Over the moon of Endor, the Empire is in the final stages of the construction of a second Death Star. Darth Vader has arrived on his Super Star Destroyer to finish the construction of the superlaser before the Emperor arrives.
On Tatooine, members of the Rebellion hatched a secret plan to rescue Han Solo. C3PO and R2D2 arrive at Jabba’s palace and are given to him as gift from Luke Skywalker. Shortly after their arrival, a bounty hunter shows up with a captured Chewbacca. As Chewbacca is led away, it is also clear that Lando Calrissian has infiltrated Jabba’s Palace. Later that night, the bounty hunter walked into Jabba’s throne room and released Han Solo from his Carbonite prison. After revealing herself to be Leia Organa, they are recaptured by Jabba and she is made to be his new slave.
Soon, a shadowy figure shows up at the palace and makes his way to Jabba. He reveals himself to Luke Skywalker and attempts to release his friends using his Force techniques. Jabba proves himself to be immune to the Force and drops Luke into a pit with a large Rancor waiting below. Luke ultimately kills the Rancor monster, and is sentenced to die in the Pit of Karkoon.
Jabba and his entourage transport Luke and Han to the Pit where the creature waits for them. However, it all appears to be part of the plot that Luke concocted; as Luke springs into action, R2D2 launches Luke’s lightsaber into the air and begins to attack Jabba’s soldiers. Lando reveals himself and assists. During the battle, Leia chokes Jabba to death and the captured Rebels escape from the Hutts.
As Lando, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca head back to the fleet, Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his training. Yoda, however, has informed him that his training was completed, but he needed to face Darth Vader once more before he would be considered a Jedi. Yoda dies shortly after, and Luke talks with Obi-Wan about his father. It is here that Luke learns that he has a sister – Leia.
Luke rejoins the Rebel fleet, which has obtained the new Death Star plans and have planned a 2-pronged attack to destroy it. Meanwhile, the Emperor has arrived on the Death Star and begins to implement a plan of his own to destroy the Rebels. When the Rebel strike force arrives at Endor using a stolen Imperial shuttle, Darth Vader uses the Force and finds that Luke is aboard. He allows the shuttle to land and informs the Emperor.
On the moon’s surface, the Rebels first encounter Imperial scouts, which they manage to dispatch. However, most of the rebels are captured by a race of small furry warriors named Ewoks. They worship C3PO as a God and attempt to eat the Rebels in celebration. Luke uses his Force powers to convince them otherwise. After C3PO tells them the story of the Rebellion, the Ewoks agree to join them. Luke, sensing Vader has landed on the planet, tells Leia that he is her brother and that Vader is their father. He then leaves the camp to surrender to Darth Vader and hopefully redeem him.
Luke meets the Emperor for the first time, and it is clear that this would become a battle of wills, with Vader being the prize to be won. And the battle over Endor would begin on three fronts in earnest. General Lando Calrissian and Admiral Ackbar send the fleet to Endor, and General Solo’s strike team begins their attack on the Shield Generator.
It would however, turn out to be a trap of the Emperor’s design; The shield generator was reinforced with a legion of the Empire’s elite troops, and the generator was sending out a jamming signal that was to fool the Rebels into crashing into it. Calrissian and the Rebels aboard the Falcon had deduced this quickly and began to withdraw from the area – only to find that the Imperial Fleet had been waiting for them. A battle in space had begun with the survival of the Rebellion at stake.
Meanwhile, General Solo’s team had been captured, but their captivity had been short-lived. The Ewoks attacked the Empire en masse and the battle for survival continued on the ground. Luke, however, felt his fear over the mission failing rising, and attempts to kill the Emperor. Darth Vader intervenes and the two of them begin to fight.
The battle changes for the worse when it is revealed that the Death Star’s superlaser is active. Once again, General Calrissian acts quickly and orders the fleet to attack the Imperial ships at close range. This was done to prevent the Death Star’s main weapon from being useful. Eventually, however, the Rebels on the surface eventually destroy the shield generator and the Rebel fighters fly through the superstructure of the Death Star.
In the Emperor’s chamber, Luke is confronted with the possibility of losing his life, and Darth Vader taunts him by suggesting that he will turn his sister over to the Dark Side. Luke loses it completely and attacks Vader with such fury that Vader is unable to fight back effectively. When Vader is defeated, Luke is offered Vader’s position. Luke reflects on how he got to this point, and tosses away his lightsaber. Declaring victory, he taunts the Emperor that he could not be converted to the Dark Side. Enraged, the Emperor attacks Luke with the Dark Side’s ultimate power, lightning. Even with his knowledge of the Force, Luke is unable to fight back.
With Luke on the verge of death, Vader is forced to decide once and for all where his sympathies lie. Finally acting on his feelings, Vader lifts the Emperor with his one good hand and tosses him down a chute that leads to the main power generator. This act of good will was not without its own price, as the lighting the Emperor blasted Luke with had also hit Darth Vader and mortally wounded him. Vader would have Luke remove his mask so that he could see his son.
In space, the Rebels manage to destroy the flagship of the Empire, and General Calrissian and Commander Antilles destroy the Death Star’s main power generator. As the Death Star is destroyed, Luke escapes and Leia senses her brother. She also declares her love for Han Solo after a misunderstanding.
While the celebration takes place on Endor, planets around the Galaxy also cheer the killing of the Emperor and the apparent destruction of the Empire’s war machine.
Review and Analysis:
Where The Empire Strikes Back started the trainwreck that would signal the beginning of the end of the Star Wars’ franchise, Return of the Jedi would prove to be the first death knell on its Doomsday Clock. The movie itself is a morass of scenes which take far too much time to develop with very little payoff.
The Pod Race Begins Here:
Yes, the Pod Race from The Phantom Menace got a trial run in Return of the Jedi. Specifically, the Speeder Bike chase scene plays out in many of the same ways as that Pod Race.
36 Minutes of …Tedium:
I cannot adequately describe the first 36 minutes of this film. Ultimately, it was supposed to be the rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.
This same plot execution was used in another second sequel, to almost similar effect.
Except, in this case, it was the Princess Leia-type character, along with the Han Solo-like character rescuing the Luke-type character.
The Pointy-Hooded Boss:
The Emperor’s Grand Plan-
- Knowing that the Rebels would use their intelligence resources to locate his new secret weapon, and confirm its existence, he…delivers a set of correct and accurate plans of the battlestation to the Rebellion.
- Knowing that the Rebels would send a sufficient naval force to attempt to destroy the secret battlestation, the Emperor…gives the Rebels the correct location of the battlestation.
- Knowing that the Rebels destroyed the first battlestation due to a lack of adequate countermeasures for smaller craft, the Emperor devises the use of a planetary projected shield. However, he discloses the existence of the shield…to the Rebellion.
- Knowing that the Rebels would send a strike force to deactivate the shield, the Emperor…gives the Rebellion the code to bypass the shield generator.
- Knowing that the Rebels would probably attack the generator using clandestine methods, the Emperor…decides to build the shield generator in an area surrounded by 100% forestry, thus removing the ability to reinforce the generator’s troops with heavy artillery or air support.
- Having given the Rebels the Death Star’s locations, specs, stats, and the shield code, the Emperor…limits his ground forces to the Generator’s personnel and 1 Legion of troops. He also limits his fleet to a single Super Star Destroyer and a Squadron of Star Destroyers, roughly the size of the fleet from The Empire Strikes Back.
This plan was a surefire success…for the Rebellion.
All is Forgiven…?
At the end of the movie, after saving Luke from certain death at the hands of the Emperor, Luke burns the Vader Armor in a pyre, and as the Rebellion celebrates their victory, Obi-Wan and Yoda’s Force Ghosts are joined by Anakin Skywalker.
This is where Lucas’ Divine Right of Kings Philosophy of the Force plays out just like new age American Christianity: All acts of evil and destruction and death can be forgiven with a single act of attrition or relative goodness. In Anakin/Vader’s case, saving Luke from the clutches of the Emperor is supposed to make up for this:
This goes on.
And while far too many fans are willing to forgive Anakin for his transgressions, anyone looking to speak for those who commonly have no voice (I tend to call them Faceless Victims because of their treatment by storytellers) would not.
Pizza Jabba the Hutt:
For an interplanetary gangster, Jabba has security as lax as any Imperial Command Center. While I can understand Jabba not recognizing Lando Calrissian, I cannot find a reason why Bobba Fett did not, considering he spent a considerable amount of time around Lando at Bespin.
One Final Humiliation for the Empire – and the Star Wars Franchise:
The Galactic Empire, equipped with this: (Death Star)
Whose Troops are Armed With This:
…were defeated by these:
Equipped with This:
But, at least the Ewoks believe in Air Support:
But the Empire, equipped with Thousands of These:
Also, Flame weapons seem to be a non-starter with the Empire. Although the Shield Generator should have been built somewhere like here:
Speaking of Heavy Armor:
The Empire had one of these on the surface of Endor:
And failed to use it.
Oh, and no one thought to call for reinforcements, either here or in space?
And, as is the Case with Sci-Fi Movies:
There are only 2 women in the film with any extended part. Mon Mothma, who is supposed to be one of the leaders of the Rebellion, but we only see her in one scene with a small speaking part. The other, of course, is Leia. No female Rebel troops, no female Rebel pilots. No women are shown working for the Imperials in any capacity.
And, of course, no Women of Color…anywhere.
And, Remember, David Lynch turned RotJ down to do THIS:
Celebrated director David Lynch had turned down Return of the Jedi on the grounds that Lucas would have not allowed him to exercise creative control. Although his version of Dune was a critical and commercial mishap, it still does not take away his rather correct assessment of what happened with the Star Wars franchise.
As I stated here, the Star Wars franchise is simply about boys with guns and laser swords and magic tricks saving the Princess from the Black Knight and the Evil King. Return of the Jedi is simply an extension of this concept.
It is hard to take the Galactic Empire seriously as a force to be reckoned with when their best troops are defeated by teddy bears armed with simple sticks and stones. Fans of the franchise often mention that Stormtrooper armor can stop blasters (despite any onscreen evidence otherwise), but watching Stormtroopers being beaten to death by midget bears with small axes is quite an embarassment to evil movie armies everywhere.
Ultimately, Leia Organa, is simply just a prize to be won, first by Luke Skywalker, then by Han Solo (once the Skywalker family situation attempted to harken back to the English “Victorian” Era). She never involved in any of the planning stages of the attacks against the Empire, nor does she personally lead the troops into battle anywhere. Leia also happens to be what the Japanese would call a Tsundere; a person who is supposed to be aloof, cold, and tough, but only because she uses it to mask her awkward feelings of love towards the rugged hero.
Anakin’s insta-redemption is very troublesome. This kind of reversal, while somewhat cathartic for Vader fans, is actually emblematic of the idea behind Faceless Victims. In other words, the lives of those who were slaughtered in the name of the Empire are now handwaved away because he saves a protagonist from his former ally. The justice that these victims should have gotten will never come. No one is going to face the music for the destruction of Alderaan. Or for the Jedi that were killed in the name of Palpatine’s greed – OR for Anakin’s misguided quest to save the wife he would kill anyway. In other words, a classic case of trying to provide a happy ending for a charismatic, but still irredeemably evil, character.
Unfortunately, while this should mark the end of the Star Wars franchise, the lure of the Green Side would prove to be too much for Lucas, and he would begin to go to work on first three movies for this franchise. And the trainwreck is going to upgrade to a multi-ship collision.