Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Review

Director: Irvin Kershner

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science-Fiction

Runtime: 124 minutes (original cut), 127 minutes (Special Edition)

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

The second installment in the Star Wars series, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, goes above and beyond the call of duty for movie sequels. This is no retread of the story found in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). The heroic Rebel Alliance is thrown into disarray after their secret base on the snow planet of Hoth is discovered by the tyrannical Galactic Empire. This is a film that expands and deepens the lore of its franchise.

For many fans, The Empire Strikes Back is the gold standard that all other Star Wars pictures are measured against. This may be a shocker, but it may actually be my least favorite of the original Star Wars trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Hell out of it, but, in terms of storytelling, it’s the middle child of the first three. It doesn’t really do anything wrong, it’s just not the immersive introduction or the cathartic conclusion. It is perhaps the one most reliant on the other two for its story. All of this being said, I readily admit that it’s the most well-made of the series.

The Empire Strikes Back is perhaps most famous for having a moodier tone than the other two films in the original trilogy. Its sense of danger is more palpable than the other entries. The musical score by John Williams is, of course, mind-meltingly effective here, being known for introducing “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” to Earth. The special effects and action sequences will floor you, but it’s the characters that keep the flick together. Also, who could forget about that twist ending, the very best of its kind?

It does have some very minor faults (like the mighty convenient location of Yoda [Frank Oz] on the swamp planet of Dagobah and the fact that it’s unclear how much time passes in the second act), but The Empire Strikes Back is still one of my very favorite motion pictures. It’s no lazy cash-grab made to piggyback on the success of the original. It’s the real deal. If you want to watch it, make sure to view the unaltered, original cut of the movie, instead of the Special Edition.

My rating is 10 outta 10.

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