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