Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Directed by Irvin Kirshner (1980, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Mark Hamil, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Alec Guiness

Darth Vader spares nothing in his search for Luke, while Han is used as bait for Luke, who learns the ways of the Force.

 

 

5 stars

August 22nd, 2016 on Blu-ray for the 50th time  
   

I just realized that I hit 50 times for The Empire Strikes Back!

 

 

5 stars

September 14th, 2014 on Blu-ray for the 49th time  
   

This movie, somehow, keeps getting better, more beautiful, and truly inspiring. This cast has a snappy and amazing chemistry, the dialog is fantastic, and it really is haunting in so many scenes. I think this movie also has the best music of them all, whether it's the introduction of The Imperial March, the asteroid chase, the battle on Hoth, or the tragic ending. Truly one of the best movies ever made.

 

 

5 stars

June 19th, 2013 on Blu-ray for the 48th time  
   

I keep finding deeper things when I see this movie, things that obviously tied into the past and were used in Revenge of the Sith, that somehow make this movie even better. The way Obi-Wan and Yoda say they don't want to lose Luke the way his did Vader to "his emperor", for example -through Luke's friends and Anakin's secret wife, and both through Force visions. I don't like Yoda's callous talk about sacrifice, though, but that's the way all the Jedi of the prequel era thought, and why people really didn't mind having them exterminated.

 

 

5 stars

May 20th, 2012 on Blu-ray for the 47th time  
   

Can this movie be called hauntingly beautiful? I think so, from the vast wastelands of Hoth, to the especially haunting fogs and bogs of Dagobah, and especially the ethereal mists of Bespin. On the other hand, I'm going to have to look at my older copies of the movie, because this one seemed especially dark on my TV, whether it was the control room in Echo Base or the cockpit of the Falcon. Making it so dark really lost a lot of detail for me, which was disappointing. As for the movie itself, it still makes me wonder how they made such an incredible film.

 

 

5 stars

April 8th, 2011 on DVD for the 46th time  
   

This is the first time I've watched this movie on my big screen TV, and using a Blu-Ray player. It's probably the combination of the two that made Empire so stunning, yet again. It has always been my favorite movie of the entire series, but here it really shone. As I think I've mentioned before, I think this movie benefited most from the Special Edition treatment, as it was mostly background stuff. The opening up of Cloud City was terrific. Everything was great, as usual, and I'm happy to watch this movie again and again!

 

 

5 stars

October 29th, 2009 on DVD for the 45th time  
   

I don't think I've ever enjoyed this movie more than I did this night. I found it to be funny in many places, especially Han Solo's lines. I loved the way Han was portrayed as a ladies' man who wanted Leia, but became frustrated when she didn't return his attentions. The line where she replies to him that it takes more than being held to get her excited, followed by his comment "I don't have time for anything else" was hilarious.

Yoda's lessons to Luke seem even more timely than before. I think Yoda must have gone a little crazy in his time in exile on Dagobah. It must have been fun to be mischievous after not seeing anybody for so long. He also wants to give himself as many excuses not to train Luke as possible, probably fearing his failure again. He's had 20 years to think about how he could have done things differently, and maybe he thinks he couldn't have. I think his warning to Luke about the cave felt more ominous this time, as Luke does go into the cave with hatred and vengeance in mind. By the end of the movie, he confronts Vader with the arrogance of youth, and he is still our for vengeance, most likely still because of Ben's murder.

I find it interesting to contrast the Luke of The Empire Strikes Back with the one that permeates the later novels. He is indeed reckless, as Yoda says. In the later novels, he struggles to preserve life that's even trying to kill him. He has matured so much, and has a completely different viewpoint.

Meanwhile, the visuals and music are incredibly amazing. I guess I was just really in the Star Wars mood, but everything felt more vibrant and exciting. The asteroid chase is one of my favorite scenes, and has some of my favorite music in the whole two trilogies. The pacing of the movie was perfect, even if the timing of some events are off a little (I'm thinking of General Veers' optimistic account of how long it will take him to get to and destroy the shield generators, for one thing).

 

 

5 stars

September 26th, 2004 on DVD for the 44th time  

 

5 stars

September 26th, 2004 on DVD for the 43rd time  
   

As with A New Hope, this movie was terrific, so crisp and clear, in both video and audio! Still my favorite of the three films, I know this one so well.

As with my review of the previous film, I want to focus on the Special Edition and DVD changes. Empire always had very few changes, most of which were very subtle, and didn't alter the meaning of anything. However, it gets one of the largest changes of the trilogy for the DVD release.

The changes to the Emperor's scenes will have to wait for Episode III to receive full judgment. Although I wondered why the Emperor hadn't been changed for the Special Edition, I liked the change here. The dialog will need some explanation, and I sure hope that it gets explained. It looks as if Vader is trying to outsmart Palpatine here, pretending not to know the name of the rebel who destroyed the Death Star. But Vader stated "Skywalker is with them" earlier, when detecting Hoth. I always felt that Vader's taunt to "rule the galaxy together as father and son" was just a way to lower Luke's guard; that he was always completely loyal to the Emperor. This might not be the case, however. The dialog change does indicate that both Anakin and Palpatine knew that Padmé was pregnant, though. This would answer a question I've always had about why Ben allowed Luke to keep the name Skywalker. If would be an obvious indication to the Emperor that Anakin did indeed have an offspring. However, if Palpatine didn't know that there were twins, the appearance of Luke would stop their search for Anakin's other heir altogether, and Leia would be safe.

My favorite addition to the Special Edition was the "opening up" of Cloud City. By putting clouds and moving craft, trains and elevators through the view in windows, and opening up some hallways to the outer air, the entire city was made incredibly more beautiful. Instead of white, claustrophobic walls, we see a living city. The scene on the platform when Lando tells people to evacuate was a little obscure, as we never saw any part of the city so densely packed, however, it was neat to see nonetheless. I liked the setting-up scene of the Falcon entering Cloud City, showing more of its breadth. As with A New Hope, however, the other lead-in scene was a little too long, with the cloud car passing Leia's suite. On the other hand, I always felt that seeing Leia from outside the suite looked way, way too fake, the only real blemish in an otherwise perfect movie; the new scene fixed that nicely.

The wampa scenes were also quite effective, showing us more of a beast that received very little footage in the original edition. Watching it munch on its taun-taun meal was gross (in a good way), and I enjoyed seeing more than just a body-on-rails approach Luke as he escapes.

Vader's new scene, taking off in the shuttle for his ship after losing Luke was breathtaking. However, I found the dialog to be rather stilted. Vader speaks so passionately to Luke, then we get lines like "in - form my Star De - stroy - er to pre - pare for my arr - i - val", with all syllables enunciated with the same weight, and feeling so dull. However, the line is really not as bad as I remembered it being.

The only other Special Edition change that I totally disagreed with was Luke's line on Dagobah to R2D2: "You're lucky you don't taste very good" was switched to "You were lucky to get out of there." Why? -the previous line is so much funnier, especially given Luke's predicament.

For the DVD, we also get a new voice for Boba Fett. I disagree altogether with changing this. The reasoning is that Boba Fett is a clone of Jango Fett, so he should sound the same. I disagree. If Boba had been in a few more scrapes, wounded his throat a little -or even just hung out in some smoke-filled places more than Jango had, his voice could have changed significantly. Just listen to chain-smokers -their voices would be very different if they hadn't started smoking. The new voice is nowhere near as threatening as it was originally. The line "as you wish" (talking about disintegrations) is especially ruined, though the others are not so bad.

I cannot identify any other changes to this movie, for either the Special Edition or the DVD edition. In general, I appreciated the changes that were made, with some notable exceptions.

On an unrelated note, this movie has what I believe to be the best outfit worn by Princess Leia. No, the gold bikini doesn't appear here. I'm talking about her Hoth outfit, as worn in the Millennium Falcon and later on Cloud City. I think that outfit makes her look even more beautiful, especially with the braid that encircles her head.

This movie also shows why widescreen is the way to watch these movies. Aside form the beautiful vistas and panoramic scenes, there is one scene in the asteroid field where an asteroid hits the bridge of a Star Destroyer. In the next moment, we see Vader conferring with three of his officers by hologram. In the widescreen version, the officer on the far left screams, starts to fall over, and disappears from the hologram! It is so funny, but not visible in the full-frame version.

As mentioned in my review of A New Hope, the documentary included with the DVD was good, though not entirely great. What I enjoyed most about the Star Wars section was that we got to see non-Special Edition footage, as well as alternate takes. Unfortunately, Empire did not get the same treatment. All of the footage included in the documentary was from the special edition version. While A New Hope also got a cool summary in the form of film fragments, only the first half of Empire was done in the same way. Curious, though I wish we could have rid the whole documentary of film footage, so that we could get more behind-the-scenes stuff. Note to the writers: we know the movie well enough that we don't need those extended scenes of footage. The only other Empire-specific material on the bonus disc were the trailers and TV spots. These were quite impressive, especially compared to other trailers of that same time frame. I do wonder, however, why the Death Star explosion was used in there...

 

 

5 stars

March 28th, 2002 on Video for the 42nd time  
   

Ah, like an old friend, I always enjoy coming back to this film. 

Since watching The Phantom Menace, and reading the New Jedi Order books, I can see some real development in characters, and it was really, really neat!

The character I watched with the most interest was Luke.  As I've mentioned before, he is aggressive and impatient.  As Yoda says, he is reckless.  And nowhere is that seen better than in comparison with the New Jedi Order novels.  I must congratulate the authors in catching so much maturity in Luke.  The contrast between The Empire Strikes Back and any of those books is amazing, absolutely amazing.  What they have done is model Luke's students on Luke's behavior here!  In reading about Anakin Solo and Kyp Durron, I see the young Luke in them.  I love it!  And it brings new enlightenment to this movie, as well.

The other character who gets amazing development is Yoda.  It is hilarious to see the old and wise Jedi Master, leader of thousands of Jedi, rummaging through Luke's supplies, throwing things around, and finally being mesmerized by a simple flashlight!  Is Yoda going senile?  I really wondered!  More likely, he has had no company since Episode III, and is going stir-crazy.  And he doesn't even have a flashlight in his new home.  He must have been ecstatic to acquire one here!  But he still shows the wisdom that makes him such a good teacher.  The look of disappointment on his face when Luke can't retrieve his ship from the swamp is so real, it's amazing to realize that this is a puppet.

The comedy also had me laughing out loud through the whole movie.  Most of the humor is very subtle, but from the moment we meet C3PO and R2D2 in the Hoth base ("how they are going to dry out all their clothes..."), all the way to the moment when Chewbacca is assaulting stormtroopers in the carbon-freezing chamber ("I'm not ready to die" cries Threepio!), there were moments of dialog that were not necessary at all for the story on a functional level.  But on an emotional level, and on the level where we register that this could be realistic (aside from the obvious suspension of disbelief), this is what makes the movie a great thing to watch.

This includes the banter between Han and Leia, of course, which becomes a big theme in Return of the Jedi.  As for the lapses in continuity and logic that I referred to below, I didn't notice anything this time around!  I was just enjoying it to the fullest.  As I will continue to do in the future.

 

 

5 stars

August 10th, 2001 on Video for the 41st time  
    As always, the best of the four Star Wars movies. 

Why is this my favourite one? It tells the story in the best way, it has the best battle sequence (Hoth, at the very beginning of the film, something unheard of in those days), and has the best character development and dialog. 

The movie uses emotion to tell the story. It is obvious at every point in the movie that Luke is getting very aggressive and impatient. From the battle of Hoth, where he countermands Dack's attempts to do what he has to do (and the look on Luke's face when Dack is killed is pure frustration, not sorrow -his gunner died on him; how rude!), to the way he abruptly lands his X-Wing fighter on Dagobah (without taking a proper scan of the place), to his more obvious abruptness and impatience with Yoda, Luke shows that he is missing Ben's instruction deeply. Even after he leaves his training, he is very impatient to defeat Vader, who killed his father and his mentor. 

More tension is deeply felt between Han and Leia. Their relationship grows, as they both want it to, but they are both too proud to admit it. Their bickering is really fun to watch, as they are so obviously afraid to get closer together, but they also can't bear to be apart. They are both headstrong, and don't want to appear too emotional.  But the look on Leia's face (and let's not forget Chewie, as well) when Han and Luke are lost out in the cold, and later, when Han is encased in carbonite, tell it all. This is a movie of deep sorrow.

It is also a movie of great comedy. Theepio and Artoo are terrifically funny whenever they are together. But there are great lines between Han and Chewie, as well. 

The best battle scene has to go to this movie as well, as nothing could ever beat the attack against the walkers. I love the way they mercilessly shoot down the snowspeeders, barely pausing in their tracks. The ground support teams seem ineffective, but they create more AT-AT targets, and slow down the advance long enough for the evacuation to take place. And who could forget the sight of a falling walker! After Wedge and Janson trip it with their towcable, it signals that these giant machines are not invulnerable! Immediately afterwards, we get the stunning asteroid chase, which has the best music in the entire series so far.

The music really helps to create the mood for the great emotions and the terrific battles and chases. I have always been really impressed with the music of this movie, which is among my favourites (A New Hope's music is slightly better in many places, but between the Battle of Hoth, Vader's Theme and the Asteroid Chase -especially the latter, it is difficult to beat).

Finally, the characters are what makes this movie stand out way above the others. They don't spout cheesy dialog (such as "I care", "Are you an angel?", etc...), and their actions are very realistic. They reach out in love, and they react sharply to insolence and betrayal. Chewie is terrific in this last part, as he is reluctant to stop killing Lando even when he knows he can possibly save Han. Such conflicted emotions. 

The greatest development of the characters, though, occurs at the end. When Leia and Han finally realize that they love each other, they are forcibly taken away from one another. When Luke hears Vader tell him that they are father and son, he denies it so vehemently, and then grows up enough to accept that there is only one way that he can escape the evil man, by killing himself. And then, when he survives, he realizes that Vader could have possibly been telling the truth. 

There are several places where strange things go on, which for any other movie I would call lapses in continuity or logic. But there are fewer here than in any of the other movies, and I don't want to talk about them right now. Maybe next time I view this film.

I always thought that it was the director who made this movie the best of them all. I wish Irvin Kirchner had directed more of the Star Wars movies. He did such a great job with even the smallest of details. I love this movie!
 

 

5 stars

May 3rd, 1999 on Laserdisk for the 40th time  
    Another great hype for Episode I.  Robert's big screen with surround sound made the movie even better.  There is a lot of story going on here, and I wonder how we're going to view it after the prequel trilogy is finished.  

 

5 stars

September 7th, 1997 on Video for the 39th time  
    Empire Special Edition!  Even better than Star Wars Special Edition!  And I thought the movie couldn't get any more perfect.  The changes or additions are much more subtle, but just as pleasing or more so.  The snow battle and asteroid chase are worth the admission alone for the big screen effect.  
   

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