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Monday, 20 October 2008

Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - Movie Review

Director: Irvin Kershner
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker.
Running Time: 127 minutes
Score: 10 /10

Here is the next installment of Alan's marathon review through the Star Wars movies.

In the last issue of Empire magazine, there was a countdown of the top 500 films that have ever been made as voted for by film makers, critics and go-ers alike. Their aim? To filter down and sift out all the films that has ever been made and see which came out top.

It would therefore come to no surprise to you all that The Empire Strikes Back came in at No. 3 in the overall list. No mean feat in context and also, no surprise.

It is widely agreed that this film is the best Star Wars film that has been made in the double trilogies. Again, no surprise there, as this film has it all.

Not only does it have some light hearted humour to try and humanise the characters even more than the original, it also has large and grandiose set pieces – The Empire’s attack on Hoth, the Falcon’s escape through the asteroid field, Luke’s training on Dagobah, Cloud City in Bespin and the culmination of the film with the biggest ever twist known at the time and possibly since.

This film is the classic example of taking a good film and making it even better. There is a saying around Tinsletown that you can’t make a sequel better than the original. Not only did this film break that saying into a thousand pieces, it also set the bar for all other sequels to attempt to equal. To my mind, this has still to be done.

This film is more polished and the special effects are significantly improved from A New Hope. Also, the fact that George Lucas didn’t direct or solely write the screenplay for this is also a contributing factor. I’m not saying that Lucas is a poor director – THX 1138 and American Graffiti put paid to that – but I feel that when Kerschner took over the reins as director, he helped put it on an even keel and took the film forward.

Empire also served as an excellent vehicle for character development. We saw Luke emerging as this raw and fledgling-like Jedi, the love between Han and Leia blossoming in difficult circumstances, the introduction of new characters – Yoda, Lando and everyone’s personal favourite, Boba Fett.

However, the fulcrum of this whole film, and what basically propelled it as everyone’s favourite SW film, is the scene in the depths of Cloud City. Luke and Vader have had the most intense lightsaber fight and Luke has been battered and bruised by Vader’s supreme handling of the Force. Not only has Vader cornered Luke into an outpost, he has also taken his right hand as the fight culminated. Already, we can see the device that the two of them are connected in some way. And then the conversation:

“…Obi-wan never told you what happened to your Father”
“He told me enough, he told me that you killed him!”
“No, I am your Father!”

It is at that moment that got everyone hooked on the Star Wars franchise and has spawned four more sequels, countless merchandising opportunities and Leia in a gold bikini…God bless you George Lucas!

As with all reviews, you have to find a mid-level; look for the good as well as the bad. As I am sitting here, I’m racking my brains furiously trying to think of a negative on this film. I can quite easily say that I cannot think of one. This film quite rightly deserves its place in the top 3 films of all time.

10/10 – A timeless piece of film that forever brings out the schoolboy in all of us!

PS. If you want to know who beat Empire to the top two positions, Raiders of the Lost Ark was at No. 2 and The Godfather (Part 1) was at No. 1. Can’t really disagree with that!

What do you think of that?



Anonymous said...

Good review, but not as good as the rest of your reviews...you're slacking!

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you Father Jack. I think it's as good as the other reviews. Looking forward to the Jedi review.

Unknown said...

This has always been my absolute favourite film of the series, all 6 of them. From the high points (the entire Hoth battle) to the low (I am your Father!, well depends how you look at it) this film has it all...