Stop for a minute! Do you really want to know, before you have seen the movie, the answers to some of the most intriguing questions of 1983?
Will Han Solo be freed from the carbonite in which he has been imprisoned?
Will Luke Skywalker at last become a Jedi knight?
Is Darth Vader really Luke's father?
All this, and a bit more, will of necessity be revealed in the following paragraphs. Filmgoers who demand total suspense should now avert their eyes and wait patiently in line Wednesday, May 25, when Return of the Jedi, the third of the Star Wars epics, opens in 950 theaters across the U.S. and Canada. Those who think they have already guessed the answers may read on, secure in the knowledge that the real surprises of the movie will not be unveiled in the pages that follow. So get ready for the final picture in George Lucas' marvelous rocket-propelled fairy tale and prepare your eyes for a constellation of special effects, a galaxy of monsters and a small world inhabited by fierce and furry Teddy bears.
It seems almost inevitable that Return of the Jedi will be one of this summer's blockbusters. (Other strong entries, including Superman III, a computer thriller called WarGames and The Twilight Zone, based on the old television series, have hopeful studios predicting that this summer's receipts may break last year's $1.2 billion record.) Star Wars, the first in the series (1977), has taken in $524 million at box offices around the world, while The Empire Strikes Back, the second in the saga (1980), has grossed $365 million worldwide. And Empire, as Lucas himself points out, was not an upbeat picture: it had an ending that left the bad guys in charge, and the good guys on the run−or, in poor Han Solo's case, on ice.
Return of the Jedi completes the trilogy. It is not as exciting as Star Wars itself, which had the advantage of novelty. But it is better and more satisfying than The Empire Strikes Back, which suffered from a hectic, muddled pace, together with the classic problems of being the second act in a three-act play. "I think Jedi is the best Star Wars movie ever made, and it is definitely going to be the most successful," says Director Steven Spielberg, who as one of Lucas' closest friends is admittedly biased. "The first movie was the introduction; Empire was the second-act conflict. But they were mere canapes for this third-act opus. This is the definitive Star Wars."
Produced at a cost of $32.5 million (compared with more than $10 million for Star Wars and $25 million for Empire), Jedi is more lavish than its predecessors. Star Wars, for example, had about 545 special effects; The Empire, 763; Jedi has 942. "The effects in this film are more or less the way I wanted them to be in Star Wars, but I didn't have the technology to carry them out," says Lucas. "The space battle is ten times more complicated than the one in Star Wars. If you went back and saw that one after seeing this one, it wouldn't be nearly as exciting as you remembered it." Adds Tom Smith, a vice president at Lucasfilm Ltd.: "I can't think of anything that we know how to do that we didn't do for this movie."