Middle films in trilogies always have a tough time. How much should be wrapped up? What can be done to keep people interested enough to watch the final film? Fortunately, The Empire Strikes Back figures it out quickly and delivers an excellent adventure.
The Rebel Alliance has settled in to their new base on Hoth, an ice-covered planet far away from the normal travel lanes of the Galactic Empire. Unfortunately, the Empire figures out where they are through some luck and a little Sithly intuition. After the base is destroyed, Luke, Leia, and Han split up and Luke heads off to find the mysterious Yoda, Jedi Master, while Leia and Han head toward the next Rebel rendezvous point.
With veteran director Irvin Kershner at the helm, The Empire Strikes Back wastes no time in getting right into the story. Kershner was known for character building in his films, and he certainly did that in this film. All of the main characters, as well as many of the secondary characters, became much more fleshed out. This made them more real, and helped make this film the best of the original trilogy.
With almost three times the budget, the special effects improved by leaps and bounds from the first film (which wasn’t too shabby, all things considered). Industrial Light & Magic improved many of their techniques and the audience was wowed. My favorite scene, at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, has Luke and Leia looking out a window into space as Lando flies off with Chewie in the Millenium Falcon. The cinematography of that scene was awesome, and the special effects used there were simple, yet amazing.
John Williams’ soundtrack was spot-on. He built on the themes from the first film, and created new arrangements which continued to draw me in as a viewer. After not seeing the film for a few years, I can say his soundtrack still stands up to anything being produced today. Williams really knows how to grab an emotion and hit you with it again and again at the appropriate time in the film. I could (and have) listen to this soundtrack all day without tiring of it.
The Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite Star Wars film. I really enjoy all three of the first trilogy, but this one is just a notch or two above the rest. I highly recommend this film to everyone, and if you haven’t seen it by now, 35 years after it came out, it’s about time you did.
Release Date: May 21, 1980 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief social drinking)
Language: 1 (very minor)
Sexuality: 1 (very brief, mild innuendo)
Violence: 2 (lightsaber duel, other science fiction fighting, death)