Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa
Frank Oz as Yoda
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
James Earl Jones and David Prowse as Darth Vader
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan/Ben Kenobi
Kenneth Colley as Captain/Admiral Piett
The Empire Strikes Back isn’t just the best Star Wars movie. It is a candidate for best sci-fi movie ever! It takes things in a direction you really wouldn’t have expected from the original: darkness. Famously, it’s in this movie that they finally give Darth Vader his iconic song. But the real reason this movie is so dark is that, where the first was about the good guys triumphing against all odds, this one puts them in a state of near hopelessness.
It’s been three years since the original. Although they destroyed the Death Star and seem to have inspired more people to join them than there were before, the Rebel Alliance has been pursued relentlessly* to a frozen wasteland of a planet known as Hoth. Although that doesn’t last long either. As Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO evade a fleet commanded by Darth Vader, Luke discovers the jedi master Yoda and trains under him with mixed success.
The performances are solid, but one notable performance is Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. He was a little weaker than the other actors in the original Star Wars but here, he seems to have taken the necessary acting lessons. Most would be shocked to learn about some of the voices he did in cartoons (typecasting’s a bitch) later in his career, but assuming he kept up this rate of improvement, I can totally see it.
Speaking of improvements, if the dogfights in the original were almost revolutionary, those in Empire take the “almost” out. While George Lucas’ crew once had difficulty showing ships fly any way but straight, we can see some real maneuvering here. Definitely an improvement over the you-hit-me-I-hit-you kind of ship battles in the first several Star Trek movies.
A great touch is the philosophical twist added when it comes to the jedi and sith. In the original, we were told that Vader was a jedi who turned evil. Here we discover that it was hatred that corrupted him. You see, the Dark Side of The Force thrives on hate and tries to use it to dominate you. Although this is obviously fantasy, it does serve as an effective analogy to the destructiveness of hatred.
A shocking ending leads us to a more positive sequel that wraps this trilogy up. But that’s another review. For now, I will simply say that it is extremely powerful.
The Empire Strikes Back isn’t quite perfect, but it is a definite improvement over the original and definitely one of my favorite films.
Overall: 9 out of 10