By far The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is my favorite film in the Star Wars collection. In the good old days, when you could drop off your 8-year-old kid and her friend at the movies without worrying whether they’d be there or tied up in the basement of some pervert when you came to pick them up, I went to see a Saturday matinee of this Sci-Fi thriller in May of 1980. Being children with good eyesight and strong , flexible necks, we sat in the very first row of the theatre. It is almost indescribable how I felt when I saw those gigantic white AT-AT Walkers on the planet Hoth. For more than two hours I was mesmerized by this galaxy so far, far away.
Since I do not prescribe to the idiocy of the renumbering of these films after the prequels emerged, this is the second of the Star Wars films. Coming off the destruction of its beloved Death Star, the Galactic Empire is looking to set the galaxy right again and snuff out the Rebel Alliance. The Rebels are hiding on Hoth, which looks a lot like Norway in winter. As the Empire strikes back the Rebels flee to an unnamed rendezvous point. Not everyone makes it there—namely our principal characters: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and the droids (Anthony Daniels). While his friends are dodging asteroids and the Star Destroyer, Luke takes a trip to Dagobah to learn the Jedi way from Yoda (Frank Oz). Before he can complete his Jedi training Luke has a vision of Han and Leia in trouble and goes to rescue them. It is in Cloud City that Luke and Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) have their famous light saber duel—you know the one where Vader cuts off Luke’s hand and tells him he’s his father? Oh, that Vader, he really did give into the Dark Side, didn’t he? Anyway, the last few moments of the film are a preparation for the sequel to come: Return of the Jedi (1983). Granted, as an 8-year-old I was a bit miffed that I was going to have to wait to see if Han Solo would be forever left in suspended animation, but as an adult I appreciate the idea of a well-devised cliffhanger.
What I most like about The Empire Strikes Back is Yoda—the all-time greatest Star Wars character ever. Small in stature, with a skin shade of lima bean green, Yoda is not as ruggedly handsome as Han Solo, but he is so charismatic—and wise. I’ve always been a fan of Confucius, and that’s who Yoda resembles. Think about it, when Yoda says to Luke, “Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try,” you have to think of Confucius. I loved Yoda so much as a kid my parents bought me a rubber-molded Yoda puppet for Christmas, which I kept until an unfortunate hot light incident melted my prized possession. I’ve read that Hamill was not fond of spending months shooting the swamp scenes with animals and props. Personally, I think he was upset that he was being upstaged by the most interesting Jedi in the world.
And, then there’s Vader—the second most interesting. Yes, I know I’m not supposed to root for the Dark Side, but Vader is a complete badass. He walks with purpose (what powerful strides indeed) and suffers no fools. Who wouldn’t want to be able to crush the windpipes of people who fail us just by slightly raising our hand? Plus, he knows how to wear black and works a cape like a supermodel—and don’t forget his awesome theme song composed by John Williams.
Overall, The Empire Strikes Back is a thrilling Sci-Fi movie. I’m not a full-on geek, so I can’t describe in detail all of the ships, vehicles, and weapons that make the film a visual treat. Suffice to say, George Lucas and company did a superior job of using the technology that they had (pre-CGI) to create entirely new worlds and creatures. The true test of how good this movie is the fact that I get the same feeling today that I did 30+ years ago when I sat in the front row and watched it.
I'm a huge Star War fan and the first Blu-ray disc box set, that I added to my DVD collection. The Empire Strikes Back, is also my favorite of the Star Wars series. What a breathtakingly beautiful adventure film. Like you.. I love this film as much today as I did 35 years ago.ReplyDelete
My brother has the entire Star Wars Saga on Blu-Ray. It truly is a nice film to look at.Delete
Of all the pieces of film out there, Star Wars (the originals, none of that prequel nonsense as you say) are the ones that I reeeeeeeeeally wish I had been around to see in a theater when they first came out. They are so good, and Empire is just fantastic. Nice write up.ReplyDelete
Thanks. I think they re-released some of Star Wars films on the big screen a few years ago. Maybe that will happen again.Delete
unfortunately it was the special edition instead of the originals. I know this is a very lengthy topic, but damn it, if a movie is a classic, why change something about it years later?Delete
The Star Wars series, overall is hit and miss, but "The Empire Strikes Back" is definitely a hit.ReplyDelete
Great description of Darth Vader! He DOES work that cape like a supermodel.
I giggle at myself sometimes. :)Delete
I had to laugh at your comment on the cliffhanger ending. I was in the same boat as you. I wrote in my review something to the effect of "I wonder if people today would think it was such a great ending if they didn't even know when or if there would ever be another film to resolve the cliffhanger."ReplyDelete
Great minds think alike, Chip. Cliffhangers piss a lot of people off--especially young children.Delete
afaik at that point a third movie was already confirmed (the casual moviegoer might not have known about that, though).
In our defense, Anonymous, I was eight years old--and I expect Chip wasn't too much older, either.Delete
Kim, I'm with all the way--EMPIRE is easiest the best of the STAR WARS films to date. The structure, narrative, theme, and Yoda essentially pave the way for all the films that follow.ReplyDelete
For me, the original trilogy lives and dies with Empire. Exotic locations, the bad guys win (making this a real trilogy installment, since the middle ends on a low note)...this is one of those films that, if I come across it when flipping channels, I must watch until the end. I can't not watch it if it's on.ReplyDelete
And Yoda might be the most culturally significant character to emerge from the decade.
Good point about why this film helped create a lasting trilogy. In my opinion, Yoda beats E.T. every time!Delete
nice sharing thankReplyDelete
Your blog looks well done.Delete