Awwww shiiit! It’s The Empire Strikes Back bay-beh! Where’s yo curly mustache at? hmmmm. That was out of place. Anyway. The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film by quite some way and if you don’t agree with that you can go suck a Bantha dick. I cannot fathom just how many times I have seen this film. What makes this film so great? Read on to find out.
The Empire Strikes Back is the first Star Wars film, and the first of the ones I’ve reviewed so far, to not be directed by George Lucas. Burnt out from the shoot for A New Hope Lucas decided to play the writer and producer roles for this film and allowed his mentor Irvin Kershner to take up the directing role. Man you can tell too. The dialogue is taken down a notch. The lighting and cinematography is much more dynamic. To add to this there’s genuine nuance and good planning in how the story is presented when compare to the other films. For example; Yoda, a goofy looking puppet, is introduced to us as a goofy looking creature of the swamps, only revealing his true nature when we are more accustomed to him. If he had came out all wise and mystical he just would not have worked.
The story for this film is all about war again. So it should be too. It is a key part of the films series title after all. The Rebels have been pushed back to the ice planet of Hoth and Darth Vader has sent probe droids out all over the galaxy to search for that pesky Luke Skywalker. This film is pretty much about Luke’s discovery of the Force and Darth Vader’s obsession with killing the man responsible for destroying his Death Star. Or does he want to kill him? There are moments where he seems to want to capture and turn Luke to the Dark Side. Almost as though he wants to protect him from death. When you watched this film prior to the prequels that was a lot less obvious, but now it’s really clear that that is what Vader is doing. It adds an extra dimension to his character and it’s one of the few benefits of having the prequels exist. That and the new Lightsabre toys that react to your movements with the appropriate sounds.
This may be spoilers but the whole film is building up to a fateful confrontation between Luke and Darth. It has a very strong focus on this and there is no room for time wasting. Meanwhile Leia and Han are having trouble keeping their feelings for each other in check whilst trapped in the belly of a giant cave worm. A pretty normal dilemma that we’re all familiar with. They head to Bespin, a mining city in the clouds, where they meet up with Han Solo’s best buddy, sorta, Lando Calrissian. Lando is the only black man in the Star Wars universe at this point and was totally not a reaction to criticisms that there wasn’t a single black guy in A New Hope. He also betrays Han, Leia and Chewy which is a bit of a dick move. He was dealing with Darth Vader though who just loves to alter the terms of his deals so it’s best to just do as he says.
The effects work in this film was always excellent even in 1980. It really was industry bar setting stuff. Today the special editions have cleaned up a lot of the blue screen effects and fixed elements such as R2-D2 being black when he’s on the back of the X-Wing. Empire has the least changes to the film compared to the other 2 films in the original trilogy. It really is because they would not be needed. There are elements added such as a redesigned Bespin that fits in more with the look of the universe and so big old digital windows but generally every change is subtle and welcome. There’s certainly nothing as horrible as a CGI Jabba, Han shooting first or Vader shouting “NOOOO!” at the end of Return Of The Jedi. God I’m not looking forward to that.
What this film really excels at is it’s pacing and presentation. Everyone is putting their best effort into their performances whilst staying true to the pulpy style Star Wars has always had. The story never once stalls to talk about any of the boring stuff the prequels were bogged down with and every scene either moves the characters or the story on. Which is exactly how storytelling should be but you’d be amazed how many directors don’t seem to remember that these days. The training sequences on Dagobah with Yoda are a personal favorite for me. It’s the centre point of the original trilogy and, for fans of the day, it was the first time we got to see just what Jedi’s could do. They could move whole fighter ships man! The Dagobah scenes are also contain the first hint of the big plot revelation that we get in Return Of The Jedi in regards to Luke’s family.
Anyone who doesn’t list this as their favorite Star Wars movie is a fool. This is the only film in the franchise that hits into great movie making territory. it is genuinely a step above the others and a step above most similar films. it is the benchmark that all sci-fi films were judged against for years, and to some extent still are today. After this amazingly well made film what could possibly go wrong?
Oh yeah. Them.