Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

With the success of Star Wars in 1977 and The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, George Lucas began work on the completion of his Trilogy with Revenge of the Jedi. Audiences were eager for the next installment - What would become of Han Solo? Is Darth Vader really Luke Skywalker's father? Lucas, as with the last film, provided the story and co-wrote the screenplay, but left the directorial efforts to someone else. Richard Marquand held the reigns for this outing, but Lucas was on set constantly and oversaw all facets of production. At some point after the first teaser trailer had been produced - well into principle photography, it was decided to change the title of the film. Since it would be uncharacteristic for a Jedi to seek revenge, that turned out to be a bad title. So, Revenge of the Jedi was renamed Return of the Jedi.

Return of the Jedi picks up a few months from where The Empire Strikes Back leaves off. The Emperor has commissioned the construction of another - more powerful Death Star. During construction it is protected by a shield generated from the forest moon of Endor. Darth Vader and the Emperor are overseeing final construction and waiting in anticipation of an attack from Rebel forces that the Emperor has foreseen. Meanwhile, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie and the droids are off to Tatooine to rescue Han Solo from the Jabba the Hutt. After Han is free and Jabba has been dispatched, Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training only to find that Yoda has fallen ill and will soon die. But not before passing on more of the Skywalker family tree. The Rebel forces are successful, Luke fights Vader, Vader kills the Emperor to save his son, the Death Star is destroyed and we end with a celebration of the Rebel forces with their new Ewok friends and the salvation of Anakin Skywalker.

Viewed by many to be the weakest chapter in the Star Wars saga (up to that point), Return of the Jedi suffers from several problems. Once Han Solo is freed from the carbonite, it seems that all the 'good' parts of him were lost during the reanimation process. It's been rumored that Harrison Ford had asked that Han Solo be killed in this installment - for what reason is unknown. But his portrayal of our swashbuckling former space pirate is somewhat ... less. Luke Skywalker is so much like his father. He broods through the whole film - dressed always in black seeming intent on self destruction and unable to handle his destiny. It is unclear how he became so much more in tune with the force (if you can call it that) between the end of Empire and the beginning of Jedi.

Further complicating issues are the Ewoks. It would seem that the same Rebellion - that was so strong and self sufficient in the first two installments are incapable of doing anything in this film without the assistance of a tribe of 2-foot tall miniature Wookies. All this has done for the film is increases its "cuteness" factor - and more importantly - offer an opportunity to sell more Star Wars toys.

George Lucas has a thing for the month of May. Both previous installments were released in May, as were both Episode I and Episode II. The budget for Episode VI was nearly double of the previous outing - topping $32 million. Unlike the previous films, it opened on 1,002 screens and pulled in a very respectable $30.4 million in its opening weekend. It also managed to stay in theatrical run over 42 weeks - not as long as the first installment, but still a respectable run. Jedi went on to gross $472.9 million through it's original release, and the Special Edition release in 1997.

LucasFilm released the LaserDisc and CED editions in the US. The CED edition was one of the last titles issued on RCA's dying format. In Japan, LucasFilm issued Star Wars on LaserDisc and VHD. All editions of the film issued on Videodisc run the proper 132 minutes (with the exception of PAL - which speeds all films up to 25 frames per second).

In 1997 when LucasFilm issued an updated version of Return of the Jedi to the theaters, the videodisc versions of the film were issued once in the US in a box set with the balance of the Trilogy, and in two box sets in Japan (released in 1997 and 2000) as well as an individual stand-alone release.

Updated: July 27, 2003
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