johnlink ranks STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

I meant to watch this awhile ago, but life happens. Now, the family is back in RI and we have a date to see THE FORCE AWAKENS tomorrow morning. So it is a night of finishing the original trilogy here.

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I watched STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) on 12.29.15. It was probably my third viewing the film all the way through, but my five-year-old watches this multiple times a week, so it is sort of the one I know best.

In many ways, EMPIRE is what people think of when they think of STAR WARS. The original film is really good, and it is really fun. But Yoda is not introduced until this movie. “No, I am your father” (one of the most misquoted lines of all time) is not uttered until this movie. The story doesn’t get REALLY good until this movie.

George Lucas is out of the Director’s chair, replaced by Irvin Kershner. The result is startling. The acting improves greatly, the visuals are more stunning, and the action flows in a really nice way. The movie that begins on the ice planet of Hoth really feels a galaxy away from the movie that finishes up on Lando’s planet and beyond. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) goes on a journey as a character both in the sense that he learns of The Force by training with Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) and in that he goes from an annoying young man in A NEW HOPE to a fully realized and likable hero by the end of EMPIRE.

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Darth Vader gets to be more sinister and fleshed out. He kills his underlings in a way which makes you wonder why anyone would work for him. We learn that he is in the pocket of an Emperor, but that he has much more grand hopes for he and his son.

Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) have their relationship fleshed out. Solo’s obnoxiousness is softened in this movie in a subtle way. He is immensely likable in the first film, but really becomes an all time classic character through the events of EMPIRE. His mix of bravado and self-deprecation are such classic Fordisms, even if this character is a galaxy removed from his contemporaneous counterpart, Indiana Jones.

The actual philosophy behind the force is lifted right out of some major religions of the world. It’s a really nice idea, actually, about the world being interconnected and the body meaning nothing. Anything is possible, according to this belief system, if we just allow our humanness to trump our need for human desires and fears and emotions. It’s no wonder that so many people have clung to the precepts since this movie arrived.

The action in this is awesome. The battle on Hoth is beautifully constructed. The bad guys are still bad shots, but a little less obviously so. The final light saber duel is shot in a way which makes you wonder if someone pointed out just how anti-climatic and humdrum that thing between Vader and Obi-Wan at the end of the first movie was.

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There is some suspension of disbelief needed. Particularly in how easy it seems to find people in this vast galaxy (i.e., Luke landing on a planet RIGHT WHERE YODA IS!!!), the first portion of the Lando (Billy Dee Williams) soon-to-be betrayal could have used some foreshadowing other than the heroes’ uncertainty. The final battle sure seems a lot like Darth Vader is trying to kill Luke, even if it seems like he sure wants to have his final reveal there at the end of the battle. But all of those things are something to nitpick about on multiple viewings. And doing so sort of makes me a jerk. Because this movie is just too much fun.

Everything about THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is an improvement over its predecessor, and this is with acknowledging how important that first film was. But in terms of acting, directing, writing, storytelling, and enjoyability, there is really nothing you would pick about A NEW HOPE (other than the sheer newness of it all) that would trump EMPIRE.

SCORES

FILM: 7; MOVIE: 10; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 8; BONUS: 1

Bonus, again with this one, for John Williams work on the score. The motifs are there, but this movie also includes many subtle variations on those themes. This is such a pleasurable movie to listen to.

7+10+7+8+1=33

FINAL SCORE: 8.25 out of 10

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~ by johnlink00 on December 29, 2015.

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