Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is in theaters for a limited run to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The third and final movie in the original trilogy, this movie was what many of us growing up in the 80s and 90s thought would be the end of what was believed to be the end of Star Wars. For many growing up in this era, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was seen occasionally on TV or more frequently on VHS… which was obviously not the highest quality viewing experience but we simply didn’t know any different.
Fast forward a few years and the original trilogy was again released in theaters in 1997. Me and my best friend Seth made our way to the local movie theater for each of these arriving in the mid-evening and standing outside in the cool (sometimes frigid) Minnesota air to be able to see these movies that we had only seen on home entertainment systems (which at the time we thought were amazing) on the big screen! They did not disappoint. We were enthralled with seeing three of our favorite movies on the big screen in a way that looked and sounded better than ever before.
Fast forward through eight new Star Wars movies, several animated series, several live-action series, and a couple of decades and we now find ourselves in 2023 with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi once again in theaters. After watching multiple ads and trailers, the lights go down the 20th Century Fox Fanfare plays and very soon the STAR WARS title and musical themes fill the theater. This moment is always exciting and electric. There is something very special about seeing the opening moment of any Star Wars film on the big screen with amazing sound.
As the movie progressed, I found myself noticing and enjoying different things on the big screen than I would on my home television screen (which isn’t tiny). I was noticing some of the more subtle character choices in the background by the main cast. I also found myself enjoying seeing what was going on with some of the atmosphere characters (including droids, Ewoks, members of the Rebellion and Empire, and more) as the movie progressed. This added a new level of depth to the movie that added to the enjoyment of it.
One of my favorite parts of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is the score by John Williams. Watching it on the big screen this time, I found myself appreciating it more than ever before. Part of this was because of different panels I have experienced at Star Wars Celebration through the years that analyzed the music. Another contributing factor is also thanks to David W. Collins and his podcast, The Soundtrack Show. While I’ve always been a fan of the story being told by the score from John Williams, I was noticing specific orchestrations this time. This was particularly true during some moments were a single instrument (i.e. a French Horn) provided the only accompaniment to a moment. I also was very aware of some very solid choices to not use music at all and just let the moment carry itself. While I have noticed some of these things before at home, they are even more apparent when in a theater.
I do think that there is something extra special about watching Star Wars on the big screen. It adds to the power of the storytelling. It really is how Star Wars is meant to be seen. Getting to see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi on the big screen is a beautiful experience. There are some absolutely beautiful moments in this film that are made even more beautiful as the overall story has progressed through the years, particularly the relationships between Luke, Leia, and Han Solo. I found myself also appreciating the puppetry in the film as Jabba the Hutt, Admiral Akbar, and of course Salacious Crumb bring added dimensions and life to the story and universe it is told in. I also cannot forget how awesome it is seeing Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader on the big screen and hearing the Emperor’s evil cackle. So good!
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi has a very limited run in theaters for its 40th anniversary. I’m so thankful for this run and am very happy for any chance at getting to see Star Wars on the big screen. Most importantly, it once again brought the magic of Star Wars that I found myself connecting with my childhood love for Star Wars simply because it is Star Wars. It really is special and I’m thankful that I was able to experience it once again!