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Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi - 4K Bluray Review

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Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

This film would be the culmination for a generation of Star Wars fans, and we couldn’t have been better primed for it. We would wait three years to learn the answers to the most tantalizing cliffhangers ever conceived. Was Han Solo gone forever? Was Darth Vader lying to Luke? I can still remember my excitement going to the local drive-thru in 1983.

Return of the Jedi went through a last minute title change, excising Revenge and replacing it with Return, as, To Lucas, it wasn’t in keeping with a Jedi’s ethos (rather expensive last minute change, if you ask me, but George could afford it).

"Return of the Jedi was a satisfying ending to the trilogy with a few rough edges: it is beloved for a reason"


Lucas, now deep in the development of his Lucasfilm production empire (couldn’t resist), again chose to use hired hands to get him to the finish line. After the likes of Steven Spielberg and David Lynch were considered, Welshman Richard Marquand was hired to direct with Lawrence Kasdan again picking up writing duties.

In this final chapter of the original trilogy we pick up some time after Lando and Chewy take off in search of Han. C3P0 and R2D2 are again walking to sands of Tattooine toward nefarious gangster Jabba the Hutt’s palace. They are secretly part of Luke’s plan to rescue Han, who is hanging like a painting in Jabba’s throne room. While this is going on, we see that the Empire is a three quarters of the way through constructing a new Death Star. Vader is sent to speed things along as the Emperor is pissed at the time its taking (what a task master! The first one took 19 years to build!). When Luke reveals himself to Jabba, not as the inexperienced student we last saw, but as a confident Jedi, he successfully frees Han from the vile slug’s clutches with the element of surprise and the help of all our heroes. Upon successfully returning to the Rebellion, they have learned of the Emperor’s plans and are mounting a second assault to destroy a Death Star and finish the Empire once and for all.

This was where the narrative debts established in the first two films had to be paid off. This is also where we started to see Lucas’s flaws as a storyteller and, whether he wants to admit it or not, where we start to see a lot of course corrections in the saga. For perspective, when an elite athlete like Jordan scored plenty of points and won the match, but not his all time record, nobody bitches nor claims the game a loser. He still won. So too is Return of the Jedi a winner. It’s a satisfying final product; it’s just not at the level of the last two. {googleads}

The overall narrative of Jedi is mired with repetition but is still reasonably solid. It’s basically the last half hour of Star Wars expanded and tweaked. The rescue of Han takes up the first act, and is essentially a separate tale from the rest of the story, but boy what a sequence it is. What doesn’t dip is the vastness of Lucas’s imagination. From Jabba, the Rancor, Skiffs, the Sarlacc, Ewoks and Biker Scouts, these amazing moments come thick and fast throughout and never let up.

Where the film comes unstuck is character. Whether it’s because Marquand was essentially a hired hand (unlike Kershner) or Lucas’s influence had raised to such heights no one challenged him anymore, there are truly head-shaking moments throughout that could have easily been better. Han Solo really has no story in this last entry, and his character is grossly underwritten. From his scene on the skiff; here you have Lando dangling precariously over a Sarlacc pit: the Han Solo we saw in Star Wars and Empire would have hesitated when rescuing a man that betrayed him. Instead the scene is played only for laughs (although it’s good). With but a few lines externalizing his internal struggle, maybe a to-and-fro with Chewy about it, that would have been Solo as we knew him instead of the neutered version we got. Had Kersher done the film, I think moments like these would have been found and worked. The Boba Fett death is a terrible waste. The explanations from Obi Wan re Vader’s reveal are laughably bad. And then, there is Leia’s response to Luke’s reveal that they are siblings: “I know… Somehow, I’ve always known.” WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? You kissed him in Empire! Even as a kid, I didn’t buy that. Now it’s been explained away and theorized and forgiven etc, but fuck that, it’s not dealt with in the movie and it is just horrendously bad writing. I was 8 years old when Jedi came out, so I loved the Ewoks. As an adult, I still like them, as preposterous as Teddy bears taking down the Empire’s forces are. Some hated them and still hate them. All right, let’s move on.

What did they get right? SO MUCH! Luke’s arc is so good. His powers are now formidable, his last moment with Yoda, the confrontation with his father and the sinister Emperor. This is definitely the film where Mark Hamill shines above the others. C3P0 again gets some wonderful comedic relief scenes. Chewy’s love of Han and his devotion are brilliant. The effects are really top shelf and show the progression and mastery of the special effects team, especially in how intricate the final space battle over Endor is. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

All the performers are great, but the stand out for me in this one is Ian McDairmid as the Emperor. His sinister performance and line deliveries chew every scene he inhabits. It is no wonder he has been brought back time and again, but they were never as on point as his first portrayal.

Richard Marquand was apparently not so great with all the effects work required and Lucas was apparently on set most of the time. I think Marquand’s input to the picture was more laborer than architect. Lawrence Kasden, one of the most brilliant screenplay writers of the time, fought Lucas to do more but was ultimately overruled. Jedi is all Lucas choices, so the buck stops with him.

The good far outweighed the bad, and it did leave us pining in the following decade… which brings me to the special edition changes.

Sigh… the bulk of Jedi’s changes are cosmetic. The most garish of the original changes was the redoing of the musical number in Jabba’s palace. Heavily CGIed, with redone music, an additional digital lead co-singer, it’s just bloody awful. They also gave Wicket blinking eyelids and took off Vader’s eyebrows when Sebastian Shaw’s mug is revealed—not terrible. Later, after Revenge of the Sith was filmed, Lucas decided to remove Shaw’s redeemed Anakin ghost and replace him with Hayden Christianson… And then there’s the addition of Vader’s whiney bitch line delivery of NOOOOO! YIKES. None of these changes affect the story really, much like Empire, but I really dislike them. I find removing Shaw’s work from the tail end of the film particularly irksome and disrespectful.

Return of the Jedi was a satisfying ending to the trilogy with a few rough edges: it is beloved for a reason.

4/5 stars

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

4K

4K Details:

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD

Home Video Distributor: Disney / Buena Vista
Available on Blu-ray
- March 31, 2020
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Japanese, Spanish
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX; French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1; Japanese: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray DiscThree-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K Blu-ray: Region free; 2K Blu-ray: Region A

VIDEO:

Okay, the over-all summation of this new transfer is inconsistent. There are moments, especially in the opening scene, where your eyes will pop at the detail and clarity. But the ham-fisted application of false grain and DNR to blend the effects with live action elements is sometimes quite noticeable. Again, I don’t want to make this sound like the film doesn’t look good, it most certainly does, but on large home displays its noticeable, and with Disney having all the original elements it’s inexcusable. HDR again aids to elevate this above previous releases, showing off impeccable blacks and bolder highlights. The lightsaber effects really get a pop. Overall depth of picture is better in all of the transfers, but is the weakest in this one.

AUDIO:

Again, there are no complaints here. You get 7.1 channels of DOLBY Atmos and it’s a thing to behold: so layered, so busy, and so beautifully crisp. Here, like Empire, you get some diverse and unique environments and the mix immerses you in them amazingly. The biker scout chase through the forest really came alive for me. The Emperor’s memorable lines echo through his throne room. John William’s epic score blasts through the room. It’s just amazing.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt, and Dennis Muren.
  • Cast and Crew (Archival).

Special Features:

Why bother

  • New - Conversations: The Effects
  • New - Discoveries from Inside: The Sounds of Ben Burtt
  • Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi
  • NEW! Revenge of the Jedi Teaser Trailer
  • NEW! Return of the Jedi Launch Trailer
  • NEW! It Began TV Spot
  • NEW! Climactic Character TV Spot
  • Interviews
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • The Collection

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  3/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3.5/5 stars

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Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi action violence.
Runtime: 131 mins
Director: Richard Marquand
Writer: George Lucas; Lawrence Kasdan
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Genre: Sci-Fi | Adeventure
Tagline: The Saga Continues.
Memorable Movie Quote: "A Jedi Knight? Jeez, I'm out of it for a little while, everyone gets delusions of grandeur!"
Theatrical Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Official Site:
Release Date: May 25, 1983
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 31, 2020.
Synopsis: After a daring mission to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels dispatch to Endor to destroy the second Death Star. Meanwhile, Luke struggles to help Darth Vader back from the dark side without falling into the Emperor's trap.

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Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

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