Star Wars-Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt And Dennis Muren
|Year Of Production||1983|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Richard Marquand|
Twentieth Century Fox
Billy Dee Williams
James Earl Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Welcome to the DVD review of a movie that was generally regarded as somewhat of a disappointment, as the least mature, as the ugliest sister in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Disclaimer: I am not a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise - please take my plot synopsis as that of a new viewer. I do not claim to be an expert on the Star Wars universe! It is interesting that, despite the less than rapturous reviews this film received on its initial release it, for my money, leaves the most recent two Star Wars outings - all overblown CGI and undercooked acting - in its wake. Nevertheless, whilst Return of the Jedi may not have been the pinnacle of the original trilogy, it can still hold its head very high as a timeless piece of pure family entertainment, in the tradition of all good Saturday matinee movies. Indeed for a movie that cost around a mere $50 million (Australian) to make, the box office receipts of over A$800 million and of course the A$700 million from video rentals (plus the gargantuan sales revenue this DVD will generate)..."disappointing" seems like a word that should not appear on the same page.
Love it or loathe it, this film was designed to serve a major purpose - it was created to tie up all the loose ends of its prequels and deliver a meaningful conclusion to the epic Star Wars saga. It was there to resolve all those unanswered questions. It was there to provide one (temporary as it turned out) last look into that beguiling Star Wars universe. It was there to provide millions of dedicated fans around the world with a couple of hours of spectacular entertainment. I believe it does all of these things admirably - perhaps not perfectly, but perfectly adequately.
And so we come to the plot of the movie itself... Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi takes place shortly (those in the know say one year) after the events of Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. As the film begins, Darth Vader (David Prowse) is landing on the brand spanking new, even more deadly, Death Star and announces that the Emperor himself (Ian McDiarmid) will shortly be visiting. Meanwhile, C3PO and R2D2 turn up at Jabba the Hutt's Palace on Tatooine with a video message from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), offering to exchange the two droids for the release of Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Solo, previously trapped in carbonite by Boba Fett, is serving out a chilly eternity as a mere decorative bauble for the repulsive Jabba. Unimpressed by the video message from Skywalker, C3PO is pressed into service as a translator, whilst R2D2 is destined to be enslaved into service on Jabba's sail barge.
Without any fanfare a bounty hunter arrives with a captive - the mighty Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) - determined to achieve an equally mighty ransom for this formidable ally of Han Solo. The bounty hunter secretly releases Solo from his icy bonds and is revealed to be none other than the delectable Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). Unfortunately, she is all too soon enslaved and forced to don a glittering bikini and rough iron neck chains, whilst a mysterious stranger hovers in the background. Our old friend Luke, making use of the infamous "Jedi mind trick" wheedles his way into the Palace, yet fails to convince Jabba that Han should be released. When Jabba drops Luke, through a trapdoor, into the clutches of a slavering Rancor only one of them is likely to survive. Luckily for us it is the Rancor that bites the dust.
Despite a valiant fight, the rebels succumb to the superior numbers of Jabba's genetically diverse minions and are hauled aboard his sand yacht, bound for the dreaded Dune Sea and the maw of the dreadful, dentally over-endowed Sarlac. When Luke is forced to walk the plank, his Jedi powers come to the rescue once again and he is able to orchestrate an escape for the entire band of rebels...including that mysterious stranger who has been lurking in the background... Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).
And so it comes to pass that Chewbacca, the droids, Luke (despite a severe wound to the hand), Leia and Han are free once more to go about the business of rescuing the Galaxy. Luke decides that the time is right to return to the Dagobah system and resume his Jedi training with the vertically challenged Yoda. Unbeknownst to Luke, the Emperor has advised Vader that Skywalker must be returned to answer his ultimate calling - to return to "the Dark Side".
Luke resumes his training with the now 900 year old Yoda only to receive confirmation that Vader truly is his father. Yoda also informs Luke that he has one final mission to complete before he can truly become a Jedi Knight. After the tearful death of the ailing Yoda, Luke is visited by the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) and he is informed that he must face, and kill, his biological father - Darth Vader.
Whilst Luke has been learning the truth behind his past, and the painful path of his future, the Empire has been busy building the bigger and more powerful Death Star with which it intends to seize control of the Galaxy once and for all. The Emperor assures Darth Vader that Luke Skywalker will come to Vader without the need for capture - he has foreseen it... Before the Rebel fleet, led by (now) General Lando Calrissian, can launch a decisive attack on the Death Star, they must disable the shield generator which is protecting it from aerial assault.
This takes the Rebels, aboard the stolen shuttle Tiberia, to the Forest Moon of Endor which is home to both the power generator and a race of (many critics say too) cute, teddy-bear like warriors - the (unnamed in the film) Ewoks. After a stunning chase on speeder-bikes through the forests, Leia is captured by the cuddly Ewoks. Fortunately, as C3PO is fluent in over six million dialects, the golden, possibly gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), robot is assumed to be a God by the Ewoks. Sadly, the presence of Luke proves to be a give-away, with his effect on the Force alerting Darth Vader (David Prowse) to their presence. Luke bravely decides that he must surrender himself into the clutches of Vader to allow his comrades to complete their mission.
When Luke allows himself to be captured by the Empire forces, he once again comes face to face with his father - Darth Vader. Despite his hopes, it appears that Luke cannot convince Darth to re-join the forces for good. The Emperor informs Luke that Darth Vader will forever be linked to the Dark Side - and that, after some further training, Luke himself will become forever enchanted by those infernal powers.
When C3PO tells the Ewoks, around the campfire, of the struggles of the rebels to regain balance in the Galaxy, of their fight against the evil Empire, they are galvanised to assist in the struggle to defeat the Emperor. The cuddly allies fall in love with the romanticism of this new breed of Rebel, this rag-tag bunch of aliens who may finally rid the galaxy of the scourge of the Emperor and his dark minions.
And so we come to the dénouement - the pointy end - of the film, and indeed the original Star Wars trilogy. Will the Rebels, aided by the diminutive Ewoks somehow manage to defeat the overwhelming, crack troops of the Emperor? Will Luke manage to defeat Darth Vader and the unscrupulous Emperor without succumbing to the temptations of the Dark Side? Or will the subversive forces of the Dark Side, that eternal, pervasive evil prevail...?
Return of the Jedi was criticised on a number of fronts. The resolution of that tantalising love triangle between Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo was seen by some critics as a lame cop-out, a simplistic and half-baked way of avoiding a more thoughtful (and satisfying) conclusion. The introduction of some characters was seen by some as a cynical marketing ploy to sell more action figures - Ewoks anyone? Given the relative merits of Episode I and Episode II, and the passage of over twenty years since its theatrical release, I suspect that many critics may now see Return of the Jedi in a somewhat more favourable light in this DVD incarnation.
Okay - so sue me, but I actually enjoyed Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. Sure it's cutesy in places, but I happen (like Eric Cartman) to think Endor and the Ewoks are cooool. Maybe the love triangle resolution was a bit of a cheap cop-out, but I didn't mind. Perhaps the relatively minor presence of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi gave the film less dramatic weight, but at least Jar-Jar Binks is nowhere to be seen. At the end of the day, this is head and shoulders above the fairly awful Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. For fans of the Star Wars universe, this is still somewhere close to cinematic heaven... and for myself? It brought back some unexpectedly happy memories, and who knows, I may even get around to buying the trilogy on DVD after watching this piece of genuinely entertaining, rollicking family cinema.
Disappointing? Quite the contrary - this movie (and this laudable DVD presentation) comes highly recommended for families and fanatics alike. After all, the film is currently ranked as the 26th biggest box office success of all time...three places ahead of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back! If you want to see the original Star Wars trilogy - there is currently no better format on which to view it.
The overall video transfer of this film is excellent and is almost, but not quite, of reference quality. On a smaller (say 68cm) screen it may as well be considered perfect.
The movie is presented in an anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.35:1 which is the original theatrical aspect ratio.
Let's be honest here. This film is over twenty years old. Given the age, the image sharpness is magnificent. It does fall slightly short of reference quality when compared to some of the best images from more recent years, but there really is nothing major here for anyone but the most anally retentive of viewers to complain about. Grain simply did not register with me. On occasion, the close-up shots look like they were shot yesterday. On occasion some of the busier, middle distance shots look like they were shot last month with a minor hint of softness. Need I say more? If you are a fan, throw away your VHS transfers right now.
Black levels are truly excellent. They are coal mine deep and rock solid throughout, with no hint of low level noise. Shadow detail is usually very good indeed, but on occasion there is some minor loss of detail in the deepest of dark corners. Darth Vader's cloak occasionally becomes a black mass for example - but it is in no way obnoxious - yet his mask glistens with reflected detail. Colours are very cleanly rendered and nicely saturated. There is absolutely no evidence of colour bleeding. The forests of Endor in particular look highly naturalistic, yet warmly rendered and you can almost feel the dew dripping from the leaves. Some blue screen and CGI shots do, on occasion, stick out like the Westie's testes however. The primary colours of the light sabres look brilliantly vivid and clear. The only minor quibble I had was that some of the red laser beam ricochets looked rather oversaturated in a decidedly post-production way. Skin tones look natural enough throughout, although there is a slight touch of excess make-up evident on occasion.
The transfer has no MPEG artefacts at all, from what I could see. Pixelisation and aliasing was totally absent on my progressive scan set-up - there was not even a hint of shimmer in the finest of detail. The only obvious (to the most critical of viewer) defect on show was the presence of some noticeable (barely) edge enhancement. This can be spotted by the critical viewer at (for instance) 30:58 as Luke walks the plank, at 37:35 on the Emperor, at 38:56 as Luke talks to Yoda, at 80:16 or 86:50 around Luke and Vader.
With respect to spicks, spots and scratches, this transfer is spotless and, if I am honest, I really did not see a single significant film artefact.
The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are very well timed, very easy to read and rarely stray from the dialogue - be it English, Huttese, Ubese or any other galactic incarnation of the spoken word.
This is a single sided, dual layer (RSDL) formatted disc, with the brief layer change barely noticeable at 60:07, masked by a typically kitsch wipe, but revealed by a minor pause in the audio stream. It is not disruptive in the slightest.
The audio transfer is excellent and is almost, but not quite, of reference quality.
The primary English audio track for the film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX encoded at a healthy 448 kbps. It is utterly free from problems in the way of hiss, clicks, pops or dropouts. The dialogue is always crisp and clear, although I felt that it sounded a little recessive and tinny on occasion. Whilst the dialogue is never actually overwhelmed by the effects or score, it could withstand a little more prominence in the soundstage for my taste. Audio sync was generally spot on with only the merest hint of loss of sync on a few occasions - when Luke speaks to Jabba around 23:20 or when Leia speaks to the Ewok at 60:53. I suspect that both instances were the result of ADR work rather than the actual transfer however. The minor English audio track, which I sampled on several scenes, is a Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround flagged) affair encoded at 192 kbps which is equally serviceable - and once again appeared to be free from any significant defect.
Original music is credited to the king of scores, John Williams, whose mind-bogglingly impressive body of work includes Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan and the Harry Potter franchise amongst many notable others. It almost goes without saying that the musical score is a gem. Williams manages to weave the classic Star Wars theme into any number of genres - be they strident military marches, subtle strings, rousing battle scenes or mournful laments.
The dialogue is solidly fixed in the main channels - predominantly the centre speaker of course. The main front speakers provide a very satisfying spread of noise including some rather nice soundstage panning.
There is a very significant surround presence throughout the movie, which has an enveloping feel throughout. The surround speakers are highly active for the duration, with any number of locational, directional and ambient effects. Some notable examples of ambience include the rolls of thunder in Dagobah around 38:00, or the various creatures in the swamps around 45:15. Some very nice panning effects can be heard throughout, for instance with the fighters at 51:27 which pass from the back to the front of the soundstage, or the speeders as they race from front to rear at 56:30. Overall there is little more that could be asked of the effects speakers.
There is substantial use of the subwoofer in this movie. There are numerous obvious choices for LFE vibrations - the explosions from Jabba's sand yacht around 35:20 or shots from the fighting in the forests of Endor around 62:00 for instance. There are also some more specific deep bass effects such as the footsteps of the Rancor beneath Jabba's palace or the rumble of the speeder engines around 56:30. The subwoofer certainly has plenty to do, although it is perhaps not quite as dramatically employed as in the more recently filmed Star Wars episodes. Overall, rather nice stuff.
|Surround Channel Use|
The extras are minimal in number - but for dedicated fans rather important.
The animated menus are an absolute delight. With nicely chosen video clips from the film and audio support encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kbps, they almost beg you to choose all available options. The main menu allows the options of playing the feature, selecting one of an astonishing fifty chapter stops, choosing the audio language and subtitles, plus access to the following features:
George Lucas is joined by Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt (Sound Designer) and Dennis Muren (Visual Effects) in a rather fascinating commentary track. It appears that the comments were not recorded at the same time - the protagonists do not really interact with one another, but that cannot detract from the quality of the commentary overall. The wealth of information available from listening to Lucas and Co. is priceless. Everything (well almost) fans could wish to learn about the film is here, waiting to be enjoyed. This is - for someone who is not a major fan of Star Wars or audio commentaries in general - an impressive commentary track. Highly worthwhile. It is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kbps and is well, well worth a listen for fans of the director or the Star Wars universe.
On the Language Menu, this is a great extra (although not exactly unique nowadays), that helps you to set up your audio/video system fairly accurately, to enjoy the movie to the best capabilities of your hardware.
An Internet link to Starwars.com. It brings up a text screen saying how much wonderful stuff you can access if you install the (bloody awful) Interactual software from the DVD. I'll pass thanks.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
I can only assume that the Region 1 release of this film is the same as our own - minor differences may exist in the way of languages and subtitles. Fans will probably be perfectly happy with a purchase of the Region 4 release. Buy whichever can be found cheaper.
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi is the final chapter in the original Star Wars trilogy - and indeed in the whole Star Wars cinematic universe. It is, for dedicated fans, considered to be the weakest entry in the trilogy. This does not alter the fact that it is easily a substantial part of the most influential cinematic series of the last Century. As part of the Star Wars box set, it is unmissable. As a stand-alone film it is, whilst not quite perfect, bloody good fun!
The 2.35:1 video transfer is almost of reference quality. For a movie which is so important, and which is over twenty years old, this is a magnificent video transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer is of almost reference quality. For a movie which dates to 1983 this mix is damned impressive
Extra features are limited but, given the importance of the audio commentators, cinematically important.
|DVD||Momitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|