To this day, this remains my favorite movie out of the Star Wars franchise and I have a lot of fond memories concerning today’s movie. For one, this is the first movie I remember seeing in theaters when I was a kid. Yes, this came out back when I was 3 but I, like a lot of kids at that age, was a dinosaur nut and I thought this movie was awesome because it had robot dinosaurs that shot lasers in it (the Imperial Walkers). As fond of a memory as that is for me, my friends actually prefer a more recent memory regarding this movie. See, back when the Special Edition versions were released in theaters as a part of Star Wars 20th anniversary and I decided to take my two baby brothers to see them, so they can get a chance to see them in the theaters. So there we were, at a late night screening on opening night, enjoying the movie. All of a sudden, as the movie is nearing the end, one of the scenes featured one of the “changes” that were part of the special edition. In this case, a scream was added to the scene where Luke falls down the air shaft after learning Vader is his father (this was removed from the DVD release but you can see it here). So imagine if you will, a packed theater watching this movie and when that scene occurs, someone loudly yelling “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!” Needless to say, we were visited by an usher pretty quickly, who was going to have us leave but was nice enough to let us stay in the hallway so we could finish watching the movie. Anyways, those are some of the reasons why I love today’s movie, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.
The plot: Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, The Empire has pursued the Rebel forces across the galaxy and forced the Rebellion to find a new base of operations, which the eventually do on the ice planet Hoth. With Darth Vader wanting to capture Luke Skywalker, as he was the one to destroy the Death Star, he orders hundreds of Imperial probe droids to be released across the galaxy, one of which happens to land on Hoth. Luke, now a Commander in the Rebellion, is riding a tauntaun out on patrol when he sees what appears to be a meteor strike and radios in to Han Solo, who is heading back to the base from his patrol. After ending the communication, Luke’s tauntaun suddenly acts up and as he tries to calm it, they are attacked by a wampa, which knocks Luke unconscious and kills the tauntaun, then drags them back to their lair. At the Rebel base, Han reports to General Rieekan and tells him that he has to leave and pay off the death mark that Jabba the Hutt has placed on him, as he had a recent encounter with another bounty hunter. Han then goes to say goodbye to Leia but the two end up arguing when Han insinuates that she has feelings for him. Later, C-3PO and R2-D2 speak with Han, who is working with Chewbacca on making repairs to the Millennium Falcon. When 3PO tells him that Luke hasn’t come back from patrol yet, Han has some men double check and when they confirm that he hasn’t returned, he mounts a tauntaun and heads out to find him, despite being told that it is getting too cold to be out there. Meanwhile, Luke finds himself suspended from the ceiling of the wampa’s lair and, noticing his lightsaber in the snow below him, uses the force to summon it to his hand. Quickly igniting it, he frees himself and then fends off the attacking wampa, cutting off the creature’s arm, and escaping the cave as the wampa backs away in pain. At the Rebel base, all of the patrols looking for Luke have returned except for Han and they are forced to close the blast doors to shield everyone from the cold, causing Chewbacca to roar out in anguish while Leia, 3PO, and R2 express their own concern. Out in the snow, Luke sees the ghost oh Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, his old mentor, who tells him to go to Dagobah and learn from the Jedi Master Yoda, who had trained him. As Luke calls out to Ben, the ghost disappears but Han shows up and quickly races to his friend. As he checks on him, Han’s tauntaun dies from the cold so Han uses Luke’s lightsaber to slice open it’s stomach and places Luke inside to keep him warm while he works on building a shelter. The next day, Rebel Snowspeeders, finally adapted to the cold weather of the planet, search for Han and Luke and eventually find them. Luke is placed in a bacta tank in order to help recover from his injuries and afterwards, his friends express their happiness at seeing him still alive. Han again talks with Leia about her feelings for him and Leia, deciding to show Han that he is wrong, kisses Luke before leaving the room. Some time later, the Rebels detect a strange transmission on the surface and Han and Chewbacca go to investigate and discover the probe droid, which attacks them before destroying itself. Han relays the encounter to Leia and Rieekan, who realize the Empire most likely knows where they are now and they prepare to evacuate. On board the Executor, Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, Vader and his command staff receive word from the probe droid and Vader orders his men to head to off, telling General Veers to ready his men for a ground assault. The Imperial fleet comes out of hyper space too soon, allowing the Rebels to power an energy shield to protect the base from orbital bombardment so Vader kills Admiral Ozzel and promotes Captain Piett to Admiral. The Rebels prepare for a ground assault on the power generator while launching the evacuation ships for most of their forces, using an ion cannon to disable enemy ships that are preventing their escape. A force of Imperial Walkers (AT-AT’s) march on the generator and Luke commands Rogue groups Snowspeeders as they try to stop them. When their armor proves to be too thick, they use tow cables to entangle the walkers’ legs and topple them. Luke is eventually shot down but manages to survive and uses his lightsaber, grappling hook, and an explosive to take out another walker but the generator is still destroyed and Vader and his troops land to make their assault on the base. Han grabs Leia and takes her and 3PO onto the Falcon so they can escape while Luke makes it to a secondary evac site, where R2 is waiting in his X-wing fighter and they take off but instead of meeting up with the rest of the fleet, he tells R2 they are heading to Dagobah. Meanwhile, Han is trying to evade the Star Destroyers that are trying to capture them but when he tries to go to light speed, it fails and 3PO tells him that the hyperdrive is damaged. Leaving Leia to pilot the Falcon, Han and Chewbacca try to make repairs when Leia alerts them to the face that they are entering an asteroid field. Han resumes control and managed to pilot the Falcon through the asteroids, which destroy the Tie-Fighters following them, and eventually lands in a cave on a large asteroid. While this is going on, Luke arrives on Dagobah and ends up crashing his X-wing in the swamp. After getting R2 and some supplies from the ship and setting up camp, Luke is surprised to see a small figure watching them. As Luke speaks with the strange figure, it begins rummaging through his supplies and eventually grabs a small lamp, which it says is his if Luke wants it’s help. When Luke says he is looking for a Jedi Master, the creature says he is looking for Yoda and offer to take Luke to see him but says he must come back to his house for dinner first, then heads off into the swamp. Back in the asteroid field, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and 3PO work on making repairs on the Falcon, and Han and Leia end up getting closer and eventually kiss before 3PO interrupts them, causing Leia to run off to figure out her feelings. Meanwhile, Vader has the fleet continue into the asteroid field to search for the Falcon but when he gets word that the Emperor wants to speak with him, he has the Executor moved out of the field in order to ensure a clear transmission. After making contact with Vader, the Emperor tells him to destroy Luke Skywalker before he can become a Jedi but Vader suggest trying to turn Luke to the Dark Side, and the Emperor agrees when Vader says if it can’t be done he will kill him. Back on Dagobah, Luke is inside the figures hut and eventually realizes that he is Yoda after hearing him speak to Ben’s ghost. Yoda says that Luke is not ready to begin the training, seeing too much anger and recklessness in him but Ben argues for Luke’s training and Luke says he is not afraid of the training so Yoda reluctantly agrees to train him. Back in the cave on the asteroid, Leia is in the cockpit thinking about what happened with Han when she sees a strange creature attach itself to the hull. She tells Han about it, and he decides to go out and investigate, with Leia and Chewbacca accompanying him. Han shoots a mynock off of the ship and tells Leia to head back inside while he and Chewbacca check the rest of the ship when a flock of mynocks fly past them. Chewbacca fires at them and strikes the cave wall, causing the cave to shake and a roar to be heard. When Han fires into the ground, the roaring and shaking grow more severe and he quickly has every get back on the ship so they can leave, as he realizes that they are not in a cave, but a giant space worm. Back on Dagobah, Luke is beginning his training and Yoda discusses the differences between the Light and Dark Sides of the force and how Vader had fallen to the Dark Side. They eventually reach a cave, and Yoda tells Luke he must head inside. Luke starts to buckle his lightsaber to his belt and Yoda tells him he will not need his weapons, but Luke chooses to arm himself anyways. Inside the cave, Luke comes face to face with an apparition of Vader and he fights with it and manages to beat it, cutting off Vader’s head but as the head rolls to a stop by his feet, the helmet bursts open and Luke’s own face stares back at him. Back in space, Vader has summoned several bounty hunters to the Executor and gives them the task of finding the Millennium Falcon when he receives word that his men have located the ship. The Falcon makes it out of the asteroid field and attempts to go to light speed but the hyperdrive is still malfunctioning. Han then turns around and heads towards the Star Destroyer chasing them and flies past the command bridge before disappearing off of their scopes. On Dagobah, Luke’s training continues but he gets distracted when R2 alerts him to his X-wing sinking into the swamp. Yoda tells Luke to use the Force to lift the X-wing from the swamp, chastising Luke for his excuses and negative thoughts. Luke attempts to do so but fails and Yoda easily lifts it from the swamp, telling Luke that his lack of faith is what caused him to fail. Back in space, Vader has his men search every possible system that the Falcon could have flown too and the fleet starts to disperse. Meanwhile, Han had managed to use the landing claw to attach the Falcon to the back of the command bridge and as the fleet disperses, he has Chewbacca get ready to disengage the claw. Han then tries to figure out where to go to repair the Falcon and discovers that his friend Lando Calrissian is close enough for them to reach. When the Star Destroyer empties it’s trash before leaving, Han has Chewbacca release the landing claw so they can drift away with the trash and once the Star Destroyer leaves, they head towards Bespin, unaware that the bounty hunter Boba Fett, one of several bounty hunters Vader had hired to find the Falcon, is following them in his ship, Slave 1. When they arrive on Bespin, Lando greets Han and Chewbacca, then begins flirting with Leia before Han separates them. As Lando starts talking with Han and shows them to their quarters, 3PO wanders into a side corridor and sees some Stormtroopers but he is shot before he can leave. Back on Dagobah, Luke sees a vision of Han and the others in trouble and decides to abandon his training in order to go rescue them. Yoda and Ben try to stop him but he refuses to abandon his friends and as he takes off, Ben says that he is their last hope but Yoda says that there is another. On Bespin, Chewbacca finds 3PO in a junk yard and brings him back to their chambers, and Leia asks if he can repair him. Lando enters the room and invites them to dinner but they learn that he set them up when they see Vader waiting for them and Lando apologizes, explaining that the Empire had arrived before they did. Vader has Han and Leia tortured, which is what Luke saw in his vision, then tells Lando that Chewbacca and Leia must remain in Cloud City while Han will be turned over to Boba Fett, which upsets Lando. When Vader sets a trap for Luke and decides to test the carbonite freezing process on Han, Chewbacca attempts to break free, attacking several Stormtroopers in the process. Han manages to calm Chewbacca down and tells him he needs to watch after Leia. He then kisses Leia, who tells him that she loves him and he responds, “I know” before he is frozen. Lando checks and says that Han survived so Vader orders the machine reset for Luke then tells Lando to have Leia and Chewbacca (along with 3PO) taken aboard his ship. Luke arrives at Cloud City and as he makes his way through the area, sees Boba Fett carrying the frozen Han towards his ship but Boba Fett spots Luke and fires at him, keeping him from following. Luke then encounters the group with Leia and Chewbacca and Leia tries to warn him it is a trap before she is carried away. As they continue moving, Lando secretly summons his assistant Lobot and his guards, who hold the Imperials captive while he frees Leia and Chewbacca. Chewbacca attacks Lando but stops when Lando says they have a chance to save Han. They head off to stop Boba Fett, joined by R2 who had been separated from Luke, and reach the dock just as Slave 1 blasts off, then are forced to run as they are attacked by some more Stormtroopers. Meanwhile, Luke reaches the carbonite chamber and encounters Vader and the two fight, with Vader managing to knock Luke into the chamber but Luke is able to jump out before the chamber is activated. Luke continues the attack on Vader and manages to knock him off the platform. Luke follows after him and continues the attack but Vader uses the Force to start flinging object at Luke, eventually breaking a window and the decompression blows Luke through the window into the central air shaft but when Vader looks out the window, he sees Luke survived and landed on a platform some ways below. Lando and the others head towards the Falcon, with Lando issuing an evacuation order to the citizens of Cloud City. When Lando’s security codes have been changed, R2 plugs into a computer terminal to open the door, learning the status of the Falcon’s hyperdrive in the process, and they quickly board the ship and take off. Back in the air shaft. Vader renews the fight with Luke and Luke manages to wound Vader on his arm, which enrages Vader and he retaliates by cutting off Luke’s hand. As Luke backs away in pain, Vader tries to convince Luke to join the Dark Side but Luke refuses to join Vader, saying Vader killed his father and Vader tells Luke that he is Luke’s father. Luke doesn’t want to believe him and as Vader reaches for him, he chooses to drop down the air shaft, eventually following into a side chamber before being dropped outside of the city, where he is left hanging from a communication antennae. Luke reaches out to Leia through the Force and she has Chewbacca turn around so they can rescue Luke. After Lando rescues Luke and brings him on board, they leave Cloud City and head out into space. Leia tends to Luke’s injuries while Lando and Chewbacca pilot the Falcon but as they prepare to go to light speed, they find that it is not working. Chewbacca roars out in frustration and heads back to repair it while Lando pleads his innocence in the matter. As the Executor’s tractor beams prepare to bring the Falcon on board, Vader reaches out to Luke through the Force and Luke asks Ben why he didn’t tell him the truth. Before they are captured by Vader, R2 reactivates the hyperdrive and they safely escape. After rejoining the Rebel fleet, Luke is being fitted with a cybernetic hand and he and Leia talk with Lando and Chewbacca, who are heading off to try and locate Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt, with Luke saying they will meet on Tatooine after they do so. With the hand in working order, Luke goes to stand by Leia as they watch the Falcon take off to find their friend.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back met with slightly higher praise from the critics than it’s predecessor, earning a certified fresh rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels.” In order to avoid sharing creative rights, George Lucas decided not to go through a major Hollywood studio to finance the movie. Lucas bankrolled the movie himself using profits from the first movie as well as a bank loan, a risky move that worked out for Lucas as he made the money back 3 months after the films release. While not as successful as the previous movie, the movie was still a box office hit, earning $538.4 million off of an $18 million budget and though Lucas initially thought it was the worst movie in the series, he changed his mind when many people said they felt it was the best one.
Like I said before, this is my favorite movie in the series and I love watching it every time. The acting was really good, with Mark Hamill (Luke), Carrie Fisher (Leia), and Harrison Ford (Han) doing great jobs returning to their characters. I also liked that they played up the romantic triangle between the three of them, with Leia kissing Luke early one, which makes Han jealous, but then kissing Han and admitting her feelings towards him later on. I also liked Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and loved Frank Oz as Yoda, though I admit that I kept picturing Grover saying those words every time I hear Yoda talk (since Oz voiced both characters). The story was great and did a good job of further developing the main characters without taking too much time away from the main story. The one difference with this movie, and to be honest it was pretty much unavoidable, was that this wasn’t exactly a stand alone movie like the original movie was but ended as a complete set-up for a third installment. The special effects were just as good as the original and did a great job of accenting the plot without overshadowing it like some other sci-fi movies in recent years (*cough* Transformers *cough*). A great movie that does a good job in continuing the story George Lucas started.
Rating: 5 out of 5