The film to find the perfect balance
The Empire Strikes Back is the Best of the Star Wars Saga The Star Wars saga is one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Star Wars is loved and cherished by people all over the world, and has become a pop-culture phenomenon. Since 1977, George Lucas has released a total of six films in his epic space opera that deals with the age old battle of good versus evil. There is much debate about which film is the best of the saga, or which trilogy is better.
If you peruse the old world wide web on this subject, you will see quite a few fans proclaiming that The Empire Strikes Back, the fifth film, is the best film in the saga. I am one such fan who subscribes to this belief. The Empire Strikes Back is the one film to find the perfect balance in story, visual effects and sound that lets it stand out from the rest. The first Star Wars film released in 1977 had become the most popular film of all time. Star Wars had action, adventure, interesting characters and a great story that left it’s new found fans eagerly awaiting a sequel.
When The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters in May of 1980, fans were treated to a film that improved upon everything they loved about Star Wars, but it was also much more mature. This turned some people away and thus the film was not as successful as the first. In the years since then, Lucas has released the first three films of the saga, and updated the original trilogy of films with new footage and special effects, which pleased some fans and infuriated others. He recently released all six Star Wars films on Blu-ray for fans to enjoy in all of their high definition glory.
Even though the saga was completed seven years ago, the Blu-ray release has added more fuel to the debate of which one of the six films is the best. For many reasons, The Empire Strikes Back shines above the rest. This movie has the popcorn fun of the other five films, but the storyline is much more mature with it’s dark and gloomy tone. In Star Wars, good triumphed over evil, medals were awarded and the Rebel Alliance celebrated well into the night. The Empire Strikes Back is quite the opposite, the evil Empire has the upper hand and our heroes face tragedy at every turn.
Luke Skywalker almost dies numerous times, fails to complete his Jedi training, gets his hand cut off and then attempts to fall to his death when he receives a shocking revelation. Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia spend half of the film in space, relentlessly pursued by Darth Vader and the Imperial fleet. These fast paced roller coaster chase scenes are filled with tension and adrenalin, giving you a sense of urgency as Han desperately searches for a way to escape capture. Darth Vader eventually catches up with Han and his friends at Cloud City, where he tortures them to lure Luke Skywalker to their rescue.
The dark and gloomy storyline of this film is what makes it so great. You realize that heroes like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are human after all. They can be hurt, defeated and even killed. That realization pulls you into the story and you become part of the film. All of the Star Wars films do that on some level, but The Empire Strikes Back does it the best. Another important aspect about the darker story and tone of this movie is character development. We learn more about the set of characters in The Empire Strikes Back than we do in any other Star Wars film.
The character of Han Solo received the most development. In Star Wars, Han was a cocky and charming smuggler who looked out for no one but his ship, his co-pilot Chewbacca and of course, himself. In this film, he is still cocky and charming, but now he is a general with the Rebel Alliance and fights for the cause. He and Luke Skywalker have become close friends, with Han playing the role of a father figure who gives advice and reminds Luke to be careful. Han even risks his own life to save Luke from the freezing cold of planet Hoth.
He also brings a bit of romance to the story line with his interest in Princess Leia, who denies her feelings for Han and rejects his affections. Leia eventually accepts her feelings for Han and embraces him in a kiss. Near the end of the film, Chewbacca is ready to go out in a blaze of glory in an effort to save Han from carbon freeze (induced hibernation). Han knows this foolish attempt would certainly result in Chewbacca’s death, so he reasons with Chewbacca to save it for another day, and to promise that he will look after Leia.
Han and Leia share one last kiss before he is placed in carbon freeze. Han’s final act of heroism is putting Leia and his friends first, quite a change of character from the first film. Another important development in this film has to do with The Force. The first film didn’t reveal much about this mystical power, but The Empire Strikes Back uncovers the mystery of the force when Luke Skywalker receives training from Yoda. Yes, we see plenty of Jedi using The Force in the prequel trilogy, but this film fully introduced us to this magical power first. For those that do not know, films four, five and six were released first due to technology restraints. ) The Empire Strikes Back revealed that The Force can be used for far more than messing with the minds of Stormtroopers. Yoda shows us just what is possible with the power of The Force when he uses it to lift a submerged space ship out of a swamp and places it on dry land. Darth Vader shows us another example of The Force when he rips pipes from a wall and throws them at Luke Skywalker with nothing more than his mind.
These scenes left kids all over the world wishing they could tap into this awesome power. The visuals and special effects in The Empire Strikes Back are some of the best ever put to film. I like the computer generated effects in the prequel trilogy, but they over power the films and detract from the story a bit. The visuals and special effects in the Empire Strikes Back compliment and enhance the story. The planets in this movie are stunning. They were created with loving detail and you believe they are real, rather than sets.
The most impressive setting in this film, or any of the films for that matter, is Cloud City. The sun set in Cloud City is what you find in Colorado, wonderful hues of blue, orange, red and purple. For the longest time, viewers only caught brief glimpses of this beautiful sunset due to technology restraints on the set. This changed 1997 when Lucas released an updated version of the film, one that better captured his original vision. With the help of new digital technology, he was able to knock down walls and add windows to Cloud City, allowing the beautiful sunset to shine through.
The space scenes in this film look slightly dated compared to the prequel trilogy, but nothing in any of the films compares to the asteroid chase scene in The Empire Strikes Back. Nothing. John Williams composed the music for all six Star Wars films and it is legendary. Williams’ score for The Empire Strikes Back compliments the film very well. He takes his cues to from the film and enhances the emotion and tones of the film. The score moves you from one scene to the next at a varying pace, you feel like you are riding a roller coaster of emotion.
You go up on excitement and dip back down into the dark pit of despair, then gradually build a suspenseful moment only to go back down again. If I had to describe to someone how emotions sound, I would play them the score for The Empire Strikes Back. This piece of music is love, this piece is sadness, this is happiness and this is despair. If Williams had not composed the score for the Star Wars films, I believe they may have lacked quite a bit of emotion. The defining moment of The Empire
Strikes Back occurs in the final fifteen minutes of the film when Darth Vader reveals himself to be Luke Skywalker’s father and asks him to turn to the dark side so they can rule the galaxy as father and son. Again, this is diminished by the newer prequel trilogy, but if you forget that those three exist, then you have one of the most compelling and often copied scenes in cinema history. Fans were just as shocked as Luke when he learned the truth, then they received another shock when Luke vowed to never turn to the dark side and jumped into an abyss.
This is by far one of the most iconic and talked about moments of all six films. Thirty one years after its original release, The Empire Strikes Back is still an excellent movie. The darker story, character development, special effects and music are all important parts of this film. When you put them all together, you have a movie that appeals to wide variety of people. From children to adults, there is something magical for everyone in this film. That is why The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars saga.