Arguably the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back returns to the galaxy far, far away three years after the Rebel Alliance’s assault on the Death Star. The film is a darker chapter in the saga but it creates a compelling story and adds depth to our favourite characters. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back separates Luke from Leia and Han for the most part of the film, Luke goes on a spiritual journey training under the Jedi Master Yoda while the rest of the gang attempt to evade the Empire.
The main cast return now as house hold names, people were clamouring to see the next part of the story and the film doesn’t disappoint. The script by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett fleshes out the spirit of the force as well as developing the characters in to more than the plucky heroes we see in the original film. Luke is impatient and lacks focus, traits that true Jedi do not possess. While Han is seen to be much more than a scoundrel that is only after money, he shows compassion and care for his friends. In the early part of the film Leia is seen as a leading part of the rebellion while unfortunately she is relegated to love interest for much of the rest of it. Lando Calrissian is introduced as a supporting character who while being Han’s old friend, has his hand forced by the Empire and subsequently betrays that friendship.
Having a darker plot raises the stakes for our heroes, while not putting the rebellion at too much of a risk. This film is able to spend time on the characters, it has a pretty awesome battle between the Alliance and the Empire but that is used to open the film while the remaining hour and a half is much more personal.
As with A New Hope the special effects of this film were advanced for their time. The production team kept with their expert model making for the bigger and more menacing ships and the stop-motion animation for the Tauntauns and the AT-ATs made things feel very real (even though now they may look a little dated). However the real praise goes to Jim Hensons workshop for Yoda. As a kid I thoroughly believed that Yoda was somehow real and even now in 2017 Yoda feels as real as any of the other characters.
The visual style of the film is similar to Star Wars: A New Hope but the colour pallet in general is darker, despite the planet Hoth and the interior of Cloud City being white. While set pieces like the Battle of Hoth and the escape from a Star Destroyer are impressive (most impressive), it is the final duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader that is an amazing piece of cinema. The glowing blades of the red and blue lightsabers in a dark environment convey a sense of horror and that style is used again in parts of their second duel in Return of the Jedi.
While it is a main feature in many of the Star Wars films, Empire Strikes Back features some of the most iconic music by John Williams. “The Imperial March” makes its first appearance in this film and it has become synonymous with Star Wars and probably as famous as the main theme. Williams’s score has been paired with all the episodic films up to this point and it as much a part of Star Wars as any character. The music in this film conveys the menace of the empire and the tranquillity of Yoda and his chosen home world of Dagobah. It helps the audience feel tension and happiness when ever it is needed, more than (probably) any other franchise.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece of cinema and is one of the best films in the Star Wars franchise. Sequels these days tend to go bigger while this film goes a darker and more personal route.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Well Above Average