|Directed by:||Irvin Kershner|
|Written by:||Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett|
|Cast:||Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness|
|Genre:||Science-Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy|
The ultimate space adventure and definitely up for the award of the best STAR WARS movie ever made, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK checks off every mark from the “perfect movie” handbook with action galore, an intriguing story that’s always moving, characters that you really care about, awesome good guys, vicious bad guys, space battles, lightsaber clashes, Jedi training, memorable one-liners (“Laugh it up, fuzzball!”), humor, drama, romance and so much more (seriously, I ain’t kidding!). The film starts off with a bang in the wintery wonderland of the planet Hoth, with its burly Taun-Tauns and palpable cold weather, and keeps up the wicked pace all the way through with various adventures intertwining, fun camaraderie between our gang of heroes and plenty of darkness, which is rare in a STAR WARS flick. There’s also no sign of dorks like Jar-Jar hanging about with every other character bringing something useful to the proceedings. Han Solo is the tough and tumble dude, Luke is the hero (although for some reason, he turns into a whiny bitch when Yoda’s training him…use the Force, a-hole!), Princess Leia is the beeyatch, but also adorable as heck, Chewbacca is the brute force, C-3PO is the straight man/comic relief and R2-D2 is damn cute and helpful. No “meesa” shit here. Every character is appreciated and complementary to their space exploits.
There’s also the film’s glorious score by John Williams which always adds an extra level of coolness to the suspenseful events, the nostalgic scroll outline of the plot at the beginning of the film, the fun scene transitions which make it all feel like a sci-fi comic book and the relentless action all around. The story is also consistently gloomy and foreboding of something worse to come and pretty much all of the special effects are used to accentuate the plotline, not take away from it. Even the whole “swamp” scene with Luke and Yoda hooking up is a winner, particularly when the latter first pops into the movie and basically comes off like a total goof (I love when he leans into Luke’s stuff and starts messing around…fun times). The swamp area is also very well designed, looking as damp, grungy and authentic as you’d expect it to be (and how about that slow-motion scene with Vader popping out of nowhere…creepy shite!). Another great thing about this picture, and something that really takes it to that extra level in my opinion, is the sexual tension between Solo and Leia. I love how he always refers to her as “your worship” and how the bickering ultimately transforms into a full-blown kiss (you go, Solo…no more “solo” flights for you!).
But the film doesn’t stop there, adding plenty more coolness to the mix, starting with Darth Vader, who continues to breathe heavily and scare the shit out of everyone around him, including yours truly (I don’t blame the guy for being so quick on the draw with his captains either…I’m not sure who hires these maroons, but they’re all a bunch of incompetent putzes!), and Boba Fett, who is a badass bounty hunter like no other (and now that we’ve all seen EPISODE 2- ATTACK OF THE CLONES, we know why the dude is so pissed all the time). Lando Calrissian also adds a layer of suaveness to the mix, the Stormtroopers are always looking slick and even Obi-Wan Kenobi himself pays a visit to toss some advice around the campfire. In the end, there was no way that I was going to complete this book without including one of the STAR WARS movies as a slick flick, and even though the original tale of a galaxy far, far away is probably my sentimental favorite, this sequel is definitely the darker, the more action-oriented and the funner of the bunch. Of course, this one also holds a few surprises up its sleeve (mum’s the word), and ends on one of the more interesting open-ended conclusions in the series. All in all, a fun time in the world of the stars and droids, packed with humor, adventure and romance, a superb score, excellent battle sequences, and Vader getting as nasty as he wants to be (ouch, that’s my hand, man!). Now if I could only use the Force to levitate the TV remote control and nachos right next to me and my pillow…the Empire would be in real trouble then.
The coolest thing about this movie is the multitude of characters who inhabit this extraordinary world. Starting with the scary snow yedi (aka the Wampa monster) who kidnaps Luke in the very first scene, to the disgusting Taun-Tauns who take the boys around in the nasty blizzard, to the Imperial AT-AT Walkers, easily one of the most ineffective battle machines ever created, but damn cool looking, to Boba “fuck you” Fett, Lando Calrissian, that piece of shit Millenium Falcon and Yoda and his wicked mind tricks. All of them, along with our faithful crew of freedom fighters, are pretty much what make this flick the cooler of the bunch and the all-out entertainment capital of the STAR WARS saga, no matter how many times you watch it.
Interesting tidbits about the film and its stars:
Unbeknownst to many, George Lucas only directed the first of the original STAR WARS trilogy flicks. This installment was directed by Irvin Kershner, produced by Gary Kurtz and written by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett. Lucas received credit for the story here and was the executive producer on the project. In his early twenties, George Lucas was in a severe road accident and spent several months in the hospital. It was during his time in the hospital that he apparently came up with the concept of the Force. The first draft of this script was entitled “F*ck the Empire”, but was apparently turned down by the MPAA and had to be changed to…just kidding! (just making sure that you’re paying attention) On the planet Hoth, one of the generals says “Send Rogues 10 and 11 to sector 38," a veiled reference to THX 1138, one of Lucas’ earlier films. PS: Jar-Jar Binks is one annoying SOB (but I’m assuming that most of you already know that). Yeah, yeah, I know that he has nothing to do with this movie, but he was just so annoying in THE PHANTOM MENACE, that he actually spilled over into this review. Meesa want to slap you out!
NOTE: This review was originally published in my 2002 book entitled "JoBlo.com presents...The 50 Coolest Movies of All-Time". Please note that these reviews are dated, and the book actually features my own PERSONAL list of faves from 1970-2000 or so.