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Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) review

Posted : 1 year, 1 month ago on 24 August 2017 04:23

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Darkest, deepest, most mature Star Wars film

Posted : 2 years, 9 months ago on 15 December 2015 04:18

"Control, control, you must learn control!"

Disclaimer: As with my critique of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, this review will be in reference to the theatrical cut of The Empire Strikes Back, unless otherwise specified.

Surpassing even the most optimistic of expectations in 1977, Star Wars became a phenomenon, earning a mint at the box office and bringing in millions of additional dollars in merchandising. Producing a sequel to such a much-loved motion picture would be daunting for any filmmaker, yet, like its predecessor, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back managed to transcend all expectations with ostensibly effortless aplomb. Released in 1980, The Empire Strikes Back succeeds because it's not just a simple, light-hearted victory lap for George Lucas and his crew - it's a bold, dark sequel which closes on an uncertain note and leaves more questions than answers. It isn't just a terrific sequel on its own terms, but also one of the best follow-ups in feature film history, and it's arguably superior to the motion picture which spawned it. Boasting terrific special effects and the confident directorial hand of the late great Irvin Kershner (RoboCop 2), The Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece that still endures in the 21st Century.


Three years after the successful assault on the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance have constructed a new base in secret on the ice planet of Hoth, hidden from the Galactic Empire. But when probe droids alert Imperial forces about the location of the rebels, Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse) spearheads an invasion, forcing an evacuation of Hoth. While Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is instructed by the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) to travel to the Dagobah system to seek out Jedi instructor Yoda (Frank Oz) for training, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) seeks safety elsewhere, travelling with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and trusty protocol droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). But Vader summons multiple bounty hunters, including the notorious Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch), to hunt down Solo's ship.

Although George Lucas wrote and directed 1977's A New Hope, he wisely enlisted outside help for this instalment, with screenwriters Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan working from Lucas' story outline. Due to this, The Empire Strikes Back irons out the little imperfections of the original film, particularly in regards to dialogue. Furthermore, whereas A New Hope was on the simplistic side, this sequel ups the ante and expands the franchise's scope, ditching the light popcorn serial mentality in favour of a darker tone, with its daring ending demonstrating that the good guys do not always win. This is also a far denser tale, even adding a layer of romance by exploring the sexual tension between Han and Leia that was palpable in A New Hope. Furthermore, The Empire Strikes Back expands upon the Jedi religion by introducing Yoda, a wise old Jedi Master who once instructed Obi-Wan. Yoda was brought to life by Jim Henson's legendary creature shop, who created an astonishingly expressive puppet, while Muppets veteran Frank Oz voiced and performed the role to perfection.


A New Hope was produced for a meagre sum, and barely any executives at 20th Century Fox had any faith in the production. But the extraordinary box office performance led to a generous budget boost for The Empire Strikes Back, and as a result this is a more polished, visually striking endeavour. The crew did not have to take as many shortcuts this time, with production design and special effects looking as slick and impressive as ever. Even by 2015 standards, The Empire Strikes Back looks extraordinary, with its reliance on practical effects and location shooting affording the film a tangible, realistic visual aesthetic, while the proficient sound design gives vivid life to this sci-fi fantasy world. Moreover, the spectacular action sequences are also hugely exciting, from the riveting Hoth battle to an exhilarating asteroid field chase, as well as the climactic lightsaber duel between Vader and Luke that doesn't disappoint in the slightest. What's especially notable about the Luke/Vader conflict is that it’s not all about fancy fight choreography, as the duel actually means something and is brimming with emotion and drama. Consequently, it's one of the greatest sequences in the Star Wars saga. Furthermore, The Empire Strikes Back is given an additional boost in the form of John Williams' enrapturing original score. Williams creates an array of effective themes beyond the insanely memorable Star Wars title music, perfectly accompanying the spectacular visuals. It's hard to imagine Star Wars being as exhilarating as it is without the iconic soundtrack.

The acting here is a bit more refined, with Hamill in particular seeming more comfortable in the role of Luke Skywalker. Since The Empire Strikes Back is a darker movie, the characters are given more depth than before, and Hamill's performance during the emotionally devastating climax is really remarkable. Meanwhile, Ford remains effortlessly cool, embodying the kind of edgy, badass hero that all kids aspire to be. The movie also introduces Billy Dee Williams, who's another bright spot playing Han's old friend Lando. But the best newcomer here is fan favourite Boba Fett. The design of Fett's trademark armour is iconic, while his badass demeanour and imposing voice solidifies his status as a memorable character. Fett is perfectly voiced by Jason Wingreen; we will ignore that his voice was replaced with Temuera Morrison for the DVD release in 2004, with the change being carried over to the movie's Blu-ray debut. Admittedly, though, this is the only overly vexing alteration that Lucas has applied to the movie, with the minor digital touch-ups actually serving to bolster the already impressive visuals.


Everything in The Empire Strikes Back simply works, from the flawless action sequences to the incredible visuals and memorable characters, while its thematic undercurrents elevate it above more run-of-the-mill blockbusters. As with A New Hope, some content does border on the cheesy side, yet it's sold with so much sincerity that it's not bothersome at all. This is a superlative movie; the darkest, deepest, most mature and most thoughtful instalment in the Star Wars franchise to date. It's a rare type of classic blockbuster that can be adored by film fans and critics alike without needing to rely on nostalgia, as it confidently holds up years later. If anything, the movie is more breathtaking in 2015 simply because of how convincing the visual effects still look, despite being executed in 1980.

10/10


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A classic

Posted : 3 years, 4 months ago on 12 May 2015 10:20

Of course, I have seen this movie many times when I was a kid but I still wanted to check it out again. It is usually considered as the best installment of this whole saga and, after re-watching the damned thing once again, I believe it really deserves this status. Indeed, even though it still remains a seminal piece of popcorn entertainment, this time, it was quite darker than its predecessor and towards the end, it almost became some kind of Greek tragedy. Indeed, the climax with the duel between Skywalker and Vader has become pretty much the stuff of legends, it is still thrilling after all these years and I would be really surprised if they would ever manage to top that in the upcoming sequels. Sure, 35 years later, it seems pretty cheesy to discover the truth about Luke's father but it is because it has been copied and parodied so many times afterwards and, in fact, it was terribly effective. The good stuff didn’t stop there though. Indeed, you also had the enigmatic Boba Fett whose backstory would be really messed up in the prequels and, of course, the all mighty Yoda who would become one of the most beloved characters in this franchise. To conclude, it is a childhood classic, it is terribly entertaining and it is absolutely worth a look.


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The Empire Strikes Back, With a Vengeance!

Posted : 3 years, 4 months ago on 4 May 2015 01:16

*** This review contains spoilers ***

The Empire Strikes Back is my least favourite of the original trilogy, I guess I just prefer the more light hearted nature of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi (plus when has darkness become a measure of quality?), as well as the sense of closure given by those films but calling it my least favourite is like saying this pizza with 19 slices of pepperoni is it not as good as this pizza with 20 slices of pepperoni. It’s appropriate that the second part of three act story is the dark entry, so the more light hearted third act can act as a release from the darkness and despair.

 

Imagine if Star Wars went in the direction of The Planet of the Apes franchise? It’s a miracle the studio had no input into the film, creating the movie sequel all movie sequels aspire to be. What if it was a rushed out sequel titled Star Wars II? If Jaws started the trend of blockbusters and Star Wars cemented it, then The Empire Strikes Back was the final step in the birth of the blockbusters, by cementing the rules behind the art of the movie sequel but could the film’s quality also due to Lucas not having any input into the writing or directing of the film?

 

Right from the start you can tell the characters are much deeper than the first film. Han and Leia are simply one of the greatest romances in all of cinema. The classic tale of two who pretend of hate each other but are secretly in love, a trope as old as cinema, it’s no surprise the two are posed in the manner of Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara on the film’s poster. The planets in Star Wars are like characters themselves and Degobah is the perfect example of this. There’s such intimacy and poignancy to the scenes on Degobah. Yoda really is a perfect creation, like Obiwan, you do wonder if everything he says is full of crap when you break it down but it doesn’t matter. It’s just a shame the perception of the character has become bastardized because of the prequels. Plus what is it about stop motion that is just endlessly appealing to look at? The way that is doesn’t have the full fluid motion of live action movement but not to the point that is looks choppy.

 

Although the darkest, The Empire Strikes Back is the funniest of the series.  C-3PO constantly telling people about the improbability of escaping the situation they’re getting themselves into never fails to get a laugh. Plus the movie keeps teasing you that you’re going to get to see that iconic jump to light speed shot from the first film, making it all the satisfying when you finally do get to see it.

 

“I am your Father”, the most well known piece of pop culture knowledge. Is there anyone in the civilised world who doesn’t know Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father? Should we try and preserve the secrecy of these plot twists so future generations can enjoy the surprise. 



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A rare sequel that improves on the original!

Posted : 3 years, 8 months ago on 25 January 2015 05:27

'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' brings the memorable Yoda (Frank Oz) to the series. It is also better than the original and features a love relationship between Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). The plotting is entertaining, the visual effects are great and so is the acting! A rare sequel that improves on the original!


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Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) review

Posted : 5 years, 2 months ago on 17 July 2013 05:05

The Empire Strikes Back is the best of three Star Wars films, and the most thought-provoking. After the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story. It is because of the emotions stirred in Empire that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.


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The Star Wars Empire Has Striked More Than Ever.

Posted : 7 years, 10 months ago on 23 November 2010 11:54

After the first Star Wars film was such a huge success, a sequel was a bit of a gamble seeing as sequels aren't usually better than their predecessors. In this case, I found The Empire Strikes Back a lot better than A New Hope. I guess this one opened up Star Wars as a saga not an individual film like A New Hope did especially learning more about the Force, the history of the Jedi Knights and the Sith Lords and a shocking twist that becomes the purpose of the prequel trilogy. It is quite hard to explain what I mean by this but The Empire Strikes Back is almost like a road-space film seeing as most of the characters involved are fugitives for the Empire.


This didn't earn as much glory regarding awards like A New Hope did but The Empire Strikes Back is perhaps even more famous than that one seeing as it, as I said, changed the entire series around completely which led to more films and more success hence why it is my favourite Star Wars film. The pace of it was pretty intense the whole way through because the Rebel Alliance are on the brink of capture at the hands of the Empire but they have plans of their own to get away and fight back against them. This was perhaps more adult than A New Hope too seeing as it was a lot darker and there was more of a stronger two-sided story to it than just a group who go onto this sphere-shaped space station.


Fleeing the evil Galactic Empire, the rebels abandon their new base on Hoth. Princess Leia, Han Solo and the droids R2-D2 and C-3P0 escape in the damaged Millenium Falcon, but are later captured by Lord Darth Vader on Bespin. Skywalker, meanwhile, follows Ben Kenobi's posthumous command and receives Jedi training by Yoda on Dagobah. Will Skywalker manage to rescue his friends from the Sith Lord?


Mark Hamill's performance as Luke improved a lot and his character and what he goes through in this film makes it seem a bit like an underdog story seeing as Yoda is old now, Obi-Wan has died and he is now their only hope to defeat Darth Vader (and the Emperor in Return Of The Jedi). However, his determination to do that or not is rocked by a shocking revelation that would leave you thinking 'What?!' (Most of you probably know anyway). Harrison Ford has always been a favourite actor of mine but he shows especially in this one that he is the true hero in the original trilogy. Han and Leia are at each other's throats at the start of this film but the love between them begins to build during their time on the Falcon while fugitives from the Empire. Carrie Fisher was amazing and gorgeous once again as Princess Leia and I really liked Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian although his role wasn't as involved as it was in Return Of The Jedi seeing as he first appears just over half way through the film.


Back then, George Lucas not being director was perhaps a bad idea seeing as A New Hope was such a huge success but Irvin Kershner surprised us all with a brilliant sci-fi action thrill-ride that lived up to its predecessor and, in my opinion, far surpassed it. George may not have directed, produced (executive producer though) or written it but obviously was his story. I guess that shows that George is not a good director or writer (except Episode III and IV) but he is a genius at creating stories and expanding on the audience's imagination. Despite it not being their story, Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote it amazingly and, to be perfectly honest, it couldn't have been written any better than this.


Overall, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece of the fantasy/science-fiction genre and has proved itself to be one of the most famous and successful sequels ever made. In fact, for me it is the best sequel of all time. It is also my favourite Star Wars film and my favourite science-fiction film as well. This should have earned all the Oscar nominations over A New Hope despite that film deserved them too. Unforgettable classic.


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The Pinnacle Of The Force

Posted : 8 years, 10 months ago on 11 November 2009 10:02

Sure, there are sci-fi films better written, or with, now much more grander & updated special effects. But other than Star Trek, none have the expansive imagination or have been able to touch the heart of an entire generation of nerds, particularly with such a long lasting impact, as the original Star Wars trilogy.
And while I know that Star Trek has affected more numbers of sci-fi geeks, but, for me, as "big" as their stories & concepts were, they never seemed to go all out with their depictions of aliens races as much as Wars. And as integalactic as they tried to make their stories, I never felt that they were as epic.
For the movie of Empire itself, I agree with the rest of the world that this is the pinnacle of the entire Star Wars franchise, with it's darker tone & cliff-hanger ending within it's still fairytale-like structure. The saga of the intergalactic war between the Empire & the Jedi-led Rebellion hits it stride as Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Princess Leia & the rest of the crew find themselves pursued & cornered by Darth Vader & the forces of the Dark Side.



The Empire Strikes Back came out at a time back when movies would stay in wide release, not for weeks at a time, but for months, and a few of 'em, like this one, for almost a full year.
From my own point of view, I think that, on the majority, audiences today have been so desensitized from so-so blockbusters being released every other week-end or so, that they will never get to fully understand or experience the feeling a big movie-event like Star Wars. The year of Empire was one of my fave summers ever as a kid. It was really cool knowing that I could hop on the city bus at any point during the season & go watch TESB. And every time that I did, the other audience members were just as excited to be seeing this film at the end of the summer as they were at the beginning. Every year that one of the 3 original films was released, you could feel the power of the "Force" within the air, and not just until the next "big" movie came out. You could actually feel it in the air for almost the entire year long. And then some.



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The Empire Strikes Back

Posted : 10 years ago on 14 September 2008 02:41

Next to the original "Star Wars", "The Empire Strikes Back" is the most mythic, and imaginative of the six "Star Wars" films.

The Empire Strikes Back balances humor with interesting characters and locations along with action, drama and adventure. But what sets Empire apart from the other five films is the depth of the story and relationships between the characters while together and apart. This film is Sci-Fi storytelling at it's finest.



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The force is with you but you are not a Jedi yet..

Posted : 10 years ago on 26 August 2008 09:28

''The force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet.''

While Luke takes advanced Jedi training from Yoda, his friends are relentlessly pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.

Mark Hamill: Luke Skywalker

After the success regarding the original Star Wars now titled A New Hope, one would have assumed a regression in quality thanks to the whip lash that George Lucas appears to have in making films.
Thankfully veteran Director Irvin Kershner expertly assists by directing and gracing George's storytelling with skilful poise regarding film making. Mix this with screenplay that sizzles and succeeds from Leigh Brackett and
Lawrence Kasdan, and you have a sequel victory assured.



The Empire Strikes Back brings back the incredible original heroes, coats them and grants them depth and story, still finding time to bring in new timeless characters that become legends in their own assurity.
With the new director leading proceedings, Irvin Kershner, brings even more life and vitality to the story and the world that made the first Star Wars so incredible.
The only problem really with the first Star Wars is it felt like only a beginning, in the regard that it was, and also a film which could stand alone but audiences are left wanting more. Like there were layers of detail that we didn't get and The Empire Strikes Back burst into those layers and put us deep into the world and the story never to turn back. On top of that the film delivers the first and most infamous twist in film history...family connections so to speak. I won't give it away if you have existed under a rock for the last three decades. The fights are epic, the new characters are amazing, and even Hamill as Skywalker starts to really shine and receive some real depth to his character.

Mark Hamill's performance matures and really comes full circle in relation to Luke Skywalker, whom he embodies this time round. His naivety and boyish charm changes for the better as he trains to become a Jedi and an adult.
Harrison Ford's Han Solo is probably the character that changes the least and probably just a case of "don't change a good thing." Solo is still a kick arse hero and his story is a focal point for the sequel.
Carrie Fisher slips back into her role as the feisty Princess flawlessly. This time the banter and romantic tension between Fisher and Ford heats up and really gives the story a timeless romance. Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Peter Mayhew return in full form as C3P0, R2D2 and Chewbacca and they are better than ever. David Prowse with James Earl Jones providing the voice continues to make Darth Vader the most evil, intensely bad villain in the history of films. Vader's character really turns up the heat and gives a terrifying turn as the leader of the Empire. Billy Dee Williams is a newcomer to the cast and a welcome addition. He plays gambler, scoundrel Lando Calrissian. He doesn't get a lot of background or depth to his character and yet he is a great addition to the cast. And saving the best for last...the master of the Star Wars Universe. Frank Oz brings Master Yoda to life. The entire sequence with Luke and Yoda meeting for the first time and training is brilliant. Yoda is a timeless character, a pop culture idol and yet his part in this is touching, funny, and brilliant. This is one character whom becomes much more than merely a puppet, he becomes a being we can relate to and listen to.

The Empire Strikes Back is simply the adventurous and funniest sci-fi sequels to grace us ever. The film picks up where the first left off and takes the viewer on a thrill roller-coaster ride that never slows down. This is ultimately all about the evil Empire and Vader getting his revenge, essentially succeeding. Starting from the opening moment, the brilliantly crafted ice world called Hoth, and continuing on to a show down between Skywalker and Vader himself and the revealing of the infamous secret, this film is pure brilliance. The direction, the creation, the writing, the characters and the special effects are jaw droppingly amazing. There is simply no way you can watch just one Star Wars movie because the story is so important but after watching the first one and thinking... this is fun and additively entrancing, The Empire Strikes Back will take it up a notch, up into the heavenly stars and realms of a perfect film.
Simply among the greatest sequels of all time.

''Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.''


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