It started off in this post and I then realised that I have yet to make a proper review of The Empire Strikes Back which I personally think is the best movie in the whole Star Wars universe. Poster source: Pinterest
Catching On Cinema
When the movie first came out in 1980, I was just starting my primary schooling and I was just too young to understand the significance of this movie. My late Dad even baffled with the excitement of the Star Wars movies so there was no effort to push all of us to catch this movie in the cinema, unlike the time of the Indiana Jones.
But then in 1997, we got lucky to catch this grand blockbuster on the big screens when George Lucas re-released the special editions of the original trilogy:-
As part of Star Wars’ 20th-anniversary celebration in 1997, The Empire Strikes Back was digitally remastered and re-released along with Star Wars and Return of the Jedi under the title Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. Lucas took this opportunity to make several minor changes to the film.
These included explicitly showing the Wampa creature on Hoth in full form, creating a more complex flight path for the Falcon as it approaches Cloud City, digitally replacing some of the interior walls of Cloud City with vistas of Bespin, and replacing certain lines of dialogue.
A short sequence was also added depicting Vader’s return to his Super Star Destroyer after duelling with Luke, created from alternate angles of a scene from Return of the Jedi.
Most of the changes were small and esthetic. Some fans believe that the changes to the film were less detrimental than that of the other two entries in the trilogy.
Some Interesting Trivia
- The shots where Luke uses his Jedi powers to retrieve his lightsaber from a distance were achieved by having Mark Hamill throw the lightsaber away, and then running the film in reverse.
- When shooting on-location in Finse, Norway, a fierce snowstorm hit the hotel where the cast and crew were staying. This would have normally halted filming, but director Irvin Kershner thought these weather conditions were an excellent opportunity to film the scene where Luke wanders through the snow after escaping the Wampa cave. He did this by sending Mark Hamill outside into the cold, while he and the cameraman stayed and filmed inside the hotel’s front hall.
- Carrie Fisher stood on a box for many of her scenes with Harrison Ford in order to make up for the height difference, and have her appear in the frame with him. Carrie Fisher (5’1″) was a foot shorter than Harrison Ford (6’1″).
- During the filming of the Battle of Hoth, the Echo Base troops were actually Norwegian mountain-rescue skiers. In exchange for participation in this movie, Lucasfilm made a donation to the Norwegian Red Cross.
- In each Star Wars movie, the line “I have a bad feeling about this” is spoken by one of the characters. In this movie, Leia says it.
- Yoda’s iconic manner of speech has the parts of speech in object-subject-verb order. Very few languages on Earth use this, and most are based in the Amazon river basin.
- The sound of Darth Vader’s shuttle door opening is reportedly a recording of a whole block of Alcatraz cell doors slamming shut.
- Originally in the asteroid scene, one of the asteroids was actually a shoe. The rumour is that George Lucas asked the visual effects people to redo the scene so many times that they got annoyed and one of them threw in his or her shoe. Later remastered versions have corrected this.
Movie Detailed Analysis
There are probably thousands of reviews and analysis of the whole movie or on a specific scene of the movie but I found this scene analysis by Collative Learning rather interesting and something that did not cross my mind.
Another interesting analysis is this from New Rocktars:-
My Personal Reasons
So why I think The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie of all?
Here are my top 5 reasons:-
Reason 1: The Imperial AT-AT Walker
Imagine that you are on an ice world and far in front of your base perimeter, you see in a distance something huge and tall “walking” towards you. It starts shooting lasers that can kill and blow up things. You have come face to face with the evil empire’s All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT).
AT-AT was manufactured by Kuat Drive Yards is 20 meters long and 22.5 meters high. AT-AT was armed with two heavy laser cannon turrets, four anti-personnel blasters, and a dorsal twin laser turret at the rear. A single walker was operated by two AT-AT drivers, who piloted the machinery alongside an optional vehicle commander.
And the best part of this movie is that we will confront this beast at the very beginning of the movie and not at the final battle/climax.
Reason 2: Appearance of the Wise Master Yoda
(Yoda is about 900 years old when he died and he have been training Jedis for 800 years. Apparently he is a male and only 0.66 meters high and weighs only 13 kilograms. Image source: Wired)
I loved the concept of the Force and in the first movie; I thought we have seen the true Jedi master in the form of Obi-Wan. But in The Empire Strikes Back, there was a master of the masters – Master Yoda. One of the things that attracted me to Yoda – other than his mastery of the Force and seriously good with the lightsaber – is the way he speaks.
Here are some of my favourites and have been my mantra over the years:-
- Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.
- In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.
- Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
- Patience you must have, my young padawan.
- Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.
- No! Try not! Do or do not, there is no try.
- Always pass on what you have learned.
- Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.
- Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.
- Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future
Reason 3: Uplifting Imperial March Theme
(The wizard himself conducting the orchestra, playing his own composition – there is something in this tune that just makes you feel like you want to stand up and march)
Listen to this first thing in the morning, every morning and whenever you feel under the cloud and immediately you will be recharged & ready for the next battle. Who wouldn’t? After all, it is THE theme music for Darth Vader and the Empire.
The drums at the start of the theme immediately connote strict order, discipline and focus and then come to the horns that seem to be symbolising a grand entrance of a menacing force about to come. And in the background, the violins seem to be in a chaotic state but the drums and horns do not heed the chaos and continue to march one.
This theme together with the original Star Wars theme is something you cannot simply put aside watching an epic movie.
Reason 4: The Chase Through Asteroid Field
(You can never forget the odds as C3PO uttered: “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1”. Image source: Nerdy Facts)
By the 2nd movie, the special effect has vastly improved – the Milineum Falcon can do hoops and turns and the movement is simply fluid. What makes this scene even compelling is the determination by Darth Vader to capture these rebels to the extent, he is willing to sacrifice Star Destroyers to the asteroid – “Asteroids does not concern me, Admiral. I want that ship, not excuses”
Reason 5: Luke vs Vader Lightsaber Fight
The grand finale and it was the best scene of the whole movie for a number of reasons.
Just look at the setting, the background with blue light and reddish floor and both of the 2 key characters are in shadow. The room is dark and there are smokes everywhere. You cannot see their faces clearly and then the lightsabers are switched on leaving us with a mesmerising setting for a grand battle. You only hear the sound of the lightsabers and Darth Vader’s heavy breathing. Classic move!!!
Luke tries hard to fight Darth Vader, obviously because he did not complete his training with Master Yoda and Darth Vader has given his experience and training simply plays with Luke (he casually fights with just one hand) and until to the point, he had enough and swiftly cuts off Luke’s hand.
And then, the truth comes out taking everyone by surprise and leaving them in shock – “Luke, I am your father” which is now one of the famous quotes from movies (the other favourite of mine is “Go Ahead Make My Day”). That was a killer move by George Lucas and the best part, no other than George Lucas, the director Irvin Kershner and Mark Hamil knows about it.
Star Wars: A New Hope was a classic and did a fantastic of setting the premise for the grand saga – the characters, the 2 warring factions and the technology used in a galaxy far, far away.
Then after The Empire Strikes Back, we have the Return of the Jedi, the last movie which kind of sucked and rushed and unimaginative with another Death Star! We waste the first part of this movie with Jabba The Hut and then 2nd part with Ewoks. In the first and the last movie, there were plenty of similarities – there was the Death Star which had a simple loophole and in the end, the empire is defeated and the rebels win the day.
But in The Empire Strikes Back, it was different. The empire won and the rebel was forced to run for their dear life. Things were darker, cold (after all, we started on an ice world), more focus and the dark side of the force was in full power. I guess perhaps this is why this movie ended as the best movies in the Star Wars universal.
Irvin Kershner did a fantastic job directing The Empire Strikes Back and it was sad that he felt it was too tiring directing a Star Wars movie. And this is why he declined to come back to direct Return of the Jedi (others claim that George Lucas was not happy with the production cost of The Empire Strikes Back)