Bullet Points: The Empire Strikes Back
I know I am not alone when I say that the best film in the original Star Wars Trilogy was The Empire Strikes Back.
All three of the films in the original Star Wars Trilogy were ground breaking. No one can deny that Star Wars changed the game. No other movie franchise before it created an entire universe the way Star Wars did and no other movie franchise marketed that universe quite like Star Wars did and still does.
But what makes The Empire Strikes Back stand out as the best of the best…
- Who Wants More?: After the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Empire’s pride and joy, the Death Star, in Episode IV. The Empire is pretty pissed off, so they Strike Back and hard. Darth Vader knows Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) either needs to be eliminated or turned to the dark side, especially if he wants to get his boss and mentor Emperor Palpatine off his back. So Vader uses Luke’s friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and C-3pO (Anthony Daniels) as bait to lure Luke into a confrontation with “The Dark Lord of the Sith”. In wrestling terms, this movie is all about the heels getting heat. They are sticking it to our heroes left and right in this movie and when it ends you leave the theater wanting more… you want to see Luke and Leia and Han dish out some intergalactic justice to the Empire. So “the wanting more” already puts this one ahead of Episode IV, which could have been a one and done (and in some alternate universe where Star Wars was a total flop it was the first and final film) or Episode VI, which had the happy ending and all the main bad guys were eliminated and it really seemed like there was nowhere to go from there… although apparently there was and we’ll find out where we are going this December.
- Who’s Your Daddy?: Another reason Empire rises above the rest, is the shocking revelation that Darth Vader did not kill Luke’s father Anakin Skywalker, he IS Luke’s father. This reveal was huge, unlike in Return of the Jedi when Vader unmasks and he looks like an egg head. Hayden Christensen does not age well apparently. And if I some how spoiled the Vader is Anakin Skywalker for anyone, I will refuse to apologize. The movie was released 32 years ago!
- Welcome to the Party: A New Hope set the bar really high giving the movie world so many memorable characters, one would think it would be impossible to top themselves in the sequel… but three added characters proved they could top themselves. First there was Lando Calrissian (played by the incomparable Billy Dee Williams), then there was fan favorite Boba Fett (and if he’s not the first Star Wars character to have his own spin off movie Disney is making a huge mistake) and possibly one of the most important characters in the entire Star Wars Universe is introduced… Yoda the Jedi Master!
- The Action: I believe the action went up a notch in Empire. The Rebels had to fight mechanical dinosaurs on the ice planet Hoth, there was a space chase between the Millennium Falcon and the Empire that ended up in an asteroid field and we had a more expansive lightsaber duel in Empire than we did in A New Hope.
About the only thing Empire did wrong was it set the bar so high that there was going to have to be some level of let down for the next installment. So by that argument, The Prequel Trilogy has done the Disney reboot the greatest favor of them all by setting the bar low.
Let’s keep this May the 4th (Be With You) celebration going a little longer with a few more Empire Strikes Back Bullet Points…
- March Madness: The importance of the John Williams music in the Star Wars Trilogy can not be denied. And short of the main Star Wars theme, no other piece of Star Wars music is as well known as The Imperial March. Another reason Empire is the best!
- Space Age Love Song: Empire is the film that begins to develop the romantic relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia. Many times romantic subplots can be a real downer, but Han Solo is so damn cool it only makes sense that the one female in the universe falls in love with him.
- The Moment of Anticipation: I don’t recall any commercial for a movie causing me to lose my ever loving mind quite the way The Empire Strikes Back commercial did. If I could have bottled the euphoria 7 year old me felt seeing that commercial I would be a very rich man right now.