Up until two months before its release, Return of the Jedi was titled Revenge of the Jedi. T-shirts were made, posters were printed and even a teaser trailer was released. The rare 90-second promo was unveiled at the 2016 Academy Awards to coincide with A New Hope’s 39th anniversary. Since Return’s release in 1983, there has been no definitive answer as to why the name was changed. Fans and movie buffs, alike, have speculated based on behind the scenes stories that have surfaced over the years.
It’s possible creator George Lucas yielded to backlash. Fans have noted that revenge is against Jedi beliefs and they didn’t appreciate such a villainous tone. Before the film’s release, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper printed an article that explored fan anger. Though the article only represented a local voice, the opinion was felt universally.
Another idea was that producers felt the name was too similar to the second Star Trek film’s then title The Vengeance of Khan. Both films were originally scheduled to be released close to each other in 1982. Producers didn’t want to risk confusing the general public with two franchises that had “star” in their titles. The Star Trek sequel was eventually released as The Wrath of Khan.
Co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan has gone on record as saying, that he suggested to Lucas, “return” was a weak title and that it should be changed. They worked on many script drafts under “revenge”, but, in the end, it was Lucas who ultimately had creative control.
There was a rumour that the title change was part of an effort to combat bootleg merchandise. It was perceived that Lucas was playing a big practical joke on those selling counterfeit products. This is highly unlikely as a considerable amount of money had been invested into marketing and publicity by the time of the name change.
There were many differences between Revenge of the Jedi and what was eventually seen on screen in the final version. The script had Princess Leia leading the fight on two Death Stars for the majority of the film. She was absent from Han Solo’s rescue. Luke and Lando Calrissian faced Jabba the Hutt and his men alone. There was greater conflict between Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. In Revenge, Palpatine ordered Luke’s kidnapping without Vader’s knowledge. He felt that Vader was compromised knowing Luke was his son. Yoda was going to be left out of the film all together. Child psychologists reported that an established character was needed to reinforce that Darth Vader was in fact Luke’s father. Young children couldn’t comprehend the reveal in The Empire Strikes Back. Apparently, they believed Vader was being deceitful. Whether this was Lucas’s actual reasoning for Yoda’s return remains unknown. The climactic battle didn’t take place on Endor, but on a moon orbiting the capital world of the Galactic Empire. Wookies were going to be the moon’s native species in early versions of the screenplay. The Ewoks were introduced because Chewbacca and his people had already been established as being quite intelligent.
There were several endings to Revenge of the Jedi. One had Luke, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – Yoda and Obi-Wan as force ghosts – battling Vader and the Emperor in a lava environment. Palpatine met his end when Vader knocks him into molten rock. One ending had Luke walking off into the sunset like a cowboy in a western, leaving his friends behind in search of his next adventure. Another had Vader and Luke going in search of Luke’s lost twin. The part hadn’t been written as Leia yet.
Merchandise for Revenge of the Jedi are highly sort after collectors’ items these days. Original posters can go anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to thousands, depending on condition. Film crew jackets – only issued on the set and extremely rare – sell at auction for $5,000 Australian.
Revenge of the Jedi was used as the name of a comic strip that first appeared in the Los Angeles Time Syndicate newspaper. It ran from November 1982 to January 1983. Now considered part of the Star Wars Legends Universe (any non-movie material released before Disney’s Star Wars acquisition in 2012 and not officially licenced), the Revenge of the Jedi comic explored Admiral Ackbar species’ introduction into the Rebel Alliance. It also told the story of how Darth Vader gained command of the Super Star Destroyer Executor.
In Japan, the film’s title is still Revenge of the Jedi on some media. In a YouTube video, Techmoan presents a 1980s Return of the Jedi video disc. The English text reads “Return”, but the Japanese writing translates to “Revenge”. Skip to 15:30 in the below video for the clip.
“Revenge” was used for the title of the third film in the prequal series, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. In 2015, Return of the Jedi finally got a sequel after a 32-year wait. The Force Awakens was the first in a new trilogy of Star Wars films. Its follow up, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, hits cinemas this December.
30 Things You Didn’t Know About Return of the Jedi (https://www.wired.com/2013/05/return-of-the-jedi-anniversary/)
[Opinion] – Reconstructing Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi (http://www.disgruntledindividual.com/2012/10/opinion-reconstructing-star-wars.html)
Rare Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi trailer discovered in the Oscars archive (http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2016-05-27/rare-star-wars-revenge-of-the-jedi-trailer-discovered-in-the-oscars-archive)
Revenge of the Jedi (Comic) (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Revenge_of_the_Jedi)
Star Wars: George Lucas was FORCED into changing Return of the Jedi title (http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/762235/Star-Wars-George-Lucas-Return-of-the-Jedi-Revenge-of-the-Jedi-The-Last-Jedi-Episode-VI)
The ‘Return of the Jedi’ That Could Have Been (https://www.yahoo.com/movies/blogs/movie-talk/return-jedi-could-202622407.html)
The Star Wars story that could have been – Return Of The Jedi was nearly VERY different (http://metro.co.uk/2017/02/01/the-star-wars-story-that-could-have-been-return-of-the-jedi-was-nearly-very-different-6416536/)
Was Return of the Jedi released in Japan as Revenge of the Jedi? (https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/152833/was-return-of-the-jedi-released-in-japan-as-revenge-of-the-jedi)