Star Wars in Review: The Empire Strikes Back


Part of a series by G-FUNK

Director: Irvin Kershner

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, David Prose, James Earl Jones

Plot: As the Empire recovers from the Rebels attack on the Death Star and begin hunting down Rebel bases, Luke begins his Jedi training with the wise Master Yoda and Han and Leia take refuge with an old friend of Hans.

Review: There’s often been lots of debate amongst geeks concerning which is the best of the Star Wars films. ‘Star Wars’ is the original, ‘Jedi’ is the most groundbreaking for effects and action film-making and ‘Empire’ has the strongest emotional weight (the prequels aren’t eligible for consideration due to being stupid). It can be argued that the stronger film is the one that viewers connect to on a deeper emotional level and has the strongest character development. These are the hallmarks of a movie that will stay with the viewer long after the credits have rolled instead of providing a burst of excitement or a cheap thrill.

The Empire Strikes Back  was also the first film in the series with almost no involvement from George Lucas, proving again that him holding white-knuckled onto the reigns of the franchise is the very think that is holding it back.

Whilst the original movie is very much a classic adventure story, it was simple and cheesy – like a cheap pizza. The sequel doesn’t simply retread the same ground but delves further into the characters personalities, challenging them and ultimately making them better rounded people and more interesting to watch. Luke Skywalker was an angry and reactionary youngster and here we see him pushing himself to become better but is frequently held back by his own anger. Han and Leia still struggle to reveal their feelings to each other having both been forced to be distrustful by the world they live in, yet always attempt to stay together.

"Yeah? Well...I'm taller!"

The writing is sharper and steps well away from cliche, especially the banter between Han and Leia. Vader is more menacing and the confrontation between him and Luke is both exciting and menacing even before the big reveal occurs. The strongest part of this sequel is that it is a fully functioning second chapter and not a stand-alone sequel that wound up being a trilogy (ala Scream). It builds from the first film and leaves things on a strong finish with characters having reached their lowest point, leaving the third film to show their redemption and ultimate victory. There’s a reason why this is considered a strong trilogy instead of a series of movies (as long as they don’t then lessen the experience with a bunch of additional movies…wait…damnnit).

"Luke...do you need a hand?"

Often when new characters are introduced into a series partway through they feel like token efforts or replacements for roles that have been removed. This latter reason is true to a degree: Yoda is the new Obi-Wan and Lando is the new wildcard instead of Han. Each character still feels unique and fresh regardless and have become iconic in their own right, having their own personalities and motivations. Even minor parts such as Boba Fett are worthy of attention.

Star Wars was once seen as a masterpiece of science fiction, sadly now it is a decades-spawning franchise that peaked much too early. It’s still worth ignoring the broken video games, cheap tie-in novels and budget action figures of background extras and tracking down the theatrical version of this film and reminding yourself what made them so memorable in the first place.

Score: TEN outta TEN