Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, is a science fiction film that debuted in 1983, and re-released with changes in 1997 and 2004. In story order, it is the sixth and final film in the successful Star Wars saga. It was the third to be filmed and the finale of the original Star Wars trilogy.
The opening crawl from Return of the Jedi
Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star. When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy...
The following plotline is based on the original 1983 release version of "Jedi", and not on the 1997 and 2004 re-releases.
Return of the Jedi begins in 4 ABY, one year after the events of The Empire Strikes Back (although the novelization gives the time period as six months).
Darth Vader lands in the docking bay of an uncompleted second Death Star, which the Empire is creating, and more powerful than the first. He is greeted by Commander Moff Jerjerrod, but demands the Empire be put back on schedule in order to complete the Death Star on time. Jerjerrod agrees to doubling their efforts before the Emperor arrives.
Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker and company has arrived on Tatooine in the latest attempt to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. First the droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, arrive with a holographic message from Luke pleading Jabba to release Solo, but they end up as slaves. That evening, Jabba's Palace Band (led by Sy Snoodles and Max Rebo) play "Lapti Nek" to entertain the slug-like creature's guests, but Jabba's slave girl resists one of his orders and is thrown into the pit of the Rancor monster (she is immediately killed). Suddenly, Princess Leia (in the guise of bounty hunter Bousch) arrives with "prisoner" Chewbacca to collect part of the bounty Jabba himself sought after years earlier when he put a price on Solo's head. Jabba then sends Chewie to jail. That night, Leia/Bousch releases Solo from his carbonite coffin, only to be overseen by Jabba, his minions, and now-slave droids. Both Solo and Leia are captured; Solo is put in jail with Chewie while Jabba takes Leia as his personal slave girl.
The next morning, Luke arrives in person to make one final plea to Jabba to release Solo, but Jabba orders the young Jedi into the pit of the Rancor monster. Luke successfully overpowers the Rancor, but he too is captured by Jabba's minions. As punishment, Jabba, using C-3PO as a translator, commands Luke and his friends to be destroyed (over a course of a thousand years) by the man-eating Sarlacc at the Great Pit of Carkoon.
Luke and his companions (with Lando Calrissian disguised as one of Jabba's prison guards) enter the Pit of Carkoon. With the help of R2-D2, Luke then retrieves a new lightsaber to battle his captors. Solo, by this time blinded from the aftereffects of carbonization, is turned loose by Chewbacca, then bounty hunter Boba Fett turns on Solo before he is somehow killed and swallowed by the Sarlacc. Leia, meanwhile, with chain in hand, strangles Jabba to death. The droids are then set free, and end up in the sand. Luke and Lando kill the remaining captors, then Luke rescues Leia, and both point the guns toward the heart of Jabba's Sail Barge. Luke and company escape with their lives before the gun discharges, destroying the Sail Barge. All of the crew (except for Luke) depart Tatooine for the rendezvous point (mentioned in The Empire Strikes Back) where the Rebel Alliance is assembling, while Luke and R2-D2 (in their X-Wing) head for Dagobah to fulfill a promise made some time earlier.
On the Death Star, the Emperor arrives, praising Lord Vader on his efforts in the construction of the Death Star, assuring him that everything is going as he has planned. Luke and R2 arrive on Dagobah to find a terminally ill Yoda. Luke has returned to complete his Jedi training, but Yoda declares no further training to be required. All that remains for Luke is to confront Vader. Yoda then reveals that Vader is indeed Luke's father. The 900-year-old Jedi Master gives one last mention of wisdom to the young Jedi before he dies (and disappears the way Ben Kenobi did in A New Hope).
As Luke approaches his X-wing, the spirit form of Kenobi confirms that Vader was once Anakin Skywalker, a former Jedi Knight who turned to the Dark Side of the Force. Kenobi also reveals that Luke has a sister, hidden from Luke at birth as protection from the Emperor. Luke senses that his sister is actually Princess Leia. Kenobi warns Luke to bury his feelings, for they could in time "serve the Emperor".
At the rendezvous point near Sullust, the Rebel Alliance gathers to reveal plans to attack the Death Star. As part of the plans, Luke, Leia, Solo, and their companions must penetrate the shield generator on the fourth moon of Endor in order to deactivate the shield if the Rebels are to attack the Death Star.
The crew land on Endor only to be discovered by Stormtroopers. A landspeeder chase ensues, only for Leia to be thrown off her speeder and knocked unconscious. Luke and Han discover Leia's helmet, then both try to find her. Leia is awakened by one of Endor's forest creatures, an Ewok named Wicket. Suddenly, another Stormtrooper discovers Leia, but Wicket does away with the trooper before rescuing Leia.
Luke, Han, Chewie, and the droids, meanwhile, fall into a booby trap set by the Ewoks. R2 cuts open the net setting them free, but the Ewok tribe discovers Threepio and proclaims him to be their God. The droid's human and Wookiee friends are taken prisoner, and the Ewoks proclaim Luke to be the main course in a banquet in Threepio's honor. Discovered by Leia, Luke then uses The Force to levitate Threepio to show off his "great magic". Convinced of the Rebels' good intentions, the Ewoks set them free and later that evening makes them "part of the tribe", thereby the Ewoks agree to join the fight against the Empire.
But Luke decides the time has come to leave Endor and face Lord Vader. Leia follows Luke out of the tribal gathering before she is revealed the truth...that Vader is Luke's father and Leia is his sister. Leia is in complete denial and is comforted by Solo.
Vader arrives in his shuttle to a docking bay, and Luke, having already surrendered to the Empire, talks with Vader in an attempt to bring the Dark Lord out of the Dark Side of The Force, but to no avail. The Empire takes Luke into custody for transportation to the Death Star.
The next day, the Rebels attempt to locate the shield generator, and the Rebel fleet enters hyperspace from Sullust to prepare for the final attack.
Luke and Vader finally enter the Death Star and confront the Emperor, who reveals that it was the Emperor himself that coordinated the Rebels finding the secret plans and locating the shield generator so that the Alliance can fall into a trap of Palpatine's devising.
The Rebels enter the heart of the shield generator, only to be taken prisoner by the Imperial forces. The fleet emerges from hyperspace for the battle, but discover the shield is still up, thus an intense space battle begins.
Solo and company are led out of the bunker by the Imperial Stormtroopers, but the droids and the Ewoks have already orchestrated the attack on the Empire, and another intense battle commences with the Rebels and Ewoks on one side, the Empire on another.
Emperor Palpatine shows to Luke the full power of the Death Star, and the station, now fully operational, destroys one of the Alliance's ships. Meanwhile, on Endor, the battle continues, with casualties (human, Stormtrooper, and Ewok) already mounting. Eventually, Han, Leia and Chewie gain access to the bunker.
On the Death Star, Luke, already fueled by anger, lashes out at the Emperor with his lightsaber, only to be deflected by Vader, and thus the final duel between father and son begins. After a while, Vader forces Luke to let down his guard, while quietly sensing within his son's mind that Luke has a sister. Vader intends to turn her to the Dark Side if Luke won't, but Luke responds viciously in intense saber fighting, up to the point where Luke strikes off Vader's sword hand (just as Vader struck off Luke's in The Empire Strikes Back). The Emperor encourages Luke to kill his father so the young Jedi can take Vader's place alongside Palpatine. But Luke controls his anger and throws aside his lightsaber. He declares himself to be a Jedi Knight as his father Anakin was before him.
Han, Leia, and Chewie escape from the bunker, just in time for its destruction, thus bringing down the shield. The Alliance is now free to attack the half-completed Death Star.
Emperor Palpatine declares that if Luke cannot be turned to the Dark Side, he should be killed, thus Palpatine uses Force lightning against Luke. The sight of seeing Luke dying causes Vader's heart to melt, thus beginning the touching and dramatic redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Vader finally ceases to exist as Anakin lifts the Emperor off his feet, and despite the deadly Force lightning now surging on Anakin, he drops his former master into a chasm, killing the Emperor.
The Millennium Falcon and its remaining Rebel fighters enter the bowels of the Death Star, and some fighters engage on a point-blank attack on the Super Star Destroyer, causing the Imperial flagship's destruction.
Back on the Death Star, in the middle of an evacuation, Luke has carried his father's ravaged body to the foot of the former Vader's shuttle. Anakin asks Luke to take his mask off so his son can see his face for the one and only time. Anakin's face is revealed to be pale white (from not seeing natural sunlight in twenty years), and his head severely scarred from his duel with Ben Kenobi (as depicted in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith). Anakin tells Luke that his son was right, and asks him to tell his sister the same. With that, Anakin Skywalker (formerly Darth Vader) dies.
The Falcon and Wedge Antilles (in the final surviving fighter in the Death Star) reach the Death Star's main reactor and fire at it, causing its collapse. Luke and the body of his father Anakin escape the Death Star, and through the flames, so do the Falcon and Wedge before the Death Star explodes.
Seeing the destruction from above, Han senses Leia truly loves Luke. But Leia confirms to Han that Luke is her brother. Both Han and Leia engage in a passionate kiss, with the chief Ewok looking on in congratulations.
That evening, Luke sets a bonfire to cremate his father, Anakin Skywalker, covered in the armor of Darth Vader. Through the midst of the rising flames and fireworks, Rebel fighters streak across the sky in joyous victory as the Rebellion celebrates its triumph in the Galactic Civil War. Luke is reunited with his companions Han, Lando, the droids, Chewie, the surviving Rebel fleet, the Ewoks, and his sister Leia, congratulating each other. Luke then catches sight of the spirit figures of Ben Kenobi, Yoda, and his father, the now-redeemed Anakin Skywalker. Leia takes Luke by the hand away from the images and rejoins their circle of friends and colleagues. The prophecy of "the Chosen One" has finally been fulfilled; balance has been restored to the Force.
Direction is credited to the late Richard Marquand. However, reports have suggested that Marquand's involvement in the creative process was minimal, and George Lucas effectively took over the making of the film. The screenplay was written by Lawrence Kasdan and Lucas (with uncredited contributions by David Webb Peoples), based on Lucas' story. Howard Kazanjian served as producer.
The film was originally named Revenge of the Jedi until it was pointed out that revenge is contrary to the Jedi code, though many speculate that the change was always planned to throw fans off. But it has also been claimed that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was originally subtitled The Vengeance of Khan, and that the title was changed because of its similarity to Revenge of the Jedi. In any event, the original title was partially reused for the sixth film (Episode III), Revenge of the Sith.
During production, in an attempt to maintain secrecy and disguise the filming from fans and press, it was alleged it was a horror film entitled Blue Harvest and utilizing the slogan "Horror Beyond Imagination".
The movie was a commercial success, but is regarded by many critics and much of the public as the weakest of the original trilogy. The stone-age inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor, the Ewoks, particularly, annoy contemporary adult viewers, as their cuteness is, by some, regarded as a ploy to sell merchandising by Lucas (a trend they see continued with Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace) and their ability to overcome the "Empire's best troops" strains credibility even in a fantasy film, those critics argue.
The space battle between the Rebel and Imperial fleets, and the starfighter attack on the Death Star, were well-regarded by critics.
The first two Star Wars movies were adapted for National Public Radio in the early 1980s, but it was not until 1996 that a radio version of Return of the Jedi was heard. See Star Wars (radio) for details.
With a massive worldwide marketing campaign, Star Wars series artist Drew Struzan created the iconic and distinctive images for the movie posters and other advertising.
A serious wardrobe problem was present in the film in that all Imperial characters, regardless of rank, are shown wearing identical rank insignia, being that of an Imperial Navy Commander. This was not recognized by the production staff until halfway through the film's shooting and the error remained uncorrected in the final version of the film.
As with the other two films of his original trilogy, Lucas issued a Special Edition of Return of the Jedi in 1997, making a number of cosmetic changes and additions, including replacing a piece of music from the closing scene.
The DVD release
On September 20, 2004 the three original movies were finally released on DVD. There have a few further minor changes to the film on this release - such as sound effects and improvements to the visual quality of the film.
During the sequence when the Emperor's defeat at Endor is announced to the galaxy, an additional scene showing the celebrations on Theed, Naboo was shown. A Gungan (a race from the first two episodes) can be heard yelling "Wesa free" in this scene.
Sebastain Shaw played Anakin in the hanger bay and in the final celebration scene in the original film. In the DVD release, Shaw continued to be Anakin in the hanger bay scene. However during the final celebration, Hayden Christensen's head was superimposed over Shaw's head through the use of CGI graphics. In this release Anakin appeared much as he did in Episode III.
The Expanded Universe
In the Expanded Universe, the Battle of Endor was not the end of the story. The destruction of the Death Star, the loss of Vader and the Emperor, and the defeat of the Imperial fleet represented a major turning point in the war. Within five years, well over half of what was Imperial space was under the control of the New Republic.
The war continued for another 15 years. The New Republic would be challenged by Imperial commanders, such as Grand Admiral Thrawn, Admiral Daala, Admiral Pellaeon, and Ysanne Isard. The New Republic would even be challenged by the Reborn Emperor - the spirit of Palpatine in a new clone body. But the New Republic would weather all these storms.
Fifteen years after the Battle of Endor Admiral Pellaeon and the other Imperial leaders realized that further military conflict with the New Republic would be fruitless. The remnants of the Imperial forces signed a peace treaty with the New Republic. The decades long Galactic Civil War was finally over.
- StarWars.com official Episode VI site (http://www.starwars.com/episode-vi/)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086190/) at the Internet Movie Database