Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Release year: 1980
Director: Irvin Kerschner
Writers: Leigh Brackett (screenplay), Laurence Kasdan (screenplay), George Lucas (story)
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, James Earl Jones
Rating: Won 1 Special Achievement Oscar for Visual Effects. Won 1 Oscar: Best Sound. Nominated for 2 Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Score. Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Original Score. Won 4 Saturn Awards: Best Science Fiction Film, Best Actor (Mark Hamill), Best Director, Best Special Effects. Nominated for 4 Saturn Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Billy Dee Williams), Best Writing, Best Music, Best Costumes.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #77, week 49 2015
Following a brutal attack on the rebels’ newly established base, Luke Skywalker goes to receive Jedi training from the master Yoda. Meanwhile, his friends Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture and turn Luke to the dark side.
With the release of the original Star Wars film in 1977, George Lucas had struck gold. Now came the ungrateful task of producing a sequel that could live up both to the quality and the popularity of the first film, and somehow they managed to do just that. Heralded by many as the best Star Wars film (and named best film of all time by a poll in Empire Magazine in 2014), The Empire Strikes Back demonstrates perfection in terms of how to do a sequel, and if it does not surpass Episode IV, it certainly matches it. One of the original sequels to ”go dark”, the film certainly deals with a darker plot than A New Hope, but it never forgets to lighten the mood with well placed moments of comedy as well as more tender romantic moments between Leia and Han Solo. The film breaks with conventions by putting its great battle scene at the beginning of the film, but even as the fighting becomes less massive in scale as the film progresses, the stakes for our characters certainly increases. Where we first met Luke in a desert landscape, we now find our main characters on a planet of ice; all are now part of the rebellion, with Han Solo and Leia biggering like and old married couple as their affection grows, and Luke is met with further challenges on his way to becoming a Jedi. Ford (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984) continues to own his role and add a sense of gunslinger attitude to the film. Fisher (When Harry Met Sally, 1989) is great as Leia an her love/hate attitudes toward Han Solo is perfectly balanced. However, the biggest moments are carried by Hamill as Skywalker, who faces the darker sides of both the force and his own history with a solid performance. Billy Dee Williams (Batman, 1989) joins the cast as Han Solo’s old friend Lando Calrissian. The Empire Strikes Back furthermore introduces one of the franchise’s most iconic characters, the Jedi master Yoda, and although the doll used suffers from ”dead eye syndrome” Frank Oz’s funny and engaging performance makes up for this. Filled with great cinematic moments and yet another beautiful score from John Williams, The Empire Strikes back is an unmissable example of its genre and one of moive history’s best sequels. Highly recommended.
Carrie Fisher had to stand on a box in severals takes to make up for the significant height difference between her and Harrison Ford and make them appear in frame together.
In the scene in which Han Solo is about to be frozen and Princess Leia says ”I love you”, Han Solo was supposed to reply ”Just Remember that, Leia, because I’ll be back”, but at the time of filming Harrison Ford wasn’t sure he would return for the third film. Instead the line was changed to ”I know”. There is a recurring legend that the line was ad-libbed, but in fact Ford suggested it at the time in conversation with director Irvin Kershner.
Director Irvin Kershner had no interest in doing an effects film but was convinced by George Lucas. However, he insisted on focussing more on characterisation than gear and kept pushing the writers to add more of that, something Lucas has been critised of neglecting. By many considered the best of all the Star Wars films, this is also the one George Lucas was the least invovled in before Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015).
Picture Copyright: Disney