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Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back back to product details

One of the few movies to set a new standard for sequels.
written by JTurner1 September 2, 2005 - 3:32 PM PDT
Given the enormous popularity that Star Wars received upon its release in 1977, it seems inevitable that a sequel would be produced. It is usually common for a follow-up to an original to be a let-down, but The Empire Strikes Back is not one such example. Directed by Irvin Kirschner, this new chapter in the saga doesn't just live up to its predecessor, it surpasses it--and then some. The storyline takes a darker, more heavy-handed spin as Luke, Han, Leia, and the Rebel Forces find themselves under assault from Darth Vader and the Imperial troops. As the movie progresses, we root for our heroes to prevail--only to find ourselves downcast when we come to the somewhat sad (yet hopeful) conclusion. Yet the movie is all the more magnificent for it.

The Empire Strikes Back also gives a chance to expand upon the characters' relationships with each other--to entertaining and occasionally amusing results. The give-and-take banter between Han and Leia (which, of course, turns into a romance) is hilarious and made all the more memorable by Harrison Ford's swaggering portrayal of Han and Carrie Fisher coming off as a perfect foil for his bluster. The chemistry between them is definitely a lot more lively and interesting than, say, the love sequences involving Natalie Portman and Haydn Christensen in the prequels (not to put both down, however). Mark Hamill is best known to us today as one of Hollywood's best voice actors ever, but his acting as Luke Skywalker deserves special mention. In Empire, he displays an incredible range of emotion and growing pains, which helps the audience to identify with his struggle. His eventual growth from a reckless, unthinking youth to a mature, confident hero is completed full-circle in the final entry of the Star Wars movies, Return of the Jedi, but tracing where it begins in this movie credits that.

Not only are we introduced to all-new worlds such as the freezing, snow-covered ice planet Hoth to the musty swamp bog of Dagobah, we are introduced to new characters. For example, on Bespin, we meet Lando Calrissian, a charming yet shifty rogue who shares a somewhat shaky friendship with Han Solo. Billy Dee Williams conveys the character to effectiveness; the transition from traitor to ally is well handled and believable. Of course, the most memorable character in the movie is Yoda, the crotchety yet benign Jedi Master who takes it under himself to lead Skywalker down the straight and narrow path. In the prequels, we see him flex his facial expression chops through computer animation, but in this film (in addition to Jedi) we see him as a rubber puppet operated by Frank Oz. His playful yet wise nature exudes through the latex and comes across as a staple character--an astonishing triumph for a non-computer generated creation.

The production values are spectacular, with unforgettably visceral action sequences highlighting every minute on screen such as the snow battle against giant dinosaur-like walkers, the daredevil chase through the asteroid field, and of course, the climactic confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

There are lots of great moments in The Empire Strikes Back one could go on and on about, but none so greater as--SPOILER ALERT!--the instant where Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke's father. END SPOILER I can only imagine what the impact of this emotionally charged scene must have been for audiences; of course when seeing the Star Wars movies in chronological order, this moment may create effects different than from what audiences in 1980 (and frankly, those who have seen only the original trilogy) experienced.

In short, not only is The Empire Strikes Back one of the best entries in the Star Wars saga, but one of the best sequels ever.

In 1997, George Lucas revamped this film (along with the other two entries in the original trilogy) as a Special Edition. Most of the enhancements aren't as noticeable as in Star Wars, but one of them is breathtaking--the expansion of Cloud City allows us to see an entire depth of dimension to the world that we haven't seen before. By contrast, the moment where we see the ice monster approach Luke (the original version has only two brief cutaway shots of this creature) doesn't amaze us as much as the former. This DVD release features a bit more tweaking, most noticeable is a new conversation between Darth Vader and the Emperor (played, in this scene, by Ian McDiarmid). Some may oppose such changes, but I liked this particular enhancement a lot. It really helps bridge the entire saga together as a whole (not to mention it makes it more consistent). Combine all that with a state-of-the-art visual remastering and sound remixing, and you have a splendid edition of The Empire Strikes Back on your hands.

Best of the Series
written by ebbutterfly September 24, 2004 - 11:36 AM PDT
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
This IS the best film of the series. What makes it so piviotal is that there are no clear winners or losers. The Empire seems more triumphant, but does not completely win. This episode is the darkest and most revealing. I dont want to spoil the movie for the "2" people in the ENTIRE WORLD who havent seen this. I feel the action, scenery and characters were played perfect.

WHY WERE THE PREQUALS SO BAD? Maybe because Lucas used CG on everything. Maybe Lucas forgot about human character. The acting in the prequals were atroicious and as robotic and fake as the CG featured in it.

This movie launched the imaginations and thoughts of millions. As a Generation X kid, this movie was the definitive source of my Sci-fi love. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Vader, droids, etc all reflect the sides of all human beings. This is one of those rare movies that you can watch over and over again and never stop loving.

See it again, for old time sake. You wont be disappointed. Some of the added features arent too bad, either.

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