Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Sci-Fi The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

For the second (or fifth, from a certain point of view) Star Wars film, the original’s writer-director George Lucas handed the directorial reigns to Irvin Kirschner, and served as Executive Producer and received story credit. After defeating the Imperial Forces, the Rebel Alliance establishes a new base on a frozen wasteland planet. When the Empire attacks the new base the Rebels flee, and the main characters go off in separate directions. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) heads off to learn the ways of The Force from a Jedi Master named Yoda (a puppet operated by Frank Oz), while Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia evade Imperial Forces and end up seeking refuge at a city in the clouds which is operated by a shady former friend of Solo named Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Sensing that his friends are in danger, Luke sets out to rescue them, and confronts the evil Darth Vader, who makes a surprising revelation about his past.

Much like the first Star Wars film, it’s not the acting that is the focal point. The performances are acceptable. Hamill deserves credit for spending half of the film acting alongside a puppet. If it weren’t for him, the Yoda character would not have been at all convincing. Thanks, in part to Hamill, Yoda comes off as an actual character, not just molded plastic.Ford’s Han Solo is also a wonderful character. Definitely a hero, but not quite a “good guy” he’s played even better than in the previous film. I found that this installment had a much better, more in depth story than it’s predecessor. Rather than just “the good guys fighting the bad guys” this episode places more focus on the characters themselves.

Despite only three years passing in between the films, the visual effects are several steps above the effects of “Star Wars”. The effects highlights are the giant four-legged stop-motion mechanical walkers used by the Empire during the battle in the snow, and the Super Star Destroyer, a very large Imperial Command ship. The overall look of the film is improved as well. The sets seem much more impressive and vast, especially the Cloud City where the film’s last hour takes place. The costumes are well done, most of them quite similar to before. In fact some of them are identical to the previous film, though I can’t be the only one who noticed that Darth Vader’s helmet seems a lot shinier this go round. I’d rather he choke me with the Force than put me on helmet polishing duty!

“The Empire Strikes Back” is one of Hollywood’s extreme rarities: A sequel that surpasses the original film in every way possible. It’s a different kind of film altogether. Rather than a light-hearted adventure, “Empire” has a darker and more serious tone. The only real gripe is the cliffhanger ending leaving no real conclusion, but you know what they say! Always leave them wanting more. When George Lucas  created the “Special Editions” of the films in 1997, this entry underwent the least amount of changes and it’s easy to see why. It was perfect as is.

Rating: PG

Running Time: 2 Hrs. 4 Mins. (Special Edition 2 Hrs. 7 Mins.)

Special Achievement Oscar: Visual Effects

Oscar Winner (1): Best Sound

Oscar Nominations (2): Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Original Score

1 thought on “The Empire Strikes Back (1980)”

  1. I totally agree with you!! the sets do look more realistic than the previous films but they did a pretty great job overall! :)

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