While Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back were dramatized within four years of their release date, it took twelve years for Return of the Jedi to be made due to behind-the-scenes drama. It didn’t come until 1996 and was produced by Highbridge Audio.
Compared to Star Wars, this radio adaptation did a far better job in taking the visual excitement of the source material and turning it into good audiodrama that painted pictures for the audience. The story was expanded in a few cases but generally remained faithful to the original story. They do a great job painting audio “pictures” of scenes like the madness of Jabba’s lair and Luke’s post-victory vision. The sound design is simply marvelous as is the direction with narration used naturally most of the time.
Unlike The Empire Strikes Back, the roles of Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian had to be recast with Joshua Fardon as Luke and Arye Gross as Lando. Fardon does a superb job as Luke. His voice is similar to Hamill’s and his acting is equally good, perhaps better in a few places. Gross is less satisfactory as Lando, though acceptable. Ed Asner plays Jabba the Hutt and does as good a job as the film.
The rest of the returning cast of major players turn in wonderful performances with Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Brock Peters as Vader, Ann Sachs as Leia, and Perry King as Hans Solo. John Lithgow is far better as Yoda in Return of the Jedi than he was in Empire Strikes Back.
Return of the Jedi works as the final act of this trilogy as the conclusion of our journey. In the first two films and the first half of this one, we see the characters struggle. Timidity, greed, fear, selfishness, treachery, and arrogance are things the characters exhibited during the course of this trilogy. Yet, the end of Return of the Jedi, you see them at their very best in a glorious ending. The final episode of the Radio Drama captures the joy, exhilaration, and redemption of the end of one of the greatest science fiction sagas ever.
This is a tremendous adaptation with solid acting, superb sound design, and the brilliant music of John Williams.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5.00
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