look at ewoks like cute little teddy bears. Their physical appearance isn’t very intimidating and just doesn’t quite fit with the dangers being fought in space, or the drama between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor. At the day’s end, I still watch this movie and I still tolerate their existence, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish for the army of wookies. But I guess that’s why we have REVENGE.
Honestly… I think that’s the only real problem I have with the movie, and it’s not that big a deal compared to the problems of the prequels. And even those problems have some merit.
I think it’s time for me to address one final problem that I have with REVENGE, and quite possibly the prequels as a whole: continuity. So when Luke asks Leia about her mother, Leia says that she remembers, “Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.” Think about the phrase, “very young.” What age comes across your mind? Answers may vary, of course, but very young to the point of remembering only so much, I personally think around the age of four or five years old. Here’s REVENGE’s definition of “very young”: FRESH OUT OF THE COOCH!!! To consider a newborn baby very young is like calling a latte “coffee!” It’s like, yeah, I guess, kind of, but not… quite! It’s a coffee-related drink, but it’s not… coffee! I don’t know, but it’s oversimplifying it and sort of misinformation! And there was a way to save the connecting ideas, I think. Padmé didn’t have to die in childbirth as a result of a lack of will to live. First of all, I think that’s selfish considering she’s got two babies on the way and she’s choosing not to live because of a man, beloved or not. She could have lived, publicly told that she was dead, hence why Sidious tells the newly black-suited Darth Vader that Padmé was killed by Anakin, and just have her hide out from the Empire until she… I don’t know committed suicide years later or died of sickness. Something to justify the whole “she died when I was very young” line that Leia says. I know, a lot of people love to chime in with, “It’s the Force and it allowed her to remember Padmé in a vague sort of way.” What, so Leia can vaguely remember her mother, but Luke can’t, even though by all accounts they should be on equal levels of Force-potential? I don’t buy it. Obviously, I don’t blame JEDI for this, but it’s still something that irks me.
One thing I’d like to address is the issues I’ve heard some people have with… well, basically everything Jabba and the sarlac pit, claiming it to be a little too long and ultimately not contributing to the story. I would like to lightly argue this. On a personal level, sure, it’s an overly long set up to save Han and bring him back into the loop. However, it does serve a few purposes that I think get a little too overlooked. We see Luke has certainly come into his own and become a much more respectable character, completely dropping the whining. In fact, he’s borderline scary what with the way he talks to Jabba all calm, cool, collected, and ready to gun down the bastard where he sits. And not just his demeanor, but he’s become a very resourceful and capable warrior, managing to kill the rancor without the use of a single real weapon, literally fighting it off with bones and rocks. And the cherry on the cake is when he defies his death by 1,000 year digestion and gets his shiny new green lightsaber and starts kicking some serious butt left and right. Flipping everywhere, deflecting blaster shot after blaster shot, he’s demonstrating how much of a force he is reckon with. I know most will say that you can cut it all down significantly, but I love these scenes a lot. It’s Luke going full Jedi and owning fools. It’s everything I wanted to see from Luke.
But on to everything else that I love.
The space battle near the Death Star is huge. It’s amazing. It’s visually breathtaking. The insane waves of X-Wings, Y-Wings, and the new A-Wings, as well as the battle cruisers… which do next to nothing other than to be Death Star death beam fodder and be home to Admiral Ackbar shouting, “It’s a trap!” Okay, so there’s one more problem that I have with the movie. Smaller problem, though. But it’s not just the new Rebel ships. The new TIE-interceptors have a basic difference from the TIE-fighters, but it still looks pretty cool. Of course, you would only know the difference between the two snub fighters if you played the video games, but, eh. Although… did the Super Star Destroyer really get so easily destroyed? I mean, one A-Wing crashing into the bridge and the whole thing takes a nose dive into the Death Star? I don’t buy it. Not enough damage was done to the thing to warrant the crash. Still, what a spectacle!
And Luke versus Vader, it’s the best lightsaber fight of the original trilogy and is on that same emotional intensity as REVENGE. The stakes are great, Luke trying to defend himself while saving his father from the dark side, while Vader tries to deny his own emotions, making the perfect blend of action and drama. And when Vader threatens to turn Leia to the dark side, can anyone blame Luke for going crazy and hacking and slashing away at Vader? Of course with the Emperor cackling in his chair, it’s such a wonderful series of events, making him the penultimate bad guy you love to hate. Jeez, and McDiarmid was in his late thirties when he did this role, so major props to the make-up team. Yeah, I had a girlfriend who once asked me who played the original Emperor and when I told her it was the same guy as it was in the prequels, she was flummoxed. I loved that reaction.
To top it all off, the ending is perfect. The moment Luke give his father a Jedi’s pyre burning, there’s no dialog. It’s just gorgeous, memorable visuals, along with John Williams’ score to send us off, all the characters hugging and dancing in celebration, there’s not a whole lot of more satisfying endings out there.
That’s probably the best way to put it: it’s a satisfying and feel-good finale. Is it devoid of problems? No. But it still went darker. It went for more emotions. It went for bigger action. And you know something? It paid off and it’s still a pretty damn great film. Hard to say which of the original is my favorite, as I love them all for various reasons. Each has had its highs and lows, but they each offer something that the others don’t, but they all offer one thing that makes it great. They offered great entertainment. And probably best of all, they span several generations and brought together a geeky, but passionate fanbase, from the older to the freshest of young. While this movie wouldn’t be the last Star Wars film, not by a long shot, it still comes out as one of the greatest. The Empire falls, but the franchise is immortal.
My honest rating for STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI: a strong 4/5