Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
After STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE blew audiences away with a visual magnitude never before seen in film, the second installment of the series THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, literally strikes back with a clever script that reveals a deeper emotional story.
As a kid I found this to be the boring one but as an adult I’ve come to appreciate the dramatic story and darker themes. Now, along with many fans, I deem this to be the best of the films and one of my personal favorites. Because of George Lucas’ attempt to destroy the series with the awful prequels and constant tampering, I’m inclined to give the credit to director Irving Kershner and the shared writers between Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan and of course Mr. Lucas.
The keys to success for all the original STAR WARS films are the rich characters. Here they get the chance to open up and further their development without repeating themselves. Han and Leia extend their relationship with dynamic chemistry combining irritation and attraction as they flee from the Empire. Their flawed personalities are what make their love story believable and are what grounds the characters in reality, helping the audience to truly care for them. And in one of the best character growths in film, we see Luke Skywalker learn the ways of the force through the training of the last living Jedi Master, Yoda.
The new worlds created in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK are some of the best. We are introduced to the Rebels hideout on the ice planet Hoth, the dark and damp swamps of Yoda’s home in the Degobah System and the beautiful city in the clouds led by Han’s old gambling pal Lando Calrissian. Whether it be oversize animal like machines tromping through the snow, space battles through asteroid fields or the lightsaber fight between Luke and Darth Vader, the action in this film is exquisitely inventive and entertaining.
There is so much going on in Empire on a grand scale but it’s the details that make the difference. With authentic costuming, symbolic lighting and another powerful score by John Williams, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK creates another unforgettable universe. Luke’s path to becoming a Jedi is a journey that not only entertains but also can be applied in one’s own growth. The simple act of retrieving his lightsaber a foot out of reach by use of the force is far more impactful than the smorgasbord of force haphazardly thrown around in the prequels. These are moments that go beyond entertainment and actually make one believe, striking a cord into one’s imagination.
The film also holds one of the biggest twist endings and dark conclusions ever presented on film. Imagine not knowing that Darth Vader is in fact Luke’s father. After watching our favorite rogue mercenary in Han Solo be frozen in carbonite and taken away by a mysterious bounty hunter, we watch our hero Luke Skywalker get a mighty butt whooping from Darth Vader. Then after his hand has been severed and facing impending doom, Luke’s greatest enemy from the Dark Side reveals to him, “I am your father.” Mind blowing.
This is story telling at its best breaking rules, revealing surprises and then leaving the audience at the edge of their seats as the credits roll waiting three years until they can find out how everything will turn out.
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