66. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

May 1, 2018

Director: Richard Marquand

Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz

Runtime: 132 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1983

 

★★★★☆

 

Like many difficult third films, Return of the Jedi faced the daunting prospect of matching up to the near masterpiece of its predecessor. In many ways, this is close to the perfect close to the original trilogy and storyline. In others it, unfortunately, falls viciously short.

 

A film of three parts, the first offers both closure to the previous instalments cliff-hanger in a fittingly entertaining sense, building up the anticipation right up until the films first major action sequence above a deadly, sand-dwelling beast. The film is primarily focused of Luke's journey to become the Jedi that he fell short of in Empire due to his ill-tolerance, and the second and third acts follow him as he both regresses through his past environments and states of mind, before facing up to both the Emperor and Vader for a final confrontation with his inner demons. Even though he has little greater darkness to overcome, his journey of growth is his chosen path.

 

Meanwhile, Han, Leia and company are brought back together in one of the messier third acts of the series. With too much going on and too many characters re-treading too similar ground, the final swing of the action feels less streamlined than necessary, and the strained inclusion of the Ewok’s are both visually bizarre and tonally challenging.

 

The direction from Marquand is still a solid effort, and the films action set-pieces are all astonishing with a belting finale for Luke. The story twists are all handled well by the Kasdan’s familiar writing efforts and the pieces all still work together, even if the entire venture comes across as lesser than the first two. Still, all of the original Star Wars elements are there to ensure an enjoyable experience, with just as much emotional excitement to make this a timeless achievement.

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