Return of the Jedi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Though the newest of the Original Trilogy films, Jedi came with the weakest transfer.
Whereas the first two movies came with mild use of digital noise reduction, this technique felt more heavy-handed on Jedi. Not that the image turned into a noise-reduced mess, but the flick’s low-light scenes showed a slightly soft feel at times that appeared to stem from this method.
Overall sharpness tended to be good, and more than a few shots – like those on Endor – offered very appealing delineation. Still, the image tended to lean a little soft more often than occurred with the first two OT flicks.
Issues with jagged edges and moiré effects failed to show up, and I still didn’t detect any signs of edge enhancement. As with the first two flicks, no print flaws marred the presentation.
Given that much of the movie took place on Endor, greens played the most prominent role in the palette, though a nice mix of other hues popped up as well. Sandy tans were dominant on Tatooine as well.
Across the board, the film replicated the various tones succinctly and vividly, so the colors always came across as vibrant and full. The disc’s HDR added zest and richness to the tones, and they became a strength of the image.
Black levels generally seemed good, though a few slightly crushed shots appeared. In addition, most shadows worked fine, but some could feel a bit too dark.
In particular, the nighttime scene in which Luke confides in Leia on Ender and then Leia chats with Han seemed more opaque than expected. HDR brought out superior whites and contrast much of the time, though. Jedi remained more than watchable, but it could be inconsistent.
As for the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, it felt like a virtual clone of Empire’s audio in terms of scope, quality and consistency. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the soundfield once again created a full and involving setting. Music featured concise and broad stereo imaging, while effects spread convincingly across the various speakers.
As usual, space flight scenes used the channels to the greatest advantage, as the crafts flew and zipped around the room well. Other segments also brought the mix to life. Elements were logically placed and connected cleanly to create a detailed soundscape.
Audio quality worked very well too. Speech was always distinctive and crisp, with no issues connected to edginess or a lack of intelligibility. Music appeared dynamic and bright, as the score featured tight highs and natural lows.
Effects continued to sound clear and clean. They followed the lead of Empire with accurate representation of the elements that featured good detail and range.
Bass was warm and lively. I often found it hard to believe that the soundtrack emanated from a 1983 film, as it didn’t show its age at all.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2011 Blu-ray? The Atmos audio provided a bit more spread and impact.
Visuals were a mixed bag, as the 4K lacked the upgrades I’d expect. Actually, the HDR made the colors stronger, and extra detail did emerge for more than a few shots – not always in a positive way.
This meant I noticed nuances I’d not picked up before, like little beads of drools from Jabba’s mouth or all the slime Jabba left on 3PO. I also saw the flaws in the Emperor’s makeup, which George Lucas probably didn’t want me to detect.
I thought the 4K was generally more appealing, though it also seemed a bit darker than the prior versions. Ultimately, its improvements seemed enough to make it the best version, but it wasn’t the same kind of step up offered by the first two OT films.
When we shift to extras, we find two audio commentaries. The first comes from the original DVD
and features story writer/producer George Lucas, sound designer Ben Burtt, visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, and actor Carrie Fisher.
All four were taped separately for this edited track. As they discuss the final chapter of the trilogy, technical issues dominate. Lucas talks about the ways the series used and broadened those elements and also goes over issues connected to the challenges presented by the tale’s final chapter. Lucas spends some time on story concerns and character developments.
One also gets the impression Lucas essentially directed Jedi. At the commentary’s start, he mentions that he played a more prominent role than typical for an executive producer and likened it to functioning that way on a TV, as he implies that Jedi director Marquand had little say in the proceedings and just did Lucas’s bidding.
That impression didn’t come through during the Empire commentary, partially because Irvin Kershner was there to have his say. Marquand died only a few years after he did Jedi, so he’s not here to defend himself. However, since Lucas often mentioned Kershner’s involvement in the film on that track and almost never discusses Marquand here, I still come away with the impression that the latter was a very junior partner.
Burtt plays a more prominent role and offers many fun notes about the sources of his recordings - who knew the Rancor was actually a dachshund? He also gives us a terrific exploration of how he helped develop the Ewok language.
Muren also participates a little more actively than usual as he tells us about the creation of the visual effects. Unfortunately, Fisher again doesn’t chime in very frequently.
When she speaks, she offers funny and incisive remarks, but she only pops up sporadically. The Jedi commentary stands as the weakest of the three from the Original Trilogy, but it still provides a lot of useful notes and comes across as entertaining and informative.
New to the Blu-ray, a second commentary collects material from archival sources. This one features George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Carrie Fisher, Dennis Muren, co-producers Robert Watts and Jim Bloom, composer John Williams, makeup designer Stuart Freeborn, modelshop supervisor Steve Gawley, visual effects artists Richard Edlund and Ken Ralston, stunt arranger Peter Diamond, chief model maker Paul Huston, concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, production designer Norman Reynolds, creature designer Phil Tippett, producer Howard Kazanjian, and actors Kenny Baker, Jeremy Bulloch, Anthony Daniels, Warwick Davis, Mark Hamill, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz and Billy Dee Williams.
If you’ve read my reviews of the other six films, you’ll know this track mixes outtakes from the 2004 commentary sessions with other archival bits. Like the other new-to-Blu-ray pieces, this one works pretty well.
It delivers a good look at a nice array of filmmaking topics and moves along at a good pace. No real weaknesses emerge in this enjoyable, informative track.
On a bonus Blu-ray, a vintage piece arrives with Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi. With alternating narration from Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams, it fills 48 minutes, two seconds and includes statements from George Lucas, Phil Tippett, and Muppet master Jim Henson.
This documentary sticks entirely with a discussion of the movie’s unusual lifeforms. We learn about the design and creation of Ewoks, the Rancor monster, Admiral Ackbar, Salacious Crumb, Sy Snootles, and Jabba the Hutt, among others.
We get a broad perspective and good footage from the production. Heck, we even find a goofy skit in which Chewbacca and some others take a Pan Am (!) flight to London! “Creatures” offers plenty of value.
The set of Interviews occupies a total of 15 minutes, six seconds. In these, we get notes from Dennis Muren, stop motion animator/makeup and creature designer Phil Tippett, model maker Bill George and actor Harrison Ford.
These bits look at sets and locations, creatures and character design, more effects, and reflections on Lucas. We know what to expect from these interviews at this point. Once again, they’re pretty good – not great, but enjoyable.
Five Deleted/Extended Scenes fill up 19 minutes, 22 seconds. We locate “Vader’s Arrival and Reaching Out to Luke” (2:48), “Tatooine Sandstorm” (2:11), “Rebel Raid on the Bunker” (2:20), “Jerjerrod’s Conflict” (2:26), and “Battle of Endor: The Lost Rebels” (9:37).
“Arrival” lets us see Luke and the droids before their introductions in the final film. It’s vaguely interesting to see more of the psychic connection between Luke and Vader, but I prefer the way things play in the end cut.
“Sandstorm” shows our heroes as they leave Tatooine after Han’s rescue from Jabba. Like many of these scenes, it’s cool for fans to see, but it’s not something that would’ve been good in the movie, as it’s slow and doesn’t tell us anything new.
“Raid” gives us more of the Solo-led assault on Endor. It’s not as exciting as it sounds, though we do get Solo’s incredulous reaction to being called “Rebel scum”.
With “Conflict”, we see the concerns of an Imperial officer: the Emperor tells him to blow up Endor if the troops lose, but he’s not eager to sacrifice surviving soldiers. It’s not something that should’ve made the final cut, as it’s pretty irrelevant story-wise, but it’s intriguing to see an Imperial officer who shows a more human side.
Finally, “Battle” really offers outtakes more than a deleted scene. It first shows the same fighter sequence performed by a mix of characters and actors.
This includes two female pilots, a Sullustan and a Mon Calamari as they repeat lines fed to them from off-screen. We then get silent footage of anonymous rebels as they set up the Endor assault and fly fighter ships before we end with an alternate version of command sequences that feature General Madine instead of Admiral Ackbar.
These were shot in case the filmmakers decided the Ackbar puppet wasn’t realistic enough. All of this qualifies as fun for fans but not particularly stimulating otherwise.
When we head to The Collection, we check out “Rancor Maquette”, “EV-9D9”, “Salacious B. Crumb”, “C-3PO’s Head with Eye Poked Out”, “Jabba’s Palace, Road Creature Matte Painting”, “Sarlacc Pit Matte Painting”, “Leia’s Boushh Costume”, “Slave Leia Costume”, “Lando Skiff Guard Costume”, “Jabba’s Radio-Controlled Eyes”, “AT-ST Walker Model”, “Speeder Bike”, “Imperial Shuttle Model”, “Ewok Hang Glider Maquette”, “Imperial Shuttle Landing Matte Painting”, “Endor Landing Platform Matte Painting”, “Ewok Costume”, “Biker Scout Costume”, “B-Wing Fighter Model”, “TIE Interceptor Model”, “Death Star Under Construction Model”, “Imperial Shuttle Bay Matte Painting”, “Admiral Ackbar Costume”, “Death Star Equator Docking Bay Matte Painting”, and “Millennium Falcon in Docking Bay Matte Painting”.
The “Collection” runs 37 minutes, four seconds, and we get “video commentaries” from Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, jeweler Richard Miller, and model maker Bill George. This is another pretty good section, though it’s the shortest of the bunch.
I have to state that it’s a disappointment the Original Trilogy interviews barely touched on costumes, too, as we see a lot of them but don’t hear much about them. Still, we get some more good notes in this compilation, so my disappointment remains relative.
In addition to two trailers, we find two TV spots. The “teaser” seems notable mainly because it uses the film’s original Revenge of the Jedi title.
We finish with two featurettes not found on the prior DVD/BD releases. Conversations spans nine minutes, 33 seconds and includes notes from visual effects mavens Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett. Roger Guyett and John Knoll.
They reminisce about their various experiences on Star Wars films. Mainly due to anecdotes, this becomes a fun panel chat.
Finally, we go to Discoveries from Inside, a five-minute, 21-second piece in which film historian JW Rinzler takes with Ben Burtt. They dig into the Skywalker Sound archives and Burtt helps demonstrate some notable audio elements. We find an enjoyable little clip.
Although Return of the Jedi stands as the weakest of the Star Wars Original Trilogy, don’t take that as a severe criticism. Yeah, the movie occasionally seems silly and immature, but it packs a lot of entertainment and finishes the series on a satisfying note. The 4K UHD gives us somewhat erratic picture as well as excellent audio and a strong set of supplements. Jedi may be the least appealing of the original films, it’s still a fun flick.
To rate this film visit the original review of RETURN OF THE JEDI