Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Written By: Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 2 hr 4 min
Seriously, how do you follow Star Wars? Well, how about you start by widening the franchise’s focus to include story lines for Solo, Leia, and Darth Vader. Then you introduce new characters like Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), and the amazing Yoda (Frank Oz). You have to throw in some new technology too with the Imperial Walkers and Snow Speeders. You can then add real emotional weight to proceedings by making sure your original heroes are constantly fighting for their lives. The title of the movie is a clue folks – this film isn’t kind our rebel friends!
The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the best in the series. I certainly think so. It builds on from Star Wars, and fleshes out this universe and its characters. The attention to detail in the production design is top notch. From the sunset hues around Cloud City, to the layered foggy Earth tones on Yoda’s planet of residence, Degobah. The whole film looks amazing. Performances from Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and especially Harrison Ford are also a step up from the original. Irvin Kershner keeps proceedings running along at an even pace, and the script by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan perfectly balances out the drama of Luke’s journey to become a Jedi, with the blossoming romance between Leia and Solo.
The 20th Anniversary Changes:
In 1997 George Lucas released the original trilogy again to celebrate 20 years of Star Wars. It’s a testament to how good Empire Strikes Back is that the changes made to this film are very limited.
That being said, the changes were mostly pointless.
Hoth: Getting to see the Wampa have lunch before its unfortunate confrontation with Luke doesn’t really hurt the film other than to make the Wampa less intimidating.
Star Destroyer: Later, when Darth Vader meets with the Emperor. The old holographic projection of the emperor is replaced with one of Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The scene pretty much communicates the same information as before, and I have to admit, it does create some continuity between Empire and the new trilogy of films.
Boba Fett: The voice of Boba Fett is changed. Temuera Morrison provides the voice of Fett in the special edition. He also played Jango Fett, Boba’s father in Attack of the Clones.
Cloud City/Bespin: New exterior shots of the city are added – the most notable being as we watch the Falcon fly in and land. Inside the buildings, several panels are cut out of the walls to provide views of the city. The exterior shots didn’t seem all that out of place, but some the interior shots were really poorly done. As characters ran in front these new windows – blurry lines appear around them.
Dialog changes: There are a few. But the one I want to pick on is during the moment Darth Vader is heading back to the Star Destroyer. In the original he simply blasts out ‘Bring my shuttle.’ Short and to the point, and lets us know he’s not a happy camper. In the special edition he says ‘Alert the Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival.’ Why? The line hardly fits into the shot and tells us less about Vader’s mood.
This is a slower darker outing than Star Wars, and doesn’t have an action packed finale. Its heroes don’t get many victories here so there’s not much to cheer about either. Keep that in mind, and prepare for something beyond the raw adventure of the first film. Empire expands on the original film by fleshing out characters we hardly got to know in A New Hope. It also introduces us to Yoda, and gives us more insight into what it means to be a Jedi and use the force.
Best viewing format:
If a showing on the big screen becomes available then certainly try to do that. At home a HD showing is a must.
Best moment for me:
My absolute favorite moment in the film comes when Han decides to fly into an asteroid field to escape the Empire. John William’s fantastic score picks up, and the visual effects are fantastic. Oh, and Han Solo is just your all conquering universal super freaking hero during this scene!