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George Lucas' mythological popcorn movie is a two-hour roller-coaster ride that has passed into movie legend. The story, for the tiny number of people not familiar with it, concerns a farm boy named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who discovers that the used robot recently purchased by his family plays back a message from one Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), begging for help from Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke asks his father's friend Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness) about this, and he discovers that Ben and Obi-Wan are one and the same. Kenobi tells Luke of the battle of the rebels against the ruling Empire and the spiritual energy called "The Force." Soon Luke, Kenobi, and a mercenary named Han Solo (Harrison Ford) join forces to rescue Princess Leia from the Empire's mammoth warship, the Death Star, controlled by evil genius Darth Vader (David Prowse, with the voice of James Earl Jones). George Lucas has frequently cited the influence of several films on Star Wars, particularly Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo and John Ford's The Searchers, as well as the original Flash Gordon serials. After Star Wars became a success, Lucas announced his intention to turn the film into a series, originally totalling nine films (later pared back to six). Consequently, most reissue prints now feature the title Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope, with The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) serving as Episodes Five and Six in the serial, and Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace (1999) going back to the myth's beginnings. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
The Empire Strikes Back
The second entry in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the green-as-grass hero from the first film, now a seasoned space warrior. Luke's Star Wars cohorts Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are likewise more experienced in the ways and means of battling the insidious Empire, as represented by the brooding Darth Vader (body of David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones). And, of course, "The Force," personified by the ghost of Luke's mentor Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), is with them all. Retreating from Vader's minions, Luke ends up, at first, on the Ice Planet Hoth, and then the tropical Dagobah. Here he makes the acquaintance of the gnomish Yoda (voice of Frank Oz), whose all-encompassing wisdom comes in handy during the serial-like perils of the rest of the film. Before the film's open-ended climax, we are introduced to the apparently duplicitous Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and are let in on a secret that profoundly affects both Luke and his arch-enemy, Vader. Many viewers consider this award-winning film the best of the Star Wars movies, and its special-effects bonanza was pure gold at the box office. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Return of the Jedi
In the final episode of the Star Wars saga, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) emerges intact from the carbonite casing in which he'd been sealed in The Empire Strikes Back. The bad news is that Solo, together with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), is prisoner to the grotesque Jabba the Hutt. But with the help of the charismatic Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), our heroes and our heroine manage to escape. The next task is to rid the galaxy of Darth Vader (body by David Prowse, voice by James Earl Jones) and the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid), now in command of a new, under-construction Death Star. On the forest moon Endor, the good guys enlist the help of a feisty bunch of bear-like creatures called the Ewoks in their battle against the Empire. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi