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Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.


Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
(1983)

This has definitely suffered the most of the original trilogy. The effects sequences are more extravagant but comparably less inventive and effective (the speeder bike chase aside, the cleaning up of which is an example of revisions I can get behind), but most damagingly the story just isn't there. 

Its greatest asset is the one thing Lucas could carry through all his versions of the story on some level, the final confrontation between Luke and Vader. And it's a fine scene, ably constructed and supported by Williams haunting choral score and with Ian McDiarmid’s mocking Emperor showing commendable relish. Of course, a moment that was so impactful due to Vader silently observing his son being wracked with pain, then turning on the Emperor, now has "Nooooo! Nooooo!" splashed over it for what Lucas considers to be a fiddling symmetry.

This is where Lucas apparently took to micro-managing (Richard Marquand receiving the brunt of it) after letting Kershner have a fair bit of rope. So he didn't listen to the suggestions of Gary Kurtz (who left acrimoniously) and Lawrence Kasdan (who agreed with Ford that Han should die). He pressed on with repeating the climax he had brought forward into Star Wars (the Death Star) and instead of a rethink after deciding not to got to the Wookie world (as he decided to introduce Wookies with Chewie, who was technologically capable, it didn't fit his vision of a Vietnam-parallel undeveloped society versus advanced one) he reinvented it with the cutesy indulgence of the Ewoks. 

Most of the choices he made here seem like a retreat rather than advancement from The Empire Strikes Back. Han is an almost incidental figure; you can understand the reasoning that he should be paired with Leia but dramatically he should really have been aboard the Falcon, even if he wasn't given a heroic death. His character is very nearly just comic relief; Ford wears the humour well, but his character is shorn of the "cool" he had previously (just look at his "for laughs" defeat of Boba Fett). We don't care about the attack on the Death Star because we don't care about Lando. And we don't really care about the battle on Endor because it's all so lightweight. Which means the drama of the climax all rests on Luke. Who finds his father was a fat bald bloke all along. It turns out little Annie really likes the pies.

The scene where everyone reunites with Luke before heading to Endor/the Death Star has to be the most cheese-laden and excruciating in the original trilogy. Unfortunately that wasn't edited down, but we get a horrific song to the accompaniment of rotten CGI at Jabba's palace. Lucas calls out the pro-rubber people on the commentary at this point, saying that it's as fake as CGI. But, as is clear from the prequels, he can't see which sticks out like a sore thumb and is more of a challenge to suspension of disbelief. 

The Sarlacc now looks more like Little Shop of Horrors. And it's ironic that the one crowd-pleaser Lucas considered reinstating, Fett escaping its maw, he decided against on the grounds it didn't fit (like that music number did?) The replacing of the Ewok music at the end is also rubbish, and the speed of galaxy-wide celebrations of the Empire's defeat (within hours, everywhere?) is implausible for the sake of an attempt at "epic" wrap-up. Christensen looks like a smirking dick when he's joined the Force too (I don't see the logic, either; he turned to the good side of the Force as a corpulent cadaver).

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