‘Star Wars’: The Dark Ending of ‘Return of the Jedi’ That Was Never Filmed
The Star Wars franchise is largely family-friendly. Sure, there’s plenty of violence in the series, but it’s generally not grotesque. Star Wars fans can go into a Star Wars movie knowing good will triumph in the end – or at least in the sequel!
Return of the Jedi is often regarded as one of the lighter films in the series. Though it has a mostly serious tone, it ultimately has a happy ending. However, a screenwriter wanted George Lucas to go in a very different direction with the film.
The dark ending of ‘Return of the Jedi’
Star Wars: The Last Jedi made many Star Wars fans angry. They felt the film let them down in its portrayal of Luke Skywalker. The character was not as heroic as he was in previous films. Luke almost got a similar treatment in Return of the Jedi.
In the film, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine attempt to get Luke to join the dark side. Lawrence Kasdan, one of the screenwriters of the film, even considered having him succumb to the film’s villains. He also wanted Luke to order the extermination of the rebel fleet!
Kasdan imagined Luke putting on Vader’s mask as he made the transition. This act would undoubtedly recall a scene from The Empire Strikes Back. The aforementioned scene involved Luke imagining his own severed head inside of Vader’s mask.
Why George Lucas shot the idea down
Kasdan explained his idea. He imagined Luke taking off Vader’s mask “The mask is the very last thing – and then Luke puts it on and says, ‘Now I am Vader…Now I will go and kill the [Rebel] fleet and I will rule the universe’.”
This idea would have been shocking. Kasdan called it “the ultimate twist.” However, Lucas didn’t like the idea. He felt the film was meant for children and, therefore, shouldn’t end on a dark, bleak note. Lucas’ feelings here are interesting, as he was willing to end The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith on dark notes.
Another reason why ‘Return of the Jedi’ isn’t a dark ‘Star Wars’ movie
Kasdan also gave another reason why Return of the Jedi is relatively light. He said each of the films in the original Star Wars trilogy reflects the personality of its director. For example, A New Hope was directed by Lucas, so it features some of the elements of Lucas’ previous film American Graffiti – a coming-of-age comedy which is filled with nostalgia for early 1960s Americana the same way Star Wars is nostalgic for old Flash Gordon serials.
The Empire Strikes Back was directed by Irv Kirshner. Kasdan says Lucas said he wanted the film to have a “Kirsher quality” to it. Because of that, The Empire Strikes Back is a dark and serious movie. Similarly, Kirshner says Return of the Jedi similarly emulates the qualities of its director, Richard Marquand. Kirshner said that’s why the film is easygoing and comparatively happy.