The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

As my family came over for my birthday, I thought what better then to put on a classic that my aunt can’t stand? What gives this trilogy an instant charm is that it came out a good 20 years before the first Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings movie, the graphics look sharp and the shot compositions are simply gorgeous even for today’s standards. I didn’t grow up with these movies like everyone else did, my childhood George Lucas movie was American Graffiti, but damn it these make me wish I was a kid again. It could be quarantine taking a toll on me, but these really do make me want to dress as Luke for Halloween (I’d definitely rock his Return of the Jedi outfit).

What makes The Empire Strikes Back appealing to 22 year old me (it hasn’t even been a day since I turned 22, relax) is its ability to hook the audience emotionally from the moment Luke returns from his dangerously snowy endeavor. The chemistry between the three leads, despite the campy dialogue, is electric and you can’t help but want to be apart of the crew. The series, and I really hate to say this, hadn’t sold out yet and there wasn’t an emphasis on selling toys as there is from Return of the Jedi onwards. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love Jedi, but the decision to bring Han Solo back after being frozen and the overlong Tibetan speaking Ewok scenes kill some of the momentum that this film had. 

Empire flows from scene to scene like an Imperial snake waiting to bite its fangs into the audience’s neck with the “I am your father” reveal, a twist so disgustingly famous that Darth Vader’s face is on the spoiler alert button on this app I like to call home. I knew the twist as a kid as well as all of the characters’ names and I still got chills by the time the big scene rolls around. What makes the first half of the Luke-Vader showdown so epic is the lack of bombastic background score. You hear the Imperial theme and Force theme throughout the picture but for a good chunk of the big scene, it’s just the sounds of the spaceship and the buzzing of the light sabers. I could’ve watched five more minutes of that with the intercutting of the Leia storyline, just like I could’ve watched an extended cut of Vader’s scene at the end of Rogue One (preferably without the cheesy “HELP US” and “TAKE IT” from the Vader genocide victims).

The decision to make Anakin Skywalker the father of Luke and Leia set the standard for every regurgitated plot twist to come in every franchise we’ve come to know and love. It was a bold move and I wish they went a step furthered and killed off Han Solo, as Harrison Ford in classic Ford fashion wasn’t even sure if he wanted to return for the third film. Jedi would’ve been much darker, and it would’ve allowed more room for comedic relief like the Ewoks to come in. Maybe I’ve been watching too much fantasy cinema post-1980.

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