The cast and crew are back for the long awaited sequel to the original “Star Wars” film and with it, deliver one of the most shocking plot twists in movie history. There’s no such thing as a perfect sequel, but “The Empire Strikes Back” comes as close as any other film has in history. Three years after “Star Wars” became a surprise hit, George Lucas is going bigger with new worlds, new characters and new connections to Jedi lore.
For many Star Wars fans, this is their favorite movie and count me in that camp. I’ve loved this movie since the first time I saw it. It has the best plot development of the entire series. It expands on the worlds we saw in the first film. Instead of a desert planet and a space station, we now get an ice planet, a swamp planet and a city in the clouds.
Let’s talk about that plot twist during the lightsaber battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. In 1980, it was the most shocking direction George Lucas could’ve taken the series. In the 40 years since, it’s been duplicated so many times that it’s almost impossible to be surprised anymore. But, they had the opportunity at the time, and for all of his faults with dialogue, Lucas knocked this one out of the park. Mark Hamill has told a story about how the director Irvin Kershner told him what line James Earl Jones would be saying, as they were hearing a different line of dialogue while filming, and he was in complete shock. After keeping the secret until premiere night, after the line was delivered, Hamill says Harrison Ford turned to him and said “Hey kid, you didn’t tell me that.” It was a complete shock to all but 3 people upon first viewing. It’s still the best plot twist in cinematic history. And, at times, it feels like Lucas, Disney and whoever has been working on “Star Wars” is putting too much effort in topping that twist rather than just making a good “Star Wars” movie.
Adding new characters to a sequel or prequel can be a tricky business. While not every additional character in the “Star Wars” saga has worked out, the additions in the “The Empire Strikes Back” sure have. Yoda, Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett and Emperor Palpatine have become just as recognizable as the original characters. They’ve only added to our awe and wonder.
Few films have had the expectations this film had and been able to deliver. Critics hated this film when it was released but fans loved it. The decision to show the villains coming out victorious could’ve backfired on George Lucas, but he took a concept grounded in reality (the good guys don’t always win) and made it work better than anyone before or since. It’s been 40 years since “The Empire Strikes Back” hit theaters and it remains the best “Star Wars” movie.
Ranking: 5 stars out of 5.
What did you think of “The Empire Strikes Back?”