Continuing on with my review series of the Star Wars films is Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. If you haven’t read the review of A New Hope, know that these critiques come from having seen this movie for the first time very recently. As always I try to give the facts with these reviews, and as good as the Star Wars series is, it still has flaws.
Overall, I’d say that this movie suffers from the same dilemma many movie or TV series sequels are crippled by. The first movie was made as a stand alone, enjoyable piece, whereas the second one was made with the intent that there would be at least one movie or season to follow it. As a result, A New Hope was a much stronger movie. Episode V sets many pieces into place that I’m interested to see to their fruition, but it doesn’t end as well. That being said, the weird part about this is that I’d say the actual climax is much better in Episode V.
In The Empire Strikes Back, we explore a lot more of the universe, both geographically and politically. We get to see the ice planet Hoth, the swamps of Dagobah, Cloud City, and even the lesser locations like the asteroid field have their own sort of intrigue to them. Exploring different star systems like this effectively ‘prove’ that this story is taking place all over the galaxy. This movie also does a great job at showing just how grave a threat the Empire really is. We thought star destroyers were big until we see the Executor class ship, and then we see how Lando is powerless to stop Vader from doing anything he wants. There is no deal. There is “You will do as I say or the Empire will be watching your city far more closely than you’d like.” Lastly, we see how insanely strong Vader is as he uses the Force to choke an Imperial Officer on a communications monitor from who knows how far away. Even knowing the main plot, I was surprised. On top of that, we see the Emperor for the first time, and watching how submissive Vader is to him is chilling.
The fight scene between Luke and Vader was completely unexpected. I thought that it was the defining moment of the trilogy, and seeing it fall together in the second movie was surprising. In this movie the lightsaber battles are still pretty lacking, but I would argue that while those scenes show the films’ age, I imagine they are still pretty good for the era. It isn’t the fight that makes that scene good. It’s how vastly outmatched Luke obviously is here. It’s to be expected, as well. Luke never finished his training and he is trying to stand up against one of the most powerful Sith of the Empire. (And it’s here I realize that the name ‘Sith’ has never been mentioned as of yet. I wonder why that is?)
As far as shortcomings go, again, this movie has a weak ending. The climax battle is solid, but the denouement is really strange. I simply had so many questions I have no clue where the sixth episode will go. For example, I don’t know why Lando & Chewie split up from Luke & Leia. Lando is going to Tatooine to save Han, which makes sense, but what are Luke & Leia doing? I imagine the next step for Luke is to finish his Jedi training, but there was literally no destination established for them, and Leia being there leaves me wondering. If Luke goes back to Dagobah and Leia goes to do some Rebel leadership stuff, why not split them up at the end of Episode V? It just seems really weird because I’m left with no clear indication of our main characters’ immediate objectives. Also, it seems thematically strange to sever Luke’s hand only to solve that problem with a prosthetic less ten minutes later. It seems like giving him a prosthetic would have been a scene better suited midway into the last movie. Of course I say this not having any clue what the next movie will entail. Maybe this was the only scene it makes sense to have happened in.
As a side note, I hate relationships in basically all mediums. It’s a strong personal bias, I know, but it’s just unnecessary. The main characters don’t need to fall in love in ever single movie ever made. Taking this movie/series in particular, I don’t understand the love triangle with Leia. If she ‘falls in love’ with Han, why have that weird incest thing with Luke at all? (Yes, I realize they don’t know they’re siblings.) I also don’t believe that Leia could go from barely tolerating Han to in love with him. I get that she’s supposed to be in love with him the whole time and is simply in denial the first half, but it transitions very poorly. It seems weird that she goes from denial to very sudden acceptance to “I love you” in the span of a few days. Maybe I’m just ignorant on that front, but it just takes me out of the movie when those scenes happened.
So, I’m excited for the last movie. All I know is that there is a battle on Endor with wookies and ewoks, and also there’s a second Death Star. Obviously Boba Fett will be a larger character, as well, given what happened in this movie, and the Emperor will probably make some bigger appearance, too, given he’s the ‘big bad’. So, stay tuned for next week.