Return of the Jedi

* * * 1/2*

The weakest of the three Star Wars films returns in a disappointing update which demonstrates the flaws behind all the new Special Editions. Let me start off by stating that Return of the Jedi is a great film, highly entertaining and full of superb special effects (that hold up even under today's standards). However, compared to its two predecessors, it is somewhat of a letdown. Jedi plays more like a greatest hits album than a new chapter. From Star Wars, we have a return to Tatooine, lots of aliens ala the Cantina scenes, another Death Star, and another all out assault on the same. From Empire, we have more Boba Fett action, a return to Dagobah and another visitation with Yoda, have more action with Imperial Walkers, and Luke and Vader battle yet again. There are a few new thrills: the Rancor battle, the Sarlac pit, the speeder bike chase, and, most notoriously, the Ewoks. But, although some of the revisitations make logical sense (once they had the capability, why would the Empire build only one Death Star?), their impact is duller the second time around. Of the three films, Jedi has the least amount of tinkering overall for the Special Edition. There are two changed scenes: an extended song and dance number at Jabba's Palace that while showcasing new digital effects doesn't significantly add anything. A bit more promising is an extended ending sequence, featuring celebrations on multiple planets (I guess the Imperial forces throughout the galaxy simply gave up once their leader was deposed). Again, the changes don't add anything too significant to the film (though they may help tie together the prequels when they are released), but they are neat to watch. And, there are plenty of areas of the film that needed cleaning up, but instead are left untouched (particularly the poorly matted Rancor scenes). Instead of improving and enhancing the film, the decision was made to devote the time, energy and funding to creating new scenes of dubious value. The same held true for Star Wars, in which there were several obvious uncorrected flaws, but the Special Edition effort was spent creating the new, redundant Jabba scene. Yet, overall, the enhancements, while disappointing, don't detract from the trilogy as a whole. With or without the additional scenes, to have the three films (including Return of the Jedi) again on the big screen is an opportunity you shouldn't miss.

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