This may be my favorite installment of the trilogy. I love the first two films, but this is the culmination of the trilogy. It. Is. Epic. Following after the devastating events of The Empire Strikes Back comes Revenge Return of the Jedi. Moreover, this is the climax of the entire saga and the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, albeit at the last moment. The thrills from the previous two episodes are ramped up even more and really don’t let up until the end.
We return to Tatooine, bringing the trilogy (not to mention the entire saga) full circle and back to here it began. Just like Anakin returned to Tatooine a man, so does Luke, trulycoming into his own as a Jedi, rescuing his friends from one of the most dangerous criminal lords in the Outer Rim of the galaxy. In the middle of the desert, surrounding the Pit of Carkoon, in which the almighty Sarlacc dwells, a Sail Barge and many skiffs soar. A party rages inside the barge, and an execution is set to begin. Rather than the execution of a Jedi, a battle between that Jedi–Luke Skywalker, having just survived an encounter with the huge, slimy Rancor–and Jabba the Hutt’s minions ensues. Boba Fett (a fan favorite, despite a scant few minutes of screen time) meets his apparent demise, as does Jabba himself, and the heroes sail away from a crashing, smoking group of vessels–the trio is back!
Han, Leia, Lando and company meet back up with the Rebel Forces as they plan the destruction of a new Death Star, under construction while orbiting the moon of Endor. Han will lead some forces, including Leia, Chewbacca, the droids, and Luke (just returned from Dagobah after witnessing Yoda’s death) to the moon in order to take out a shield around the partially-constructed Death Star. At the same time, Lando will lead forces to assault the Imperial Fleet surrounding the Death Star to distract the attention from the forces on the forest moon. Once the shield is down, they can make their attack run, just like they did in the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope.
Shortly after arriving on the moon, we witness one of the most memorable sequences in the Star Wars saga: the speeder bike chase between Luke and Leia and some Imperial Scouts.
While on the moon, Luke surrenders himself to his father, Darth Vader, in order to draw him back to the Light Side of the Force. At the same time, the Rebel forces on Endor meet some of the locals, the Ewoks, who, despite their size, aid the Rebels in driving the invading Imperial troops from their home. It is a legen-wait for it-
Meanwhile, Lando and an alien guy we never are actually introduced (see above) to lead the battle against the Imperial fleet. This space battle is a feat, special-effects-wise, which is respectable even by today’s standards, I think. While the battles rage on, Vader has taken Luke aboard the Death Star to meet the Emperor (who we met via hologram in The Empire Strikes Back). The Emperor tries to seduce Luke to the Dark Side, but fails by just a hair. A colossal lightsaber duel follows between father and son, during which Vader learns of his other child, Leia, and Luke slowly begins to coax him back to goodness. Eventually, the Emperor begins to murder Luke in front of Vader, who makes the decision to do the right thing. He kills his master to save his son, and he dies in the arms of his son. His son is the one who will bring balance to the Force, the prophecy applied to Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy.
There are some things that Lucas added to this film of which I approve. I’m OK with the weird dance scene (let’s face it, it’s certainly better than the original. If you need a dance scene, let’s do it well, at least). What I like most is the expansion of the celebration to include venues we’ve scene throughout the saga. It really ties it all together for me. Also, we see Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker among Yoda and Ben Kenobi’s spirits watching over the celebrations on Endor. I like this. I think it’s just another touch, bookending the saga with familiarity.
George Lucas’ magnum opus is one of the greatest pieces of storytelling, at least of the last 100 years. It is deep, exciting, and memorable. I enjoy it immensely, for it impacted and influenced my child and young-adulthood greatly.