I'm not sure I can't take comments like that seriously. What more imaginative space battles were there in the 80s? Did you REALLY see it the first time being struck by how unimaginative the space battles were?
Like I said earlier, Return of the Jedi, name me one better from the 80's. WOK was awesome, but it was also different, more 'cat and mouse'
Star Wars and Return of the Jedi is WWII aerial combat. TWOK is 17th century naval warfare. Beyond that, I don't think there were any memorable space battles in scifi films at that time.
I think I remember the First Contact space battle being considered the next best thing after Return of the Jedi. Because there are so few.