Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Film Review

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Alec Guinness, and the voices of Frank Oz and James Earl Jones

Screenplay: Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan
Story: George Lucas

Director: Irvin Kershner

It is a testament to childhood and growing up really. This was one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater and Yoda scared the crap out of me. Not Vader, but the little green muppet. As I grew older and loved the Trilogy, it was this film that I often skipped. It was dark, and it was a little slow at times. I preferred watching the fun adventure of New Hope or the climactic battle with Vader during Return of the Jedi.

Empire was rarely the one I chose…I think it had to do with something that was quite foreign to me as a child. The bad guys won. What?

But as I grew even older and grew to appreciate the complexities of a good story, and character development…well let’s just say that Empire leapfrogged the other two and is quite simply one of the greatest films I have ever seen.

The whole tone of the picture is unlike any other of the saga, save maybe Revenge of the Sith. It is a tone of darkness and yet the flame of hope is still there like the silver lining of the cloud. For every setback, there’s something to believe in.

The film begins a lot like A New Hope…a large Star Destroyer in space hunting rebels. That immediately hearkens back to the original and one can’t help but wonder how to grow from the previous film which became such an iconic wonder.

The answer became immediately obvious. Not get bigger and grander like most sequels try. No. Get smaller. More interpersonal. More about the characters we’d grown to love.

That’s not to say that Empire is devoid of action sequences. The Battle at Hoth was majestic, the Imperials chasing the Falcon through the asteroids was riveting and of course the confrontation between Luke and Vader, everything you could have hoped for.

But the heart of the film is truly our three heroes and their journey. Luke, the adventurous farmboy has to grow up and there are certainly growing pains as he meets and trains under Yoda the wise Jedi Master. His transformation is earnest and Mark Hamill does some of his
best work in these sequences.

Equally impressive is the love story that develops as Priness Leia shows a softer more vulnerable side, especially while in the company of Han Solo, who also shows a chink or two in his roguish armor. It is a love story that develops much more naturally than that of say Attack of the Clones. Han and Leia complement each other perfectly and they play off each other just as well.

It’s about three quarters the way through the film when I was watching it critically that your realize…there is no real clear storyline of this episode. It’s a chase scene. One big long sci-fi chase scene. Put that way it doesn’t sound very epic, and yet it works so well.

The epicness comes out of the characters especially during THE reveal. The reveal of all reveals. It doesnt’ matter if you know about it going in or not. The reveal is handled so well that I still get chills seeing it. It’s just very powerfull written, acted, and scored that it just plain works. I do wish I could watch it again for the first time not knowing, because if it works so well knowing, what would it be like NOT knowing?

Speaking of scoring. Willliams again makes a masterpiece. Building on already iconic themes, he adds a few more, like the Imperial March, the Han-Leia love theme, Yoda’s theme. It is to Williams’ testament that his score alone can tell a whole story and not miss much.

Overall, the greatest of the Star Wars films and quite frankly my favorite film of all time.


-Paul Talon

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