After seeing the original Star
Wars just a few weeks ago, returning to
the theater to see its first sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, gave me
a real feeling of what it must have been like to go to the old movie serials
in the 1940's. It's fitting, though, since the Star Wars series was inspired
by serials like Flash Gordon and comic books.
Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and
Billy Dee Williams
Empire Strikes Back picks up shortly after the first movie's end.
The Rebellion, after defeating the Death Star, has had to retreat to another
hidden base. This time, it's located on a desolate ice-covered planet
called Hoth. The Empire is desperate to find the Rebels and crush them
in retaliation for the defeat of their great battle station.
Darth Vader (David Prowse)
is especially interested in finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who
he knows is strong with The Force. Vader feels that
if Luke can be turned against the Rebellion and toward "the dark
side" of The Force, he would make a great weapon for the Empire.
Luke is instructed by the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness) to
continue his Jedi training with Yoda, an 800 year old wizard who lives
on a swampy planet known as Dagobah. The rest of the Rebellion, including
Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter
Mayhew) and C3PO (Anthony Daniels), are forced to evacuate Hoth when the
Empire locates their base on Hoth and attacks it.
As Luke continues his training with Yoda, Vader plots an intricate trap
to catch him using Han Solo and the Princess as bait.
This installment in the series is generally thought to be the darkest
of the three. (Return of the Jedi, the final installment in the trilogy,
returns to theaters on March 14.) Because the movie doesn't have a cut-and-dry
ending, it can be viewed as a disappointing film by some. You have to
see the third movie to find out the outcome of all of the situations that
are set up by this film. Although it's a definite weakness, it doesn't
take away from the fact that this is a more mature and stronger movie
than the original in terms of character development. Although there are
a few slow parts during the middle of the movie, the climax more than
makes up for it.
Vader becomes more evil and, interestingly, more human as he pursues
Skywalker across the galaxy at any cost. Han Solo, who was probably the
most fully developed character in the first film, romantically pursues
Princess Leia, who is much more likeable in this film as she also becomes
more human. Luke is still pretty much the boy he was in the first film.
His confrontation with Vader is the turning point in his character's development,
but the movie ends shortly afterward and doesn't allow him to really reflect
on things. A new character, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), is
also introduced. Williams' acting and charisma make Calrissian a welcome
addition to the band of central characters.
As with the first movie, some new special effects have been added as
have some new scenes. The amount of differences between this version and
the original version are not as wildly obvious as they were with Star
Wars, but they're worth keeping an eye peeled for.
This was a strong movie when it was originally released in 1980. With
the little bit of tweaking that Lucasfilm has done, it's even stronger
now. Still a dazzling bit of movie history, the same advice that I gave
about the original applies to this first sequel: See it as it was meant
to be seen. But, remember, this time you don't have to wait three years
to see the conclusion. It's only a matter of weeks until Return of
the Jedi arrives.
of the asteroids during the scene where the Millennium Falcon escapes
into the asteroid field to evade Imperial Star Destroyers is actually
a potato. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)