By:Andrew Osmond
Date: Thursday, June 07, 2001

Let's get the brickbat out of the way: this is indeed a middle, a middle, and a middle. But who cares? Of all the STAR WARS films, this immerses the viewer most in Lucas' universe, with no lengthy introductions, cheesy muppets or--heaven help us--Gungun sidekicks. Just count the wonders: Luke's traumatic near-death; the epic battle over Hoth's snowfields; the asteroid storm; the worm; Cloud City; the betrayal; Han's farewell--all leading to the most dazzling duel on screen (sorry Errol). Not forgetting the earlier, nightmare encounter in the cave--what a twist!--or Luke's agonised struggle to become a Jedi. No more the callow whiner of the first film, Mark Hamill makes a strong hero, while the romance between Ford and Fisher ('Scoundrel...') is genuinely touching. Leigh Brackett and Lawrance Kasdan's script is positively poetic at times. Then, of course, there's that revelation. The effect of Darth's bombshell on the zeitgeist can be judged by seeing TOY STORY 2; listen for when the audience laughs hardest. No, RETURN OF THE JEDI didn't follow through on the promise, hitting Hollywood's reset button. But again, who cares? Fascinating in its incompleteness, brilliant and unique, EMPIRE is screen magic.