The Empire Strikes Back – Comments

The Empire Strikes Back is the best of all the Star Wars films, in my opinion. It has the deepest storyline and character development; it has one of the best soundtracks of any movie, and certainly one of the most recognized musical scores (Darth Vader’s Imperial March); and it has the best special effects of all the Star Wars films (including the prequels), and the effects do not distract us from the storyline. Oh, did I mention that John Williams’ music is absolutely perfect and impressive?

Empire is a very sad story from the perspective of the Rebellion. Though Luke has begun his formal training, he has also learned some difficult lessons. Han Solo has been captured, and the Rebels have suffered some tremendous losses. Of course, we really care about the characters, and the storyline is very interesting and exciting. All in all, the Empire Strikes Back is an excellent film, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best films of all time in any genre. I think it deserved at least a nomination for Best Picture in 1981, but we all know the Academy doesn’t consider Science Fiction to be a genre worthy of its attention. Well, Star Wars fans don’t like the Academy either.

The special effects in this movie could not have been better. The battle scene with the AT-ATs is breathtaking. The stop-motion photography of Luke as he rides his Taun-Taun is almost completely seamless, and it looks exactly like what it’s supposed to be – some strange animal that carries its human cargo across icy terrain.

The scenes when the Falcon is being chased through the asteroid belt are impressive and very exciting. And who could doubt that there is such a planet called Dagobah where a three-foot tall alien lives? Likewise, who has not actually thought Yoda single-handedly lifted Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp to teach him about using the Force? The most important thing about special effects in films is that they are supposed to allow the audience to suspend their belief and accept what is not real. In this respect, Empire is way ahead of the rest.

Aside from all that, Yoda alone makes this film better than all the rest of the Star Wars movies. He is obviously a very deep character. The things he teaches Luke apply in countless ways to many aspects of life – religion, self-mastery, control of one’s emotions, etc. While he taught Luke about the Force, we also learn an important lesson – that you must believe to achieve.

Empire is also about Luke’s struggle to become a Jedi like his father. He has few triumphs, and perhaps a few moral victories, but mostly, he has a lot of learning experiences. Though he kills Vader in the scene in the cave, he quickly learns he could be his own worst enemy. He is unable to help his friends, and in fact, he’s the one who has to be saved. But he does not give in to Vader’s ultimatum to join the Dark Side. In fact, he would rather fall to his death than join his father. Later, his artificial arm becomes his source of strength in withstanding the Emperor later. He learns that there are no limits to the power of the Force, but he also learns how giving in to hatred and aggression can lead to the Dark Side.

This film also has great character development among others as well. Lando’s activities are a sort of microcosm to Vader’s life – he betrays the trust of his friends, but later turns out to help them when they need it most. Han and Leia fall in love by the end of the film, even after starting out rather rocky. Vader’s character is also developed further as we see him as a very non-compassionate and unforgiving leader. In fact, his betrayal of the Emperor in Return of the Jedi is all the more surprising because we have seen him in action during Empire.

We also see the tremendous power of the Empire as the Rebellion is almost completely destroyed by just a few Star Destroyers. This also makes the Rebel victory in Jedi even more surprising considering their “short help.”

On a more personal note, no film has ever had as much impact or influence on me than the Empire Strikes Back. In the summer of 1980, watching the movie was just about the only thing I or my siblings wanted to do. We would work during the week at odd jobs just to earn enough to see the movie one more time. How many times did I see it? I lost track somewhere around 12-15, and that was before it even left the theater.

My brother and I had the entire script memorized. When we weren’t watching it, we would recite the movie from beginning to end by memory, without ever missing a word. We would even imitate the actor’s accent, voice, and tonal inflection when repeating the lines.

Needless to say, I think this film is awesome. Nothing in this movie could have been done better. It is a monumental triumph, and I can’t think of too many other films I’d rather see, even now.