“Return of the Jedi” turns 40: Perfect conclusion to the trilogy


40 years ago today, on May 25th, 1983, “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” was released in US cinemas. The film, which “Star Wars” creator George Lucas (79) did not direct, closed the original trilogy that began in 1977 with “Star Wars” or “Star Wars” around the former played by Harrison Ford (80). Smuggler Han Solo, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher, 1956-2016) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, 71) in a satisfactory manner for the only time in the history of the three interconnected “Star Wars” trilogies.

This is what Return of the Jedi is all about
After Luke Skywalker has become a powerful Jedi, the young hero, together with Princess Leia, is able to free Han Solo, who is frozen in carbonite, on Tatooine. Luke visits his master Yoda, who dies after 900 years of life. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force Ghost (Alec Guinness, 1914-2000) confirms to Luke that villain Darth Vader (David Prowse, Voice: James Earl Jones) is indeed his father – and Leia is his sister as well.

The Empire, meanwhile, is constructing a second Death Star, this time protected by a force field generated on the forest moon of Endor. The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid, 78) wants to draw Luke to the dark side of power and control it. On Endor and in space above the moon, there is a decisive showdown between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, and between Luke Skywalker on the one hand and Darth Vader and his master, Emperor Palpatine, on the other.

The beginning of the end
As you can see from this synopsis, “Star Wars” is repeated for the first time in “Return of the Jedi”. After the destruction of the first Death Star in “Star Wars”, the evil galactic empire – and George Lucas too – can think of nothing better than to construct the ultimate weapon of destruction again.

Thus, in 1983, “Star Wars” fans received for the first – but by no means the last – a feeling of the well-known and repetitive when they saw “Return of the Jedi” in the cinema. At the very least, Lucas’ trick with the protective shield for the Death Star, whose generator must be destroyed on the moon Endor, ensured a film finale that takes place in three different locations at the same time, guaranteeing maximum excitement and variety.

Harrison Ford didn’t want to play Han Solo anymore
One of the “Star Wars” stars had already gotten a little tired in the run-up to “Return of the Jedi”. Han solo actor Harrison Ford had made his debut as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) since 1977’s Star Wars, and starred in later cult sci-fi film Blade Runner. (1982) by Ridley Scott (85).

The mime didn’t want to return to the “Star Wars” universe on the grounds that he considered his character to be under-complex. “I thought the character himself was relatively thin. I would have liked to have seen a little complication for the character,” Ford once explained.

Though he didn’t immediately sign a three-movie deal like his co-stars Hamill and Fisher did, Ford was persuaded to return and reprise his role as Han Solo.

“Star Wars” creator Lucas did not fulfill his wish to have his character die in “Return of the Jedi” in order to at least rule out further sequels for the actor – according to legend, because the merchandise genius feared that characters of a deceased hero would not sell well. Ford’s wish became a reality in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), the exceedingly late sequel to Return of the Jedi.

Nuisance Ewoks
One of the biggest points of contention among “Star Wars” fans are the sugar-sweet Ewoks in “Return of the Jedi”. Because hardly any viewer inclined to realism would like to concede the natives of the moon Endor, in a battle only with stone, arrow and Bow-armed to defeat the Empire’s technologically advanced, military-trained stormtroopers.

Yes, bad tongues even claimed that “Star Wars” creator Lucas only included the Ewoks in “Return of the Jedi” to bring childish viewers with more positivity and to accommodate a certain cuteness factor. Either way, Lucas felt compelled to explain, pointing out that the cute Ewoks served as a distraction in the battle on the forest moon of Endor, not the victory alone. A very typical example of the widespread, high degree of absurdity in the fan reception of the Star Wars saga.

A torn Darth Vader and the best trilogy ending
Despite these small shortcomings, “The Return of the Jedi” represents a trilogy ending that has not been matched in the “Star Wars” universe since then. Of course, the underdogs triumph here in the end, destroying both the generator for the Death Star’s protective shield and the terrible one machine of destruction itself.

However, the much more exciting final confrontation in “Return of the Jedi” takes place in the Emperor’s throne room, which inexplicably also contains a significant security risk with a deep shaft.

The Emperor himself is pursuing a plan to draw Luke to the dark side of power. When he finally rejects this with the words “I’m a Jedi, just like my father before me”, the Emperor is about to kill Luke. But his father Darth Vader – who finds himself in a wonderful inner conflict between his master and his biological son – kills the Emperor instead.

Mortally injured, Vader wants to see his son Luke with his own eyes just once. Luke, who otherwise makes no attempt to save his father’s life, grants him the wish, removes his life-support helmet from Vader, and “Star Wars” viewers see for the first time the true face of the villain who made amends for everything with his last, self-sacrificing action.

The Ewoks, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew, 1944-2019), Han Solo and co. throw a party, Luke grants Anakin Skywalker a Viking burial, and the converted Sith Lord appears in intimate harmony with the also deceased Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda as a force spirit, but all of a sudden he looks completely different…

George Lucas’ Star Wars Sequel
This has to do with George Lucas’ continuation of the “Star Wars” universe. As every “Star Wars” fan knows, between 1999 and 2005 the so-called prequel trilogy consisting of “The Phantom Menace”, “Attack of the Clones” and the second best “Star Wars” trilogy finale “Revenge of the Dead” was released Sith”, and told the prehistory of Darth Vader.

However, Anakin Skywalker was embodied in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” by actor Hayden Christensen (42), who consequently also subsequently played Darth Vader in the power spirit scene at the end of “Episode VI – Return of the Jedi -Knight” (but not in the previous scene of Vader dying). This did not trigger a storm of enthusiasm among all “Star Wars” fans – but it does reduce the enjoyment of the only all-round successful trilogy finale of the Star Wars saga a little.


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