I am now more than halfway through my Star Wars movie marathon as the release of Rise of Skywalker approaches. After watching the original, it was time for the film that was widely considered by many Star Wars fans, including myself, to be the best of the saga, Empire Strikes Back. It was my favorite for a long time, and it was always the one movie I considered to be perfect. Upon revisit, that sentiment remains the same.
Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, and the film takes place three years after Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance has set up a new base on the ice planet Hoth. After the Empire finds the base and chases them out, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO try to escape the relentless of the Galactic Empire. During this time, Luke Skywalker goes to Dagobah and learns the ways of the force from the Jedi-Master Yoda.
The film stars Mark Hamil as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and Harrison Ford as Han Solo as they return from the last movie. New additions include Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda. In my Star Wars review, I mentioned how Hamil was the weakest aspect of the film. In this film, he is way better. Luke goes through a lot of trauma in the movie and Hamil displays the emotion perfectly and he does a great job portraying a character learning a lot and facing a lot of adversity.
One plotline in the film is that Han and Leia fall in love as they are being chased by the Empire. The chemistry between the two actors is amazing as they portray their characters naturally and well, and they bounce off each other very well. What is great is the movie does not slow down for the love story and it develops throughout the action of the movie. It is a love story that is believable, natural and well-written and Fisher and Ford bring it to life very well.
Williams is excellent as Lando as he has great charisma, but a character filled with regret, turmoil and swagger all in one. Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda and Jim Henson as the puppeteer are fantastic as they portray a wide range of emotions and actions. They show a Yoda that is silly and goofy one moment, to a stoic and wise Jedi-Master the next and it is an absolute joy to watch.
Let’s discuss the look of the movie. It was released in 1980 and while there have been remastered editions, the look of the movie has mostly stayed the same. And even by today’s standards, it looks phenomenal. Every time they are in space, it looks as realistic as it can, and it isn’t a green screen mess like it is in most of the prequels. Also, filming on location does this film wonders. There is a scene on Hoth where Luke is running away from a snow creature during a blizzard. The film crew shot that scene during an actual blizzard in Norway. It makes the scene more impactful and powerful. Lastly, the way the film is shot displays a darker tone and it matches the theme of the movie perfectly.
The pacing of the film is also flawless. When Luke is training on Dagobah, it feels a lot longer than it is and that is the whole point. Luke is going through a long and intense mental battle as Yoda is teaching him the ways of the force and testing Luke’s flaws and patience and the movie does a great job of showing you what Luke’s mindset through the whole process is like.
Also, let us discuss the plot twist that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. While this is common knowledge today, back in 1980, it was one of the most shocking plot twists in cinema history. And the execution was incredible. The whole confrontation between Luke and Vader was emotional, well-shot and the score added to how dramatic it was. And with James Earl Jones delivered the iconic line, “No, I am your father,” it was glorious and dramatic. Hamil’s reaction was warranted and it added weight to the reveal and the situation. It is a stunning twist and it makes the whole saga even better.
Lastly, the score once again was phenomenal. This film was the introduction to the iconic “Imperial March,” and it gives you chills listening to it as it displays the might of the empire. The whole score as the empire is chasing the Falcon is incredible as is the score during the battle at Hoth. The score helps makes all those scenes dramatic and intense throughout.
Overall, this film is perfect. From the look of the movie to the acting, story, and score, Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece of cinema and should be viewed to your heart’s content. It is my favorite movie of all-time and I had a blast watching it once again upon this revisit. Please watch it before Rise of Skywalker comes out.