Callum Ward’s review published on Letterboxd:
If you haven’t already guessed by now – I love Star Wars. The franchise was an integral part of my childhood and my love for it has only grown as the years have passed. The best film in the franchise is without a doubt Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. This film is absolutely phenomenal and, in my opinion, is the finest film in the cinema. It’s definitely my favourite film of all time, and so I think it’s pretty criminal that I have never done a review for it.
The film follows our main trio, Luke, Han and Leia as they continue their fight against the empire. Han and Leia spend a majority of the film on the run from a Star Destroyer following the battle of Hoth, whereas Luke heads to the Dagobah system to find an ancient jedi master, Yoda.
One of the best aspects about this film is the character growth our heroes experience throughout, and subsequently the step up in quality of the performances from the actors. Each actor takes their performance to another level in my opinion. Mark Hamill has a lot more to work with and shows real depth in his performance. By the end of the film you can really see all the trauma Luke has been through. He is phenomenal in THAT moment too (which of course we’ll touch upon later). Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are both brilliant too as a romance starts to grow between Han and Leia. Their chemistry is palpable, and both convey the underlying feelings for one another extremely well. All of the characters go through an awful lot in this film and really grow through the struggle, adding to the foundation set out in the original.
Speaking of characters, The Empire Strikes Back also adds some phenomenal characters to the universe. We are introduced to the smooth talking Lando, the wise Jedi master Yoda, the awesome Boba Fett and the menacing Emperor. All of the new introductions are now mainstays in the Star Wars universe and fan favourites throughout. It’s a testament to the writing, direction and performances from the likes of Lando Calrissian and Frank Oz especially that all three of these characters managed to leave such an imprint in the overarching universe.
The story throughout this film is also extremely well thought out and structured. Empire does what every good sequel should do and furthers our heroes journeys along massively. As I previously mentioned, our protagonists go through both emotional and physical battles that really help cement their motivations in the overarching plot and build on what the original film laid out. This film ups the ante when it comes to both the emotional side and character depth, as well as in terms of the action and world building without feeling too stuffed or rushed – a credit to Irvin Kershner. The story is bigger and bolder, with new locations and the aforementioned new characters who fit the story so well, as well as bigger and better battles both on Hoth and Bespin, not to mention the greatest plot twist of all time.
That plot twist. Wow. It still gives me chills every single time. ‘No, I am your father’ is one of, if not the most iconic line in cinema history, and I would do anything to be able to witness this back in 1980 when nobody in the world knew. George Lucas is truly a master when it comes to storytelling, and this may be his finest moment.
There is so much more to this film that I absolutely adore and could talk about all day. I think the direction is phenomenal, the writing is the best in the franchise, the cinematography takes it to a completely new level, the effects are also taken up a step. Our characters are better and have more depth than ever, both the space battles on Hoth and as the Millenieum Falcon escapes are up a level to the previous film and the lightsaber fight has a brilliant mix of enhanced choreography and so much weight and emotion. This film is the quintessential movie sequel, and for good reason. It builds extremely well on the brilliant foundations from Star Wars (1977) and produces in my opinion the finest film in cinema history. Complete and utter perfection.
So if you couldn’t tell in this gushing love letter to the film, I absolutely adore this film and this franchise. I love the movies, the TV shows, the books and even the comics. The influence that Star Wars has had on my life is immeasurable, and is a true testament to the mind and vision of George Lucas, and all of those who came together to make the franchise possible. Sure, you can absolutely question his writing ability and his directional choices in some of the prequel films, but to be perfectly honest I still love those film, and I hold Lucas in the highest esteem. He is without a doubt one of the finest storytellers and worldbuilders in cinema history who completely changed the way films were made and marketed. A true legend of the game.
I love Star Wars, and this is Star Wars at its very best. The pinnacle of cinema for me, and my favourite film of all time.