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The Most Brutal Reviews of the Original Star Wars Trilogy

Star Wars Luke vs Vader on Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back

"The Empire Strikes Back" has no plot structure, no character studies let alone character development, no emotional or philosophical point to make. It has no original vision of the future, which is depicted as a pastiche of other junk-culture formulae, such as the western, the costume epic and the Would War II movie. Its specialty is "special effects" or visual tricks, some of which are playful, imaginative and impressive, but others of which have become space-movie clichés. - The Washington Post

Attending to it is a lot like reading the middle of a comic book. It is amusing in fitful patches but you're likely to find more beauty, suspense, discipline, craft and art when watching a New York harbor pilot bring the Queen Elizabeth 2 into her Hudson River berth, which is what "The Empire Strikes Back" most reminds me of. It's a big, expensive, time-consuming, essentially mechanical operation ... "The Empire Strikes Back" is about as personal as a Christmas card from a bank. - The New York Times

This movie, of course, is Star Wars II, and while it’s hardly the worst sequel ever made—Exorcist II retired that trophy—it’s not up to the original either. The spacecraft-laser-battle gimmicks are familiar now, so even though these are the most special of the special effects, they are no longer so fascinating. Worse, the more one sees the main characters, the less appealing they become. Luke Skywalker is a whiner, Han Solo a sarcastic clod, Princess Leia a nag and C-3PO just a drone. - People

The thing that keeps us watching throughout the two rowdy hours is not the progress of the galactic war or the fortunes of the participants nor the sense of danger as they hurl through space or find themselves trapped by Dalek-like tricksters. What makes the time pass bearably is the decor. The special visual effects by Brian Johnson and Richard Edlund, with Norman Reynolds as production designer, create a constant source of fascination and charm to take our minds off the mindlessness of the foreground doings by the goodies and the baddies in their aerial quarrel. - The Daily Telegraph

The Empire Strikes Back is almost universally considered the best chapter in the Star Wars saga, but the above reviewers didn't share that same opinion. While they each brought up various aspects of the movie they disliked, a surprising consensus among many reviewers - not just the aforementioned ones - was that the film lacked a complete story: a beginning, middle, and end.

Return of the Jedi

Unfortunately, it conveys the sense that the machinery has already started to wear down, and the inventiveness to wear thin. To be sure, the film abounds in action. Some new peril besets Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or the Princess Leia almost too regularly every 10 minutes ... It still makes for an eye-filling two hours-plus of entertainment but, despite its huge cast of new intergalactic grotesques, Jedi seems woefully familiar. It's as if the animations aren't the only thing that has been computerized.  - The Hollywood Reporter

While a certain amount of drama is found in these revealing scenes, it is somewhat dis­sipated in the romantic relations between Leia and Solo (which result from Luke disclosing that Leia is his sister). The dialogue given to the lovers is laughable, and their performances match it. So what is presumably intended as a great romantic finale comes to little, which might equally be said of the film as a whole. The appeal, perhaps, will be strongest to the young. The invited audience at the Press show was predominantly juvenile. - The Daily Telegraph

"Return of the Jedi," written by Lawrence Kasdan and Lucas and directed by Richard Marquand, doesn't really end the trilogy as much as it brings it to a dead stop. The film, which opens today at Loews Astor Plaza and other theaters, is by far the dimmest adventure of the lot. All of the members of the old "Star Wars" gang are back doing what they've done before, but this time with a certain evident boredom. ... The narrative line is virtually nonexistent, and the running time, though only slightly more than two hours, seems longer than that of "Parsifal." - The New York Times

Though perfectly fine until now as daringly decent Luke Skywalker, Hamill is not enough of a dramatic actor to carry the plot load here, especially when his partner in so many scenes is really little more than an oversized gas pump, even if splendidly voiced by James Earl Jones. Even worse, Harrison Ford, who was such an essential element of the first two outings, is present more in body than in spirit this time, given little to do but react to special effects. And it can’t be said that either Carrie Fisher or Billy Dee Williams rise to previous efforts. - Variety

Overall, the aforementioned reviews for A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are far from the critical consensus for George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy, but they do go to show that not everyone thought this franchise had staying power. Of course, that wasn't the case, as this week sees the release of the eighth chapter in the Skywalker saga - 40 years after the release of A New Hope.

While these critics went against the majority, that doesn't invalidate their opinion. The question is, do YOU agree with any of their thoughts on the original Star Wars films? Let us know in the comments!

More: The Last Jedi Box Office Prediction

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
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