A blu ray film review of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi.
Steven Spielberg was the first choice to direct the film but had to turn it down because he is a member of the directors guild and George Lucas dropped his membership over disagreements about screen credits being played at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, David Lynch was also approached to direct the film, he turned it down, they finally hired Welsh director Richard Marquand.
The Ewoks were originally supposed to be Wookiee's, its thought that the decision to change was to do with toy marketing. The Ewok language was inspired by the Kalmucks, a nomadic tribe living in Central China, Tibet.
The Millenium Falcon that you see used in this film was either a model or a matte painting, the full sized version that was used in the previous films was only seen in a sandstorm scene which ended up not being used in the final cut of the movie.
Emperor Palpatine was originally called Palatine after the name of a character in Taxi Driver, it was changed to avoid any legal issues, Palatine is also one of the seven hills on which Rome in Italy is built upon, the name Palpatine is never explicitly used by any of the characters in the original Star Wars trilogy and he is known only as The Emperor.
The movie was filmed under the fake title of Blue Harvest, that title is inspired by a Dashiell Hammett story called Red Harvest which in turn was the inspiration for Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo.
Endor is a village found in biblical Israel's territory of Isaachar where King Saul went on the eve of the final battle with the Phillistines and came across the witch of Endor. Endor is also the Elvish name for Middle Earth in The Lord Of The Rings. Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo to sacrifice his life to save his friends, George Lucas disagreed with the idea.
As with the previous films you can hear the Wilhelm scream as Luke slashes an enemy with his lightsaber and they fall into the Sarlacc pitt and when an Ewok is killed by Imperial Walker fire.
The Huttese language spoken by Jabba The Hutt was inspired by the Incan language of Quechua. George Lucas fired Gary Kurtz before production began, some sources claim he quit, the reason being that Kurtz disagreed with the way the script was written and the assertion by Mr Lucas that audiences didn't care for the story but that they came for the spectacle.
The Emperor has taken command of a new, under construction Death Star, protected by a power generator on the forest moon of Endor, the rebel alliance have given Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker the task of destroying the generator, once done the rebel fleet can move in and take out the incomplete Death Star and the Emperor in one fell swoop.
One Jedi Knight will rise and one will fall and once more there will be balance in the force.
I liked the Rancor battle at Jabba's palace, this is the first time we get to see Luke using his Jedi mind trick skills and we see on the desert barge how his lightsaber skills have greatly improved from the last film, oh and Princess Leia in a metal bikini, i think thats a great scene in high definition, what more can i say. George should find some deleted scenes of Leia in her bikini and put them back in the film for the next release.
The final Death Star space battle is exciting, it features some magical effects work, i enjoyed it much more than the space battle at the beginning of Revenge Of The Sith, this one flows better, you actually feel there is an epic large scale battle taking place and it looks better than ever on blu ray, i think the precise modelwork used in this film is a dying craft that in time will sadly disappear forever to be replaced by CGI.
I think Mark Hamill matured a lot between the first Star Wars film and this one, if you take into account there is just six years between them then it's actually quite astonishing how much older he looks, he was so fresh faced in the original movie, i think he does well with the material given to him, i feel that the character of Han Solo lost most of his edge in this film, not surprising really since he is supposed to be in love with Leia and a more morally upright person and at one point he wasn't even going to be in the film, i think i would have liked it better if he and Chewbacca were piloting the Millenium Falcon instead of Billy Dee Williams and they make an heroic sacrifice to destroy the Death Star and Leia thinks they are dead only for a tear filled happy ending as they reunite, by keeping them together i think it removes some of the drama that could have been in the film.
Despite my feelings about the introduction of characters to sell toys, this still has the feel of a Star Wars film.
I'm not a fan of some of the changes George Lucas has made for the 2005 release, in particular i do not like the addition of Hayden Christensen at the end of the film, he replaces the older actor as a force ghost and appears next to old Obi-Wan and Yoda, it's my understanding that to become a force ghost it must be taught to you, Qui-Gon Jinn taught Yoda and Yoda taught Obi-Wan, so who taught Anakin Skywalker the skill to become a force ghost, no one did, he would not have that ability, even if he does have the ability, i could buy it more when we saw him as an older man, think about it, he becomes Anakin again by turning against the Emperor, therefore his older force ghost should be what we see.
I feel this was the film in the original trilogy which went a little too far away from the human element of the story, i felt the puppets in Jabba's palace and the Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor were a distraction and they seemed to be there so that Mr Lucas could make money from toy sales, i do remember reading that this was the film where George focussed more on the addition of things that could be marketed as toys and less time was spent on developing the characters and storyline, it feels a less mature storyline than The Empire Strikes Back.
The Jedi Rocks music scene has CGI additions that tend to stick out among all the puppets, it was fairly inoffensive to me but i think they could easily take the entire sequence out of the film and trim the running time and i wouldn't miss it at all. There is a scene where Lando talks to Han, Lando is about to leave in the Millenium Falcon and Han is going off on his mission to bring down the power generator, well the Millenium Falcon in the background is a matte painting, while it's a beautiful piece of art it looked fake to me,
I saw some frozen grain during a scene where C-3PO and R2-D2 head towards Jabba's palace on Tatooine, an early scene with the blue sky of Tatooine was bad, it was just frozen there and looked very unnatural, there was also edge enhancement halo's visible but i thought this was a minor issue, less of a problem than A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back, check out the scene near the beginning of the film when the Emperor and Darth Vader depart their shuttle and enter the Death Star, thats just one example of EE and the issue with halo's that have unfortunately been on all of the original trilogy releases.
There are moments in the film where there is softness, one character can be seen in focus and the other is slightly out of focus or you get scenes which have soft focus for the entire frame, thats intentional and should not be confused with digital noise reduction, there is a moment approximately 54 minutes into the film where the quality suddenly drops, the moment in question is when Han, Luke, Princess Leia, Chewie and the droids are approaching the Death Star for clearance to go to the forest moon of Endor, the issue continues until around the 58 minute mark, at this point they are on the Endor moon, i have no idea why that happens, resolution seems to drop off, detail becomes poor and everyone and everything seems slightly out of focus, i don't think its the way it was filmed since the issue is seen on several differently shot sequences during those 4 or so minutes, perhaps when they originally did the film scans in 2004 something went seriously wrong and its never been fixed.
Lucasfilm promised us that the lightsaber issues would all be fixed, well they haven't been true to their word, the moment when Luke reaches for his lightsaber and attempts to strike the Emperor only for Darth Vader to block him with his lightsaber is fine, they fixed that, we then get a lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader, you can clearly see a pinkish core to Vader's lightsaber with a red haze around it during much of this battle, it should be a white core with a red haze. Maybe one day George will finally once and for all fix the lightsaber issues.
The colours seemed good to me and i'm glad they resisted the urge to change things and give us the orange/teal look, so many older films are now getting just such a makeover, i think there may be a small issue with black crush causing some shadow detail to be lost in a few scenes, it's hard to judge how this film and indeed all the films in the Stars Wars trilogy should look since Lowry digital degrained all of them and then added in a thin layer of artificial grain, this was necessary to retain some of the film look but you get some issues like the aforementioned frozen grain, some issues are also added by sharpening up individual scenes, indeed they sharpened up individual elements within the frame, this is what causes all the films to have that slightly processed look and some unwanted thin halo's around objects and people, i can only imagine how good these films might look if they made new 4K scans from the original separation masters and then fixed all the matte lines and lightsaber issues and i believe they could even sharpen select scenes without adding halo issues.
There is a scene where Lando talks to Han, Lando is about to leave in the Millenium Falcon and Han is going off on his mission to bring down the power generator, well the Millenium Falcon in the background is a matte painting, while it's a beautiful piece of art it looked fake to me, still i can accept that and do not need CGI additions just to make things look better.
When the Rancor moves it's footsteps you hear a tremendous amount of deep bass, it shook the room a few times and i thought it was just great, a little after this moment our heroes are sentenced to a slow agonising death in the pit of Sarlacc and there is some good exciting sound and John Williams fantastic rich music score playing during the action scenes which follow and wow at the bass when jabba's barge ship blows up is very deep, it shook my room it was that powerful, there is good surround sound with the bike speeder chase on Endor.
The space battle has some exciting front speaker to rear speaker sound and also some deep quality bass, take a listen to the end music score and you can hear the instruments play in individual channels across the front speakers, the separation of these instruments really help make it sound like the orchestra is in your room and it sounds rich and detailed. There are some good moments on the moon of Endor when you can hear the sounds of the forest and everything that is in it all around you.
I felt this was an improvement over The Empire Strikes Back, speech did not sound so harsh, the deep low bass had a bit more dimension to it and the music score sounded a bit richer and more detailed, overall i felt this was a more dynamic and detailed sound mix, i felt a little disappointed with The Empire Strikes Back but this was a return to form.
I feel this is the weakest of the original Star Wars trilogy, i think a lot of this is due to George Lucas deciding he would rather make lots of money from the toy marketing companies and thus we have a lot of muppet type additions to the film, in particular the scenes in Jabba's palace where there are countless puppets and the Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor, i have got used to these additions over the years but i do feel they weigh the film down.
There was a lot of fuss made in some quarters about the Nooooo line that Vader now speaks while watching the Emperor killing Luke with Force lightning, after listening to it i am glad to say it's not quite as bad as i had feared, Luke still pleads for his father to save him and the only small issue i have with the scene is that the Emperor would hear Vader's no and be ready for any attempt to kill him, in that context you would think it would play better if Vader was silent and took the Emperor by surprise.
I felt it was an appropriate ending but it might have had even more impact if George Lucas had taken up Harrison Ford's suggestion of killing off Han Solo, think of the power of such a scene and the emotional impact it would have had on Princess Leia and in turn on the audience who are watching, i feel Hollywood does not take chances and too often we end up with diluted storylines or in the case of Return Of The Jedi we end up with a film that promises much but ultimately ends up being an advert for some companies new toy range.
If only Gary Kurtz had stayed on and persuaded George to go in a more mature direction and finish the series on a high, now having said that, i do enjoy some of this film a lot, i feel there are some great moments in the film, scenes such as the Emperor goading Luke and trying to turn him to the dark side and the final all out space battle is fun but everytime the film gets serious it then reverts to a scene with furry Ewoks firing fake looking bows and arrows or a fishy looking character leading the rebellion assault on the Death Star, that doesn't work so well for me, it felt like this film was made to promote toys, i still enjoy the film but consider it along with Revenge Of The Sith to be the weakest entries in the Star Wars saga.