Dir; Irvin Kershner. Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher. 1980. PG. Color. 124 min.
My favorite story from behind the scenes of “The Empire Strikes Back” is that Mark Hamill was sitting in the theater for the premier screening of the film at the famous Hollywood Chinese Theater. Darth Vader says the classic line “I am your father”. Harrison Ford turned to Hamill and said “You didn’t tell me that was gonna f-ing happen!”. Before the internet, before spoilers, “The Empire Strikes Back” was the original twist ending. “Star Wars” was a sensation that everyone had to see. The sequel made the series iconic.
The visual effects on “The Empire Strikes Back” are unparalleled. George Lucas, after the surprising success of the first film, was given free reign to do whatever he wanted. Lucas walked away from directing duties, and Irvin Kirshner made the best Star Wars film of all time. Together, these two filmmakers employed models and old school film trickery to create excellent action pieces. CGI is great, but seeing real life things battle each other looks so much more real. It ages better.
The Hoth planet battle instantly kicks you in the ass. The resistance has been forced to a snow planet. Vader will stop at nothing to find Luke Skywalker. He sends his army of mechanical soldiers to destroy the resistance. Our main characters are plucky and fun as we expect. Then, this battle happens. The bad guys win, and Vader has to watch Han Solo fly away in the Millennium Falcon before his eyes.
Luke Skywalker escapes as well, and he goes to a swamp planet where he meets Yoda. Quite possibly the best character in “Star Wars” lore. Luke is young, and out of nowhere he finds his greatest teacher. Yoda forces our main character to face his biggest fear, becoming his father. The “Star Wars” films are simple kids stuff. “Empire Strikes Back” made the series adult.
There’s Lando Calrissian and his “Sky City”. He was a friend of Han Solo, and betrayed the man in order for his city, and his money, to be protected from the Empire. All Darth Vader asks for is to lure Luke to an inevitable end of becoming evil. Why? Because the dark side is better. Luke leaves his training from Yoda in hopes of protecting his friends. This is the wrong decision, but it is the best thing he can do at the time. An iconic lightsaber battle ensues. Vader makes Luke chase him around the inner workings of the city, and Luke must find a way to stay strong and not succumb to the dark side. Good vs. Evil, and evil is so much easier.
The surprise from “The Empire Strikes Back” will never be achieved again. Audiences today have no idea what its like to stand in line at your local theater with no idea of what to expect. The “Star Wars” series is not going anywhere. The series is a juggernaut of cinematic enjoyment. It started with “A New Hope”. It became iconic with “The Empire Strikes Back”. Not just a great geek movie, one of the greatest Sci-Fi films ever made.
Suck Factor: 0 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
*The Suck Factor! – How it Works
I’ve flipped the switch on the standard rating system for film criticism. Instead of rating a movie with stars or letters representing how good a film is, I rank films from 0 to 7 to tell you how much a movie SUCKS! So if the film is a masterpiece, like “The Godfather” for example, then it gets a 0 on my scale, meaning the movie gives 0 SUCKS! If the movie is absolutely terrible, for instance every Michael Bay film, it scores a 7 so you know to avoid it at all costs.
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