If you’ve read any of my reviews on the original trilogy, you undoubtedly know that Star Wars had a tremendous impact on my childhood. That’s true for many young boys. It was the film franchise of choice, and it wasn’t just a series of movies. The beauty of Star Wars is that it encompasses an entire galaxy of dreams beyond our own. It’s a world that reflects ours in many ways — the difference is that they have lightsabers. But not just lightsabers. Aliens. Spaceships. Planets. The Force. Characters who for all intent and purposes live like us. Good, that is in constant conflict with the evil in the world. It’s a struggle that is constantly evolving.
As a boy, Return of the Jedi always appealed to me the most, and I can still understand that even to this day. This film is the conclusion to the story. It enacts the happy ending that all of us desire as human beings who have an inherent love for storytelling. This film continues the saga of these characters that most everyone has grown to love.
The set pieces are a great deal of fun from Jabba’s Palace to the sail barge where Luke shows off his newfound skills and Boba Fett earns a trip to the Sarlacc Pitt. Then the forest moon of Endor where the cute little Ewoks dwell in full force ready to combat the Empire. In fact, there are numerous heart-wrenching cinematic experiences, but few things are worse than the moment when that Ewok shakes his friend only to find him dead — never to move again. Is there no justice in the galaxy?
There’s the assault of the ragtag rebel fleet against the overwhelming firepower of the Imperials and their newly constructed Death Star where Lando Calrissian, Wedge Antilles, and Admiral Ackbar become standouts in their own right. Finally, there’s the showdown between Luke and Vader, father and son, as the Emperor looks on in wrathful glee. On multiple fronts the action takes place and each one is a thoroughly engaging piece of this fuller, grander narrative.
There’s something so satisfying about seeing all the many planets in the galaxy celebrating simultaneously when evil has been quelled and peace is fully restored. Because, again, there is something inside of each of us that seems to desire that type of fellowship and joy. You might say that this is only a Star Wars movie, but then again the reason so many people followed this story was not so much for the action, but for the characters because we cannot help but love them.
The dynamic between Han, Luke, and Leia is wrought with conflict but also great love and affection. C3P0 and R2 beep and bicker like an old married couple, and yet there’s so much concern there. Even as Han is freed from his carbonite prison, a helpless corpse, Chewie is always by his side to watch out for his buddy. Ultimately, most importantly of all is the central narrative of Luke and his father. Return of the Jedi is coming full circle as Luke returns to face his father. But he finally understands that this is not about vanquishing this villain or even confronting his fear. It’s more than that. It’s about teasing out the good that still dwells inside of this shell of a man formerly known as Anakin Skywalker. And when that relationship is renewed all the other relationships are made better.
Thus, Return of the Jedi will forever be spellbinding, because I feel like a young boy once more watching this sci-fi mythology unfolding in front of me in glorious majesty. There is a suspension of disbelief that envelops this story for all the aforementioned reasons. There is no question in my mind about the logic or the way things tick or so on. I accept them for what they are and truly and fully allow myself to be immersed in a world, “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away.” There certainly are better films, but few films have gripped me time and time again like Return of the Jedi. I will hold onto it proudly for as long as I watch movies.