The Empire Strikes Back is the middle child of the Star Wars Trilogy. It is darkest of the three and, for me, the best of the Trilogy.
The Empire Strikes Back introduces us to two new characters: Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and the immanently smart Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz). My favourite, as all my friends know, is Yoda. Yoda serves as the voice of the Trilogy creator George Lucas and he has many things to say and teach both Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and us. Many of the most memorable lines from the Star Wars Trilogy come from The Empire Strikes Back and from Yoda. (My favourite is “Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”)
I find ESB my favourite of the Trilogy because it has a good mix of action and adventure. This along with all the intelligence of Yoda makes for a movie that I love to watch over and over again. From the opening Hoth snow battle to the escape through an asteroid belt and to the final lightsaber duel, ESB is a joy to watch.
The updates for the special edition include some new views of Cloud City, extra footage of Darth Vader, and some really pumped up sound. The sound is the thing that makes the biggest difference between seeing the original version and the Special Edition version. Star Destroyers now not only cruise from back to front, they rumble from back to front. The extra allowances in the fidelity of today’s audio equipment make for some pretty exciting enhancements throughout the film.
I am glad that Lucas decided to leave in most of the original special effects, instead of running rampant throughout the film and replacing them with digital effects. Lucas shows restraint and really only adds little bits here and there to the special effects of the original. Which I thank him for because the original special effects are still quite impressive.
John Williams again scores this film and the score is like all of Williams’ other scores – brilliant. The best of the new score is “The Imperial March” which is Darth Vader’s theme, something that brings a feeling of dread when you hear it. Irvin Kershner does a great job taking over the director’s reign with The Empire Strikes Back. He does not lose any of the pacing set by George Lucas.
My favourite character of the whole Trilogy is Yoda. Full of good advice and intelligence, Frank Oz has created a creature that is the best addition to the whole Trilogy. And for The Empire Strikes Back Yoda is the best actor of the film. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill have settled in to their respective roles quite nicely. The ever quibbling C-3PO and R2-D2 are again in the film for some comic relief, which I loved.
ESB shows, more than Star Wars: A New Hope, how it is not the special effects that make a movie, but the characters, story, and pure fun of the adventure that makes the movie. ESB pulls us into the tight circle of characters and their adventures. We follow Luke on his adventure to Degobah to train with the Jedi Master Yoda while we cheer and bite our nails as we follow Han, Leia, and C3-PO while they try to escape from the Empire. There is much for modern day Hollywood to learn from the Star Wars Trilogy.
Don’t Miss The Empire Strikes Back Special Edition. I would recommend the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back over the original for the sole reason that it sounds so much better. And be sure to see it wide screen – if it’s still running in a second run theatre catch it there, if not, get the letterbox VHS release or the Special Edition Laserdisc collection.