Return of the Jedi Original Ending Completed Vader’s Story
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi brought the original by George Lucas star wars saga to its perfect conclusion. From the perspective of the film’s original audience, watching Return of the Jedi like the last slice of a star wars trilogy, this ending meant the Empire was defeated, the Rebels were victorious, and Luke Skywalker’s journey to becoming a Jedi was complete. And when the prequels were released years later and Anakin Skywalker’s story was further explored, greater importance came to Return of the Jedi like the story that saw Anakin redeemed by his son, completing a story arc spanning all six films.
For George Lucas, of course, star wars has always been the story of Anakin Skywalker and his redemption. Long before Lucas signed on to do the prequels, he was already well aware of all his star wars the stories of the characters before A new hope. Vader’s redemption at the hands of his son was always the fateful conclusion to Anakin Skywalker’s story, shaped by Lucas’ interest in mythological storytelling that dealt with generational bonds and in particular the father/son dynamic. Additionally, since the release of the original trilogy, it has been established outside of the films that Darth Vader was injured in a volcanic pit, which would eventually become the volcanic planet of Mustafar. But in the first drafts of Return of the JediVader’s fiery origins would have echoed at the time of his redemption.
From 1978, Star Wars Monthly Issue #2 reports that Darth Vader “fell into a volcanic pit” during a duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Later, in the 1983 novelization of Return of the Jedi by James Kahn, Obi-Wan tells Luke that his “…father fell into a molten pit. When your father fought his way out of that fiery pool, change had been etched in him forever – he was Darth Vader, without a trace of Anakin Skywalker.” This means that Darth Vader’s backstory was determined at the start of the star wars the development of the saga and, originally, the last moments of the character would also have taken place in a volcanic environment.
The initial plans of Return of the Jedi included not one but two new Death Stars under construction. The forest moon that later became Endor was still there, but it was a sanctuary moon above the planet Had Abbadon – a sprawling city-planet at the center of the Imperial government. If Abbadon eventually became Coruscant but never made one Return of the Jedi due to the budgetary and logistical constraints of creating such a world on screen. Thus, the film’s final showdown between Luke, Darth Vader, and the Emperor shifted to the second Death Star. Before Had Abbadon was cut, however, the scene took place in the Emperor’s throne room deep inside the Imperial Palace on the city planet. And Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art shows the Emperor’s throne sitting above a lava lake.
Playing Darth Vader’s final moments over a volcanic pool, echoing the one in which Anakin immolated himself, would have seen Vader’s birth and death occur in the Lake of Fire. the Return of the Jedi the novelization implies that Anakin’s transformation into Vader wasn’t truly complete until he suffered the burns that left him dependent on his costume, and it’s a read that holds up. While Anakin fell to the dark side before his duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sithit was when he was sealed in his terrifying armor that Darth Vader was truly born.
Anakin’s return at the end of Return of the Jedi occurred in the volcanic environment of Had Abbadon’s throne room, it would have been as if he had emerged from the same destructive flames into which he had disappeared decades before. Where Obi-Wan had failed to save his friend and instead watched him meet his death, Luke would have saved his father from that same fate and instead brought Anakin back from his supposed death. The Emperor’s Death Star Throne Room Showdown Is Iconic star wars scene, but Return of the JediThe original Molten Pits would have ended Darth Vader’s story where it began, more powerfully affirming Anakin’s redemption as the fate he was always destined for.
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