Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Directed by Richard Marquand and screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas from a story by Lucas, Return of the Jedi (Star Wars: Episode VI) is the third and final film of the original trilogy in which the Imperial Empire and the rebellion go out for one final battle in space as Luke Skywalker copes with the identity of the man who is Darth Vader. The film isn’t just another sci-fi adventure film where many of the characters of the previous film get ready for one final battle but also do whatever it takes to save the galaxy from this evil empire. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Billy Dee Williams, David Prowse with the voice of James Earl Jones, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Alec Guinness, the voice of Frank Oz, Sebastian Shaw, and Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine. Return of the Jedi is a thrilling and exhilarating film from Richard Marquand.

The film revolves the final showdown between the Galatic Empire led by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader (David Prowse, with the voice of James Earl Jones), and the rebellion representing the former Galactic Republic as its heroes Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) get ready for the final battle. Yet, things become very tense as Palpatine arrives in a newly-constructed Death Star in which he personally oversees its completion while he and Vader both seek Skywalker. The film also plays into Skywalker’s own discovery of who Darth Vader is as he turns to a dying Yoda (the voice of Frank Oz) and the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) for the truth where another revelation is unveiled.

The film’s screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas does have a more traditional structure than the previous films as its first act involves Vader arriving to the Death Star telling his officers that the Emperor is coming while Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) go on a personal mission to retrieve Han from the clutches of the reputed gangster Jabba the Hutt (voice of Larry Ward) and the bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) at the planet of Tatooine. Its second act is set in Dagobah where Luke meets with Yoda while joining in the plan to destroy the Death Star’s shield in the nearby moon of Endor where the rebels are aided by a tribe of creatures known as Ewoks. The structure doesn’t just play into the development of the characters but also into Luke’s own understanding about Darth Vader’s identity and realize who the man used to be.

It’s not just Luke, Leia, and Han that become more realized in their development but also Darth Vader as it is clear that he is the good cop for the Imperial officers while it’s Palpatine that is far less forgiving. There is also tension that looms in the film between Palpatine and Vader where the latter does sense Luke’s presence while the former doesn’t where it plays into an internal conflict with Vader who has no choice but to follow his master. It would force Luke to find the good in Vader where the two would have another battle with light sabers as it is clear that they’re really pawns into the game that Palpatine wants. That conflict would parallel the battles that Han, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3P0 would have against the Empire in Endor with the aid of the Ewoks while Lando Calrissian would lead the attack on the Death Star. It is there where the film’s third act and climax does come to ahead as something has to happen where it’s everything or nothing.

Richard Marquand’s direction doesn’t really do anything new in comparison to the previous films but he does manage to maintain some visuals and compositions that are very engaging. Shot partially on location in Tunisia as Tatooine and at the Redwood Forest in California as Endor, the film definitely goes for a mixture of not just a darker tone but also something that is light as it plays to the conflict over the two sides of the Force. The usage of wide and medium shots do play into the vastness of the story not just in the locations of its planets but also in space that includes some very entrancing shots of the Death Star in its final construction phase. Marquand’s close-ups do play into Luke Skywalker’s own realization about who Darth Vader is but also into the revelations that he would discover which added bigger stakes into what he has to fight for.

The scenes set in Endor are quite playful as it does bring in some humor as well as something that is more accessible to children in the form of the Ewoks. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, the Ewoks do serve a purpose as it plays into their own brand of fighting which is primitive yet effective. The mixture of playfulness and adventure does give the film a liveliness in its third act where Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and R2-D2 would square off against the Empire in Endor with their own soldiers and the Ewoks. It is in sharp contrast to the more thrilling sequence in space where Lando is leading the rebellion in an all-out assault on the Death Star while Luke and Vader would have their own battle. Yet, their battle would really play more into what Palpatine wants as it would force one of these two men to do something to save the galaxy. Overall, Marquand creates a phenomenal and exhilarating film about a group of rebels going into one final battle against an evil empire.

Cinematographer Alan Hume, with additional work by Alec Mills, does excellent work with the look of many of the exteriors from the naturalistic look in the scenes at Endor as well as some of the interior lighting for the scenes inside the Death Star and in the rebel ships. Editors Sean Barton, Duwayne Dunham, and Marcia Lucas, with additional work by George Lucas, do amazing work with the editing with its stylish approach to transition wipes and rhythmic cuts to play into the action and suspense. Production designer Norman Reynolds, with set designers Michael Ford and Harry Lange and art directors Fred Hole and James L. Schappe, does fantastic work with the look of Palpatine‘s main room in the Death Star as well as the room in the rebel ship where the plan of attack occurs as well as the home of Jabba the Hutt. Costume designers Aggie Guerard Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero do terrific work with the costumes from the slave bikini that Leia would wear at Jabba’s home but also the black suit that Luke would wear to express his sense of loss.

Makeup designers Stuart Freeborn and Phil Tippett do brilliant work with the look of some of the alien creatures including the Ewoks and some of that characters at Jabba the Hutt‘s palace including some puppetry for the Jabba character. Visual effects supervisors Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Phil Tippett do incredible work with the visual effects look for the scenes in space as well as the designs for scenes in Tatooine and in Endor such as the Imperial walkers with its usage of stop-motion animation. Sound designer Ben Burtt does superb work with the sound from the layering of sound effects for the battle scenes as well as in some of the sound that occurs for the droids. The film’s music by John Williams is wonderful for its thrilling and soaring orchestral score that plays into its sense of adventure and humor along with some of its brooding and melancholic moments.

The casting by Mary Selway is great as it features notable small performances from Denis Lawson as the rebel pilot Wedge, Jeremy Bulloch as the bounty hunter Boba Fett, Timothy M. Rose as the rebel military leader Admiral Akbar, Caroline Blakiston as the rebel alliance co-founder and leader Mon Mothma, Larry Ward as the voice of Jabba the Hutt, Michael Pennington as the Death Star commander who oversees the Death Star’s construction, Kenneth Colley as the Imperial Admiral Piett, Warwick Davis as the young Ewok Wicket that Leia befriends, and Sebastian Shaw as the unmasked Darth Vader. Frank Oz is superb as the voice of the great Jedi master Yoda who would tell Luke some startling news and some revelations while Alec Guinness is fantastic as the late Obi-Wan Kenobi who would also provide some revelations to Luke about Darth Vader.

Ian McDiarmid is great as Emperor Palpatine as the Galactic Empire’s leader who tries to steer Luke to join the dark side of the Force in the hopes he can gain another apprentice. David Prowse, with voice of James Earl Jones, is amazing as Darth Vader as the Empire’s great warrior who would also try to steer Luke into the dark side while displaying the sense of conflict from within him as it relates to whom he once was. Billy Dee Williams is brilliant as Lando Calrissian as an old friend of Han who would help free him from Jabba the Hutt while leading the attack on the Empire and the Death Star. Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels are excellent in their respective roles as the droids R2-D2 and C-3P0 as the former would provide some key moments in the film’s first act and its climax while the latter would be responsible for forging an alliance between the Ewoks and the rebels.

Peter Mayhew is marvelous as Chewbacca as the Wookie who helps rescue Han Solo as well as provide a key role in battling the Empire in Endor. Carrie Fisher is sensational as Princess Leia Organa as a rebel leader who gets more hands-on in the fighting while making a major discovery about who she is as well as a bigger role she has to play for the rebellion. Harrison Ford is remarkable as Han Solo as the former smuggler who was imprisoned by Jabba the Hutt as he later leads an attack on the Empire in Endor with the help of the Ewoks where Ford brings some humor to his role. Finally, there’s Mark Hamill in an incredible performance as Luke Skywalker where Hamill brings a more reserved performance to display Skywalker’s grief and maturity as he copes with Darth Vader’s identity while knowing what he has to do to save the galaxy as it’s a dark but engaging performance from Hamill.

***The Following is Based on the 1997 Special Edition and its Subsequent Revised Editions***

Of the versions that George Lucas would get involved in, it is in this film where there’s a lot of changes with the aid of editor T.M. Christopher, sound designer Ben Burtt, and various visual effects people that would change things from the original. Among them is the pit of Sarlacc scene where there’s more arms added via computer-based visual effects as well as additional scenes near the film’s ending. Most notably scenes where other planets celebrated that featured the voice of a much-maligned character from the prequels. There’s also some changes in the visual effects in the battle scenes that are distracting yet the biggest change from its 2004 DVD release is one of the most controversial. It relates to its ending where Sebastian Shaw’s appearance in the end would be replaced by Hayden Christensen who would play Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. It’s an ending that is very disrespectful to Shaw as well as the series itself. While Lucas claims he’s trying to make the film better, it just shows how out of touch he is with his audience.

***End of Special Edition Tidbits***

Return of the Jedi is a phenomenal film from Richard Marquand. Featuring a great cast, sprawling visual effects, and an offbeat yet effective tone. The film isn’t just a worthy end to the original trilogy but it’s also an adventurous and fun film that manages to do a lot and more. In the end, Return of the Jedi is a remarkable film from Richard Marquand.

Star Wars Films: Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - The Phantom Menace - Attack of the Clones - Revenge of the Sith - The Force Awakens - The Last Jedi - The Rise of Skywalker

Related: Holiday Special - Caravan of Courage - The Battle for Endor - The Clone Wars - Fanboys - The People vs. George Lucas

Star Wars Anthology Films: Rogue One - Solo - (Untitled Star Wars Anthology Film)

George Lucas Films: THX 1138 - (American Graffiti)

© thevoid99 2015


Dell said...

I like this one, but pretty easily my least favorite of the original trilogy. I actually like it less than one of the prequels, as of now anyway. I still planning on watching them again myself over the next few months. A lot of it is because as you implied, The Ewoks were just not my cup of tea. Loving these Star Wars reviews.

thevoid99 said...

I know the Ewoks aren't for everyone but I would rather watch a lifetime of Ewoks than 5 minutes of Jar-Jar Binks.

Brittani Burnham said...

Great write up! This is actually the first Star Wars film I watched. I ended up watching the original series backwards because we couldn't find our VHS of Empire and didn't own a New Hope. Still, this series is great even when watched out of order.

I HATED that they replaced Shaw's face at the end. It makes no sense. Obi Wan isn't young again, why does Anakin need to be? And like I need to be reminded of Hayden Christensen more. Ugh.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-This was the 2nd film of the series that I saw as I watched the original first but my idiotic babysitter made me watch this one instead of Empire which definitely killed the element of surprise.

Plus, Hayden Christensen sucks balls.