In anticipation of the brand new Star Wars films, I will finally be expressing my thoughts on the original trilogy plus its prequels. Let’s continue with:
Anyone who calls George Lucas a genius is most probably unaware of how involved he was on the original Star Wars trilogy, which is to say that it was relatively little. These are the good Star Wars films and they are good because they were being made back when people still had the gonads to tell Lucas “no” whenever he came up with something blatantly stupid, which is exactly what people did not do when that same man came back 16 years later to produce prequels.
The Empire Strikes Back he did in fact not even direct. This one, often called the best Star Wars film of all time, is directed by the late Irvin Kirschner, and oh boy, he directed the hell out of this movie!
As the film opens, the Death Star, primary weapon of the evil Galactic Empire, has been destroyed. But the forces of the Empire are still out there, led by the powerful Darth Vader (voice by James Earle Jones; body by David Prowse). On the ice planet of Hoth, current base of the Rebel Alliance, we rejoin our heroes from the last movie; young Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), suave and ego-centric smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), the tough and competent leader of the rebels Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and the beautifully hairy pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The funny droid sidekicks C-3PO and R2-D2 (Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker) are still around as well, lighting up the mood while sexual tension seems to arise in-between Luke, Han and Leia. Because not even in the 80’s would love triangles leave us alone.
The team is split up when they leave the icy planet and Luke, as per the advice of the ghost of his old mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), travels with R2 to the swamp planet Dagobah to meet with the legendary Jedi master Yoda, who of course turns out to be a puppet voiced and operated by Muppets co-creator Frank Oz, and complete his training, all whilst Han Solo and the rest of the gang are on the run from the Empire in a malfunctioning (but still awesome) Millenium Falcon. Eventually, they make it to Cloud City, a metropolis located amongst the skies of Bespin, where they encounter Solo’s old friend, a smarmy criminal named Lando Calrissian (Billie Dee Williams), but even he, it seems, cannot be entirely trusted. Do I even need to tell you what happens?
It all culimates in Luke, despite Yoda warning him that his training is incomplete, going to Bespin to save his friends, only to end up in his first ever confrontation with the far more powerful Vader, who may or may not kinda sorta be related to Luke somehow, I dunno.
This movie is also the first time many of us saw the famous Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch), the dangerous bounty hunter who technically made his debut in the, ahem, not so good Star Wars Holiday Special. All he really does in this film is kinda outsmart Han Solo at one point and then stand around and wait to deliver Solo’s eventually carbonite-frozen body to the clutches of notorious gang lord Jabba The Hutt, so I’m honestly not entirely sure what the true fundamental source of Boba’s popularity is. Maybe it’s the jetpack.
I know this all seems like stuff that we should all know by now, but I can assure you that there are still people out there who need to be told how good these films are. Largely, it has to do with the fact that they have done that which must never be done: watched only the prequels and dismissed the entire Star Wars franchise as bad due to, for lack of a more apt term, misinformation. They need to be informed which films truly came first, why the franchise is actually important to filmmaking history (absolutely none of which has to do with needlessly much CGI or Hayden Christensen), and that The Empire Strikes Back will always be where Star Wars upped its game and truly left its immortal mark.
When people compare Guardians of the Galaxy to Star Wars, they likely refer to the first one, since that one was more similar in tone and fun factor. The Empire Strikes Back is the movie that ups the darkness of the storyline and the complexity of the characters, as well as its intriguing mythology surrounding “the Force”, making it so much more than just an entertaining and fun science fantasy film. Even if the special effects and promises of crazy space action is what attracted us, it was the characters, their development and their relationships with one another that made us stay with it, and it with us.
I theorize that even Lucas himself understood how important this movie is, seeing as he left it relatively untainted and free of needless enhancements for the VHS, DVD and Blu-ray re-releases. I even somewhat appreciate the fact that, for the DVD, the original hologram of the ever iconic Emperor Palpatine, originally played by a woman with super-imposed chimp eyes (!?) and dubbed over by Clive Revill, was replaced with a hologram of the man who played the him in the next sequel and the prequels – Ian McDiarmid. It’s nice way to add consistency and surely makes more sense than replacing Boba Fett’s intimidating voice (Jason Wingreen) with the inifinitely more uninteresting one of Temuera Morrison, who portrayed Boba’s father Jango in the prequels, not to mention Jango’s clones. More on that nonsense when we get there.
For now, let it just be known that I agree with the millions upon millions who have called this the greatest of the Star Wars films. It truly has the best effects, the most gripping character writing, and a great cliffhanger ending that only left us wanting more great adventures accompanied by John Williams tunes. It is, as charged, the best.
Will it change when the new movies come out? I’ve heard that the upcoming three new episodes might just be the beginning of a Star Wars film series that’s about as expansive as the James Bond series. Some will think that this will be too much or overwhelming to take in, but think of it like so: the more Star Wars movies they make with new directors and new storylines, the more likely you are to discover an entirely new favourite in the future, and the more movies that exist, the less the prequel trilogy will matter. I dare say that we’ve got a wonderful future ahead of us.