|Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams
Director: Irvin Kershner
ALSO! Be sure to read our review of the "Star Wars Trilogy" DVD.
The second film in one of the greatest trilogies ever made, George Lucas’ “The Empire Strikes Back” also stands as one of the greatest sequels, second perhaps only to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather: Part II,” depending on your tastes. Offering up yet another well-prepared dish of Jedi fun with a darker story and new characters --including Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) -- the film has enough new tricks to keep the story rolling along at warp speed.
The film’s immense success may be due to the fact that film geeks love to see the bad guy win every once and a while, or at least witness the downfall of the movie’s protagonists (i.e. Vader slicing off Luke’s hand and Han getting frozen in carbontie). But like every other installment in the “Star Wars” saga, the appeal of “The Empire Strikes Back” stems from one thing: the story. And Lucas’ space opera only gets better when the audience is treated to a continuing storyline that places two friends in a tug-of-war for the love of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). After successfully blowing up the Death Star in the previous film, Rebel forces appear to have the upper hand in the ongoing battle between good and evil until Darth Vader orders his forces to attack the Rebel base located on the icy planet of Hoth. While Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia head for refuge in Cloud City with old friend Lando, Luke (Mark Hamill) heads to Dagobah in order to continue his Jedi training under the wise Yoda to prepare for his inevitable battle with Vader.
“Empire” delivers plenty of exciting lightsaber duels and space combat while also serving up some nice comedic moments (thanks to Han’s abrasive one-liners and Yoda’s amusing philosophies) and a deeper investigation of the father-son motif only hinted at in the original. In the second installment, not only does Han become more romantically involved with Leia during their time away on Cloud City, but Luke also learns the truth about his father in perhaps one of the most surprising revelations in film history. Lucas also advances his story brilliantly while managing to step it up in almost every imaginable way without abandoning his primary foundation; a very hard task to accomplish when constructing a sequel. Case in point, “The Empire Strikes Back” is everything you loved about “A New Hope” and more.