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The Empire Strikes Back

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back

Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Director: Irvin Kershner
Rated: PG
RunTime: 124 Minutes
Release Date: May 1980
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action, Classic

*Also starring: Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness

Review by Brian Koller
4 stars out of 4

Probably the best of the "Star Wars" series, "The Empire Strikes Back" was the sequel to the immensely successful "Star Wars" film from 1977. The follow-up retains the strengths of the original: great sets, costumes, cinematography and special effects. The story is even tighter and with more action than "Star Wars", and there is plenty of quality comic relief. Upon its release, "The Empire Strikes Back" became the second highest grossing film of all time, with only "Star Wars" ahead of it.

The theme once again is good versus evil. Evil is represented by Darth Vader (chillingly voiced by James Earl Jones), made more imposing by his black cape and helmet. Vader represents the Empire, which is bent on interstellar domination. Battling Vader is Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), cynical but passionate Han Solo (Harrison Ford), lovely but humorless Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), marvelous clumsy comic relief invention and robot C3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels), feisty, bleeping robot R2D2, and incoherent but endearingly loyal Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

Skywalker takes time out from battling the Empire to receive training from wise, aged Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz), while Solo and company try to hide from the Empire on a planet run by the unpredictable Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams).

"The Empire Strikes Back" is a highly entertaining film. It is difficult and even pointless to look for flaws, although one could ask why only a handful of creatures can effectively use the Force, and one can wonder if those who can use the Force constitute an exclusive club that one can still attend even after death. You may conclude that Imperial Stormtroopers are all really bad shots and should attend remedial marksmanship classes, while their counterparts manning the controls of Empire ships share their inability to hit a target.

In the end, the viewing must discard a cynical approach to the film, and simply enjoy the production values that come from a massive budget and meticulous planning by producer George Lucas. The dual protagonists of Skywalker and Solo, working independently, with different goals and methods, and yet acting in concert against the Empire, creates much more variety and depth than found in a typical action film. Minor elements of the film, such as Vader's method of promoting Empire officers, and his sinister pleasure in serving Solo to the Alien bounty hunter, work very well. And comic relief is always around the corner, especially from C3PO, but also from Yoda and Solo.

Copyright 1980 Brian Koller

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