“Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” Movie Review

Yep, with Rogue One on the horizon, it’s time to look back (with spoilers) at the greatest Star Wars movie to date. This epic space opera premiered on May 21st, 1980, grossing over $500 million and scoring initially mixed reviews. But with time, critics have warmed up to it, and for good reason. It improved everything from A New Hope, not just with innovative special effects, but also the stakes were higher and character development matured. After stepping away from the director’s chair, George Lucas handed the reins over to Irving Kershner, with a script written by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Bracket that went through many drafts completely different from the last. Picking up 3 years after the initial film, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo have officially joined the Rebel Alliance, and are situated on the ice planet of Hoth. After a probe droid lands on the surface, the Galactic Empire prepares to launch a massive assault, headed up by Darth Vader. This leads to the Battle of Hoth, a fantastically intense and lopsided land battle between massive AT-AT walkers and scrappy Rebel soldiers. After evacuating the base, Luke and R2-D2 go off to the Dagobah system while Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO desperately evade the Imperial Fleet. With the Millennium Falcon’s Hyperdrive system damaged, they decide to hide inside an asteroid belt, giving the dialogue-driven moments room to breathe. It’s during these restful moments that the romance between Han and Leia starts to break through. The fact that Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher had an affair onset allows for their on-screen passion to feel even more believable. But they soon find that the asteroid cave is a space worm and get the hell out of there before they can get eaten alive. Meanwhile, Luke and R2-D2 travel to the Dagobah system to train in the ways of the Force from Master Yoda, who instructed Obi-Wan Kenobi as a pupil. At first he appears a senile and comical backwater hag, but reveals himself to be incredibly powerful and wise. As Luke continually fails his tests, Yoda tells him, “Do or do not. There is no try.” And later when Luke receives a vision of his friends, Yoda advises him to stay as it is a trap. Skywalker, of course, doesn’t listen and heads off to Cloud City. In Cloud City, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO have gone there to hide under the protection of an old friend, Lando Calrissian, played by Billy Dee Williams. Soon, they find out that he’s sold them out to the Empire. I get why many fans have called a classic film traitor, but let’s think about it. He’s the mayor of Cloud City, we have no idea what Darth Vader threatened him with, so Lando is in the right with us. But Vader did all of this to set a trap for Luke Skywalker. Only thing is that he’s not sure if carbon freezing will kill him or not. So he tests it on Han Solo, and if he survives the carbonite, it’s all good. And Leia realizes that this is potentially the last time they will ever see each other, so she tells him “I love you.” Fun fact, Han was originally supposed to say “I love you too,” but Harrison Ford didn’t feel like he would say something like that, and so instead he says, “I know.” And that makes the scene even more powerful. Vader is much more evil and menacing than ever before, because without the authority of Grand Moff Tarkin, he chokes out officers who fail him with the Force. He has hired several bounty hunters to find the Rebels, until finally Boba Fett takes the prize. He gets Han’s carbonated body and will sell it to Jabba the Hutt. The reason why they did this is because the filmmakers weren’t sure if Harrison Ford would return for a third outing. But history says itself. Boba Fett is one of the most intriguing characters in the Star Wars universe, canon or otherwise. You don’t know where he’s from, or who he answers to; you don’t even know if he answers to anyone. He managed to sell a lot of toys for kids growing up. In fact, Lucasfilm had lost funding early on until a storm of toys and action figures bought in the Christmas of 1978 earned them enough money to finish production. Anyway, Lando sees the error of his ways, and while they’re unable to save Han, they do get away on the Millennium Falcon. Jumping over here, Luke has reached Cloud City and confronts Darth Vader, a battle which is more fascinating the Death Star Run from A New Hope. You can tell that Vader can waste him at any time, fighting one-handed and taunting him verbally. Luke puts up enough of a fight where Vader comes around a corner and starts swinging his lightsaber and breathing hard. He’s had enough of this, and he finally cuts off Luke’s hand in combat. After failing Yoda’s tests, letting his friends get tortured and getting dismembered, this day still gotten the worst of it. Darth Vader comes out to Luke and ominously says, “I am your father.” And immediately following the film’s release, fans all over the world couldn’t believe this revelation, but the way John Williams’ Imperial March plays in the background, you can tell he’s not bluffing. He then offers that they overthrow the Emperor and rule the Galaxy as father and son, but Luke Skywalker gives him the middle finger by trying to kill himself. Ultimately, Luke escapes with the rest of the gang on the Millennium Falcon, and regroups with the Rebels. Everyone ends on a low note, and then the credits roll and then it’s like, “BOOM! See you in 3 years!” In the end, The Empire Strikes Back is one of the best movies ever made, and arguably the greatest coming-of-age story in cinematic history. It defined a franchise, an era, and an iconic plot twist if ever there was one.

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