Review: Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
It was a dark time for the Rebellion; they had been driven from their base and were being pursued across the galaxy by the Empire. A group of freedom fighters, led by Luke Skywalker, had established a new base on the ice-covered world of Hoth. The Empire leader, Darth Vader, was obsessed with finding Luke, and had sent thousands of probes to locate him.
Luke believed that he saw an asteroid crash into Hoth, but it was one of Vader’s probes. After he escaped from some dangerous wildlife, he was instructed by the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi to go to Dagobah and train under the great Jedi Master Yoda.
The Empire launched a large-scale attack on Hoth with gigantic AT-AT walker after learning of the Rebel presence from their probe. This forced the Rebels to abandon the planet. This entire Hoth sequence was great; it showed us the power of the Empire, and the desperate state of the Rebellion.
Luke and his droid, R2-D2, crash landed on Dagobah, a planet covered by a large swamp. Luke met Yoda, who did not believe that Luke possessed the patience required to be a Jedi. Yoda reluctantly accepted Luke as a student. We only got to see a small sliver of Dagobah, but it appeared to be a very desolate place; which led the audience to wonder why a Jedi Master has chosen to live on this planet.
Meanwhile, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca left Hoth on the Millennium Falcon. The crew managed to find a great hiding place in an asteroid field after their hyperdrive malfunctioned.
Here we saw that Han and Leia have grown closer and even shared a brief kiss. Boba Fett, a bounty hunter hired by Vader was tracking the Falcon. This portion of the film wasn’t all that great to me.
After evading Boba Fett, the Falcon headed to Cloud City: a floating city on the planet of Bespin that was governed by Lando Calrissian, an old friend of Han’s. Lando betrayed the group and led them straight to Darth Vader, who was already in Cloud City. Vader selected Han to be frozen in carbonite as a test, and it was successful. This part was thrilling and made the entire film worth watching.
Luke got a vision of Han and Leia in pain and decided to leave his Jedi training before he finished. Luke arrived at Cloud City in time to duel Darth Vader, though Han Solo had been taken away by Boba Fett and the others had left on the Millennium Falcon. During the duel we learned that Vader was Luke’s father; Vader also sliced off Luke’s right hand. Luke communicated telepathically with Leia to come and rescue him. Leia sensed this and helped Luke board the Falcon and they escaped from Vader. This was just a fantastic sequence with a great reveal and lots of fun action.
In the end we saw Luke’s severed hand being replaced by a robotic hand. Lando, who had another change of heart, set off in the Falcon with Chewbacca to try and rescue Han Solo. This was a nice ending, that set up the next film in the series very well.
Overall, I believe this movie is the best of the Star Wars franchise. The new characters and locations add depth to the expanded universe; and the story has interesting surprises sprinkled throughout. This film offers the most interesting and surprising moments of the original Star Wars trilogy and establishes a oft-copied, but rarely surpassed formula for plot twists.
Written by Tom C.