The Star Wars mania which had rocked the late 70's and become a huge phenomenon real quick finally came to an end in 1983 with Return Of The Jedi, the third instalment of the space opera which saw our heroes fight back after losing some steam against the Empire in the last movie.
Still frozen in carbonite, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), is hanging as a wall decoration in an alien blob's humble abode. Said blob is Solo's last employer Jabba The Hutt, a cold, vile and greedy creature who not only lets the guy gather up dust but soon reduces Leia (Carrie Fisher) to a scantily-clad slave woman and sets a trap (it's a trap!) for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), before almost having him thrown in the Sarlacc (don't ask) pit for lols. Luckily, Luke has now pretty much mastered the powers of the Force and is a bonafide Jedi master so the gang are promptly reunited and escape, droids and all.
The tone for this one is a little different than in the previous films.
A New Hope was relatively bright and upbeat, The Empire Strikes Back was dark and pessimistic, Jedi... is both and neither, really. Perhaps the best way to describe it is it's positively bittersweet. Yes there are Ewoks and Ewoks, I think we can all agree, are a bit too kid-friendly for their own good even if they're far from being half as annoying as Gungans, so that's one mostly harmless thing about this movie. But then there are some genuinely heartfelt moments including a surprisingly touching Yoda scene, the first proper Luke and Leia conversation, Darth Vader's human side coming through, Han Solo showing vulnerability when he is blinded early on and Lando Calrissian redeeming himself.
There's an underlying feeling when watching Return Of The Jedi that we won't see these characters again in further adventures so that bittersweet tone is right there from the beginning.
This is definitely a film of two halves: the whole Solo rescue mission is one, the destruction of the new Death Star is the other. The former being more reminiscent of A New Hope's straight-forward, old-fashioned feel, the latter mirroring Empire's moodier tone and plot. It's a real shame that Return Of The Jedi's big new introduction is the Ewoks because, while this Death Star is meant to be way bigger in size than the previous one, there was a real opportunity here to present a new, different physical threat. Why would the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) build another big space ball after the last one proved so ineffective and so easily destructible? Perhaps a Hellish nebula or an otherworldly "weapon" in that vein embodying the Dark Side itself in a faraway, nearly unknown part of the galaxy somehow controlled by Palpatine would have presented our heroes with a real challenge.
Star Trek V, anyone?
Bottom line is: if little bears can screw you over, you're so not good at your job.
The inner conflicts Vader and Luke are faced with, however, bring weight to the final lightsaber battle which is just as nail-biting as it should have been. The fact that Leia was being built-up as the next badass Jedi in this makes you wish that Episode VII had been made much earlier with more emphasis on Carrie Fisher's character and her own arc. This third movie does a lot of things right and even though it's got way too many puppets and cutesy stuff in there, by the end it still gets the job done pretty well and can stand proudly next to its two predecessors. Try to avoid the reworked versions if you possibly can as an awful musical number with CGI creatures is added along with an awkward Hayden Christensen cameo and some Gungans dancing happily right at the end.
Overall, Return Of The Jedi may not be the best of the Star Wars films but it's arguably the most affecting. There's a sense throughout that this is the last we'll see of our heroes and it's kind of heartbreaking. It's uneven and makes some weird decisions here and there but, ultimately, it delivers.
What do you mean there's an Episode VII?!
Should probably see that...