Queen of spleen critic Pauline Kael called it "an impersonal and rather junky piece of moviemaking" while the rest of the world clearly thought otherwise (and so did the Oscar Academy, who gave it five nominations and one gong — for best special visual effects). Certainly, Marquand's 1983 take comes across as peculiarly anodyne after the broad sweeps of darkness and disturbing drama of Irvin Kershner's The Empire Strikes Back, and many cast members recall this as their least favourite of the trilogy.
In this final episode (of the middle trilogy at least), the evil Empire has managed to claw back power and get a substantial way through construction of a new and even more powerful Death Star — although Darth Vader (Dave Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones) is not satisfied with progress and tries to chivy things along before the arrival of the awe-inspiring Emperor (Ian McDiarmid). Luke Skywalker (Hamill) has gone to Tattooine to rescue Han Solo (Ford) from evil crimelord and giant lump-of-lard Jabba The Hut, before the rebels regroup to launch an attack on the Empire's Death Star Mark II. Business as usual.
Despatched to a forest on a neighbouring planet to close down A Death Star's shield before a Rebellion attack clincher, the heroes come across some the cutesy Ewoks — who ruin this film for many purist Star far fans, but who nevertheless prove pivotal in destroying the Empire. 0h, and the romance between Solo and Princess Leia (Fisher) comes on strong.
Marquand was manifestly more interested in the furry creatures than he was in the Death Star, the battle in the sky or even the Emperor and extraordinary lackey Vader. That said the asthmatic one's inner conflict will the good that Skywalker uncovers makes for stirring stuff, as is his son's emerging struggle with the dark side (styled on Kurosawa). The final dramatic redemption and defeat of evil is as satisfying to watch many years on as it was to the crowds of weenies ignoring the deeper conflicts.
The special effects are the best of the original trilogy — the six years between this and Star Wars allowed ILM to increase its talents tenfold and produced the coolest (speeder) bike chase in movies — and ironically benefits the most from Lucas' latterday overhaul. Probably the weakest in the original trilogy, but still a worthy finale to an epoch defining franchise.