Skywalker Countdown | ‘Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’

Each week, leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, we will ask certain Matrix team members for their takes on every Star Wars film in chronological order. Last week, we discussed Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

(Catch up if you need. We’ll wait…) 

This week, we will unfold our thoughts on Return of the Jedi, the first of three times when fans thought they were seeing the final installment. While it’s not everyone’s favorite, it wrapped the trilogy up with a neat little bow, while leaving room for more stories to come.

Return of the Jedi follows the Rebel alliance on a final mission to destroy the Empire, while Luke confronts his father and the Emperor one last time. There’s so much to talk about in this film, let’s see what our members at MoviesMatrix have to say…

Q1. General Thoughts?

Marsellus Durden: Admittedly, this is not one of my favorites in the franchise but what this film does well is provide us a rollicking climatic adventure with our lovable band of Rebels. Seeing Luke Skywalker defeat Jabba’s gang on Tatooine is pure cinematic fun, but the highlight of the film is definitely the tragic finale as Luke finally pulls his father from the Dark Side. He got to see his father’s true self, albeit briefly, and that victory for me is even more enjoyable than seeing the Death Star blow up for a second time.

Logan Slavin: I love this movie. It introduces my favorite lightsaber color, green, and it’s great to see Luke as a full-fledged Jedi! It might be the weakest of the trilogy, but that by no means makes it bad. It’s still a really good movie in my opinion.

Owen: It’s a very good movie. The world-building is terrific. I love all of the creative worlds and creatures, but even better than that is the character of Luke. His journey from start to finish is well told, inspiring, and (in my opinion) leads perfectly to where we see him next in The Last Jedi. Besides some issues with its pacing, this is a really solid movie.

Michael ColanReturn of the Jedi is the weakest of the trilogy but I don’t think it’s anywhere near bad as some might say. The beginning at Jabba’s Palace is too long and doing the Death Star again is a bit boring (not to mention the Leia reveal doesn’t add up to much). This has the best space battle and, while the character work isn’t as strong as Empire, the characters do continue to evolve and complete their arcs, and the emotional heights the movie reaches are fantastic.

WriteOnGeek: In the case of most trilogies, the storylines tend to fizzle out and the characters need to compensate with action instead of mission. Luke was introduced as a true Jedi badass, and while his storyline was completely separate from his gang that tends to divide the audience’s attention, watching Luke’s culmination was a nice payoff in front of the Emperor. Not to mention, but the Ewoks were the largest marketing coup in the history of the franchise. 

Q2. Favorite Scene

Marsellus Durden: The final portion of the escape from Jabba’s lair immediately comes to mind. Especially the infamous head nod/look of acknowledgement scene. The quiet but intense pause before the grand escape makes the action to follow all the more satisfying.

Logan Slavin: My favorite scene is the throne room scene. The fighting in this movie is the best of the trilogy and the Emperor makes for an intimidating and mysterious villain. And Vader’s redemption was satisfying.

Owen: The entire Jabba’s Palace scene was so fun and creative that I have to choose that. There are so many creatures and new things we’ve never seen before, plus the whole heist was a really fun idea to play around with.

Michael Colan: Everything in the Throne Room between Luke, Vader and the Emperor. It is really everything his character has been building towards, he faces his greatest challenge, and this is where the movie is at its best. The character work, the lightsaber duel, it’s all incredible.

WriteOnGeek: Seeing Luke come into his own over Sarlacc’s Pit was hugely entertaining, largely because that big hole in the sand belched after swallowing a Gamorrean Guard. Free Bacon! But Luke’s journey came full circle as we saw — what we now know as that young Anakin rage that runs in the family — as he lets loose his inhibitions, whoops up on his dad, and then gets to watch Palpatine get hurled overboard. That was some of the best action in the history of the franchise. 

Q3. Ewoks, Love Them or Hate Them?

Marsellus Durden: Hating or loving the Ewoks is especially difficult. I didn’t mind them at all as a child, I actually enjoyed them a lot. As I matured, their scenes definitely felt a lot more corny and childish. Overall, they don’t ruin the film, but their battle with the Stormtroopers hasn’t really aged well. Especially compared with the drama and action from the previous two entries in the saga.

Logan Slavin: I love Ewoks, but I might be a little biased. My dog kinda looks like one. But looking at them story-wise, they’re still not that bad. They’re cute and they serve their purpose well.

Owen: Love them. They’re cute, menacing, and stand for something greater. The meaning behind them is what’s kept them interesting to me as I’ve matured. It’s not about teddy bears killing armored soldiers, it’s nature beating technology.

Michael Colan: I don’t have a problem with them. I think it’s bit silly but Star Wars has always been a bit silly. I like Lucas’s thoughts behind the Ewoks and ties in with his post-Vietnam musings that is written in throughout the trilogy.

WriteOnGeek: They were innocent and fun. Jar Jar seemed to be the attempt at childlike cuteness, but we all know how that ended up. Sure, the more a fan grows up, the more campy and ham-handed the script seems dealing with them, but who cares? They’re pet dogs that stand up right. Some of the most memorable creatures in the history of Star Wars. That stands for something. 

Q4. The Trilogy Ending?

Marsellus Durden: Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of this entry nor its need for a 2nd death star but Vader’s redemption in saving Luke and overthrowing the Emperor is heartwarming. The scene is an emotional triumph for Luke’s journey as our hero.

Logan Slavin: I think it wraps the saga up well. Vader’s redemption was nice and felt earned, even if a bit rushed. It resolved the cliffhanger of the previous movie quickly so they could get on with the rest of the story, which is good.

Owen: Very well, but also held the door open a bit for more to come. It was a great way to end it, but it also posed the question of what happened next? What happened to the Empire? Luke? Han and Leia? Lando? These questions don’t need to be answered, but they were enough to build a whole trilogy off of, starting with The Force Awakens (which we’ll be going over next week. *wink wink*).

Michael Colan: It wraps up this part of the story mostly well. Aside from Leia getting the short shift, this is a proper conclusion to this trilogy as Revenge of the Sith is to the prequels.

WriteOnGeekJedi served its purpose. If we never got the prequels or the sequels — which at the time, no one knew we would — most of the questions we had were answered. Force Ghosts and all. Trepidation. Redemption. Culmination. I was happy to buy it in several different versions.   

Q5. Favorite Piece of Music?

Marsellus Durden: “The Return Of The Jedi” piece accompanies my favorite scene right before R2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber and they overthrow Jabba’s gang. The aforementioned slow build just before the battle tightens the tension perfectly so that when the familiar Star Wars melody finally crashes in, it definitely creates a heroic moment worth cheering for.

Logan Slavin: My favorite piece of music is called “Finale”. It’s a great triumphant piece of music that plays at the end of the movie if I remember correctly.

Owen: “Yub-Nub”… bring it back!

Michael Colan: This is my hottest take but my favorite is the piece that Williams put together for the special edition ending for the galaxy montage. I think it feels more grand, much more reflective and feels like a proper conclusion to the movie and the characters’ respective journeys.

WriteOnGeek: I was always a fan of “The Emperor.” We see that shriveled old prune with a bad dental plan brooding over his prize apprentice and what he believes will destroy “Young Skywalker.” Williams is a master of setting a tone, and this piece is one of his most artful compositions to make that scene seem as tangible as possible. 

Make sure to read last week’s article on Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and check back to MoviesMatrix next week for a similar breakdown of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

All images courtesy of Disney/Lucasfilm LTD

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