“The Empire Strikes Back” is often seen as the pinnacle of the Star Wars saga. It offers many of the greatest moments of the entire series: The battle on Hoth, the asteroid field chase sequence, Luke’s training with Yoda, “I love you”/”I know,” and one of the biggest plot twists in movie history have all found their place in the cinematic hall of fame. While I agree that this is probably the best film of the original trilogy, it is interesting that it is also the film that most relies on the others. The opening sequence gives little introduction to the characters, the main characters spend the majority of the film separated from one another (so there isn’t any chemistry to show the bond between Luke and his friends), Darth Vader doesn’t do anything sinister until the very end (so we don’t see why everybody is so scared of him), and the fate of every character is left completely up in the air at the film’s conclusion. Rather than call “The Empire Strikes Back” the best Star Wars film, perhaps we should call it the most integral chapter of the original trilogy. It is hard to view any of these films without the context of the others. The character development picks up where the last film left off, making this the film where we truly fall in love with the characters. Luke learns the ways of the Jedi, Han begins caring for others, Leia’s love grows, C-3PO’s love-hate relationship with R2-D2 becomes more apparent, plus we get to meet great characters like Yoda, Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian, and The Emperor. I feel that the actors came into their own with this film and put on better performances than in Episode IV. Whether it is acting maturity, more chemistry, or a better script, the entire film feels more real. This episode contains another masterful John Williams score which includes the first appearance of the iconic Imperial March and the Love Theme. Williams seems to be underappreciated for this series as he is often remembered as “that guy who wrote the music to Star Wars” but not remembered for the little gems in each individual film. One of the most important pieces of the Star Wars series is the special effects, and they continue to stand the test of time 35 years later. Of course, modern CGI makes everything more realistic but I find the realism of the spaceship models, go-motion animation of the Hoth battle, and the puppeteering of Yoda to be infinitely more impressive than computer graphics. It is difficult to remove the nostalgia factor when judging this series. It is a part of our culture and our childhoods; however, when looking at “The Empire Strikes Back” in the context of other 1980’s sci-fi films, it truly deserves this high rating and will forever be a classic.
[Pictured: One of the greatest images from all of Star Wars]