As with any great saga, there comes an ending. For now.
When Return of the Jedi debuted in movie theaters in 1983, one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind was: “What happened to Han Solo?”
Having been frozen in Carbonite and delivered the the crime lord Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine, Han’s fate was in danger, if not uncertain. But his friends already had an elaborate plan in place to infiltrate Jabba’s palace, and rescue Solo by any means necessary.
The first chapter of this film features constant danger for our heroes and they each make their appearance. And with Han’s rescue and Luke’s arrival, all the pieces are now on the board. The action sequences with the Rancor, the Sarlacc, and the destruction of Jabba’s empire start the movie out with a bang, and is one of my favorite segments of the entire film.
Again, the heroes part ways. Luke goes to finish his training with Yoda, and Han and company return to the Rebel fleet to plan an attack against a second Death Star, because the Empire doesn’t seem to think more broadly than space stations with super lasers (the first one worked so well, after all).
On Dagobah, Luke finds a dying Yoda, who confirms Vader’s previous claim, and reveals the heritage of his long-lost sister Leia (making those kissing scenes in Empire more than awkward). Luke also has a conversation with Obi-Wan’s spirit, who asserts what he said was true… “from a certain point of view”. The reasoning is protective, though the withholding of information turned out to be more damaging than the actual truth.
In the meantime, viewers are introduced to Emperor Palpatine (though modern viewers will probably take the Prequels as the “proper” introduction now). Ian McDiarmid’s first time in the role set the tone for the manipulative and cruel despot, and is still a high point in the series. Darth Vader, however, is more uncertain and more contemplative, hinting that Vader is considering other options than delivering his son, though he remains a slave of the Emperor’s whims and control.
On Endor, the Rebel strike team looks to deactivate the shield generator for the second Death Star, and immediately get into a high speed Speeder Bike chase. In the meantime, Leia meeting the indigenous Ewoks of the planet, and prevents them from eating the heroes (as does C-3PO, since they interpret him as a god).
Luke goes to face his father. Han, Leia, and Chewbacca take on the shield generator, and Lando takes the Millennium Falcon to destroy the Death Star.
There’s a lot going on in the third act of Jedi, and the battles are even larger. While the Ewoks are certainly no Gungans, their “cute” factor does alter the tone of the film somewhat. Earlier drafts called for a Wookiee battle. Here, we get the equivalent of marketable teddy bears with spears.
The slowest conflict is the one on the Death Star itself between Palpatine, Vader, and Luke. It is largely a battle of wills and self-control. Palpatine knows how to press the right psychological buttons without lifting a finger (well, until later). Vader deduces that he has a second child that could be corrupted if Luke continues to refuse. Finally being pushed to the edge, Luke retaliates and easily defeats his father. He is at the verge of killing his father, but is reminded that is a mere step of becoming a slave to evil himself.
Luke resists and rises above his own temptation, and Palpatine cannot comprehend the concept of failure. He goes to kill Luke, but it is Luke’s unwavering belief in redemption for his father that sways Vader at the last moment, and finally fulfills his own prophecy to bring balance in the Force, killing Palpatine.
The shield generator is destroyed. Lando is now able to launch his attack. The Death Star begins to explode, and Vader dies, content that his child’s belief in him was his salvation in those final moments.
One final celebration takes place, though I’d wager the Ewoks are less celebrating the downfall of the Empire, and more rejoicing over a potentially substantial Stormtrooper food source (remember that they were going to eat the Rebel party earlier).
Luke sees the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin, and smiles knowing that all is now well in the galaxy.
Though later events have proven that their happiness was very short lived.
Jedi is a good closer to the Original Trilogy, in a time where fans wondered if we would ever see another Star Wars film again (it was 16 years between Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace). There was some uneven pacing moments in the second and third acts, but the film still managed to juggle multiple plot lines and reach a satisfying conclusion. If younger readers can believe it, Star Wars actually took a hiatus from the general public mindset between the mid 1980’s to early 1990’s, though another “drought” seems unlikely, if ever again.
Again, the film brought new worlds, aliens, and technology to the Star Wars galaxy, filling out the world that much more. Of course, this film had a Special Edition as well, but unlike Empire, Lucas decided to alter chunks of the film, ranging from a ludicrously bad CG dance number in Jabba’s palace, an extended ending showing all the planets in the galaxy celebrating, and in the last home video release, that goofy Darth Vader “Nooooooooooo” scream during the Sith Lord’s previously silent internal struggle. Ugh, Lucas. Why?
The wait between the next trilogy was far less for fans, thanks to Disney purchasing the franchise, which leads old and new generations to reunite with old friends, and meet the next warriors of the ongoing galactic struggle.