I continue with my quick hit reviews of the Star Wars movies. My review of A New Hope is here. Again, I’m watching the movies in Machete Order, I’m watching the Lucas-fied editions of the original trilogy for the first time, I’m re-watching the first original trilogy for the first time in many years, and I’m watching the second and third prequels for the first time.
The Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as the best of the original trilogy (it did spawn the greatest political parody video). I will return to that in a later post. For now, I will say this: The Empire Strikes Back is as effective as it is because it builds off of A New Hope and it builds to Return of the Jedi. It’s the epitome of what I think of what the second book/movie in a trilogy should be.
Pulp master Leigh Brackett wrote an early script of The Empire Strikes Back and receives screenwriting credit (Jeffro at Space Gaming Blog has been doing yeoman’s work defending Brackett’s honor) and it shows with an ice, swamp, and cloud planet.
It is the very beginning of The Empire Strikes Back—on the ice planet of Hoth—that looks the most dated. The wampa looks like he wandered off the set of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But I guess that complements Yoda’s shtick from his introduction that makes him look like he wandered off the set of Labyrinth.
The Empire Strikes Back also introduces fan-favorite Boba Fett (remember, we’ve stricken Jabba the Hutt’s A New Hope scene from the record). He doesn’t do much here, which sets up his role in The Empire Strikes Back not doing much. Meh, I’ve heard of cooler bounty hunters.
Leia was probably wise to be leery of accepting a drink from Lando.
The Battle of Hoth and the asteroid cave remain a couple of my favorite scenes in the series.
If A New Hope was Leia’s movie, The Empire Strikes Back is Darth Vader’s. The loss of the Death Star can’t have come without a cost. And there is no Grand Moff Tarkin to keep him in check. The cool and collected villain from the first movie is now desperately lashing out. In retrospect, it’s also clear why he is doing what he does about Luke. Again, James Earl Jones’ voice acting absolutely sells the character.