The Empire Strikes Back
A continuation of my Star Wars review from not too long ago. I guess I’ve made it clear that I love the series, and the original trilogy is one of my favorite trilogies ever made. I do also enjoy the prequel trilogy and its back story, despite the massive hate that has been established for it. There’s no doubt that not only is The Empire Strikes Back a magnificent follow-up to one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made, it’s one of the greatest sequels in movie history. So please, read my review…or destroy you I will. (That was “Darth Yoda” speaking…)
Bottom Line: Not quite perfect, but still wondrous.
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Starring: Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, David Prowse, Frank Oz, Harrison Ford, Kenny Baker, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew
“The Force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet.” –David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader
When George Lucas created STAR WARS just three years before, he wasn’t constructing a film but instead a universe. A sequel to further the story was inevitable and vital to the timeless tale’s legacy, and after being received well by both critics and audiences alike, a sequel was confirmed. If THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK were the primary entry in this three-part legend, it would not have stood out. After all, it was released in 1980–the year responsible for an overwhelming number of unforgettable classics. THE BLUES BROTHERS, AIRPLANE!, THE SHINING, ORDINARY PEOPLE, RAGING BULL, and many more. Considering this is one of the greatest sequels ever made, it stands out in its own unique respect.
Giving the film a trashy title like the one it has held for 32 years now is just as much understating it. However, the Empire truly does no less than strike back in this enthralling sequel. After the destruction of the Death Star, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is told via a vision of his former trainer Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) to venture to the jungle planet of Dagobah and seek further training from Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz), who initially trained Obi-Wan himself. Meanwhile, his friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are trapped by the evil Darth Vader (portrayed in costume by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), who is currently preoccupied by his maniacal plans to turn Luke over to the Dark Side.
“No. Try not. Do…or do not. There is no try.” –the voice of Frank Oz as Yoda
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has a great knack for bringing more fun to the counter, even after its predecessor, a richly entertaining science fiction film as it is. We knew Darth Vader was a treacherous villain in STAR WARS, due to the information we were given in the title crawl and the threatening performance that supported it. Here, we have his appearance complemented by John Williams’s “Imperial March” which makes him seem an even stronger antagonist. There are also some new characters introduced here to make the continuation even more exciting. Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), Han Solo’s longtime companion, and Yoda are the major standouts. Yoda especially adds to the comic relief. In fact, had he not been present, there would be none of the light touches of humor that made the originating story so much more unique. C-3PO and R2-D2, Luke’s two “droids”, were a lot of fun to watch quarrelling in the first film. But as R2-D2 is traveling with Luke and C-3PO with the rest of the good guys, we don’t get to enjoy so much of their humor. C-3PO is written to try to act humorous on his own; it just doesn’t help when Han points out how incredibly distracting and obnoxious he can be.
“He is as clumsy as he is stupid.” –David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader
Let’s leave aside those minor faults. If anybody other than a compelling genius like George Lucas were behind this, they would pervade every crack and crevice of the film. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is a film that looks down on the “failing sequels” stereotype with an insurmountable number of ways to prove it wrong. Clearly, the stereotype remembers sequels like BATMAN AND ROBIN and SPEED 2, films that meaninglessly give another story that is bound ever so loosely by the characters appearing in their predecessing works. There aren’t many other follow-ups quite as sturdy, but when it all comes down to how well the film does as its own work, it’s a masterfully produced and well told epic.