Return of the Jedi

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Title: Return of the Jedi
Creator: George Lucas
Date(s): 1983
Medium: film
Fandom: Star Wars
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Return of the Jedi is the third film in the original Star Wars trilogy. Among its other crimes against fandom, it is the movie that retroactively made many fanworks into twincest.

Reactions and Reviews from 1983

In Jundland Wastes, a Star Wars letterzines, fans were quite vocal with their opinions.

A fan wrote that it was not the movie she was wishing for, that it was full of technical errors, felt somewhat empty, and there was too much emphasis on special effects, which she thought "looked fake too often".

Another fan wrote that she loved the movie even though it wasn't the best of the trilogy; it was at least good SFX.

Another fan said he didn't like the movie poster and was perplexed at why the soundtrack album was only one record.

And another fan wrote that she hated Han thanking Luke over the comlink[1], hated the rescue scene, hated how Lando mispronounced Han's name every time he said it, hated that it didn't really matter (not even to Luke) who "the Other was, she hated how everyone was a general except Wedge, she hated that Han was made out to be bumbling idiot, and she mostly hated that George Lucas couldn't write meaningful emotion or dialogue.[2]

Other comments:

I have to laugh at the way Lucas had many of us chase a wild goose in wondering what part the "other" was going to play in the downfall of the Emperor and his Empire. The "other" played a significant role, of course, but not as the "other." If that character had not been told of its relationship to the Force, it would have made no difference in the way the character proceeded. That is, the actions of that character proceeded unchanged just as if the character had never known it was the "other." What mattered was the task of trying to keep the "other" a secret. When Luke was ready to give up, the burden of this secret spurred him on to do what had to be done? [3]
Okay, you want comments on Return! You got 'em. Not sure exactly where to start. A list of some of the things I liked: Jabba the Hutt; Leia's slave-girl costume; Luke's green lightsaber; Salacious Crumb; Leia's slave-girl costume; the speeder bikes; the unfinished Death Star as seen from the surface of Endor; the forest of Endor; Leia's slave-girl costume... [4]
If I see one more cute alien, I think I'm going to throw up. [5]
I think I could overlook most the cons if the whole feel of the film had been as warm and involving as the first two, and if the various sections, some of them superb in themselves, had held together better. This one felt detached, distant. [6]
I always felt Leia was the Other. I can't base this feeling on anything definite. Carrie looked terrific in her harem outfit and has grown into a beautiful and mature woman. I liked the idea that Luke and Leia related as brother-sister and was happy to see Han and Leia finally express their true feelings for each other. Luke and Leia have a nice relationship. I never thought that Luke and Leia could be anything but good friends." She adds: "I liked several scenes in Jedi. One of my favorites is the hover-bike chase through the forest of Endor. Very breathtaking and exciting. I also like the scenes with the Ewoks, the walking teddy bears or little Wookiees. Ewoks were the hit of the movie and have some of the funniest and cutest scenes. I liked the battle and space scenes. Very exhilarating. [7]
About ROTJ? Despite terrible dialogue and worse characterization, I love it! [8]
I resent the brain-dead Han Solo of Jedi. My only explanation is the brain is the last thing to thaw from carbon-freeze. Solo served only as comic relief in Jedi. I frankly think he's too good a to rate this treatment. He ends up being the only character whose development does not follow naturally from film to film, and frankly, I think it stinks. If the idea behind this was to make Luke look better, it wasn't necessary. Luke looks great, even without running Han down. [9]
I've always hated stories where the bad repents in the final five minutes. I expected Darth to buy the farm in this one, but I had hoped George would let him go out, if not in a blaze of Darkside glory, at least with dignity. To have him seduced by the Light Side and turned into a weak, sniveling, breast-beating repentant sinner who (gag me with a spoon!) thanks Luke for saving him from himself is enough to make me feel a severe desire to throw up, quickly followed by outrage at debased form of character assassination. It's downright embarrassing to watch. I hate it! Nearly as bad are the damned Ewoks, who plumb new depths of cute. [10]
The solution was exceedingly tidy and businesslike, and I found it intellectually satisfying, but my emotions died on the vine. I just didn't give a damn. [11]
Well, George, you captured our hearts with Star Wars, fired our minds with The Empire Strikes Back, but did you have to kick us in the stomach with Jedi?... Jedi is a fair film if you look at it as a single film, but as part of the Star Wars Saga, it stinks! The visuals, composition, and most of the special effects are beautiful and believable but would it kill you, George, if you sacrifice some of the cowboy-style action for some character development? It' really a shame that this film, which should be the culmination of Lucas' work with the Star Wars universe, turned out to be such a clinker. [12]
I didn't hate the film, but I did find it irritating. If there had been only a few bad spots, maybe I could have overlooked them, but there are so many! And most of them would be so easy to fix! Gods! A pair of scissors and splicing tape could help this flick! It's so close to being a fabulous movie that you wonder if George Lucas ever saw the film before releasing it. He must have seen the inadequacies. Why didn't he fix them? One gets the impression that the makers didn't care about this film as they did the others. Maybe they're getting tired of the whole mess? They've got every right to be by now. After all, it's been a long nine years. But George, if you're planning to making another one of these films sometime in the future, be sure to put your heart into it like you used to, not just your wallet. [13]

From The Incomparable Jundland Wastes

Maggie Nowakowska wrote of fan reaction in the letterzine Jundland Wastes:
The negative aspects specifically mentioned outnumber the positive mentioned by nearly three to one. If this seems overwhelming, it may be simply because those fans who disliked ROTJ most strenuously also wrote the longest, most detailed letters. [IMO: I remembered the reactions as being very negative, but when rereading this issue, I realized that positive individual reactions did indeed outnumber the nay-sayers. Perhaps, it seemed that way because those who had complaints wrote more vehemently than those who liked the movie. And, also, maybe because many fans who liked the movie also had criticisms of it.]

On the whole, ROTJ is considered a good but flawed movie. ANH remains the ultimate SW adventure, while TESM is seen as a better film from a technical and creative standpoint.

Four aspects of ROTJ appeal to the most people:

  • that Leia is truly active in this movie, not just someone to be rescued or fallen in love with
  • that Luke reaches maturity with his good will and his ability to love whole and paramount over his ability to make wary
  • that Vader’s death/Anakin’s reappearance and rebirth allowed growth out of disaster
  • the movie’s overwhelming theme of love.

[IMO. Wow. Rereading the item about Leia stuns me. In the years to follow, one of the biggest complaints that I remember about ROTJ is that Leia was too passive and had nothing to do. And, regarding Luke' maturity, there developed a long argument — which became a significant part of the Han Vs. Luke business — that Luke had fallen in ROTJ and had lost his status as hero. Memories of those later discussions/reactions apparently buried my memory of these initial reactions.] Individual pleasures in ROTJ range widely. That ROTJ is more faithful to fairy tales than TESB pleases many fans who do not mind the repetition of themes and images, seeing such as necessary to the motif. The triumph of ingenuity over superior technology, and the theme that the heart is, in the end, more important than the head are messages many fans happily accept.

Luke’s “torture” scene as played is well received, and there is much speculation about the Emperor as someone far more evil than Vader.

Many people mention the novelization of ROTJ and like it immensely.

On the negative side . . .

I’ll start with the most often repeated complaints, those that appear among LoCs both pro and con.

The most common objection is that ROTJ does not offer enough characterization. LoCs complain that character development is sacrificed to plot and special effects. There isn't enough dialogue, nor enough banter between the characters. The end result, for these viewers, is a movie with less emotional impact than the previous films:

  • Han and Luke's reunion on Taooine is flat
  • Yoda’s death is too quick and easy
  • Leia’s reaction to the news that she is Luke’s sister and Vader’s daughter is disappointing in its lack of drama.

The other loud complaint is about the Ewoks. These cute aliens are not considered believable by many fans and are called a waste of time, a throw away, a merchandising ploy. In fact, the Ewoks are considered to be more offensive than Jabba’s cohorts, which are tolerated as adolescent indulgence on the part of Lucas and his SFX friends.

The films ending scene does not impress many people either. Too pat, too cute, too unsatisfying on a mythic level. The presence of fireworks is specifically criticized, and the “cast call” appearance of all principal characters is not popular.

Complaints about specific characterizations, unbelievable plot developments, and film techniques are much more individual — The presentation of Han and Vader in ROTJ draws particularly bitter fire: Solo’s role is “insignificant, too small,” and he appears “brain-dead” through most the movie. Vader has turned into a “wimp;” his redemption is too easy; the revelation of his appearance sans helmet is disappointing — he is too old, too unlike Luke or Leia; and his spiritual “conversion” is unacceptable.

Overall, the plot does not answer enough of the questions that had developed in fans’ minds over the years (for one, it still does not explain just who the Jedi were), and what it does reveal is unbelievable for many.

More points of contention are:

  • The illogic and darkside aspects of Luke’ s rescue plan on T atooine
  • Jabba’s lack of physical believability and threat
  • The idea that Luke and Leia are siblings, let alone twins
  • The ease with which the Alliance creates generals
  • The Emperor’s mistake in gloating so soon over Luke’s final willingness to beat Vader into the ground

As for production values, the movie is considered unevenly paced. Overall, the direction is disliked; the movie has “too much Marquand” touch and not enough Lucas and Kurtz influence. The repetition of themes and images annoys fans, as does the SFX that are less than successful, such as the sand sequences.

Finally, Lando’s continued mispronunciation of Han’s name draws fire, and in contrast to the general letters, there are indeed complaints about the novelization.[14]


  1. She probably didn't know about Han/Luke Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (deleted scene)
  2. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  3. from Jundland Wastes #15/16
  4. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  5. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  6. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  7. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  8. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  9. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  10. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  11. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  12. from "Jundland Wastes" #15/16
  13. from Jundland Wastes #15/16
  14. from The Incomparable Jundland Wastes (2001)