Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian). Screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. Directed by Irvin Kershner. Rating: U. Running time: 124 minutes.
Round two, and the galaxy far, far away has suddenly got a whole lot darker. Gone is the warmth of the deserts where C3-PO clowned around so joyously with R2-D2 and Luke. Gone are the casual lessons on using lightsabers from Ben-Kenobi and the strangely lighthearted feeling ‘battles’ on A New Hope‘s Death Star. Star Wars came back to the screen with its characters in all out war. Metaphorically and physically, from the start it’s all of a sudden a whole lot colder. The Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke and the Wookie Chewbacca we had come to love, are hiding out on a planet of snow and ice, whilst Vader continues his voyage through space, intent on destroying them and securing universal dominance.
Things may have gotten gloomy, but that doesn’t stop every location we’re taken to in Lucas’ world from being just as impressively scary and stunning as they were in A New Hope. The most notable is undoubtedly the swamp-like forest world in which that 800 year old Jedi master, Yoda dwells. He is awaiting Luke’s arrival so Luke can be properly lectured in the ways of the force, and he is a wonderful addition to our collection of lovable non-human creatures. He might be a green midget with long ears, but he spouts out enough words of wisdom to last a lifetime and entertains as much as C3-PO does, without going any way to undermining the saga’s new tone.
We also have a new city amongst the clouds, and this is the place the film gravitates towards as a battle causes the Alliance to fragment. Luke heads off for his training, whilst Han, Leia and co. flee in the Millenium Falcon, hiding in a dinosaur’s mouth on an asteroid belt rock (yes, really) before being lured into a Vader-inspired trap. Luke’s soon on the scene too to battle it out. And here that now infamous revelation is made that I can safely tell in the knowledge that it is no spoiler: Darth Vader is Luke’s father. The battle of the force between the Jedis and the Dark Side is literally a battle of blood.
By the end of Episode V, Star Wars and its story has reached a level of maturity that its first part had never even hinted at. The fascination of the world had been continued and its utterly compelling characters maintained, whilst a dose of darkness was craftily injected, and with it the saga’s plot drastically deepened.
There’s an eternal tendency in humans to talk of films as escapism, and the very best of them are always said to be worlds we can enter time and again and become completely enthralled in. With The Empire Strikes Back, the Star Wars series entered that list of rare gems for all of us.
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Tags: a new hope, c3po, carrie fisher, chewbacca, darth vader, episode v, escapism, george lucas, han solo, harrison ford, princess leia, r2d2, star wars, the empire strikes back, yoda