RETURNING TO JEDI (DVD)

3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2007
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 127 minutes
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Yes, there are mountains of fan-made “Star Wars” movies out there, from recuts of the films to original stories to silly documentaries. “Returning to Jedi” is different, however. Taking Garrett Gilchrist’s “Deleted Magic” as his cue, Jambe Davdar created “Building Empire” and “Returning to Jedi,” documentaries that mix the movies with rare behind-the-scenes footage, text factoids, interesting bits from commentaries and interviews, and more.

So, for example, as the “Star Wars” logo recedes into the stars at the beginning of “Returning Jedi,” we hear producer Howard Kazanjian, in an excerpt from the 2004 DVD commentary, talk about how George Lucas came to him and said that the title of episode six would be “Revenge of the Jedi.” As the now-famous scroll rises from the bottom of the screen, we see the “Revenge of the Jedi” title below “Episode VI.” Then Kazanjian recalls that Lucas changed his mind, and the words roll back into the bottom of the screen, followed the final title rising into the frame.

From there, we move to an interview excerpt from now-deceased director Richard Marquand, talking in 1983 about how he wanted to bring each main character into the story one at a time, among other things. Then we hear a comment from Lucas circa 1985, as we watch Vader’s shuttle approach the new Death Star. We see the original matte painting for the side-view shot of the shuttle heading into the Death Star landing bay, and then we’re treated to early sketches of the city planet Coruscant, which was originally supposed to be shown in the beginning of the film. As Vader disembarks from the shuttle, we learn, via a text note at the bottom of the screen, that the set for the landing bay was built on the largest soundstage in Europe at the time, and a supermarket now sits there.

And so forth. Davdar leaves no stone unturned as the movie progresses, showing us as much information as he can about everything, including various deleted scenes, such as an early one that was supposed to show Luke building his lightsaber in a cave on Tatooine. I consider myself a fan of the movies (admittedly, “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” more so than “Return of the Jedi,” which was a mediocre effort), but I still learned about plenty of things I didn’t know before, such as the fact that a “Lightman” character that was supposed to appear in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Davdar also includes many rare behind-the-scenes pictures and footage that he pulled from the over 100 sources he dug into while creating this labor of love.

So where can you find “Returning to Jedi”? It’s available in a series of 21 parts on YouTube, or you can download the nearly 5GB DVD from one of many BitTorrent locations. Or you can visit the OriginalTrilogy.com message boards and see if you can find someone willing to burn you a copy on DVD.

If you can get your hands on the DVD, you’ll be treated to a few extras: alternative music for the battle at the Sarlaac Pit; a comparison between the animatic made with action figures and the final version of the speeder bike chase; and the “Revenge of the Jedi” opening crawl. Davdar also includes a teaser and a trailer for his documentary. You should be able to find some sources on OriginalTrilogy.com for DVD cover art, so you can print out something spiffy to place in a DVD case. Overall, it’s a nice addition to any “Star Wars” fan’s collection, especially considering how little in the way of original trilogy supplements Lucasfilm has released on DVD, aside from that great documentary in the 2004 DVD set.



Posted on March 1, 2007 in Reviews by
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