A Hyperspace Ride Through The Star Wars Saga: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Producing a sequel that is better than the much loved original is something few films manage to do at all, let alone do it right. But ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ continues the story and developing characters from ‘A New Hope’ and expands the threats, the excitement and the emotion to surpass ‘A New Hope’ in many ways, being a film that is far darker and more exciting and not short of iconic music, surprises and characters to expand both the lore and the love for Star Wars as a whole.
It works because we firstly care about the characters; we see and hear the evident development from whiny farm boy to Rebel hero in Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and the love/hate relationship formed between Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia which leads to some wonderful battle of wits and words and ego. The film is split in two, with each set of characters taking their own exciting journey to eventually come back together for the powerful finale.
The thrills never seem to stop, as one story slows down, the other throws in some twists to keep you on your toes. With the expansion of a galaxy already loved by many, the introduction of more of the mighty Empire seals our love for the villains with their ingenious new weapons, ships and commanders who are wonderfully British and evil. Starships are even greater in scale, and the planets we see are more rich and vibrant. We simply connect with both sides of the war we are seeing, and love everything about it as they take us with them during epic battles such as the opening classic Hoth invasion, the breath-taking asteroid field chase and the brilliantly shot lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.
We have new faces in the guise of the dashing Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and the performance might of Frank Oz as old Jedi Master Yoda. Oz created a character that was unexpected, unconventional and unlike anything we had seen (or heard) before thanks to his puppetry skill and voice talent.
And again, to cap all this, the special effects are ground-breaking in style and even give modern day CGI competition for a look that is authentic and real, making it all the more believable that people, places and objects are capable of hurting, and likewise being hurt or damaged. You come to love the effort put into making the models, the sets, the costumes, camerawork and lighting because every scene tells a story and conveys the passion, joy, fear and hope that is needed to make this the most emotional film of the series with new characters adding depth and intrigue to the plot.
John Williams takes us along for the ride with his sweeping score and captures every sequence perfectly without him seemingly trying – from the iconic ‘Imperial March’ to the beautiful theme for Han and Leia, his music now tells a story without the need for words.
A bold story, brilliant direction and a gripping group of heroes and villains and twists and turns take you into the heart of what Star Wars is all about and doesn’t let you go until the final few frames where you can finally catch your breath and await an epic conclusion.