March 31, 2016
Redux - Special Edition: The Empire Strikes Back.
Review #114: The Empire Strikes Back.
Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), David Prowse (Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Frank Oz (Yoda), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Denis Lawson (Wedge Antilles) Directed by Irvin Kershner (#004 - Robocop 2).
In my original review (#114 - March 31, 2012), I had given the movie a 10/10 rating, and while I stand by the rating, I regretted not saying more about the movie. I barely mentioned the characters and effects at all, among other aspects that I should have talked more about. Because of this, I decided to finally make a Redux - Special Edition (which I did for A Christmas Story, Halloween, Licence to Kill, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service). Enjoy.
The Empire Strikes Back is often called the best installment of the original trilogy and one of the best sequels of all time, and with good reason. It raises the stakes along with the mood and tension in a degree that makes for an entertaining movie that eclipse the excitement and depth of the original film in some aspects. It's interesting that the beginning of the movie starts not only with a large-scale battle, but one that our heroes technically lose (in that they retreat). Sure, they had destroyed the Death Star, but the story (and the war) didn't end just because you can blow up a base (or two). It has been three years since they destroyed the Empire's space station, but the Rebels has moved on from celebrating in Throne Rooms to having to deal with getting a new base and adapting to the cold and the fear the Empire would find them. The music by John Williams is once again fantastic, ranging from tense (The Battle of Hoth) to mysterious (Yoda's Theme) to one that inspires dread (The Imperial March) to one that fits for the climax (The Clash of Lightsabers), with the music fitting the movie just perfect.
Of the (now seven) films, Empire Strikes Back is the only one that introduces key characters while not having any major ones die, and the movie still manages to be emotionally satisfying. Williams is certainly a welcome addition to the band of heroes, managing to have a certain aspect of intrigue along with conflict about the decisions he has to make. Yoda is an interesting case, depending on when you see him (prequels/originals), but in this he certainly has a mystique that evolves from seeming like an strange little hermit (in our first encounter watching him first meet Luke) to a wise master that seems to have more secrets than he lets on. I love the puppetry for Yoda because it never seems fake or off-putting to watch. The way it moves around along with the voice (by Frank Oz) fits well with a character as grand as Yoda.
It's interesting how popular Boba Fett (voiced by Jason Wingreen originally, though replaced by Temuera Morrison after 2004) became even though he doesn't have many lines to say (though he does have a crucial role), though his armor is admittedly interesting to look at. The Emperor (voiced originally by Clive Revill but replaced by Ian McDiarmid in the newer editions starting in 2004) has only one scene in the movie, but he manages to have an important presence even when he isn't seen because even though Vader seems to be more in control (as opposed to Tarkin essentially having Vader on a leash in the previous one) of the Empire's wrath, he still has a Master to look to. Of course, one can't mention the movie without saying something about the Han-Leia dynamic, and the way their romance doesn't seem to override the movie or take away from it - because it seems natural and it makes the movie more interesting than it already is. Even the line of "I know" to Leia saying "I love you" works because it doesn't bog the movie down in melodramatic form of romance (which is something the prequels, in particular Episode II failed to do).
Once again, the effects (visual and sound) are impressive, but the fight between Vader and Luke is also a key highlight, with the lighting and steam creating a subdued atmosphere, for a fight sequence that is a key improvement over the last film in terms of tension and stunt choreography. The reveal of Darth Vader being Luke's father is a moment in which the movie manages to culminate all the emotional buildup of Luke having believed that his father was killed by Vader only to find out a harrowing truth (or was it?...of course it was) into a powerful moment that still is a great scene even when you've already seen the movie or know the mythology because it still manages to be a memorable and effective scene, serving as a great climax for the film. Ultimately, The Empire Strikes Back manages to be a dark, but entertaining movie that serves a great sequel to the original Star Wars film that while not ending on a high note for the characters, still has a hopeful outlook to continue onto more adventures.
Next up on Redux - Special Edition is the film that ended the story of our heroes...for a while on a peculiar note...
Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.