Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Frank Oz, and Billy Dee Williams
Twentieth Century Fox, 1980. Rated PG.
Synopsis: In the continuing adventures of Rebels trying to restore order to the galaxy, the Imperial Empire engages the Rebels at their base on the ice planet of Hoth, forcing Han to escape with Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO in a disabled Millennium Falcon. Despite their attempts to hide out on Bespin, they are captured by Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Luke takes R2D2 and goes to the planet Dagobah in search of Jedi Master Yoda at the posthumous command of Obi-Wan Kenobi. When Luke learns of the capture of Han and Leia, he abandons his training despite Yoda’s protests to go and rescue them.
Originally released in 1980 and re-released in 1997 along with A New Hope, Empire introduces us to a whole host of new creatures and arguably two of the most iconic characters in the franchise: Yoda and Boba Fett. The pop cultural homages are boundless, so I won’t list them here, but I think my favorites are Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books and then this gem by MC Chris called Fett’s Vette.
In the trilogy’s second installment, we’ve upped the ante significantly: the Empire is gradually closing in on the Rebels, the Millennium Falcon has become (if possible) more decrepit, and our heroes now have Vader toying with them psychologically. We also delve more into the love story portion of the film when we find Han and Leia (who are already rather stand-offish around each other anyway) in a situation where Luke isn’t there as a buffer and the threat of imminent danger is forcing them to think about how they really feel. Luke on the other hand is being challenged both physically and mentally training with Yoda and it’s bringing out more of the impatience that we saw in the first film pre-Tatooine extradition. He’s struggling to become the leader the viewer knows he can be but he’s somewhat more preoccupied with his emotions – a decision that’s going to put him in a situation in which he’s playing right into Vader’s hands. Then there’s Yoda and Fett. Yoda is mysterious, green, and has a distinctive sentence structure. Fett is a bounty hunter with his own agenda with a cool helmet that he never takes off. Why he won’t take it off, no one knows, but let’s face it, it’s so cool, by would you take it off? Both add a layer of depth to the story that helps to further the overall plot and adds a little bit of character development to Luke and Han’s characters respectively. It’s also said that Empire is supposed to be the ‘favorite’ of Star Wars fans, but I would tend to disagree. While Empire unveils one of the greatest secrets in cinematic history, it doesn’t have the same climactic finesse of Return of the Jedi, the third installment of the original trilogy. I would also entreat you to find the original 1980 version in all of its campy special effects glory because although it’s probably not the version that Lucas envisioned when he made the film, it’s probably the most definitive version and the geek-approved version to boot.