Return of the Jedi is a more than respectable end to the first trilogy in George Lucas’ space saga, if a bit furry for my tastes. (Ewoks didn’t do all that much for me even as a kid.)
Long before we get to Endor, however, director Richard Marquand stages some Tatooine swashbuckling worthy of Errol Flynn, as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) pull off an elaborate rescue of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from Jabba the Hutt’s desert lair. (C-3P0 and R2-D2 also lend a hand.) Swinging from one sail ship to the next over the maw of the sarlaac, Luke cements his Jedi prowess, Han eventually regains his eyesight after being frozen in carbonite and Leia gets revenge on Jabba for putting her in a metal bikini by choking him to death with her own chains.
Much of what follows is a rehash of the first film (really, another Death Star?), but when Luke and Darth Vader face off before the drooling Emperor (Ian McDiarmid), the franchise comes to its rightful fruition. Space battles and Boba Fetts aside, this is where all three pictures have been pointed: toward the two Skywalkers in a battle of wills, where the good of the son won’t relinquish the father to his own evil. It’s rich drama, played out with a combination of old-fashioned swordplay and special effects. That shiver of Vader’s skeleton as he’s being electrocuted is pure pop poetry, and enough to make me forgive any Ewok jamboree.