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The Empire Strikes Back Movie Review

story evil luke special

1980, 1997 (Special Edition) – Irvin Kirshner –

The second installment in the Star Wars trilogy has often been praised as the most complex, and thus the best, of the three space fantasies. Whether its greater complexity makes it a better film is debatable, but The Empire Strikes Back certainly takes the saga in new directions stylistically and thematically. While, like its predecessor, Empire could be described as a delightful, spirited mythical adventure pitting good against evil, it is also a darker—and in some ways—a more philosophical story. Star Wars ended victoriously with the destruction of the Galactic Empire's Death Star by the Rebel Alliance, but little victory is to be found in Empire. From the beginning, when the Empire discovers the hidden location of the Alliance and forces the Rebels to flee across the galaxy, until the end, when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) loses his hand in a battle with Darth Vader, and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is captured by a notorious bounty hunter, the film touches more on loss, personal relationships, and self-discovery.

The Empire Strikes Back is a big film, with a big feel to it. The locations are vast and exotic, and the details, from minor props and alien creatures to grand scale otherworldly sets, are exquisite and elaborate. The story itself is huge, in both its cosmic settings and its plotting, tracing the exploits of a few lone individuals fighting incredible odds against a mighty evil Empire led by potentially unbeatable villains. More significantly, though, the story is mythic in its scope, for at its heart lies Luke's quest to learn more about the mystical powers of the Force and to become a Jedi knight. In his epic quest to become a knight, rescue his friends, and defeat his enemies, Luke discovers timeless inner and cosmic truths about himself and his universe and begins to face the reality that within him lies as much potential evil as exists in his fallen father, Darth Vader. Thus, while Star Wars was a story of youth and more simple understandings of good and evil, The Empire Strikes Back is a story of maturation as Luke gains knowledge and power and is tempted to use that knowledge for evil, which is not as clearly distinguishable as it once was.

In 1997, a special edition of The Empire Strikes Back was released in theaters, featuring enhanced special effects and an improved soundtrack. Although the enhancements add to the visual and auditory feast, the heart of the story needed no enhancement and fortunately remains intact.

Cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Frank Oz (voice of Yoda), Alec Guiness (Obi Wan Kenobi), John Hollis (Lobot), Jack Purvis (Chief Ugnaught), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett) Screenwriter: George Lucas, Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan Cinematographer: Peter Suschitzky Composer: John Williams Producer: Gary Kurtz for Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century Fox; Rick McCallum (Special Edition) MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 124 minutes; 127 minutes (Special Edition) Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards 1980: Sound, Visual Effects; Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration, Original Score (John Williams); People's Choice Awards 1981: Film Budget: $18M Box Office: $290.2M (domestic gross).

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