Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Review
The film that is, in my opinion, the most underrated in the original trilogy
This review is for the theatrical cut of the movie released on the 2003 limited edition DVD set of the trilogy, which I happen to own. I may review the special edition contained on that DVD at a later date, but for now, here's my review of the original theatrical cut, which comes from my Letterboxd profile.
I'll be completely honest, it's a tossup between this movie and A New Hope as my favorite of the trilogy. I think I like A New Hope slightly better, but in my humble opinion, what this movie truly gets right better than either of the other two films is its emotional moments. I love the emotional conversations and turmoils in this movie. I love seeing Luke constantly going back and forth between demonstrating actions that prove he will be a force of good forever and demonstrating actions that seemingly show he might turn to the dark side with Darth Vader. I love him and Leia talking about their past together and both of them trying to get over the terrors of their childhood and accepting the truth about it (if you don't know why this is somehow, again, see the movies without knowing anything because I really, really wish I could have done the same). I love seeing Han feel like the one person he could truly reach out to in his life may be slowly pulling away from him (even if it's only for a few moments in the film). I love Darth Vader thinking about his true motivations and if he wants to be on the dark side or not. I love Yoda's final conversation with Luke. I love the Ewoks!! I know, that's not really an emotional moment, they're just adorable and I wanted to add that in (I have no idea if that's unpopular or not, but I don't care).
This movie nails every single one of its emotional moments better than possibly either of the previous two, with the conclusion of this movie feeling like a fitting conclusion to this trilogy. That's another thing I love about all of these movies, by the way: they all serve as three parts of one large story, but they also serve as great movies on their own even disregarding how great they are as a trilogy. The progression of these movies feels natural, and I can't honestly think of a single moment that I think should have been cut out of any of these movies. The build-up is just so perfect and the reward for making it to the end of the third film is completely satisfying. The action is also super fun here. Possibly my favorite scenes of the entire trilogy are when Luke and Leia fly on hovercrafts in the Endor forest. Even though the green screen doesn't hold up as well today as it did back in 1983, I was able to disregard that completely and get sucked into thinking that I was flying through the forest and past the trees with blinding speed on these hovercraft. That's the kind of action I love the most, the kind where you can feel the movement going on in the action itself. It's truly incredible action. All of my previous praises about the previous two Star Wars movies hold true here, and Han and Leia's relationship feels so much more fleshed out and natural in this movie than in The Empire Strikes Back.
Now, I will say, this is the only movie from the trilogy I actually have even slight glaring errors with the filmmaking here. There's a scene that focuses on two suns again that also contains a burping creature in the background, which could have been cut out of the scene entirely. Also, there's a scene where one of the Imperial soldiers jumps out of nowhere to surprise the main heroes, and for some reason, even though the green screen didn't bother me in the flying through Endor sequences, it was really jarring here. There are a couple small, jarring editing moments like that that really jump out at me. Other than that, just like the previous two movies, this movie is not afraid to hold back and give the full intensity of the situation possible from the rating this movie was given.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is a fantastic conclusion to a trilogy where every single moment felt like a natural progression of the story, and I frankly like it better than The Empire Strikes Back. Also, I just love Jabba the Hutt as a villainous presence. I love that he's just a literal slimeball and that a sci-fi epic like this is the only way anyone would be able to get away with a joke like that and not make it come across as cheesy.
Letter Grade: A