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35 years of Return of the Jedi, and what it means for Solo: A Star Wars Story

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This year, May 25th marks the 35th anniversary of Return of the Jedi – the final episode in Lucas’ first Star Wars trilogy which sees Luke Skywalker taking his last step to becoming a Jedi, Princess Leia and Han Solo falling in love, and the destruction of another Imperial Death Star.

Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Peter Mayhew in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

For some, A New Hope, the original movie’s subtitle since day one, often wins arguments about which installment is the best. However, for myself at least, Return of the Jedi sees every character settle into pre-determined roles to ultimately ‘get the job done’ alongside a healthy dose of loveable ridiculousness (Ewoks). I’d say they helped bring down the Empire, but for some, they somewhat softened the story outline.

Still, whether Lucas introduced the Ewoks for commercially driven purposes or not, they were designed with the same depth as any other in the Star Wars universe, and are memorable as one of Return of the Jedi’s highs.

The film also boasts the return of fan favourite Yoda. Luke returns to the Dagobah system where he finds that Yoda is dying, whilst confirming that Darth Vader is, in fact, Luke’s father and that there is “another Skywalker”, a.k.a Leia.

Together with Ewoks and Yoda, Return of the Jedi continues to have possibly the best conglomeration of sub-characters in the galaxy. Boba Fett returns in Episode VI, going up against Luke in the ship battle, which unfortunately ends in a jetpack fuelled death. Still, his Bounty Hunter character oozes an edge previously unseen in the face of Vader, as he remains unphased in the latter's threatening presence.

Furthermore, the only person in the galaxy worse than Vader (at the time), Emperor Palpatine, appears as the cloaked antagonist, and whilst Darth Vader saves his son from the psychological and physical clutches of the Emperor, rogue Lando Calrissian also proved himself a hero in Episode VI.

Despite having handed Han Solo over to Vader in the previous movie, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, Lando goes undercover to help Luke rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt and his henchmen. For his heroics, he is later made a general in the Rebel Alliance – eventually taking the pilot seat in what was once his old ship, the Millennium Falcon, to lead the attack on the second Death Star.

Almost thirty-five years later to the date (with the UK release being pushed forward by one day to May 24th), the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story features both Lando and Han together for the first time in a feature film since 1983. With much anticipation, the narrative is said to provide insight into one of Solo’s oldest friends, with Donald Glover being cast as the young gambling smuggler that is Lando. Lucasfilm really couldn’t have picked a better actor for the job.

Based on what we know from the original Star Wars episodes, Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a card game – keeping the golden dice he used to win hanging in the cockpit of the ship. Solo’s prized ship has flown from one side of the galaxy to the other but that said, we will supposedly see an entirely new side of the ship in the former hands of Lando.

Solo: A Star Wars Story releases in cinemas the 24th May, distributed by The Walt Disney Studios.

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