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8.2 43 10
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A truly revelatory edit. I watched this with the commentary on to enjoy Spence's opining about the rampant pacing and structural problems with the movie. As someone who has been trying for, well, my entire life and has had countless conversations with people about why this entry doesn't work as well as it should, this was an eye-opener. It's easy to just take ROTJ for granted and look at it uncritically if you grew up with them, but Spence picks out pacing, dialogue, scene-order problems, almost all of which are 100% on the money.

Not to say I completely agree with all of the choices, I think the excision of Boba Fett and the Rancor is more distracting than anything, for whatever gains are made in terms of pacing, the movie feels a bit smaller as a result and the resultant cuts feel inorganic. Also, with the deleted scenes readily available (nowadays, if not when the edit was originally made, not sure) some of the well-intentioned but clunky cuts of Luke sensing the dire situation on Tatooine from Dagobah could have been smoothed over a bit, as could have the post-rescue moments between the heroes.

Aside from those quibbles, the masterful tweaks, especially to the latter half of the movie, are extraordinary. The removal of force ghosts, the trimming of the Ewok scenes, the adding of stakes by moving Luke and Vader's confrontation to the Death Star are all tremendous. For the first time, the final scene of Luke staring up at the sky after redeeming his errant father's soul sent chills down my spine, something that watching Ewoks cavort around a bonfire never did. For the first time, Return of the Jedi felt like the powerful end of a truly epic saga.

While I've read that he has no intentions to do so, I would love to see Spence take another pass at this. It's already most certainly a shelf-replacer for me, but another version using all the available footage to smooth over a few other cracks would knock it out of the park, imho. After all, third time's the charm -- mostly.
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