Return of the Jedi
The film was originally planned to be titled Revenge of the Jedi, but George Lucas decided that revenge was not the Jedi way. That title got recycled as Revenge of the Sith, because revenge is definitely the way of the Sith. Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick and Griphook in Harry Potter; he was in an episode of Merlin; Nikabrik in Prince Caspian) joins as Wicket [he was eleven years old]. Kenny Baker (R2) joins as another Ewok. And my apologies, I forgot to mention in the previous write-up that Billy Dee Williams is the rascal Lando Calrissian.
While the Empire builds another Death Star (because the last one worked out so well), Vader arrives to put them back on schedule and announces that Emperor Palpatine himself will be joining him. Luke returns to Tatooine to stage his rescue of Han and sends C-3PO and R2-D2 to Jabba’s palace. His message gives them as gifts to Jabba and they are put to work. Then a bounty hunter shows up with Chewie to collect the bounty. They haggle over price and the bounty hunter wins when he threatens to blow everyone up with a thermal detonator. Turns out, the bounty hunter is Leia, who sneaks down to free Han from carbonite in the evening. Han is temporarily blind due to hibernation sickness, but he recognizes Leia’s voice when she says “someone who loves you.” But their reunion is interrupted by Jabba. He imprisons Han with Chewie and takes Leia as a slave (complete with impractical attire). Han is a bit disbelieving when Chewie informs that Luke has a plan; “Luke’s crazy! He can’t even take care of himself, let alone rescue anybody.” Luke shows up the next day dressed in all black (interesting style choice) to once again barter for his friends, introducing himself as a Jedi Knight and using their tricks. But mind tricks won’t work on the Hutts and so Jabba dumps Luke into a rancor pit (and that this is creepy). Luke’s still got his old tricks and throws a rock at the controls to bring the gate down on the creature. The gang is all back together and Jabba sentences Luke, Han, and Chewie to death in the Sarlacc pit.
When Luke is about to be pushed into the pit, he salutes R2, who ejects his new green lightsaber, and Luke flips into action (cue hero theme!). Lando gets to take his mask off, but falls overboard while fighting, so Han and Chewie try their best to rescue him. Han even inadvertently knocks Boba Fett off the barge and into the pit (he survived somehow, and that was even before these new shows started coming out). Leia seizes the opportunity, and her chain, and chokes Jabba to death. Luke boards to rescue her and they swing away as they blow up the sail barge (call back to A New Hope). Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his training, but Yoda is dying. “When 900 years old, you reach, look as good, you will not,” he comments. He also tells the young man that he has all the knowledge he needs to become a Jedi Knight, except he must complete his destiny and confront Vader. Luke insists he needs to know if Vader was telling the truth. Yes, Yoda admits, Vader is Luke’s father; and the wizened Master repeats his warning about the Dark Side. Do not underestimate the Emperor, or Luke will suffer the same fate as his father. Yoda’s final words to Luke are “there is another Skywalker.”
Obi-Wan pays another visit to Luke and the young man questions him why he didn’t tell him the truth. Obi-Wan’s argument is that the young man he trained, Anakin Skywalker was destroyed by Vader when he fell to the Dark Side; so it was the truth from a certain point of view. “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” [You could write an entire article on how true that is; no, I’m not volunteering at this point, but I think I tried back in college. I don’t think it turned out well, since I don’t remember] Obi-Wan urges Luke to complete the task that he could not (when we go back to the prequels, Obi-Wan argues with Yoda that he cannot kill Anakin). Luke replies that he cannot kill his own father [maybe Obi-Wan was hoping that if Luke lacked an emotional connection to Vader, it would make the task easier]. Obi-Wan confesses that yes, Luke has a twin sister; they were split up and hidden for their protection from both Vader and the Emperor. Luke can sense that Leia is his sister. Obi-Wan’s final warning is for Luke to bury his feelings; they do him credit, but they can be used against him.
The Emperor boards the Death Star and counsels Vader that young Skywalker will come to him. When he does, Vader is to bring the young man to the Emperor and together they will turn him. Everything is proceeding as he has foreseen. However, later, the Emperor cannot sense when Luke is near, not like Vader can. Palpatine is wondering if Vader’s feelings are clouding his judgment, but insists that Luke’s compassion for his father will be his undoing.
The Rebels prepare for their final attack. Word has gotten to them that the Death Star is not complete and even better, the Emperor is aboard. This is the perfect time. Lando is now a general and is tasked with leading the attack on the Death Star to blow it up (again). Han is also a general now and is tasked with leading the forces on the forest moon of Endor to knock out the shield generator. Leia quickly volunteers to accompany him, as does Luke when he shows up. Han insists that Lando take the Millennium Falcon, it’s the fastest ship in the fleet. Though he has a strange notion he may not see his beloved ship again and makes Lando promise, not a scratch.
There is almost a slight hiccough while the Empire delays granting the stolen ship’s request to land. And Han’s helpful instruction to Chewie is to “fly casual.” They run into a bit trouble on the moon when they find some troopers scouting the forest. Leia and Luke go after two of them and speed through the forest. They’re separated and only Luke makes it back to Han. Now they go searching for Leia. Leia, in the meantime, has met the cute natives of the world, Ewoks (specifically Wicket, but they’re never named on screen). Wicket helps her escape from more troopers and takes her back to his village.
Chewie gets the men caught in a net (“always thinking with your stomach!”) and they’re surrounded by Ewoks as well. Who believe that 3PO is a god. And “it would be against my programming to impersonate a deity,” the fuss bucket tells Han. So Han, Chewie, and Luke are carted off to the village as well. Luke uses a Force trick to mimic “magic” and get the Ewoks to set them free before Han can be roasted for dinner. Leia and Han share a brief kiss and later, 3PO entertains the tribe with a brief retelling of their tale, complete with sound effects. This gains them membership into the tribe, and some help. Luke steps out and Leia follows. Luke reveals that he can sense Vader is near; Leia urges him to run away. He also reveals that Vader is his father and furthermore, the Force runs strong in his family; his father has it, he has it, and his sister. Leia muses that she had sensed a connection as well. Luke wants to try to save Vader; he can still sense good in him. They part with a kiss on the cheek. Which Han witnesses. But Leia can’t tell him what she’s learned, but begs for Han to hold her.
Luke turns himself in to Vader, accepting the truth that Vader is his father. Well, that Anakin Skywalker was his father. Vader retorts that “that name no longer has any meaning.” He examines his son’s new green lightsaber and declares his skills are complete. But the Emperor will finish his training, in the Dark Side. Luke cannot underestimate it; Vader must obey his master. Luke even asks Vader to come away with him. He tells his father “I will not turn and you will be forced to kill me.” He feels the conflict within his father. Vader insists it is too late for him. And he still takes Luke to the Emperor. Luke tells Vader “my father is truly dead.”
The Rebels begin their space attack, but it’s taking a bit of time for Han and his team to get into the shield bunker. The Ewoks create a distraction by taking one of the speeder bikes. They make it a few steps in, except there are reinforcements. (There is the notion amongst the fans that the older guy in Han’s attack group is actually Rex, who we know and love from the Clone Wars series.) This is all a trap for the Rebels, laid by the Emperor. Palpatine taunts Luke with the knowledge and urges him to strike him down in anger and descend into the Dark Side. Luke retorts “your overconfidence is your weakness.” “And your faith in your friends is yours,” Palpatine hisses.
But the Ewoks are clever creatures and attack the invading Imperials. They have primitive weapons and for a while, things look bad. But once Chewie helps a few Ewoks take control of an AT-ST (All Terrain Scout Transport), they gain momentum. They use ropes to spin a speeder around a tree and clothesline another trooper. Logs crush one of the walkers [Mythbusters tested this and it worked]. But this is still taking time and Lando urges Admiral Ackbar to give Han more time. And the fighters unfortunately discover that the Death Star is fully operational when it blows up a large cruiser. So they have to take on the Star Destroyers first.
Luke can’t take more of watching his friends die, so he calls his lightsaber and aims for the Emperor. His blade crosses with Vader’s red one and the Emperor chuckles. Then begins another duel between father and son [and the best one of the original trilogy]. But Luke stops fighting his father. Vader doesn’t hold back long, even as Luke repeats he feels the conflict within. Eventually, his thoughts drift back to his friends, and to his sister. Vader was unaware there was a second child. Perhaps she will turn easier than her brother. This enrages Luke and he aggressively attacks, eventually knocking Vader down and slashing at him until he cuts off a hand. He sees the wires in Vader’s limb, similar to his. Palpatine laughs. Luke’s hate has made him powerful. Now, strike down Vader and become Palpatine’s new apprentice (see how loyal he is to Vader? He did this with Dooku, if you recall. This is the problem with the Sith, always backstabbing, completely untrustworthy the lot of them). “Never,” declares Luke and throws his lightsaber to the side (bad move). “You failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” Palpatine cackles again and shoots lightning at Luke.
Han and Leia have victory on the moon and blow up the shield (reversing the “I love you”/ “I know” lines, which is adorable). Now Lando and the fighters can launch their attack. Wedge is leader of Red squadron and accompanies Lando. Luke pleads “father, please.” Vader studies Palpatine and when his master declares “now young Skywalker, you will die,” he shouts “No!” and picks up the maniac. Lightning surrounds the two and Vader tosses the Sith Lord down the shaft. Lando and Wedge’s shots ring true and the Death Star begins its’ destruction. But Vader’s last stand has cost him. His wheezing is worse and by the time Luke drags him to a shuttle Vader asks his son to help him take this mask off. He knows he will die, “just for once, let me look on you with my own eyes.” Anakin has aged, but the scars remain from his last battle. The Imperial theme plays softly in the background, no longer menacing. Luke pleads he has to save his father. “You already have. Tell your sister, you were right,” and Anakin Skywalker breathes his last. Luke pilots them out in time.
Leia and Han watch the Death Star explode and Han is quick to assure Leia that Luke wasn’t on it. She knows. Very well, he won’t get in the way of the two of them when Luke returns. No, it’s not like that, Leia reassures Han. Luke is her brother. Han gets a delightfully puzzled look on his face and has the most adorable realization after Leia kisses him. He kisses back enthusiastically, until Wicket interrupts them. The Ewok horns herald the celebrations, though Luke gives Anakin a funeral pyre alone. We catch glimpses of Cloud City, Tatooine, Naboo (I’m glad they added Naboo), and Coruscant, where a statue is toppled. Everyone hugs and Leia and Han cuddle. Luke glances to the side and see the Force ghosts of both Yoda and Obi-Wan, then joined by Anakin (the new editions use Hayden Christensen, though I kind of agree they should have used the older Anakin from the original release; they used older Obi-Wan. If you’re going to use Hayden, then use Ewan and heck, throw in Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon.)
A happy ending! The evil Emperor is destroyed, his henchman is gone, and our heroes are one big happy family.
The story continues “officially” with the sequel trilogy in 2015. However, before that, fans had the Extended Universe, now called Legends [because Lucas had to throw all that development out the window]. As I’ve stated, this was how I got into Star Wars. I’ve already mentioned the Jedi Apprentice series by Jude Watson and Dave Wolverton, detailing Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s adventures while Obi-Wan was a Padawan (including how they were almost not paired up). Truce at Bakura literally picks up where Return of the Jedi ends, Luke is undergoing treatment from his exposure to Force lightning when they receive a distress call (Han and Leia are looking for alone time and don’t get it because there’s always something going on). Our heroes answer and meet a new race of aliens and Leia begins forging peace between the Rebellion and the Empire (Luke almost dies, again; he needs a vacation). There’s The Courtship of Princess Leia (self-explanatory) where Han and Leia make it official.
Timothy Zahn brings us the epic trilogy of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. He introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn (the only non-human Grand Admiral and he’s appeared in Star Wars: Rebels, meaning he’s actually present-day canon) and Mara Jade. Mara Jade is Force sensitive and worked as the Emperor’s Hand, a trained assassin who could hear her Master’s call anywhere in the universe. And his final instructions are for her to kill Luke Skywalker, planting the image in her mind that Vader and Luke turned their lightsabers on Palpatine. She does kill Luke, a clone made from his cut-off hand made by a crazy clone of an old Jedi Master, Joruus C’baoth (Zhan delves more into that backstory in Outbound Flight and Survivor’s Quest). Mara and Luke actually end up married and Han and Leia have twins over the course of the first trilogy, Jaina and Jacen. Later, they have a son, Anakin. Leia becomes okay with that name after Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning. Zahn also wrote Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future. I highly recommend any of his books.
The trilogy of books that actually got me into the original movies was the Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson, consisting of Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force. These chronicle Luke’s early attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order (it doesn’t go quite according to plan, he almost ends up dead, again. Kid, seriously!) I discovered these at my local library before I found the Zahn books. Anderson also wrote the Young Jedi Knights series and I remember that is where it really caught my interest. Oh, fun afternoons of exploring the science-fiction shelves in the back of the library, looking for more Star Wars novels. Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre is very interesting; the kids get kidnapped and Leia goes off to find them, and Jaina has certainly inherited her father’s sass. [When I get a chance to pull all my books out, I’ll have to find out which ones I have and which ones I need, because I’m remembering how much I loved these books; and these were my first introduction to “fanfiction,” one could say].
I got out of the Star Wars novels when Vector Prime, and the rest of the New Jedi Order books started coming out. They just ended up weird, in my opinion. There’s another alien race that invades and wants to take over the galaxy. Chewbacca dies, Han blames Anakin, Jacen turns to the Dark Side, taking Ben Skywalker with him. That just killed the fun. The galaxy still had its own problems, it didn’t need more. It took time to dismantle the Empire and build the New Republic, which had its own problems (reading these books made me hate politics). But yes, I’m a bit put-out that all of this development got thrown out the window when Lucasfilm decided to make the sequel trilogy. There were great characters already developed and I would love to see Mara Jade on screen because she kicks butt and has no problem telling people off when they’re being stupid, including her husband.
My overall opinion of the film; it’s fine. Leia’s main accomplishment is to kill Jabba (which we cheer for). Luke seems so old; which yes, he’s matured, that’s a good thing, but we also liked the puppy-like Luke from the first film. Now he’s all serious; he’s caught up on saving Vader. Part of it is the dialogue is so reparative. You’ve said it, now move on. Han is fun, love that cocky smile he gives “hey, it’s me,” and he’s so proud of himself when they trick the Imperials. And that’s why we love him. The redemption of Vader is another good twist and if anyone would get through to him, it would be his son. There is a message of hope that someone who has fallen can rejoin the Light. And yes, there is a plothole created by Leia’s memories of her mother because in Revenge of the Sith we learn that Padmé died directly after giving birth; that’s a continuity error due to writing the movies in reverse order.
On a fun note: if you have never gotten the chance, go watch Carrie Fisher’s roast of George Lucas when he was awarded the AFI Lifetime Achievement in 2005; it is hilarious!
Next Time: The Force Awakens