I have a confession to make, it’s not my darkest confession by a long stretch but some might consider it to be my worst. Okay, deep breath… I think that ‘Return of the Jedi’ is the best film in the Star Wars Saga.
As a child, I watched all three episodes of the original trilogy and found each one had merits of its own. I loved the energy of the first film and connected deeply with Obi-wan as a character. ‘Empire Strikes Back’ has some great fight scenes but the part on Dagobah seemed to drag although the duel on Cloud City brought it back. ‘Return of the Jedi’ (RoTJ) however had it all for me. This is not something I could ever admit to. Amidst hardcore fans, the general consensus is that ‘Empire Strikes Back’ wins hand down and that out of the three ‘Return of the Jedi’ is the worst.
As many know, Star Wars fans can be a rabid lot and very soon I was agreeing with the masses, until one day I realised what I was doing.
So what makes RoTJ the one for me? Firstly it was the culmination of the trilogy and at that point the end of Star Wars forever, it had weight and gravitas. It called to a close the Empire and saw the Rebellion win through.
In everything I watch it is the supporting characters and details that fascinate me the most, even with Star Trek I spent hours logging every starship seen and the crew upon it. Star Wars has such detail in abandon. Jabba’s Palace is full of weird and wonderful aliens each with back stories and different languages, we see more of the inner workings of the rebellion and meet the legendary Admiral Ackbar. There is a whole range of ships including A-Wings and Mon Cal cruisers. We get to see the fleet as a whole and understand that it’s not just our heroes who are making this happen.
Linked to this is the amazing work of Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, he oozes malevolence and has some great lines in the throne room, speaking of which the duel between Luke and Vader is excellent set off nicely with his redemption.
Now we come to the difficult part… I like Ewoks. I know people thought it stupid that Teddy Bears could defeat Stormtroopers but they didn’t really, the film showed clearly that despite an initial success caused by surprise the Imperial troops soon started to paste the little furries. In the long term, the Stormtroopers would have won but it was the application of the Rebel Commandos on the shield station leading to the destruction of the Death Star and the Emperors death that tipped that balance.
I love the assault on the Death Star, I love Ackbars ‘It’s a Trap’ line and I love that it isn’t one of the main characters that delivers the coup de’grace on the station – Lando, Wedge and Nien Numb the Sullustan. These were real characters fighting for their future and not relying on ‘chosen ones’ to win through.
In my eyes the space battle in RoTJ is bigger and better than the trench run of Star Wars, the ground combat admittedly is better in Empire but there is greater heart shown in the rescue of Han and later Lukes attempts to redeem his father. The speeder bike chase is amazing and the Ewoks add a little relief from the dark tone, although do not forget that they eat people and its best not to ask what happened to the stormtroopers inside the helmets they use as drums.
Now that I have absolved myself I promise to continue to be true to my own views. We all have differing opinions on what is best and Sci-fi is a wide and varied genre that really can accommodate all. So you can all believe ‘Empire’ is the best if you like, it is your right, but know that I will be thinking you are wrong!