Return of the Jedi

Thanks to imdb.com for cast and release information.

The Empire Falls....

Introduction

Return of the Jedi was the third Star Wars movie to be released, and is the sixth episode in the Star Wars Universe. Jedi was never as popular as the other two movies of the first trilogy, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, largely due to Lucas' shift in focus. For Jedi, George Lucas switched his target audience somewhat from science fiction fans and concentrated on a younger market, a trend that you can see continuing in the recent Episode 1 and 2. Hence, Ewoks, cuddly little mini-Chewbaccas - living teddy bears that inspired their own made for tv movie and pissed off the hardcore science fiction fans.

Jedi also has much more of a Hollywood feel than the other two movies. It concentrated more on action and adventure than the storytelling and world-builing of Star Wars and Empire. Despite the focus on younger audiences, Jedi still did very well, grossing $24.4 million opening weekend, and $309.2 million overall. It remains very popular - #122 on IMDB's top 250 list, though not nearly as high as Star Wars (#9) or even Empire (#16).

Return of the Jedi wasn't always called that, however. The movie was originally filmed under the title Blue Harvest to keep third-party merchandisers from flooding the market, and to keep attention away from the filming. Even after the Blue Harvest ruse was dropped, Jedi didn't quite have its name. The movie was going to be released as Revenge of the Jedi, until Lucas decided - so late into the game that Revenge posters had already been sent to theaters - that revenge wasn't really something a jedi was into.

Although the Star Wars cycle was originally planned as a nine movie cycle to be completed by 1997, Jedi (released in 1983) was to be the last Star Wars movie to be released for the next 16 years.

It is also worth pointing out the Jedi was the first movie to be shown in a THX-certified theater.

Basic Info

Released: 1983
Directed by: Richard Marquand
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan & George Lucas
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG

Plot Outline

Warning - spoilers! I'm going to consider Star Wars a classic. Just as I have no qualms telling you, for example, Rosebud is a sled, I have no qualms telling you, for example, that Darth Vader eventually renounces the dark side. I hope this doesn't bother you.

Our movie opens. Han Solo has been imprisoned by the gangster Jabba the Hut, and hangs out in his den encased in carbonite, a sort of art deco wall-hanging. Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian, disguised as bounty hunters, manage to weasel in and get Han unfrozen, aided by Chewbacca. But that's as far as they get before Jabba puts and en to their shenanigans, imprisons them all, and makes Leia his personal slave-dancer - a position that involves the infamous gold bikini.

Rescue attempt two: Luke Skywalker rolls up, pronounces himself a Jedi, and proceeds to get himself captured by Jabba as well. But that's ok, he's a Jedi, remember?

So Jabba's got an evil plan. He's gonna take Luke, Chewwy, Han, and Lando, and toss them into The Sarlacc Pit where they'll be painfully digested over 1,000 years. You know the routine. A big fight scene ensues, and we see the end of Jabba the Hut, Boba Fett, and countless of Jabba's cronies. Thus ends the first act of the movie.

Luke now returns to Dagobah to meet up with Yoda and complete his training, like he promised back in Empire. He learns from Yoda that he has learned all he can. But is he a Jedi yet? No. One task remains: confront imperial bad-ass Darth Vader, who happens to be Luke's father. Yoda dies, does the classic jedi dissolve, and Luke is off. Oh, somewhere in there Luke learned that Leia is his sister. Thus ends act two.

Now for the final act of the movie, and the original trilogy. As it turns out, the empire is building another Death Star. Luckily for the rebels this Death Star is (supposedly) non-operational, being still under construction. Unfortunately, it's also gaurded be a giant energy shield thingy being projected from the sentry moon of Endor.

In order to destroy the shield generator, Han Solo volunteers to lead a strike force, bringing along his buddies Chewwy, Luke, Leia, and some other random rebels. Wackiness ensues on the sentry moon: speeder bike fights, a weird love triangle between Luke, Leia, and Han (as far as Han and Leia can tell, Luke hasn't brought up the whole sister thing yet), and mostly Ewoks, Ewoks, Ewoks.

While on the moon, Luke realizes that Vader can sense his presence. He's endangering the mission, and so goes alone to surrender to the Empire, so Vader will leave his buddies alone. This opens up a whole new can of worms because Emperor Palpatine can now attempt to lure him to the dark side of the force.

Back down on the Endor, after a cute misundertanding with the Ewoks, the rebels manage to enlist their aid. They attack the shield generator, but our thwarted by a legion of the empire's best men.

Meanwhile, is space, the attack on the Death Star is beginning. But wait, the shield is still up! This prompts Admiral Ackbar, a fishy looking dude, to utter his (in)famous line:

"It's a trap!"

Back on Endor, the Ewoks show up in full force, and the battle is joined. The rebels eventually manage to get the shield down, and Ackbar sends his men in full force. This is a good thing, because as it turns out, the Death Star was in fact fully functional, and has spent a good fifteen minutes tearing the rebel fleet apart.

The rebels manage to destroy the Death Star, but not before Luke manages to defeat the emperor's will and win his father away from the dark side, minutes before the whole things goes up in a glorious, sparkly explosion.

Luckily for Luke, he manages to catch an escape shuttle down to Endor with his dying father just in the nick of time.

The whole thing ends with Vader's funeral, Leia falling in love with Han once and for all, and party, Ewok-style, complete with worldbeat music and fireworks.

Cast

Mark Hamill         as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford       as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher       as Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams  as Lando Calrissian
Anthony Daniels     as C-3PO 
Peter Mayhew        as Chewbacca 
Sebastian Shaw      as Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid       as The Emperor 
Frank Oz            as Yoda
James Earl Jones    as Voice of Darth Vader
David Prowse        as Darth Vader
Alec Guinness       as Obi-Wan Kenobi 
Kenny Baker         as R2-D2
Michael Pennington  as Moff Jerjerrod 
Kenneth Colley      as Admiral Piett
Michael Carter      as Bib Fortuna
Denis Lawson        as Wedge
Timothy M. Rose     as Admiral Ackbar
Dermot Crowley      as General Madine 
Caroline Blakiston  as Mon Mothma 
Warwick Davis       as Wicket
Jeremy Bulloch      as Boba Fett

Many Bothans died to bring you this information

The beautiful thing about home theatre is that you can watch this important film in the way it is best enjoyed.

First, you should watch The Empire Strikes Back if you haven't enjoyed it recently, just to set everything up.

Now you have a choice. You may choose to watch the short Star Wars film Escape from Jabba's Palace. This short feature is shown at the beginning of Return of the Jedi and runs about 1/2 hour. It comes in two versions, with the "special edition" version featuring an enhanced musical number. It also features a cameo by the enigmatic Boba Fett.

You may also skip Escape from Jabba's Palace without any significant loss to the storyline.

Now, the main film. Again, it's about 1/2 hour long. It's the story of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker. We follow along as Luke Skywalker travels to the "forest moon of Endor," ditches his loser friends and goes on to rendevzous with his father. Inexplicably, the film is intercut with something called "Ewok sequences." Since I have never watched these since the film debuted in the theatre, I can't say much about them except that you can fast forward past them without loss.

Thus we come to the moment that three (or indeed six) films have been leading up to -- the man who was Anakin Skywalker must make a choice on which the fate of the galaxy hinges.

Despite the disappointment many fans express with this film, I enjoy the climactic scenes with Vader, Luke and Palpatine. I also love the vocal chorus that's Palpatine's leitmotif ... I wish we heard more of it. In fact, the arrangement of the John Williams score, including the pianissimo strains of the Imperial March in Vader's last scene, are wonderful.

Of course, I would change the ending (minor spoilers):


EXT. EWOK VILLAGE SQUARE - NIGHT

Rebels and Ewoks join together in dancing and celebration. The original group of adventurers watches from the sidelines. Only Luke seems distracted, alone in their midst, his thoughts elsewhere.

He looks off to the side and sees three shimmering, smiling figures at the edge of the shadows: Ben Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker

The ghostly Anakin looks over at Obi-Wan, and his face contorts in rage. Anakin's image flickers and winks out.

EXT. VADER'S FUNERAL PYRE

Vader's form stirs on the flaming pyre. His right arm raises and the fist clenches.

VADER
The Dark Side is stronger!

EXT. SPACE - ENDOR

The forest moon continues to rotate serenely for a moment as the Rebel Fleet orbits nearby. Suddenly the moon is racked in a paroxysm of convulsions. It explodes violently, wiping out the Rebel fleet in a series of minor secondary explosions.

FADE OUT.

END CREDITS OVER STAR FIELD.

Children in the front row of the theatre may cry now...

1. These first few lines are taken from the official screenplay.

Return of the Jedi was the second arcade game based on the Star Wars movie franchise. This Atari Games title was actually released in 1984, a full year before The Empire Strikes Back was. Which means that the games were made out of order. The films were released in this order Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and then Return of the Jedi. But the games went in this order Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, and then The Empire Strikes Back. This is admittedly a minor detail, but it is interesting nonetheless. If you have ever wanted to control Princess Leia or Chewbacca then this is your chance, as I can't recall any other title that had them as playable characters (except for Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi for the Playstation).

Gameplay

This title is quite a bit different from the other two Star Wars arcade games. The other titles had 3D vector graphics, while this title uses isometric perspective raster graphics. Or in layman's terms the other games were all lines and wireframes and this one is cartoon characters.

This game made heavy use of scene changes to attempt to bring a little bit of the movie to the small screen, often switching back and forth between sequences fairly quickly. All the scenes run on the same engine, and are controlled in very similar manners. Or in other words one scene may be all ewoks, speeder bikes, and trees, while the next will be spaceships and the Death Star, but it is really just the same thing with different graphics.

The main game scenes are the Forest Moon of Endor and the Death Star. The Death Star scenes always have you controlling the Millennium Falcon, while the Endor scenes feature both Princess Leia on a speeder bike and Chewbacca piloting an At-ST (the At-ST is the two legged Imperial walker, Chewie ended up with one of these near the end of the film somehow). The Ewoks in this game look more evil than cute, which may have been accidental, or it could have been some sort of subtle backlash at George Lucas for putting Ewoks in the movie in the first place.

I found this game to be far more difficult than the other games in the series, and not nearly as fun. I haven't played a real machine since 1985, but loading this game in MAME confirmed that it hasn't gotten any easier since that first time back when I was eight years old. The fast scene changes towards the end sequence were especially unnerving. I am talking mere seconds between scene changes.

The Machine

This particular game was available only in an upright dedicated cabinet. The cabinet design was similar to the design used on I, Robot and Major Havoc machines, but it wasn't exactly the same as either one of them. If you have never seen any of these machines, lets just say they are oddly shaped, and kind of top heavy. The marquee featured a "Return of the Jedi" logo that looked like it had been stolen directly from a movie poster (red letters on a background of stars with the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star clearly visible). The sideart only covered the top half of the machine. It was a montage of shots that was dominated by a picture of Princess Leia on a speeder bike and a large image of Darth Vader's head.

This title uses a pair of M6502 processors to run the game code, along with four Pokey chips for audio. This was one of the first titles Atari titles to modify all game options via a setup menu, rather than by using dip switches. Eighteen years later, the industry still hasn't fully converted over to being "jumperless".

All scenes are controlled with a flight yoke that is similar in design to the one used on the vector Star Wars game. This is usually the first thing to fail on any given machine. These can be rebuilt fairly easily though, but you may have to do a little bit of hacking to get them to work.

Where to play

You can play the actual arcade version using the MAME emulator. The home translations of this film had nothing in common with the arcade version. This game was uncommon even when it first came out, since it was released in 1984 at the height of the video game crash. I haven't seen one since 1985, and I doubt you will either. Most of them have ended up in the hands of collectors, or were parted out long ago.

I would only recommend adding this game to your arcade game collection if you are a real Star Wars fan. You are going to be paying a huge premium for this title, and it simply doesn't have the gameplay to go along with that high ticket price.

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