I’m so close to seeing The Force Awakens that I feel like I’m about to explode. If you’re not aware yet, here at BTG Lifestyle we’re reviewing all 6 Star Wars films including the original and prequel trilogies. Today I bring you a review for what is objectively the best Star Wars film to date – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Yes, that’s clearly an opinion, but let me explore why I think that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film out there.
The Stakes are Higher
If you think the looming threat of a huge Death Star that can destroy planets from the first Star Wars film was a big deal, think again. The Empire is back in full force in this film, which gives the sequel its name. The empire is leading the assault and winning for a large part of this film.
The rebels are in hiding and get attacked, the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive doesn’t work for a large part of the film, our team of heroes gets separated very early one, and Darth Vader is out to get Luke and all of his allies, displaying a ridiculous obsession with Skywalker.
The entire tone of this film is a lot darker, illustrated predominantly through Vader’s actions. He kills his own men who fail him, and stops at nothing to get to Luke; which he manages to do at the end of the day.
Empire Strikes Back provides us with an introduction to one of the greatest Jedi Masters and general life teachers ever: Yoda. We are introduced to the Dagobah System where Obi-Wan tells a hallucinating Luke to go for further Jedi training. The look of Dagobah in contrast to the other places in the galaxy that we’ve seen so far is astounding. It looks like a huge swamp, but it seems as tranquil as it is mysterious.
Yoda is such a great character because when we meet him he’s hilarious; full of banter and chirping Luke all the while. At this point Luke (and the audience) doesn’t know that Yoda is a legendary Jedi master, and the great thing is that when we find out who he is, his entire demeanour changes. His persona and actual physical stature changes when we see this other side of Yoda, and it’s simply amazing character work.
The Greatest Twist
This is no spoiler, since the phrase has been rinsed and re-used in popular culture thousands of times by now: “I am your father”. See the video below for the full scene:
What makes this so amazing is that it ties in so well with Vader’s obsession with Luke throughout the film. Vader’s entire campaign comes to a climax in this scene as he faces off with Luke, reveals his true identity, and th two battle it out in one of the most epic lightsaber battles ever.
Luke loses, and Vader offers him the opportunity to join forces, overthrow the Empire and rule the galaxy. Luke being a goody-two-shoes declines the offer and willingly gives up, sacrificing his life. It’s by chance that Leia finds him and they fly off into the proverbial sunset.
Han & Leia’s Romance
I mentioned before that the tone of Empire Strikes Back is a lot darker than the previous film, but the odd things is that the film is also a lot funnier than A New Hope. The banter between Han and Leia is amazing, and so is the dynamic between C3Po, R2D2, and just about everyone else.
In Empire we see Han and Leia’s romance start to blossom, which is way more entertaining and realistic than the soppy shit we got with Padme and Anakin’s love story. We also get one of the greatest responses to “I love you” ever. As Han is abou to be frozen in carbonite, Leia confesses her love to him, to which he replies “I know”. I mean, how badass is that? I also love how they switched this around in Return of the Jedi, so that Leia gets the same badass moment.
The Empire Strikes Back continues to live up to its name, as the Empire hits hard, leaving our heroes in a pretty dire situation by the end of the film. Han is frozen in carbonite and being shipped off to Jabba the Hutt, and Luke has just lost a hand and discovered that the most evil Sith Lord in the galaxy is his father.
Some people, including Joss Whedon have criticised the ending of Empire, stating that the cliffhanger is a betrayal of trust. After all, audiences back in 1980 had to wait 3 years before Return of the Jedi came out. In my opinion, this is the perfect cliffhanger, as it builds everything up, making the next film way more impactful and ensuring that the trilogy as a whole stands as one of the strongest sagas to date.
There is still a glimmer of hope as we get a hint that Leia is force-sensitive when Luke reaches out to her through the Force, and also when our heroes stand and look out at the galaxy beyond; this imagery and the score provide a feeling of comfort for audiences that, despite the tough times, there are better days ahead.
Here’s a collage of a few shots from the film that stand out for me, including Hoth, Dagobah, Han before he gets frozen, Luke and Vader’s final battle, and the closing shot of the film.
Empire has some of the best cinematography in the entire saga. It’s hard to describe what I love about the camera angles and lighting in this film, compared to others, but it just stands out as a very singular look.
The Imperial March
Vader may be the most formidable foe in the galaxy, but up until this point he didn’t have a theme song. In Empire Strikes Back we are introduced to The Imperial March which will become synonymous with Darth Vader and the dread he brings with him. Empire is also out first face-to-face introduction with the puppet master behind all the Sith plans: The Emperor.
Enjoy the Imperial March in the video below:
So quite frankly put, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is a home run. I can’t fault anything about the film from my side. Everything improves from the first film to this one, and it’s one of the few sequels that many people say is better than the original (The Godfather is also in this category – in the minds of some).
Rating: 10/10 (Yes, a perfect score!)
Favourite Part: Luke and Vader battle it out and Luke finds out Vader is his father.
Check out the trailer for Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back below:
The IMDB Synopsis for Empire Strikes Back reads as follows:
“After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.”