THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
And so, ladies and gentlemen, my series of Star Wars reviews comes to an end. For now. Over the last month and a half I've been getting my reviews out there for what could only be called the greatest saga of all time and with The Force Awakens just one week away, my reviews have come to an end. No, I'm not reviewing the animated Clone Wars movie. I don't really want to ever see that movie again. So, while you continue to count down the days until we can return to that galaxy far, far away, here's my review for the perfect wrap up to the Star Wars universe, Return of the Jedi. Except, there's one complication. This story isn't over just yet.
Return of the Jedi is the epic conclusion to the original trilogy, wrapping up all loose ends left hanging from the last movie. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), now fully aware of who his father is, arrives at Jubba the Hut's (Larry Ward) palace, hoping to take back Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who has been frozen in carbonate and is being used as a decoration. With the help of Leia (Carrie Fisher), C3P0 (Anthony Daniels), R2D2 (Kenny Baker), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), they get out alive, now heading off to the planet Endor to take down the evil lord Vader (David Prowse as the body and James Earl Jones as the voice) and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) once and for all.
After The Empire Strikes Back defied all fan expectations, Return of the Jedi had a lot to live up to. Empire ended on quite the cliffhanger, Luke arm-less and with the discovery that he's the offspring of Darth Vader. His lightsaber was nowhere to be seen. Return of the Jedi, while not able to top Empire, lives up to its expectations. It had a lot of plot points to wrap up and this franchise went out with a bang, and also a literal one. Each original trilogy film is unique in their own way. The first is a humour-filled rescue mission, the second is a dark and character driven epic and the third is an adventure story about family. They're all brilliant.
In similar fashion to A New Hope, Return of the Jedi opens with our two favourite droids in the world, R2D2 and C3P0. Again, they're found wandering around on Tatooine, except this time they know where they're going. They're heading straight for Jubba's palace to deliver a message from Luke. I will never tire of the dialogue between these two characters, each scene with them in it just joyous. If Han and Chewie are the old married couple, R2D2 and C3P0 are the two siblings who can't stop fighting. Deep down, however, they really do love each other.
The Star Wars franchise is known for having lengthy, but thrilling openings and Return of the Jedi is no exception. The whole Jubba the Hut sequence, much like Empire's Hoth sequence, is truly wonderful. Seeing these characters interact, all while furthering the story is so much fun. It's a very fast paced movie, the plot constantly taking three steps forward. It's a sequence that brings you right into the world of Star Wars, and it sets up all character relations so well that you don't even need to have seen the previous films to understand what's going on here. Now that's good writing.
This opening sequence gives us our first look at Luke's new lightsaber, which the expanded universe (including the non-cancelled expanded universe. They make note of this in the new comic book run) tells us was created by Luke himself, based off of instructions given to him from a diary Obi-Wan leaves. It's the first time we see a lightsaber that isn't blue or red, and while it's still rather cool, nothing, to me, beats Luke's lightsaber from the first two films, which was passed down to him from his father. And, if we're to believe any of the advertising, it seems it may be making its return in The Force Awakens. I, for one, cannot wait to find out where it's been all these years. Just floating around space with Luke's severed arm? We'll find out next week! Probably....
Return of the Jedi also sees the death of one of the most beloved characters in the entire Star Wars universe..... Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch). Nobody can really explain why we all love Boba Fett so much, but we just do. So it was saddening to see that such a beloved character was killed off just thirty minutes into the movie. That being said, he wasn't nearly as iconic back then as he was now, but it's still a scene that just doesn't go down well with fans, including myself. He's one of the coolest looking characters in the entire franchise, and maybe that's why we all love him. It's understandable though, not going to lie.
Tatooine is all fun and games, but it's soon time for these characters to finish what they set out to do three films ago. Take down Darth Vader. The problem is, the only way to do this is to act on a dodgy and noticeable green screen. Seriously though, there are moments in this movie where the green screen is the most obvious thing in the world, and that's rather upsetting because the rest of the film is practically flawless. Still, this is not a big enough problem for me to want to downgrade the film. I will always love Return of the Jedi with all my heart.
What seemed like a simple plot to take down Vader suddenly becomes more complicated when our heroes discover a second Death Star has been build, posing as a greater threat than the first. The rebels prepare to attack, all while Luke and co head to Endor to shut its shields down. Now, whenever somebody brings up Return of the Jedi, the first thing that's usually mentioned are the ewoks. Why? Because people seem to really hate ewoks. I never understood all the ewok hate. They're adorable creatures. Vicious and shockingly blood thirsty, but adorable.
Luke, who discovered earlier on in the film that Leia is his sister (and tells this to her in what is one of my favourite scenes in the movie, mostly thanks to the addition of Han Solo who appears towards the end to have a conversation with her), confronts Vader for what he hopes to be the last time, leaving the rest of the rebellion to do their thing. Their final confrontation is intercut between an intense and emotional battle on Endor, as well as a battle up in space to take down the Death Star, giving us the famous "it's a trap" line.
Luke's confrontation with Vader is what this entire franchise has built up to. He's confronted him before, most notably at the end of Empire, but he's never been ready. He's always gone in too soon. When it comes to Return of the Jedi, Luke has now become the Jedi he was destined to be. He's reached his full potential. He's ready to take on Vader. Or is he? Vader, with the help of the cunning Emperor, is still trying to convince Luke to turn to the dark side, and he nearly does. Vader brings the hatred out of Luke, and there's one shot in particular that's lit so incredibly well that it manages to show his inner conflict. It's mesmerising.
The battles occurring simultaneously are a lot of fun, especially a moment in which Leia and Han reverse the roles in the iconic "I know" scene, but it's the moments with Vader and Luke that are the most exciting. It's the single greatest lightsaber fight in this entire trilogy, full of aggression and emotion. Luke remains convinced that Vader can turn good, and that it's simply the Emperor's doings, and believe it or not, he's right. With Luke down and being electrocuted like there's no tomorrow, Vader makes the decision to throw the Emperor to his death, saving his son and turning his back on the dark side.
The villains in Star Wars are always memorable and the addition of the Emperor in this film is all sorts of brilliant. We got just a glimpse of him in Empire and so it was really something when he finally arrived on screen in this film. It was our first real look at the man behind the madness, even if it was only for one (great) film. Unfortunately, the Emperor isn't the only villain to die at the end of Return of the Jedi as old papa Vader also bites the dust, giving us the single most emotional scene in all of Star Wars. Vader takes his helmet off to look his son in the eyes just once before he passes away. It's quite a touching scene and the perfect wrap up to his character's arc.
Return of the Jedi, while the weakest entry in the original trilogy, is all sorts of brilliant. From Han to Admiral Akbar, every character gets enough screen time, wrapping up everyone's stories without flaw. The empire has been defeated. The rebels have won. Darth Vader is dead. Leia and Han are hopefully off to live happily ever after. It's just about as happy as endings come, especially once you get a glimpse of Anakin's force ghost standing alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan. I love love love love love it.
Cinema doesn't get much better than Star Wars. Over the course of 6 films (although we should really only talk about half of those), George Lucas has taken us on a journey I've visited time and time again. With memorable characters, witty dialogue, thrilling action and a story worth telling, nothing comes close to out-doing Star Wars. Whether you want to call it sci-fi or fantasy, it doesn't affect just how perfect these films are. Well, most of them, anyway. I now have reviews up for 7 different Star Wars movies (here) and there's a new one coming in just a week's time. This is a franchise that means a lot to me and I absolutely cannot wait to be swept back into this beloved universe. May the force be with you, always.
To sum up, Return of the Jedi is the perfect wrap up to the Star Wars saga, bringing together romance, action, humour and emotion into a film that takes its memorable characters and does as much as it can with them. Good luck, Mr. Abrams. I sure hope you've done a good job.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Back in 1977, audiences were first introduced to Star Wars, one of the most groundbreaking moviegoing experiences of all time. Three years later, audiences were treated to the sequel to Star Wars. It was titled The Empire Strikes Back and, just like with the first movie, it blew audiences away. In fact, the follow up even managed to outdo the first film. Not in terms of box office, but in terms of quality. The first film is one of my all time favourites, but Empire Strikes Back... now that is quality cinema.
The Empire Strikes Back picks up a few years after the original Star Wars. Luke (Mark Hamill) and Han (Harrison Ford) are out exploring the snow planet Hoth, all while Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2D2 (Kenny Baker) are at a rebel base, holding out hope that the two of them will return safely. But soon, the empire attacks, sending in all the troops they can, and it's this battle that divides our heroes in half. Luke and R2 are off in search of Yoda (Frank Oz), the Jedi master who trained Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). Meanwhile, Han, Leia and C3P0 meet up with an old friend of Han's, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), as they continue to try and take down the empire, still led by the relentless Darth Vader (David Prowse as the body and James Earl Jones as the voice).
The Empire Strikes Back does not follow your typical movie structure, and the filmmakers behind this movie knew that. The film opens on Hoth, a planet comprised almost entirely from snow. Luke is attacked by a Wampa, which is essentially the Star Wars equivalent to the abdominal snow man. Luke's tied up in the Wampa's cave and must use the power of the force to escape. It's one of the earliest moments in which we get to see Luke using the force and yes, it does lead to his escape. He deserves his escape. You've done good, kid. You've done good.
Han then arrives at Luke's rescue and this entire sequence is brilliant. I mean, the whole film is, but I really do love Han rescuing him. Why? Well, aside from the fact that Han's dialogue in this scene is flawless, he also wields a lightsaber at one point. Seeing Han with Luke's lightsaber just makes me happy. I love it. But seriously though, Han has never been better. He's still the scoundrel we first met, but he's a developed scoundrel who now cares for other people. Han's not my favourite Star Wars character for no reason.
This battle on Hoth lasts for a good chunk of the movie, yet I have no complaints. Like I said, The Empire Strikes Back doesn't have a clichéd narrative structure. The first half an hour or so is dedicated entirely to the characters hanging around on Hoth. It's exciting, romantic and sets up a surprising amount of emotional interest. A lot of The Empire Strikes Back is about developing these characters further, and that's why everyone, including myself, hails Star Wars as one of the greatest franchises of all time. The characters don't necessarily do anything that's more interesting than the characters from the prequels, but it's the fact that the writers have done a good job at providing depth to them and getting us to care about them.
Even Chewbacca goes from this strange, but loveable furry guy into a fleshed out character who you care an awful lot about. There's so many moments in this movie where Chewie really pulls on my heartstrings, the first notable time being when Han is locked out from the Hoth base. What does Chewie do? He roars out of concern. Another moment is later on in the film. Han has just been returned to his prison cell after being tortured and Chewie, the sweetheart that he is, can't stop hugging him. I love Chewbacca. I really do. I love him arguably as much as I do R2D2, and if you know me, you'll know that I REALLY love R2D2.
While Han and Chewie do steal a lot of the scenes in this movie, that's not to say that Luke isn't the central focus. He most certainly is. This film is a very personal journey for him and his character is developed drastically. He's no longer the kid we saw on Tatooine. He's not yet a fully fledged Jedi, but he's getting there. This film is about his training, and he gets trained by none other than Yoda, who, like a lot of the characters in this trilogy, are amongst the greatest film characters of all time. I have too many favourite Star Wars characters. They can all be my favourite character.
If you're one of the people out there who has seen the Star Wars prequels, but not the original trilogy, please forget everything you know about Yoda. The original trilogy Yoda is very different from the prequel trilogy Yoda. This Yoda has been isolated on a planet ever since the birth of young Luke Skywalker. He's a wise cracking trickster, yet he knows an awful lot about the ways of the force and the Skywalker family. He did, after all, know Luke's father, Anakin, although we all know who that ends up being. Every scene Yoda is in is an utter delight. Fun Yoda is much better than the serious Yoda we saw in the prequels.
Thematically, The Empire Strikes Back is a much darker film than the first. It's still a funny and goofy kids movie (and adult sized kids movie), but it's also a more serious telling of this story. From torture to betrayal to severing off arms to visual metaphors involving decapitated heads inside of other decapitated heads, The Empire Strikes Back isn't nearly as light hearted as the first film. While the darkest Star Wars film yet is Revenge of the Sith, I would argue that Empire Strikes Back isn't too far behind.
This film is titled The Empire Strikes Back, and so the empire, obviously, does strike back, and they strike back hard. When Han and Leia show up at Cloud City and are met by the smooth talking Lando, he soon betrays them, leading them right into the hands of Darth Vader and the empire. Want to know what Han does the second he spots Vader? He pulls out his blaster and tries to shoot him right there and then. Nobody messes with Han Solo. Not even the most villainous man in the entire galaxy.
Unfortunately, however, those shots fired towards Vader were for nothing as they're all taken hostage and tortured for no reason other than to get Luke to arrive. "They didn't even ask me any questions," Han says as they taken back into the arms of his true lover.... Chewbacca. I ship it. Anyways, Luke, now fully trained in the ways of the force, does come and he brings with him his newly learnt skills, taking on Darth Vader. But there's something that happens before this fight that I love even more. Something involving Han and Leia. Yeah, you know the scene I'm talking about.
Han is to be frozen in carbonate and sold off to Jubba the Hutt. Why? Because Darth Vader can. And he does. Han is taken away from the group, including Lando Calrissian, who has now revealed that he's not really a bad guy and didn't know what was going to happen. I still wouldn't trust him if I was them. But they do and that doesn't turn out to be a mistake as he is, in part, responsible for their escape. Han, however, isn't quite as lucky. He's frozen alive. Before he's frozen, Leia yells out to him "I love you," to which he responds with "I know." Fucking brilliant. One of the most unforgettable moments in cinema history, although this is one of the most unforgettable movies in cinema history as well.
With all hope lost, Luke finally arrives, taking on Darth Vader in a one on one lightsaber battle. It's dangerous, exciting and unpredictable, and you can really feel the rage building up inside of Luke as Vader continues to taunt him. Luke picked his fight too early, though. Sure, everyone makes it out alive at the end of the movie (although Han's fate is still unknown), but Luke leaves with a lost arm and a revelation he'd probably prefer to remain unknown. Darth Vader is Luke's father. *gasp* While everyone knows this twist now, it's still my favourite twist from any movie. It's brilliant and jaw dropping, and the fact that hardly any of the cast and crew knew until the film's premiere just makes the twist even better.
So there we have it. The Empire Strikes Back. It's one of those rare sequels that manages to take the plot and the characters of the first film and further them, resulting in an all round better movie. Whenever I watch this film, I honestly question whether or not Goodfellas is really my favourite movie of all time, or if this is. That's how good it is. This film blows me away every time I watch it. From the directing to the cinematography to the special effects to the iconic score, everything in this film is perfect. I JUST LOVE STAR WARS SO MUCH.
To sum up, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back takes everything we love about the first film and adds more depth, resulting in a superior movie. It's fun, original and works on so many levels. I really can't say a single negative thing about it.
5 Stars.... obviously