10 Ways Star Wars Has Changed How You See Return Of The Jedi, 40 Years Later

The Star Wars franchise has grown significantly over the past 40 years, changing how viewers see Return of the Jedi. The final film in the original Star Wars trilogy was unchanged for a long time, as there weren’t many books or comics to drastically alter the story. That all changed in 1991 with the release of Heir to the Empire, kicking off the modern Expanded Universe and reviving interest in stories set after Return of the Jedi. George Lucas also began changing the movies with the 1997 special editions, altering different moments in each subsequent revision.

Star Wars finally began expanding on the big screen again with the prequel trilogy, revealing the story only hinted at in Return of the Jedi. The sequel trilogy then offered its own version of events after Return of the Jedi, as did the live-action TV shows on Disney+. With so many new additions to the franchise, it’s impossible to view the Star Wars movies the same way audiences did upon release, and this is especially true for Return of the Jedi. From new scenes to reveals that provide additional context, ten aspects of Return of the Jedi have changed after 40 years.

Related: Star Wars In Order: All Movies & Shows

10 Boba Fett Didn’t Actually Die In Return Of The Jedi

Boba Fett's Sarlacc

Boba Fett met his apparent end in Return of the Jedi when he fell into the sarlacc pit, but Star Wars has retconned this multiple times. The Legends continuity featured more than one story where Boba managed to survive, and it was made canon again in The Mandalorian season 2. The Book of Boba Fett provided a more detailed explanation, showing how Boba’s armor protected him inside the pit and allowed him to crawl out. He went on to join a tribe of Tusken Raiders, teamed up with Din Djarin for a time, and eventually replaced Jabba the Hutt as Daimyo of Mos Espa on Tatooine.

9 Palpatine’s Death Brought Balance To The Force

palpatine sith death wish emperor

Palpatine’s death was originally nothing more than the act of a father saving his son, but the prequel trilogy gave it cosmic significance. Anakin Skywalker’s Chosen One prophecy explained that he was destined to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force, and though he fell to the dark side, he later fulfilled the prophecy by killing Palpatine. This gives Anakin’s sacrifice more significance and makes Return of the Jedi the conclusion to a six-film arc rather than just the original trilogy.

8 Anakin Skywalker’s Force Ghost Returns To His Young Form

Anakin Skywalker Force Ghost

The late Sebastian Shaw appeared as Anakin’s Force Ghost in the theatrical cut of Return of the Jedi, but this was changed to Hayden Christensen for the 2004 DVD release. The theatrical version shows Anakin as he may have been had he never turned to the dark side, a father figure looking at Luke with pride. The remastered version offers a new context, showing the Anakin that audiences know from the previous films, a reflection of Luke Skywalker at that point in his life. Fans still debate which is better, but Anakin’s Force ghost returning to his young form changes Return of the Jedi‘s ending.

7 Palpatine’s Death In Return Of The Jedi Isn’t Final

Palpatine and the Death Star

Palpatine’s death brought balance to the Force and completed Anakin’s redemption, but Star Wars has never let the Emperor stay dead. Palpatine first returned in the Legends comic series Star Wars: Dark Empire by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, transferring his dark spirit into a clone body. Star Wars canon used a similar explanation for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, revealing that Palpatine was the true mastermind behind Snoke, Kylo Ren, and the First Order. Considering how Palpatine cheated death once, it’s entirely possible that he could return a third time.

6 Jabba The Hutt Is Already An Established Character

Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars

Jabba the Hutt never appeared in the theatrical version of A New Hope, making it a surprise when he was finally shown in Return of the Jedi. However, George Lucas included a deleted scene for the special edition, recreating Jabba with CGI. Jabba later appeared in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and movie, expanding his history before the original trilogy. When viewed chronologically, Jabba is a well-established character long before his original debut in Return of the Jedi.

5 Luke’s Behavior Is More Troubling (Because Of Anakin)

Luke Skywalker Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi saw Luke tempted by the dark side as he underwent his final trial to become a Jedi. Even so, Luke never had a compelling reason to join Palpatine until his friends’ lives were on the line, but the prequels offer more parallels between Anakin and Luke. After watching Anakin’s behavior in the previous films, it’s much more troubling when Luke Force chokes a guard or tells someone not to underestimate his power. It hints that Luke has been slipping to the dark side without realizing it, creating more tension as Palpatine tries to push him over the edge on the Death Star.

4 Obi-Wan Lying To Luke Is More Understandable After Revenge Of The Sith

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker as seen in Return of the Jedi

Obi-Wan Kenobi lied to Luke throughout the original trilogy, and in the final film, he only had time for a brief explanation. Thanks to Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan hiding the truth from Luke is more understandable after seeing everything he went through. The movie also clarified how Luke and Leia could be siblings and how they ended up where they did, making the Skywalker family story more cohesive.

3 Leia Remembering Her Mother Is Confusing Now

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - Luke and Leia

On the other hand, Revenge of the Sith made some scenes more confusing, such as Leia remembering her mother when Luke couldn’t. While Return of the Jedi implied that Leia was old enough to remember her mother when she died, Revenge of the Sith revealed that Padmé Amidala died immediately after giving birth to Luke and Leia. Several Star Wars fan theories have attempted to explain this plot hole, but this scene will always feel odd on rewatch.

2 The Empire Didn’t Fall At The Battle Of Endor

The Battle of Jakku in Star Wars: Battlefront.

Return of the Jedi led audiences to believe that the Empire fell after the Battle of Endor, but this has never been the case in the books and comics. In the Legends timeline, the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant were at war for years before finally signing a peace treaty. In Star Wars canon, the Galactic Civil War officially ended at the Battle of Jakku, one year after Return of the Jedi, but the Empire would survive in many forms. The Imperial Shadow Council continued to undermine the New Republic, the First Order eventually succeeded the Empire, and Palpatine constructed the Final Order fleet to form a New Empire.

1 Luke Is Destined To Repeat The Same Mistakes As The Jedi

Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi.

The Star Wars sequel trilogy showed that Return of the Jedi‘s happy ending didn’t last forever, especially for Luke. Yoda urged Luke to pass on what he had learned, implying that he would successfully build a New Jedi Order that was better than the old. Unfortunately, Luke failed to learn from the old Jedi Order until it was too late, and Ben Solo destroyed his Jedi Temple. Return of the Jedi‘s ending will never have the same effect, changing how audiences see the movie after 40 years.

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