Like any kid in the ’80s, I grew up on the Star Wars franchise. Back then we didn’t even know how lucky we were at the time, able to actually enjoy films like these for their artistic integrity and not just based on how “cannon” or “inclusive” they were or could be.
Originally released on May 25, 1983, Return of the Jedi was the third and final entry in the initial Star Wars trilogy (long before all of the various prequels, sequels, and spin-offs), and while it often gets a bad rap for being too “kiddie” for the use of fury little Ewoks (there’s no denying how popular the characters would become, spawning an animated series and two made-for-television films of their own), Jedi was equally as epic a film as its predecessors.
There’s no doubt a lot to unpack this time around. Right off the bat, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) travels to Tatooine to rescue the enslaved Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and their old confidante Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the clutches of the monstrous Jabba the Hutt after the grim confinement forced upon him at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Armed with the help of trusty droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), as well as Lando (Billy Dee Williams), Skywalker takes down Hutt and his henchmen seemingly with ease.
From then on it’s one heroic adventure after another, as the reunited team fight to take down the empire and the second Death Star under construction. Along the way we learn that Luke and Leia are actually brother and sister, and Darth Vadar (voiced again by James Earl Jones) actually does have some good still left in him. What results is one of the most exciting and satisfying conclusions to play out on film, and could’ve easily ended the franchise right there on a high note.
For better or worse, Jedi helped up the ante merchandising-wise, marketing to every kid within eyesight in true ’80s fashion. Then of course there was that golden bikini donned by Fisher in the first half of the film that had every young man such as myself looking at Princess Leia in a whole new way.
Aside from invoking some of my first prepubescent fantasies, I have other fond memories from my childhood of this particular entry of the series, namely the time my old dog Sam (R.I.P.) started barking at the TV when the ghostly spirit of Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) first appeared on screen, resulting in instant hilarity. If for no other reason, the film will always remain a classic in my book.
Some items from the author’s personal collection, including a first edition copy of Return of the Jedi on VHS, and a collector’s magazine originally published in 1983.