The Empire Strikes Back!

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And so does George Lucas in the second of his Star Wars epics

Well, it took them long enough, but here they come. All the old friends and some favorite enimies have returned to brighten up this unhappy spring. There's Luke Skywalker, that gee whiz kid from Tatooine, and there's Princess Leia, that cosmic mankiller. There are Han Solo and his furry 8-ft. friend Chewbacca trying to get their beat-up old tub, the Millennium Falcon, to make the jump into hyperspace. And back, of course, are the Laurel and Hardy of the robot set, Artoo Detoo and

See Threepio, in fine beep and polish.

But wait. What is that ominous sound in the background, that heavy breathing that strikes terror in the hearts of all those who love peace and freedom? It could only be the scourge of the universe, the nastiest man from here to infinity, Archvillain Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of Sith and leader of the Imperial Forces. It is time, in other words, to hurry up, buy the popcorn, M&M's, or whatever else you like to munch in front of the silver screen, and grab a seat for The Empire Strikes Back.

This sequel to Star Wars, which easily toppled Jaws as the most successful movie in Hollywood history, opens in Britain and in 125 theaters around the U.S. on May 21, and that is not a millisecond too soon for those children, everybody under the age of 90, who have been waiting since 1977 to find out what happens next. Three expensive science fiction films—Star Trek, The Black Hole and Alien—have opened in the past year, but none has claimed the public's affection like the adventure fantasy of Producer-Creator George Lucas. The question now is: Can he do it again?

Whether Lucas, 36, will break his own world record is uncertain, of course, but he and Director Irvin Kershner have certainly tried. With the money Lucas made from Star Wars, he built for The Empire the world's largest sound stage and what may be its most sophisticated special effects studio. Tricks that were hard first time around were easy the second time, and new harder ones were thought up. Actors who were not sure what they were doing spouting Lucas' Classics comics dialogue were enthusiastic about the sequel. "Star Wars was basically a 'Let's Get Darth Vader' story line, all action and little dialogue," says Carrie Fisher, who plays haughty Princess Leia. "The Empire has romance, minor tragedies and characters working more off each other. Sure, it's a fairy tale, just like the first, but it has an additional dimension."

When Star Wars ended, the rebels—the good guys—had just destroyed the Empire's Death Star and were giving their two new heroes, Luke and Han Solo

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