And so the story of Darth Vader comes to a close with the sixth story in the chronology of the films (third in terms of when they were made), but after two great films can the original trilogy go three-for-three? … No… but it tries really hard!
Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt.
Little does Luke know that the Galactic Empire has secretly begun construction on a new armoured space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star.
When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy…
Full Spoilers From Here On Out!
Cast of Characters:
“Wait… my father was Uncle Fester? But I thought…”
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – Now a Jedi Knight, Luke looks to rescue both his friend Han Solo, and his father Anakin, who he now knows currently wears the mask and ominous identity of Darth Vader.
Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) – After rescuing Han Solo, Leia is once again on the front lines of the Rebellion as a new, second Death Star has arrived to destroy things… and by things I mean entire planets.
Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) – Old Darthy is convinced it’s too late for him to be saved and that all he can do is hope his son becomes evil as well, which is great parenting!
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) – Now almost completely lacking in roguish charm, Han Solo is your basic brave soldier who goes into battle alongside the love of his life.
Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) – Chewbacca is still Chewbacca, roaring his way around the battlefield with his old friend Han Solo, though now it’s with his pal’s new wife-to-be as well…
R2-D2 and C-3PO (Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels) – Comedy droids get to do a lot more comedy this time thanks to the cute Ewoks and their mistaking 3PO for a God. Beyond that? Nothing much… obviously!
Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) – Gets to take down the second Death Star because the main cast is busy doing other things. Good for him!
The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) – The cackling, super-evil Emperor is back (or technically debuts, if you go by release order) and he finally gets his comeuppance, though it’s fair to say he is one of the few villains in fictional history to have his plan succeed for so long…
Corr! Look at that… weird tentacle man?
Seems redundant at this point because the cast hasn’t changed much, but Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher continue to do good jobs as Luke and Leia, but are still eclipsed by the performance of Harrison Ford as Han Solo and the vocal talents of James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader. Plus, as a throwback to my reviews of the prequel trilogy, Ian McDiarmid is fantastic as the super-evil Emperor, every line delivered with sneering menace.
The opening scenes at Jabba’s palace are great, and I’m not talking about the old cliché of Leia in the gold bikini. Luke gets to show his full Jedi skills, Han gets rescued, and the whole cast takes part in a big battle above the horrible Sarlacc pit. Jabba himself is well realised in his bloated, slug-like ways, to the point where you almost want to cheer when he gets choked to death.
The final three-way showdown between Luke, Vader and the Emperor is still great. Luke refusing to give in to the darkside, the Emperor prodding him and poking him until he starts fighting his father. Then Luke gives up and is attacked by the Emperor’s lightning before being saved by his now redeemed father, who throws his former master down a bottomless, exploding shaft at the cost of his own life. It’s rewarding, exciting and has a nice payoff, with Vader taking his mask off and looking into his son’s eyes and thanking him. Its great stuff, especially when you now factor in the prequels, knowing that he only turned to the darkside to save his wife, and now he returned to the light because of his wife’s child. It’s a nice full circle moment.
Other little things, like the design of the AT-STs (which I mention here because they weren’t actually in the original battle of Hoth scenes in the last film, oddly enough, only the special editions) and the space dogfight with the rebel ships and half-built Death Star II in the background are both well worth seeing. Oh, and it goes without saying at this point, but John Williams’ score is still amazing.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Notice how I talked about the opening and the ending, but didn’t mention the middle? Well, that would be because it’s not very good. The main gang lands on the forest moon of Endor and end up encountering cute bear-like creatures called Ewoks. Now, while George Lucas would go on to show us how much worse it could be with the Gungans in Episode I, the Ewoks are still pretty obnoxious. Not to mention their scenes in the village go on and on, and by the time Han, Leia, Chewbacca and the droids actually make it to the shield generator and start fighting the empire, you’ve lost interest in their struggle, instead more interested in what Luke is doing. Hell, you’ll probably be routing for the Empire in scenes with the Ewoks fighting them. Han is generally seems to have lost everything that made him interesting, all swagger and cockiness is gone… it’s a real shame.
Another thing is obviously the unoriginality of there being a second Death Star, and one that’s already so far along after only a couple of years. To make matters worse the actual assault on the planet-destroying weapon is done by Lando and a few lesser characters, and so doesn’t feel like it’s much of a threat.
I’ll mention the fact that Boba Fett, after having a small but effective debut in the last film, is defeated not in a grand duel or anything, but by having his jetpack comedically struck by accident and him tumbling into the Sarlacc pit. It’s a downer, but then Lucas didn’t know the popularity he’d attain, so I can’t be too mad at it. Plus, the expanded universe had him survive, so let’s just go with that for now…
The ending depends on what version of the film you’re watching. The special edition that I watched on blu-ray features the new ending where the infamous “Yub Nub” song is replaced with a more dramatic tune by series composer John Williams and shows various planets from both trilogies celebrating the death of the Emperor, then Hayden Christensen is standing next to Yoda and Alec Guinness’ Obi-wan at the end as a Force ghost. This shows that he is back to being Anakin for the first time since before he killed Mace Windu, and I guess therefore does make more sense then appearing as an old man version of Anakin that never existed, but the whole thing seems… wrong. I know this film was made first, so seeing Hayden, Naboo and Coruscant just doesn’t feel right. That being said, “Yub Nub” is a very obnoxious way to end the film, and just reminds you of the big negative part in the middle you had tried your best to forget, so I’m not sure which ending I’d like!
Hey look! A war in the stars!
So, the original trilogy ends with the first film of the three to have a feeling of weakness. The first two are so strong that the fact this has some down points makes them feel like a bigger deal. The opening and the big Luke-Vader-Emperor showdown are great, and there is some good in the middle as well, so it’s definitely more good than bad, it’s just it does have some bad that I can’t ignore just because I love the original trilogy. Still, this wraps up a storyline that has been running for six films (retroactively) and does it well, and for that it’s worth watching.