Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Episode 5 - The Empire Strikes Back

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
David Prowse as Darth Vader
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: Irvin Kershner

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) face attack by the imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millnennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda (Frank Oz). Only with the Jedi Master’s help will Luke survive when the Dark Side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (David Prowse).

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The Empire Strikes Back has been known as the best Star Wars movie, and for very good reason. It takes the best elements of the first movie and improved them, while taking the story and characters into new territories. Even nearly 4 decades later, it still holds up very well.

This movie is darker than the previous movie for sure, however that’s not the only reason this movie works so well. It doesn’t repeat what the previous movie did, and takes the story and characters on different (and more interesting) directions. I actually don’t have any complaints really with the story or characters. I liked the storyline of Luke going on Dagobah and training with Yoda, I liked Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO escaping in the Falcon from Imperial forces, and I also really liked the first act battle scene on Hoth and the climax on Cloud City. I’m not one to call movies perfect, but Empire Strikes Back is at least very close to being perfect. I really don’t have too much to say about that aspect.

The cast have improved and grown since the first movie. The biggest improver over the past movie was Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, he’s grown quite a lot as an actor and a character. Hamill also really sold the impact of learning that Vader is his father, which of course is one of the most iconic scenes of all time. There’s also Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher as Han and Leia, who share great chemistry. I found Darth Vader in A New Hope to be just fine, but he’s on another level in this movie, and this movie is where he became great. There’s no Tarkin that he has to follow orders from, outside of the Emperor, he’s really the one in charge, and he’s shown to be really ruthless throughout. The additions to the cast were good as well. Billy Dee Williams was introduced as Lando, and although he’s just in the third act, he does well in his screentime. There’s of course Yoda voiced by Frank Oz, who immediately became iconic upon his first appearance, and he was great as well.

This movie is very directed well by Irvin Kershner. The visuals also mostly hold up pretty well, and there are some spectacular sequences, from the fighters against the AT-ATs on Hoth, to the Falcon flying from TIE fighters, to the final fight between Luke and Vader. That last fight was particularly great, such an improvement over the lightsabre fight in A New Hope. It seems that compared to the other two movies in the trilogy, George Lucas didn’t add so many changes and that was for the better, in fact it seemed the changes helped quite a bit. For example, in the scene with Darth Vader communicating with The Emperor via hologram, they replaced their original version of the character with Ian McDiarmid delivering the lines, who famously played him from Return of the Jedi onwards. Definitely helped with continuity. Also in the scenes taking place at Cloud City, there were windows added in, so it looks a lot better. With that said there was one change to one of the earlier versions which may well have been the worst change of the original trilogy. At the end of the iconic “I am your father” scene, instead of joining Vader, Luke willingly falls down. For some reason in one version, Lucas added in a screaming sound for him, which made it almost like he fell. Thankfully he seemed to have realised that it wasn’t a good idea and removed that bit, which is good because that would’ve actually ruined the scene. John Williams’s score for Empire Strikes Back is even better than A New Hope. The highlight is the new Imperial theme, it was sort of there in the original Star Wars, but in this movie, Williams revamped it into something even more menacing and iconic.

I still feel confident in saying that The Empire Strikes Back is by far the best Star Wars movie. In every other Star Wars movie, even the ones I love, there usually are some clear issues that I have with them. That’s not the case with Empire however, watching it again recently, I couldn’t really find any problems with it.


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