“A New Hope” opened us up to a galaxy of possibilities. “The Empires Strikes Back” begins to show us just how large that scope really is. Not only that, but there is a definite sense that “Star Wars” has grown up a little bit in Episode V, including taking a much darker tone.
After the destruction of the Death Star, the war between the Rebellion and the Empire is on. “Empire” takes us first to the icy tundra of Hoth, then to the jungles of Degobah and lastly the futuristic Bespin aka Cloud City. Immediately our imaginations begin to expand. In terms of characters, we are introduced to Yoda, the ancient Jedi master who begins training Luke. There is also Boba Fett, the cool-looking bounty hunter in the awesome ship and Lando Calrissian, the handsome new friend to the original gang. The film doesn’t settle with what we are familiar with from Episode 4 and keeps pushing our imagination further.
Most importantly, the characters that we fell in love with previously seem a lot more viable than they once were, not merely vessels for the exchange of brash remarks and one-liners. Princess Leia (now sporting a more femme fatal look as suits her true character) and Han Solo begin to carve out a relationship that is essential to the greatness of this film. Luke’s maturity is just as important. We’re blown away by the famous ending scene with Luke and Vader because of how far Luke has come since his days on a desert farm. He no longer sounds like an idiot every time he opens his mouth.
Last but far from least, even Vader, the enigma, becomes more complicated in this film. The character development is really what makes this film considered the best of the entire saga by many, many fans.
So many times, nearly all the time, do middle films in a trilogy fail in comparison to the films on either side of them, but “Empire” doesn’t. Most of the time it can end up as just a bridge with no ability to stand on its own, but it stands on its own. It borrows just enough from “Hope” and sets things in motion just enough that it does its job as a transitioning film, but the climax is kind of thrilling in its own way, not just as in we can’t wait to see what happens next. It has plenty of its own, new elements to keep it fresh and like an expansion of the original as opposed to a mere continuation of it.
Published October 2008
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher