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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Richard Marquand
Cast:
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, Billy Dee Williams, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Sebastian Shaw, Ian McDiarmid
Writing Credits:
George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan

Tagline:
Return To A Galaxy ... Far, Far Away.

Synopsis:
Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi: In the epic conclusion of the saga, the Empire prepares to crush the Rebellion with a more powerful Death Star while the Rebel fleet mounts a massive attack on the space station. Luke Skywalker confronts his father Darth Vader in a final climactic duel before the evil Emperor. In the last second, Vader makes a momentous choice: he destroys the Emperor and saves his son. The Empire is finally defeated, the Sith are destroyed, and Anakin Skywalker is thus redeemed. At long last, freedom is restored to the galaxy.

Box Office:
Budget
$32.500 million.
Opening Weekend
$30.490 million on 1002 screens.
Domestic Gross
$309.125 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 9/12/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Story Writer/Producer George Lucas, Sound Designer Ben Burtt, Visual Effects Supervisor Dennis Muren and Actor Carrie Fisher
• Original Theatrical Version
Lego Star Wars II Trailer and XBox Demo
• DVD-ROM Weblink
• THX Optimizer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi (Limited Edition) (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 22, 2006)

Because both 1999’s The Phantom Menace and 2002’s Attack of the Clones received so many negative reactions, folks tend to forget the moderately lukewarm reception to 1983’s Return of the Jedi. To be sure, many people really liked Jedi and it certainly raked in lots of money. As with predecessors Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Jedi was its year’s biggest-grossing movie.

However, after two classic flicks, Jedi seemed less scintillating to many fans. Personally, I think it does have its flaws and qualifies as the weakest of the “Original Trilogy”, but Jedi remains too much fun for me to worry a lot about those problems.

Note that because Jedi comes as the last part of a trilogy, my review inevitably will include some spoilers. Honestly, I doubt too many readers won’t already know these movies well, but if you fall into that category, you’ll probably want to skip my synopsis and movie discussion entirely.

Jedi starts not too long after the conclusion of Empire. At that time, the situation left Han Solo (Harrison Ford) frozen in carbonite and a prisoner of gangster Jabba the Hutt. Led by Jedi-wannabe Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), our gang rescues Han from Jabba’s clutches and rejoins the Rebel Alliance’s battle against the Empire.

As part of this, we learn that the Empire toils to build another Death Star, the enormous battle station the Rebels destroyed back in Star Wars. Since the Empire learned at least one lesson in the meantime, as they put a protective force field around the new Death Star. The source of this sits on a moon called Endor. The Rebels need to send a team to knock out the field so that a squadron led by Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) can blow up the new Death Star. Our old pals Han, Luke, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) assist in this assault.

Essentially the rest of Jedi follows three paths. Due to his connection to Empire nasty Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), Luke eventually realizes that his presence acts as an impediment to the team. He gives himself up to lead to a final confrontation with Vader and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) in which Luke intends to redeem Darth.

Back on Endor, the Rebels see what obstacles they face and acquire some unlikely allies via the moon’s native population, the little, fuzzy, cute and cuddly Ewoks. After some initial tension, the two sides make friends and find that the primitive Ewoks help with their battle against the Empire. As Han and company struggle to disable the force field, Lando leads the Rebel troupe to attack and destroy the Death Star.

I think the complaints about Jedi essentially fall into two categories: “déjà vu” and “teddy bears”. By the release of Jedi, the Star Wars series was well established as an enormously profitable franchise. This included every kind of merchandise one could imagine, so when Jedi revealed the adorable Ewoks, cynics immediately pounced on George Lucas as they believed he created those characters largely to move product.

Could be, but I think the Ewoks inspire much more malice than they merit. Lucas originally planned to ally the Rebels with Wookiees, but that became impractical due to our understanding of Chewbacca. Whatever species the Rebels met needed to be very primitive and low-tech, but we already knew Chewie as a technologically savvy dude, so that couldn’t work. Did the species encountered by the Rebels need to be a shorter, more adorable take on the Wookiees? Probably not, but I don’t see this as a significant flaw, though the flick does indulge in too many cutesy moments.

As for the “déjà vu” element, that stems from the feeling that Jedi did little more than reprise the better parts of the first two parts of the “Original Trilogy”. After all, the film’s climax essentially reworks the endings from both of the earlier movies along with new elements via the Han/Leia/Ewok rebellion. This sense of repetition does taint the film slightly, as it makes Jedi seem a bit less creative.

However, the packaging of the conclusion works awfully well. Jedi cuts from one scenario to another smoothly in a way that helps stoke the excitement levels. The climactic confrontation with Luke, the Emperor and Vader works particularly well. Yeah, we already saw Luke vs. Darth in Empire, but the third participant deepens matters, and this sequence becomes especially dramatic.

The other two parts appear less dynamic, and the attack on the Death Star particularly suffers from “second stringer syndrome”. Lando is the sequence’s best-known participant, and he never became more of a secondary character; the others involved in that sequence don’t even become that important and remain tertiary. The assault loses something since it doesn’t involve any of our primary participants, but that doesn’t stop it from becoming exciting and dynamic.

Really, the sense of fun is what keeps Jedi going. Of all the three flicks in the Original Trilogy, it definitely stresses action the most heavily. This comes at the expense of character and story development, as Jedi displays the cartooniest exploration of its story. That comes as a particular disappointment after the relative depth of Empire, and it fares poorly even in comparison to the character delineation of Star Wars. Given the issues that affect the main personalities, the way it gives their growth the short shrift seems bothersome.

Nonetheless, I still really enjoy Return of the Jedi. It’s the silliest, thinnest and most superficial of the “Original Trilogy” but it’s also probably the one that offers the most consistent fun. Perhaps it seems like a disappointment when compared with the superior flicks that preceded it, but Jedi is still an exciting, dynamic and very entertaining movie

Note that this DVD of Return of the Jedi presents an updated version of the flick. Many of the changes came with the 1997 “Special Edition” but Lucas continues to tinker with the movie, so some additional alterations appear here.

If you want a detailed examination of the changes, throw a stick anywhere on the Internet and you’ll find 100. I won’t get into that, as instead I’d prefer to provide my general impressions of the changes. Jedi falls between Star Wars and Empire as far as its degree of alterations. The first flick includes the most differences when compared to its initial theatrical version, while Empire’s changes remain fairly modest.

Jedi represents both the good and the bad of these alterations. On the negative side, we find the absurd “Jedi Rocks” song during the first act. Set at Jabba’s Palace, this replaces the “Lapti Nek” musical number that originally appeared in the flick. That one wasn’t great, but “Jedi Rocks” is ridiculously bad. In fact, it’s the single worst element to appear in the Original Trilogy and should embarrass all involved. I can’t say I’m wild that this edition’s ending replaces Sebastian Shaw as the Anakin ghost with Hayden Christensen, but it doesn’t annoy me too badly.

Some of the alterations advance the film, however. For example, the visual effects get a generally nice touch-up, with the biggest improvement seen during the Rancor scene in Jabba’s Palace. That segment’s rear projection effects never worked well, and they appear substantially more convincing here.

Many others disagree, but I definitely prefer the DVD’s ending song to the old Ewok “Yub Yub” number from the original movie. Although I never developed a real dislike for the Ewoks, I did always hate that damned tune, and the newer one gives the film a more melancholy and emotional conclusion. It’s not a great number but it certainly betters “Yub Yub”.

Obviously, I’d prefer this version of Jedi without “Jedi Rocks”, but that track doesn’t ruin the movie or even harm it too badly. After all, the song it replaces wasn’t anything special. I like enough of the alterations to mean that I view the updated edition of Jedi in a positive light.


The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio A/ Bonus B

Return of the Jedi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. With Jedi, the franchise scored a visual hat trick, for it offered another flick with exceptional picture quality.

Once again, sharpness looked excellent. Any examples of softness were exceedingly few and far between, as the movie consistently presented strong clarity. It appeared nicely detailed and distinctive. Issues with jagged edges and moiré effects failed to show up, and I still didn’t detect any signs of edge enhancement. As with the first two flicks, no print flaws marred the presentation.

Given that much of the movie took place on Endor, greens played the most prominent role in the palette, though a nice mix of other hues popped up as well. Sandy tans were dominant on Tatooine as well. Across the board, the film replicated the various tones succinctly and vividly. The colors always came across as vibrant and full. Black levels continued to satisfy, as they were deep and developed, and low-light shots remained appropriately opaque but not too dense. Jedi finished off the series with another excellent visual presentation.

As for the Dolby Digital EX 5.1 soundtrack, it felt like a virtual clone of Empire’s audio in terms of scope, quality and consistency. Star Wars had more than a few erratic moments, but its two successors maintained a high degree of stability. The soundfield once again created a full and involving setting. Music featured concise and broad stereo imaging, while effects spread convincingly across the five speakers. As usual, space flight scenes used the channels to the greatest advantage, as the crafts flew and zipped around the room well. Other segments also brought the mix to life. Elements were logically placed and connected cleanly to create a detailed soundscape.

Audio quality worked very well too. Speech was always distinctive and crisp, with no issues connected to edginess or a lack of intelligibility. Music appeared dynamic and bright, as the score featured tight highs and natural lows. Effects continued to sound clear and clean. They didn’t show the distortion that occasionally marred Star Wars or those elements excessive low-end response. Instead, they followed the lead of Empire with accurate representation of the elements that featured good detail and range. Bass was warm and lively. I often found it hard to believe that the soundtrack emanated from a 1983 film, as it didn’t show its age at all.

Note that this presentation of Star Wars exactly duplicates what we found on the 2004 DVD release. Disc One of this package is identical to that set’s Jedi DVD. No changes in picture or audio quality occur here.

That also means it includes all of the same extras, starting with an audio commentary from story writer/producer George Lucas, sound designer Ben Burtt, visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, and actor Carrie Fisher. All four were taped separately for this edited track. As they discuss the final chapter of the trilogy, technical issues dominate. Lucas talks about the ways the series used and broadened those elements and also goes over issues connected to the challenges presented by the tale’s final chapter. Lucas spends some time on story concerns and character developments.

One also gets the impression Lucas essentially directed Jedi. At the commentary’s start, he mentions that he played a more prominent role than typical for an executive producer and likened it to functioning that way on a TV; he implies that Jedi director Marquand had little say in the proceedings and just did Lucas’s bidding. That impression didn’t come through during the Empire commentary, partially because Irvin Kershner was there to have his say. Marquand died only a few years after he did Jedi, so he’s not here to defend himself. However, since Lucas often mentioned Kershner’s involvement in the film on that track and almost never discusses Marquand here, I still come away with the impression that the latter was a very junior partner.

Burtt plays a more prominent role and offers many fun notes about the sources of his recordings; who knew the Rancor was actually a dachshund? He also gives us a terrific exploration of how he helped develop the Ewok language. Muren also participates a little more actively than usual as he tells us about the creation of the visual effects. Unfortunately, Fisher again doesn’t chime in very frequently. When she speaks, she offers funny and incisive remarks, but she only pops up sporadically. The Jedi commentary stands as the weakest of the three, but it still provides a lot of useful notes and comes across as entertaining and informative.

Return of the Jedi also features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials.

Lastly, the disc touts a DVD-ROM weblink. This promises “exclusive Star Wars content”. Unfortunately, this disc acted funky in my drive and I couldn’t access it. Hope you have better luck!

Since DVD One simply duplicated the original set’s presentation, all of the changes come on DVD Two. There we find a trailer and an XBox Demo for Lego Star Wars II. Since I don’t have an XBox, I can’t try out the game, but it looks like a lot of fun – I’ll have to grab it for my PS2.

Of much greater interest to fans – and the only reason most people will buy this release – is the original theatrical version of Return of the Jedi. That’s right – we get the flick as presented in 1983. Since I already went over the changes made for the special edition, I won’t detail those alterations here. Instead I’ll focus on the quality of the presentation. Return of the Jedi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered disc; as most folks already know, it hasn’t been enhanced for anamorphic TVs.

This is the same transfer created for a 1993 laserdisc set, and it shows its age. Actually, it offered arguably the strongest visuals of the three movies in most ways. The weakest link came from shadowy shots. Although Empire offered the chapter with the darkest emotional tone, Jedi presented the darkest transfer. This was especially evident during the many indoor shots in the flick’s first half. From Jabba’s palace to his sail barge to Yoda’s pad to spaceship interiors, these sequences consistently appeared murky and too dense. Blacks were inky and somewhat flat, another reason the low-light bits lacked definition. Even exteriors could become tough to discern. For instance, the frog-like creature outside of Jabba’s palace was almost impossible to see. With all the vivid Endor shots in the movie’s second half, matters improved, but all these muddy elements made much of the film difficult to watch.

The rest of the transfer was reasonably successful, though. Sharpness remained consistent with Empire. The movie rarely seemed particularly concise, but it also wasn’t terribly soft, either. The lack of anamorphic enhancement meant we got good but unexceptional definition throughout the film. As with Empire, jagged edges and shimmering were minor; those elements created many distractions during Star Wars, so I was glad to see them decrease substantially during the two sequels.

Colors seemed pretty good here. Jedi was always the Original Trilogy movie with the most dynamic palette, and the colors usually came across as fairly lively and broad. Only those dark sequences occasionally lessened the impact of the tones. Source flaws were relatively insubstantial as well. As with Empire, bouts of specks and other marks occasionally appeared, but these were noticeable fewer than during Star Wars. All in all, the highs and lows of the transfer left it with a “C+”.

Matters improved significantly when I examined the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Jedi. As was the case with Empire, the original audio held up nicely when compared to the remixed 5.1 track. In this instance, the newer audio worked better due to a broader soundfield. I didn’t sense a great amount of expansion when I compared the two Empire soundscapes, but the 5.1 Jedi used the surrounds to a noticeably more impressive degree.

For the 2.0 Jedi, the forward channels dominated and worked tremendously well; they compared very favorably to the front speakers in the remix. However, the old track didn’t boast as much activity from the surrounds. They still added nice zip to the presentation, but they were a bit more passive than I expected.

The 2.0 Empire lost some points in regard to audio quality, but I found little about which to complain when I listened to the 2.0 Jedi. The material sounded quite good and betrayed few flaws. Only a smidgen of edginess or brittleness affected any of the high-end components, and low-end was deep and surprisingly firm. The track didn’t seem quite as full as its cleaned-up 5.1 counterpart, but it held its own without much trouble. Add this together and the 2.0 Jedi deserved a “B+” just like Empire.

Although Return of the Jedi stands as the weakest of the Star Wars “Original Trilogy”, don’t take that as a severe criticism. Yeah, the movie occasionally seems silly and immature, but it packs a lot of entertainment and finishes the series on a satisfying note. The DVD gives us stellar picture quality, terrific audio, a pretty useful audio commentary and the flick’s original theatrical cut. I really like Jedi and I definitely recommend it as a fun conclusion to the trilogy.

Recommendations become affected by the fact this “Limited Edition” of Jedi stands as the movie’s third DVD release. 2004 gave us the deluxe three-movie set, while 2005 produced a bare-bones version that lacked the prior package’s bonus disc. 2006 presents the initial individual release of Jedi, and also includes its theatrical cut for the first time on DVD.

That means the LE of Jedi will be great for those who want to own it and it alone. I can’t imagine too many folks will desire to possess Jedi but not the other two, so this should be a limited audience. I think the vast majority will prefer one of the two boxed sets so they can have all of the movies.

Other than the precious few who only like Jedi, this LE will appeal solely to completist nerds such as myself who want a DVD rendition of the flick’s 1983 theatrical cut. I much prefer the 1977 Star Wars to its SE edition, while both Empire versions are fine with me. Jedi is more of a toss-up; some parts of the original are better, while aspects of the SE seem stronger. In truth, I prefer the SE by a slight margin.

Nonetheless, I’m glad to own the 1983 cut on DVD. I’ll probably never watch it again, though – at least not until and unless Lucasfilm gets off their butts and gives us a nice new anamorphic transfer for it. The SE looks and sounds better than the non-anamorphic Jedi, so it’s the one I’ll check out in the future. Leave this lackluster Limited Edition to obsessive fans.

To rate this film visit the original review of STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - THE RETURN OF THE JEDI

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main