The Empire Strikes Back
Despite their victory over the Galactic Empire with the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance was driven out of their base and forced to establish a new base on the remote ice planet Hoth. Darth Vader, having become obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, now a commanding officer within the Rebellion, has multiple probe droids dispatched throughout the galaxy, one of which lands on Hoth. While patrolling near the base, Luke is attacked and knocked unconscious by an indigenous predator, called a Wampa. Back at the base, Han Solo announces his intentions to leave the Rebellion to pay off a debt to Jabba the Hutt (much to Princess Leia’s displeasure), but stalls to search for Luke when he doesn’t return. Escaping from the creature’s lair, Luke nearly succumbs to the cold and has a vision of his late mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who instructs him to go to the planet Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda.
Han finds Luke and provides shelter before they are rescued the following morning. Meanwhile, the Imperial probe droid locates the Rebel base on Hoth, and Vader orders an attack while the Rebels prepare to evacuate and disperse. The Imperial forces eventually overpower the Rebels and capture the base. Han and Leia escape on the Millennium Falconwith C-3PO and Chewbacca, but are unable to enter hyperspace due to technical difficulties and evade pursuit in an asteroid field, where Han and Leia begin to grow closer to each other. Vader turns to several notorious bounty hunters, including Boba Fett, to assist in locating the Falcon. Meanwhile, Luke escapes from Hoth with R2-D2 and crash lands on Dagobah, where he meets a wizened little green creature who reveals himself to be Yoda. While undergoing intensive training, Luke has a premonition of Han and Leia in danger and, against Yoda’s wishes, leaves to save his friends, promising to return to complete his training.
With Imperial forces off their trail, Han’s party set a course for Cloud City, a floating gas mining colony in the skies of the planet Bespin run by Han’s old friend, Lando Calrissian, unaware that they have been tracked by Fett. Shortly after they arrive in Cloud City, Lando turns them over to Vader to be used as bait in a trap for Luke, insisting that he was forced to do so to prevent occupation of his city by the Empire. Vader intends to hold Luke in suspended animation via carbon freezing, selecting Han as a test subject for the process. Before Han is frozen in carbonite, he and Leia profess their love for each other. Han’s frozen form is given to Fett, who plans to present him to Jabba the Hutt. Lando later repents and helps Leia and the others escape, insisting that there is still a chance to save Han. Unfortunately, Fett makes off with his quarry before they get a chance to confront him, forcing them to make an escape on the Millennium Falcon.
Meanwhile, Luke arrives in Cloud City and falls right into Vader’s trap. He and Vader engage in a lightsaber duel within the carbon-freezing facilities, eventually bringing them to the city’s central air shaft. Gaining an advantage, Vader cuts off Luke’s dueling hand along with his lightsaber. With Luke cornered and defenseless, Vader goads Luke to rule the galaxy alongside him, making the horrifying revelation that he is Luke’s father. Unwilling to join Vader, Luke casts himself into the air shaft and finds himself hanging on an antenna on the underbelly of the city. He makes a desperate call to Leia, who senses Luke’s distress aboard the Millennium Falconand manages to get him to safety. Its hyperdrive finally functional (thanks to timely repairs by R2-D2)the Falconescapes. Aboard a Rebel medical frigate, Luke is fitted with an artificial hand while Lando and Chewie set out on the Falcon to locate Han.
It doesn’t matter how many times I see this film, it gets better everytime. I refer to it as the crown jewel of the saga. If you don’t see any other film in the saga, this is the one you need watch. In my opinion, it is THE BEST MOVIE EVER MADE!!!!
Now that I’ve made that point very clear, allow me the chance to do an actual review here.
The Empire Strikes Back picks up shortly after the events of Star Wars. Having said that, there is just a different feel to this film. Similar to many sequels, everything seems to be in the right place for greatness, but even more so here. We have Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire hellbent on extracting revenge from Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. Then we have Luke who is growing into a man and needs to be trained in the ways of the Force. Han Solo and Leia both have some added depth to their characters and moved up from supporting characters to featured stars. The special effects are infinitely better than in the previous film, and the story is much better executed. These are not knocks against he first film, but rather signs of growth and improvement that make this film superior.
One thing I especially love is how Darth Vader is actually the villain here. In Star Wars he doesn’t really do anything except kill Obi-Wan. Return of the Jedi has him being the Emperor’s bitch. Here he runs the show.
I can’t review this particular film without bringing up the immortal scene where Vader tells Luke he is his father (fitting that I review this on Father’s Day). This is a powerful piece of cinema that provides a twist that affects the climax and resolution of the entire series (don’t forget the mention of “another” by Obi-Wan). I wasn’t old enough to see this in theaters when it was released, but I can just imagine the reaction when that revelation was made. I bet you could hear a pin drop in theaters around the world.
This film also brings us the greatest of all the Jedi, Yoda. If you’ve seen the prequel trilogy, then you know that Yoda was a complete bad-ass, before his self-imposed exile, as well as an impressive teacher. Is it any wonder that Obi-Wan sent Luke to him, besides that fact that there are no Jedi left besides him. Granted, Yoda is more comic fodder in his initial appearance, but the wisdom he spouts after he reveals who he really is puts Confucius to shame.
As with the first film, George Lucas decided he just had to “enhance the experience” by making slight changes in the special edition. Now, these changes are subtle for the most part, such as there being windows in the Cloud City instead of it being a pure white hallway, but changes like this are nothing more than waste of time and money. They don’t enhance it for me. I prefer the original, but don’t really care either way.
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carri Fisher reprise their roles as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia respectively. Luke has shown tremendous growth sicne the last film, as I mentioned before. Han is still on the run from bounty hinter , Princess Leia is still leading the Rebel Alliance, and attempting to hide her feelings for Solo, not very well, mind you.
Aside from being both the token black guy and big name actor, Billy Dee Williams brings a new character to the universe, Lando Calrissian. Lando is a friend of Han’s, who apparently was the previous owner/pilot of the Millennium Falcon, but now instead of hustling in poker games, he’s a legit politician. Billy Dee is pretty nice casting for Lando, and he pulls off the swerve nicely. Too bad that his character gets a bad rap. Fans think of him as a villain for betraying Han and even after the events of Return of the Jedi,they don’t care to forgive them. Fanboys can be so fickle, sometimes.
As you can see, I’m very passionate about this film. Whenever it comes on TV, no matter how far in or what I’m watching at the time, I stop and watch. If you haven’t seen this masterpiece yet, then you should. You probably won’t have the extreme feelings I ave, but you will realize that you’ve just watched one of the greatest films of all time, not to mention a clinic on how/what sequels should be done.
5 out of 5 stars