The answer is: yes, it does.
After rescuing Han from Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine, Luke, Han and Leia go to Endor to help the rebellion destroy the Second Death Star and put an end to the Empire. But Luke is still haunted by Darth Vader’s revelations on Cloud City, especially after Yoda tells him that he has more family than he thought in the galaxy.
The opening scenes on Tatooine are some of the most memorable from the whole series (not least because of Leia’s metal bikini); when Han is unfrozen from carbonite and there is a huge battle against Jabba the Hutt’s men and the Sarlacc, it shows us a different side of Han, more vulnerable, and gives us a kickass Leia. It also shows us how far Luke has come in his Jedi training, resulting in an arena-style brawl that was mimicked later by the Attack of the Clones (successfully, though, because that scene is also awesome).
From there, things start to get a little familiar, with Luke’s return to Dagobah and the plans to destroy the Second Death Star being almost identical to the first, but the emotional notes of this film are entirely different and set Return of the Jedi apart. Yoda’s death is both heartbreaking and intriguing, as he leaves Luke with crucial information about Leia, and the following scenes on Endor are so different to what we’ve seen so far.
This is because Endor as a planet is so different, all forestry and tree houses, the home to the Ewoks. Though the Ewoks get a lot of crap for being “the Gungans of the original trilogy”, I find this unfair, and was quite smitten with them as a child. They’re also a great ally in the many battle scenes that take place, setting them aside from the battles in previous films. The Speeder chase on Endor is also exciting and awesome, and the scenes with the Ewoks in the treehouse are quite entertaining, especially since one of the most iconic Star Wars scenes takes place there: Luke’s reveal to Leia.
As the film enters its dramatic third act, Luke’s scenes with the Emperor and Darth Vader on the Death Star are fascinating as they debate the nature of anger within goodness and evil, the ultimate dichotomy that has plagued the Jedi since the beginning: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Luke and Darth Vader’s lightsaber battle is easily the best of the original films, and Vader’s death scene at the end is touching, especially as he insists that Luke tell Leia of his final good act.
Meanwhile, Han and Leia’s Battle of Endor is exciting and somewhat amusing, as tiny Ewoks take on stormtroopers and our heroes struggle to deactivate the Death Star shield. As Han and Leia’s relationship is tested, both throughout this film and the entire series, it is a relief to see them happy together. The final scenes, all happy and partying, are lovely, and personally, after watching all the prequels on this journey through the series, seeing Hayden Christensen as Anakin at the end was a little bit satisfying, because he was finally redeemed (yes, unfortunately I live in a time of the special editions and never saw Sebastian Shaw as Anakin redeemed, but I’ve never been able to know anything else).
In such an acclaimed series, the finale is often the hardest to pull off. Though not quite as good as the first two, Return of the Jedi is an exciting and extremely satisfying end to a brilliant trilogy, wrapping up all of our favourite storylines and redeeming one of history’s most complex villains.
Photos taken from IMDB.com: