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Following Star Wars was never going to be easy but this is actually better. Empire retains the same characters and the same sense of fun that the first had the battle on Hoth is just one of THE moments of the series. However what gets added to that is a much darker strand. The Empire is not beaten by the destruction of one ship it's power is barely dented in fact. This sees some startling revelations (I won't spoil it in case you've been living under a rock!) but also sees significant blows to the rebellion. In fact the ending of this film could not be more different from the end of Star Wars.
Like the recent episode two this follows two strands the more pedestrian scenes with Luke and Yoda and the more action based scenes with Han and company. The scenes with Yoda add depth to the film and hint at the truth. Meanwhile the other half is a lot more action orientated and has comedy and good new characters such as Bobba Fett. The two work well together and come together well for a great finale. The addition of a dark strand to the film makes it all the better as it can be enjoyed as a story and not just a fun sci-fi film with good effects.
The characters are better here than the first. The strong characters from the first (Han, C3P0 et al) are all still good here. However we also get a much more interesting version of Luke as he continues his journey into becoming a full Jedi. Yoda is a good addition (despite sounding like Fozzie Bear!) and Darth Vader becomes a lot more than just a good villain we learn his past, a revelation then, but a thing of common knowledge now.
Overall this is as good as Star Wars at it's heart, but the darker nature of the film makes it much better. Where the first one was a victorious uprising this is, as the title suggests, the time in history where the Empire strikes back against the uprising. All the music, characters and things that make Star Wars Star Wars are here and it's simply one of the best of the series to date.
After the surprise attack on the rebel base, Luke Skywalker splits with Han, Leia, et al. Han's party gets away first (is it just me, or is the shot of Luke watching the Falcon flying off while he stands stranded on the ground, a poignant one?), but thereafter they face one narrow escape after another, while Luke slinks off quietly and safely to train with Yoda.
The training scenes are many and Yoda talks a great deal of rubbish. But somehow it doesn't matter. The film is ambivalent in its attitude towards Yoda, anyway. Our sympathy clearly lies with the entirely non-spiritual concerns of Han, Leia and the adolescent Luke. The main story concerns the understanding that builds between Han and Leia. In the end they are honest with one another; and if Han's being frozen and shipped back to Tatooine is the price to pay for this, well, it's the price to pay. It was very important NOT to end with the dashing rescue that opens `Return of the Jedi', which would be dramatically beside the point. Instead we end with the promise that the rescue will some day occur. That's enough.
As for Luke: he abandons Yoda to rescue Han and Leia, and achieves NOTHING WHATEVER. This was my favourite touch. All five Jedis - Luke, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Vader, and the Emperor - find that their conflicting instincts are all entirely wrong. The film is really about the temporary triumph of human impulses over the mystical Force. Luke's human idealism is vindicated, but his supernatural powers, just this once, are not.
When George Lucas gave his Star Wars trilogy a fresh coat of varnish in 1997 he felt he had to justify the expense by making needless changes. You'll notice he made precious few changes to episode V. There just wasn't room. He added a few extra shots of the ice monster, which of course weakened that one scene; but even with those changes in place the Special Edition is virtually identical to the original edition. Since Lucas was so keen on making changes wherever he could this is obviously a tribute to the tightness of the story and the direction. It's also a tribute to the perfection of the original special effects, more innovative than the effects in the first Star Wars movie and better than the effects in any subsequent one.
It is fruitless trying to argue 'which is best' in a trilogy, because the first one, in this case 'Star Wars', starts it all and has to be the 'father'. However, an argument can be made that 'The Empire Strikes Back' (now on DVD called Episode V) is overall a better-made movie which has more excitement, and grabs your imagination,than the other two original installments (now called parts IV and VI). The DVDs finally came out last month, and they are near perfect, as we should expect from Lucas Films and THX. The bit rate is high, and the picture is nothing short of superb. As is the Dolby EX surround track.
My wife and I watched all three of the movies on DVD this week -- Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi -- compliments of our local public library. It was an appropriate reminder how good these movies are, and still ahead of their time. Nothing else has been made to compare to them.
At first, this would almost seem to be a way to save money to get more information across to the audience without having to actually put it on screen, but this is really an ingenious way of furthering the story. The very fact that we are so willing to read all this information and forgive our inability to actually see it is a testament to the quality of the series, even at this early stage in its presentation, and we know the story so well from the first film that we are glad to see such a large change in what's happening in the films, not for a second lamenting the fact that we have obviously missed so much action. And besides that, if and when George Lucas runs out of new prequels to release, and maybe if he someday begins to run low on how many hundreds of millions of dollars he has, he could go right back and make these in-between scenes into full length films. What would he call these, if he did that? Introquels? Who cares! The names themselves would be interesting enough, and if you go back and read the stuff that introduces this film, it's obvious that there's an entire film there just waiting to be made. I guess the question of actors would be a formidable one, though.
The Empire Strikes Back is the film where we are first introduced to the great Jedi master Yoda (`Away put your weapon!'), as well as some of the most thrilling battle sequences of the entire Star Wars series, and that includes the prequels. The battle scene where the rebels fight the Imperial Walkers on the ice planet is an incredibly well-made battle scene, not only in the way that it was put together so convincingly using models, but that the machines themselves are so creatively made. Indeed, the Imperial Walkers are some of the most recognizable machines from the entire Star Wars saga, right up there with the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star.
I have just watched this film again, having already seen Episode I and Episode II, and not having seen any of the original Star Wars films for maybe 10 years (except for the original 1977 Star Wars, which I saw and reviewed a few days ago - and these aren't even the Special Edition versions!). When I first saw Yoda when watching The Empire Strikes Back again, I was really struck by how different he looked from in the newer movies. Obviously, he's completely computer generated in the new films, but here in Episode V he looks like a muppet! Even so, I would like to express my opinion that Yoda is more realistic and more interesting here as a puppet than in the newer films as a computer generated image. At least here in the older films you know that he's actually THERE, and that he's not just added into the film later.
Oh yeah, speaking of Yoda, can I just complain for a minute? What the hell was up with the Jedi training? Yes, I realize that I'm just a lowly IMDb reviewer, while The Empire Strikes Back is a part of the greatest science fiction series of all time, but would it have killed George Lucas to write in a little more creative training for Luke? The thing that struck me first about the Star Wars films when I first started watching them was how incredibly imaginative they were, but then Luke started his training. You know, when I was in high school I played football. I was a wide receiver/tight end and I hardly ever got to play because I was too tall and too skinny, but part of my workout was to carry the linemen up and down the stairs to the weight room. Some of these guys weighed 100 pounds more than me, and I still almost never saw the field, and here's Luke Skywalker. He carries Yoda around this boggy swamp and he gets to be a Jedi! What the hell!
There is also the addition of a surprisingly fitting love story. First of all, anyone who has ever read my review of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie will know that I am not the biggest fan of cramming a love story into a movie where it doesn't belong. I can't seem to write anything about Bruckheimer movies without complaining about the idiot love story, and now it's even worse because here's this movie that was made so long before, from which Bruckheimer could obviously have at least learned a LITTLE bit about how to do it right. Han Solo and Princess Leia maintain the personalities that they developed in the first Star Wars film and there is now a sort of love/hate relationship between the two of them, where neither one of them wants to admit their feelings for the other. This romantic subplot is characterized perfectly in the scene just before Solo is carbon frozen, when Leia risks approaching a cheesy romantic moment by saying `I love you' just before Han is lowered into the freezing chamber, and he saves the moment by responding, `I know.' Han Solo. Smart-ass to the last drop.
Before I end I would like to point out that the goofs that can be found on the IMDb for this film are some of the most blatant that I've ever seen in a film. The scene where you can see someone giving a woman at the tactical maps a cue to deliver her lines is amazingly obvious, and some of the other ones, such as the stage hand swinging the light saber prop briefly into view as he switches it for an `off' prop with Luke just after he knocks Darth Vader over backwards, are just as much fun to look for. I have one question about the goofs, though. There's one where Luke looks off into the fog just after R2-D2 is eaten by the sea monster, and you can CLEARLY see a person running to the right a little ways off in the fog. Is that meant to be Luke? It seems that it's supposed to be him running in his search for R2, because you can even hear the FOOTSTEPS of the person running. I can't even IMAGINE how they could have missed THAT!!
It is, however, a testament to the quality of a film when such tremendous oversights in editing do nothing to take away from the overall quality of the film. The Empire Strikes Back remains an extremely powerful and well-made installment in the Star Wars series, not taking even a single step backwards in the sheer breathtaking adventure of the original film. It's not often that a film as good as Star Wars can be released and then followed up with a sequel that is just as great, as is clearly the case here. Star Wars was a gigantic film upon its release, and with The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas has begun the formation of one of the greatest film series' in cinematic history.
Oh, and Han Solo shot first! =)
After the events of the first film, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) are now members of the rebel alliance. Hidden on a frozen planet, the rebels hide from the domineering glow of the Empire. All is not well however as the evil Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is on his way to find them.
Easily the best of the trilogy, "The Empire Strikes Back" has so much going for it. A wonderful plot, an equally good script with some brilliant lines (even actor Harrison Ford joining in with a line or two of his own) and special effects to match, this film is a glowing example of why people love the trilogy so much.
Since George Lucas passed on the major responsibilities for this film, we are given a more professional, well made film for our attention and Lucas's vision is better off for it. With it's recent remastering, it is also the only film in the trilogy to not be damaged by Lucas' tampering. Extra images are added, graphics are honed, but nothing major is changed. As a result the film appears to us to be no different from it's original self.
Darker and more mature as well, this sequel is better than the original "Star Wars" because it isn't so black and white. Presenting the evil Darth Vader as a more balanced individual, we don't quite have the confused Vader of the final chapter, but we are beginning to get signs that he isn't quite as we expected.
This second part also gives us the finest performance ever by one of the universes most important characters. Still a rubber puppet with bendy ears, Jedi Master Yoda is introduced in this film as a creature of wit and intelligence. Voiced by Frank Oz, Yoda is brilliant because of his lines. Legendarily possessing of an obsession for splitting sentences up and rehashing them together, Yoda very often speaks normally throughout this film. Occasionally demonstrating his penchant for bad English, he does make a few minor errors, but ultimately it is up to the later scripts of George Lucas to corrupt Yoda's style and turn this wonderful character into an annoying figure of fun.
There's no real way to fault "The Empire Strikes Back". The finest part of the original trilogy, this film is amazing because it is professionally done. Nobody would ever deny that George Lucas did something wonderful when he thought up "Star Wars", but unfortunately for a lot of the films, Lucas always insisted on too much control. A dire writer of scripts, Lucas can destroy his films by making them infuriating to watch. In this part though, Lucas didn't get involved and as a result, "The Empire Strikes Back" is a masterpiece in it's own right.
Note: The special edition has added scenes,special effects,sounds,and creatures. To ME the highlight of this special edition is seeing the Wampa monster!