Return of the Jedi Worth the Price of Admission
First, the fight scenes at the end of the film convey the feelings of pure desperation. The battle in space outside the Death Star was unlike any aerial dogfight ever shown before on celluloid. The sheer insanity of so many ships fighting in such small quarters was incredible. From the small armada jumping to hyperspace, to flying into the teeth of the TIE fighters, to the imposing Star Destroyers hanging back, the battle was worth the price of admission. The scenes were beautifully scripted, shot, and cut. People forget just how innovative the technology was at the time. The fight on the forest moon between the Rebels and the Empire was necessary, but again if you’re not a fan of the Ewoks, then this fight was scoffed at.
Second, the battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker was fantastic as well. It demonstrated how far Luke had progressed in his development as a Jedi. For starters, Luke completed the construction of his lightsaber in Obi-Wan’s hut on Tatooine. This was necessary because his old one was lost somewhere beneath Cloud City. Luke fought with both offensive and defensive maneuvering, and the ebb and flow of the battle was engaging.
Enter the Emperor
Goaded by the Emperor, Luke gives in to temptation and takes the fight to Vader. When Luke retreats and is taunted by Vader regarding Leia, Luke taps into the dark side and viciously attacks him. Only after the damage is done does Luke examine his choice and reject the dark side, famously telling the Emperor, “You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” This leads me to my next point.
Up until this point, the Emperor had only been seen through a holographic image in ESB. Here he was menacing personified. The Emperor’s cruel treatment of both Luke and Vader cemented his standing as the foremost evil despot in the galaxy. Ian McDiarmid’s portrayal of the Emperor was a standout performance. He created a character that was simple yet layered, because we know he wanted subordinates yet we don’t know why. As the singular ruler of a galaxy, one would think that he’d want to centralize his power, not share it. Perhaps he treated his subordinates as playthings, constantly keeping them under his thumb. However, this was his undoing. Finally, Darth Vader rejected the rule of his Master and instead saved his only son.
Think about the title
Here is where the movie really makes sense. Think about the title, Return of the Jedi. Most people view it as the return of the force wielding monks who will be the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. Instead, I want you to think about like this – put the emphasis on the word “the” in the title: Return of THE Jedi. I think the title refers to the return of Anakin Skywalker, THE Jedi, the one who will bring balance to the Force. When you look at the original trilogy, it becomes the tale of two Skywalkers, both becoming the Jedi they were born to be. When you look at it from that angle, Return of THE Jedi, the trilogy takes on a whole new meaning.
While there are some obvious flaws with the film, Return of the Jedi is at its heart the completion of two story arcs, one smaller (Luke) and one larger (Anakin/Darth Vader/Anakin again). Rewatch it and pay attention to just the focal points I mentioned, the movie is worthy of no lower than the top five of anyone’s Star Wars ranking.