Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
Never tell me the odds!
I forgot. I forgot how amazing and beautiful the original Star Wars trilogy is. I forgot how ingenious George Lucas was, building upon the success of his original space opera. I forgot how classy and epic Episode V feels. I forgot about everything. Until now.
Up until this point, I never really understood why so many people considered this film the best of the entire saga. I always felt this one was really dark and creepy, and I never really liked it growing up. The bloody wampa scared the crap out of me as a kid, and Luke losing his hand may well have scarred me for a little while (I was so restricted in what I could watch, so I was scared of almost anything back then). Now, I see this film for its groundbreaking visual effects, its powerful orchestral score from John Williams, that great god of soundtracks. But most importantly, it's containment of the greatest twist in cinematic history. Not even Mark Hamill knew that Darth Vader was his character's father until moments before they shot the scene. It was kept so tightly under wraps, people believed that Obi-Wan had killed Luke's father until it was finally released. It's a secret that was much better kept than most are nowadays, and it lent to the massive success this film was.
Each and every second of The Empire Strikes Back is bursting with imagination. The creative mind of George Lucas, mixed with the directorial talents of Irvin Kershner, brings to life one of the greatest stories ever committed to film. Several new characters are introduced in the sequel, and none of them feel forced. They each have a place and a purpose. They aren't there just to fill empty air, and are certainly welcome additions to the classic trilogy.
Billy Dee Williams nails his iconic role as Lando Calrissian, the scoundrel of Bespin's Cloud City made to match the likes of Han Solo. It almost feels like he was literally born to play this role, and he fits in perfectly with our other heroes.
The lightsaber duel between Vader and Luke is one of the most iconic and memorable scenes in American cinema history. It gives the duel more meaning into Vader/Anakin's overall character arc when you consider his innate love for Luke. He knows he is his son, and he certainly has no intention of killing him. Each and every move he makes could be fatal, if he isn't careful. He has to take the utmost care for his son, not only for the Emperor, but also because he knows he is his flesh and blood. His final monologue before Luke drops into the air shaft is given much more depth when one takes the whole saga into account, and there is a much deeper feeling in Vader's convictions than we originally perceived. It's an incredible touch that no one could have thought of 35 years ago, but now it looks better than ever.
I've finally come to realize that Episode V is my favorite film in the Star Wars saga, but it goes beyond that for me. The Empire Strikes Back is too full of iconic lines, characters, scenes, and memories for me to simply pass off. This is certainly one of the greatest films I have ever seen, if not the greatest. Star Wars has played a much, much larger role in my life than anyone would ever possibly realize, and to that end, I am eternally grateful. I don't think I'll ever get sick of watching any of the original Star Wars films, they are simply too great and iconic to me to fade into obscurity. As always, I will prefer this "Despecialized" edition over any of Lucas' subsequent butcherings, but in the end it's still Star Wars. The innate magic of the original films will always be there for me, no matter how many new formats they are released on. This film means much more to me now than I ever could have imagined it would have, which is undoubtedly a pleasant surprise to me. It's a truly iconic masterpiece that cannot be topped.