Picks and Pans Review: The Return of the Jedi

updated 05/30/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Is Darth Vadar really Luke Skywalker's father? Who is Luke's twin sister? Will Princess Leia and Han Solo finally get it on—or at least agree to go steady? Is Yoda getting senile (he is 900, remember)? Yes, everybody's favorite space saga has, indeed, turned into a kind of intergalactic soap opera in this third installment. The distraction is welcome. Like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, this film is a lot of fun—colorful, energetic to the point of being manic, good-humored and full of marvelous invention. There is, for instance, a huge new villain called Jabba the Hutt, a cross between Edward G. Robinson and an overripe 300-pound avocado. There are some great effects involving what look like flying snowmobiles zooming through a forest. There is also a cuddly new teddy-bearlike tribe called the Ewoks. But too much of what happens is too familiar: the laser battles, the death star, the light swords, the atrocious acting by Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, though Carrie Fisher seems to have matured. George Lucas, who co-wrote the film with Lawrence (Raiders of the Lost Ark) Kasdan, includes his customary salutes to old films, but there's also an early scene involving a lot of particularly weird-looking creatures that is too reminiscent of the bar scene in Star Wars. It's as if Lucas is now at the point of paying homage to himself. (Richard Marquand, best known for TV's Search for the Nile, directed, but says having Lucas so involved was "like directing King Lear with Shakespeare in the next room.") Even C-3PO and Yoda, who has one of the most florid scenes since Greta Garbo in Camille, are getting a little tiresome. Worst of all, Hamill is badgered to give himself to "the dark side" by the Emperor, played by British stage actor Ian McDiarmid. After a while McDiarmid's prating about the inevitability of evil's triumph sounds like a stuffy father saying, "I know you don't believe it now, son, but someday you're going to be a Republican." There's more violence than usual, too, and some obvious sexual innuendo when Jabba captures Fisher, chains her up and puts her into a harem outfit. Six parts are still left in Lucas' planned nine-part Star Wars series, but the next one is supposed to be set chronologically before Star Wars, so the cast gathers at the end of Jedi for what amounts to a curtain call. Lucas is too smart to go on beating a dead Wookie. It's been fun; now let's get on with something else. (PG)

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