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Overall Rating
4.71

Awesome85.25%
Worth A Look: 7.83%
Average: 2.76%
Pretty Bad: 1.38%
Total Crap: 2.76%

5 reviews, 187 user ratings


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Empire Strikes Back, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"The best of the bunch a triumph of pop majesty."
5 stars

For the sake not only of the "Star Wars" saga but of large-scale fantasy filmmaking, we must breathe a word of thanks that George Lucas felt so ass-kicked after having gone through the wringer directing "Star Wars." The best move he ever made was to leave "The Empire Strikes Back" in other, infinitely more capable hands.

To write the screenplay, Lucas selected veteran scribe Leigh Brackett (who worked on, among many others, The Big Sleep back in 1946) and, when Brackett died, fresh-faced Lawrence Kasdan (who'd later go on to direct The Big Chill -- not to mention writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I just enjoy the Big Sleep/Big Chill thing). To direct, Lucas made an unusual choice -- Irvin Kershner, whose biggest successes prior to Empire were the 1970 drama Loving and the 1978 thriller Eyes of Laura Mars. No particular experience or expertise with special effects or droids; no visible credentials to direct the first follow-up to the most wildly lucrative movie in history. Lucas must've seemed insane at the time. But, since he was bankrolling Empire out of his own pocket (as he has done with each subsequent Star Wars entry), who could argue with him? It's pretty certain that 20th Century-Fox wouldn't have signed off on Kershner if given its druthers; if Lucas wasn't going to call the shots himself, let's get a proven sci-fi guy in there, or at least a non-entity we can push around.

It would appear that Empire, of the three Holy Original Trinity, endured the least Special Edition tweaking. This only makes sense: it needed nothing. (I have agreed to accept the new footage of the Wampa on Hoth. Truth to tell, it always seemed a little odd that we never saw more of the thing in the original cut, given how unshy Lucas was about showing off various critters in Star Wars. I can live with the Wampa Version 2.0. As it happens, Lucas was unhappy with the way the original Wampa looked, and -- like Steven Spielberg with Jaws when the shark turned out not to bear close scrutiny -- elected to keep it as much offscreen as possible.) There are no major restored scenes, just polishing here and there. But Empire, even with its visible matte lines in the Hoth sequence and its mostly-invisible Wampa, was always magical. Story? There isn't one, really, as always -- the Star Wars films have a series of incidents, not plots. Still, the movie is carried along -- as no Star Wars movie before or since has been -- by the dual currents of emotion and climate.

Credit Brackett and Kasdan -- the former a real veteran of film noir, the latter an acolyte of same -- for the emotion, particularly the bad-boy-good-girl rapport between Han and Leia. While their dialogue doesn't quite equal that spoken by Bogie and Bacall, in Star Wars context it's urbane and (very rare in this saga) human. Credit, too, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, doing their best collaborative work here. Han acts irritable and macho-superior around Leia; she in turn acts disdainful and flustered; but the key lies in how they actually relax around each other. They are expending a lot of energy trying to deny their attraction (for Han, it must be in part because he doesn't want to hurt Luke), but when the shields come down and they inch into a kiss, their passion has already been so successfully sublimated in their trading of insults that it's as if kissing were just the next logical step.

There's heat, too, in the duel between Luke and Vader, with its symbolic castration and Freudian bombshell. For once, a Star Wars confrontation has reams of subtext. "All too easy," Vader growls when he thinks he's manuevered Luke into the carbon-freezing chamber for good; he sounds almost disappointed -- that the fight is over, and that his son wasn't a worthy opponent. People like to make fun of Mark Hamill's shrieking when he discovers his true lineage, but I find it a perfectly operatic response; the scene contains some of Hamill's finest acting, particularly his expression right before he falls to what, for all he knows, is his sure doom. The look says, "You may kill me, you may kill my friends and control the galaxy -- but you're not going to control me, you bastard."

Kershner was fortunate enough to work with a script boasting a wide variety of climes. From the skin-biting ice of Hoth, to the muggy swamps of Dagobah, to the cotton-candy warmth of Bespin, to the steam and menace of the interiors during the duel, the movie tries on atmospheres and moods as if going through a deep wardrobe. Each section of the film has a stand-out sequence that inspires hyperbole like "best ever": the battle in the snow between the Rebel forces and the hulking AT-ATs is the best combat sequence ever in a Star Wars film and possibly among the best ever, period; the chase through the asteroid field gets my vote as the most exhilarating action sequence in the saga; the entire trilogy's emotional high point is probably the moment when tiny Yoda concentrates and gently lifts the X-Wing out of the water. (John Williams is at his best there, too -- the lilting refrain of "Yoda's Theme" gaining in power until it does justice to Yoda's own power.) Bespin, the Cloud City, seems like a soothing place until you realize the moments of greatest pain happen there -- the dismantling of C-3PO, the torture and later freezing of Han ("They didn't even ask any questions," he moans post-torture, in the closest the saga comes to nihilism), the grief of Leia and Chewbacca, and of course the soul-shaking trials of Luke. Even R2-D2 gets a nasty shock from a power outlet.

Nobody gets out of Empire unscathed; everyone, by the time the end credits roll, is nursing a big personal loss. Luke gets a nice new (robotic) hand, a chilling premonition of what he might become if he's not careful -- a being "more machine than man," as Obi-Wan says of Vader. Empire, alone among its Star Wars peers, is more human than machine. It has room for great pleasure as well as great pain -- the elation of Luke coming into his powers in Dagobah; the blossoming of romance between Han and Leia; the bloodlust of victory on Hoth. All this has its dark side, too: Luke also faces himself on Dagobah (in that superb, Freudian-nightmare moment under the ground); Han and Leia are separated almost as soon as they acknowledge their love (that famous "I love you"/"I know" exchange is perfect succinct screenwriting courtesy of Ford himself, who came up with it on the set); the Rebels don't have much time to enjoy their triumphs over individual AT-ATs before they're forced to retreat.

The title speaks truly: this was the one where the Empire played for keeps. So does the movie.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=218&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/23/06 13:08:38
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User Comments

6/23/14 M Il miglior film della saga 5 stars
2/20/11 Ark Yep! 5 stars
1/21/11 Crow94 Best sequel. 5 stars
7/09/10 Beef The best sci-fi movie of the 20th century 5 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King Superb movie that has lost none of its charm with the passage of time. 5 stars
12/06/09 Jeff Wilder Easily the best Star Wars movie and one of the few sequels to surpass the original. 5 stars
8/10/09 Flounder The best Star Wars film by a mile, and the best sequel in cinema history 5 stars
9/24/08 PAUL SHORTT TECHNICAL VIRTUOSITY AND ENTERTAINMENT INGENUITY 4 stars
7/23/08 the dork knight The best one. Period. 5 stars
7/13/08 Evil Dead Ed The best Sci-Fi sequel I have ever seen! 5 stars
6/17/08 Johnnyfaye Lucas taking crediet for others work....wicked movie. 5 stars
2/29/08 pkr 3 star wars 3 stars
11/09/07 MP Bartley Never gets better than the Hoth opening. 4 stars
11/05/07 charlie rhine i saw this movie in germany (army brat) its my earliest and best cinematic memory 5 stars
4/27/07 Sharlatan yes this is good but the other sw films are utter shit/bar the 1st 5 stars
2/22/07 Nick The best Star Wars movie by far. 5 stars
1/20/07 turd the only really good starwars film all the others bite ass 5 stars
12/24/06 del The greatest STARS WARS film. Period. 5 stars
11/12/06 yoda not my favorite star wars but is as good acting, visual effects, yoda, and great climax. 4 4 stars
10/25/06 David Pollastrini never a big fan 3 stars
7/25/06 David Cohen Best of the Star wars movies, lets hope Lucas doesn't "improve" this one too 5 stars
5/26/06 drydock54321 best of the sw movies 5 stars
5/10/06 omar the best star wars ever 5 stars
12/05/05 cody a good star wars movie,good storyline, but even with yoda, the first half bore, climax save 3 stars
11/01/05 Matt G This is the most effective Star Wars film from a storyline's point of view. 4 stars
10/27/05 chris the battle of hoth says it all for this one!! 5 stars
9/13/05 Zack my favorite starwars movie 5 stars
8/28/05 Quigley that one line is pure cinematic genius. (I am your father) Star Wars rules and so does Yoda 5 stars
8/26/05 ES Star Wars is enjoyed by more people than hated, its clear who the real losers are- love it 5 stars
8/02/05 ALDO the CGI fags ignored this movie and turned Yoda into a d-bag 5 stars
7/20/05 Chris Best SW movie, the prequels are a joke next to it 5 stars
6/21/05 R difficult to believe that the same man made the prequels. 5 stars
6/12/05 Gecko Fanfoot The best of the best. Lucas will never surpass this. Trust me. 5 stars
6/12/05 Manu Ginobli another shitty movie, glorified by you nerds. 1 stars
6/10/05 JD Easily the best of the series, a classic! 5 stars
6/05/05 Ubu the Ripper THIS IS THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN OF SPACE FILMS. Lucas didn't direct it. 'Nuff said. 5 stars
6/02/05 Rishy B Has to be the best S Wars. Darth Vader is gr8, the ending superb, the atmosphere amazing! 5 stars
5/25/05 JFK great sequel 5 stars
5/22/05 Colin Smith Greatest of the Trilogy 5 stars
5/20/05 E-FUNK All other episodes pale in comparison. Kirschner should have directed all of them. 5 stars
5/13/05 dogs Darth Vader is Lukes father. HAHAHA I RUINED THE ENDING! 2 stars
4/26/05 Pippin007 It Ok! Not The Best Star Wars flim. 4 stars
4/18/05 Alex Willoughby My favorite movie! 5 stars
4/13/05 Indrid Cold As good as action scifi gets. An instant, unforgettable classic. 5 stars
2/24/05 Cody a good star wars movie and great follow up! but slower pace and less focus on the story. 4 stars
2/04/05 Dan FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/03/05 keithers.. Best of the series...a must for any sci fi fan 5 stars
12/29/04 t-1000 the second best sci-fi movie ever; still, really cool movie! 5 stars
12/09/04 Kristina Williams Luke....well, you know the rest 5 stars
11/14/04 X $ % & ! NO! NOT AGAIN!!!! 1 stars
9/21/04 Vicious Probably the best and deepest of the saga. 5 stars
8/19/04 courtney one word GREAT!!!! enough said 5 stars
8/02/04 keithers the peak or lucas career...he goes only down hill from here 5 stars
7/10/04 Bobbo The 2.5% who said total crap should go kill themselves. This movie was incredible 5 stars
6/01/04 Nobody A great sci-fi flick in the tradition of A New Hope. 5 stars
5/01/04 Read it, Seen it, Done it The best of the original Star Wars series 5 stars
2/05/04 c.r I like the story and visual effects plus I thought Yoda training Luke was pretty cool! 3 stars
1/31/04 Flounder One of the greatest movies of our time 5 stars
1/25/04 Elena Luke Skywalker is so hot and this film is entertaining and suspenseful. 5 stars
12/08/03 john phenomenal sequel as good as the original 5 stars
12/07/03 admiral piett I loved it 5 stars
11/04/03 American Slasher Goddess The movie that created the dark middle sequels. The best of the series. 5 stars
10/06/03 DM Better than the original - "I am your father" was my biggest movie surprise EVER 5 stars
8/19/03 Hewdam BEST STAR WARS EVER!!!!! 5 stars
8/11/03 Mike Krasienko Dog dis iz like wid litzabers and niggas dyin and shit dog i luv it nigga-dog 5 stars
7/23/03 Rod Johnston This movie is greater than a game of Dance Dance Revolution! 5 stars
7/17/03 MadMatt Absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, the best Star Wars movie - ever!!!! 5 stars
6/25/03 Dave This is quite frankly, the greatest movie ever made, bar none! 5 stars
5/26/03 Bobo Amazing movie! Best Sci-Fi battle scenes ever. 5 stars
5/13/03 John The Polymer Man A visual cornucopia full of warmth, darkness, betrayl, and awesome duels! 5 stars
4/24/03 GWB oh yeah awesome classic 5 stars
4/19/03 Ubu the Ripper This is the best of all of them. (Maybe because Lucas DIDN'T direct? Hmmm). A classic. 5 stars
4/17/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik Awesome indeed. 5 stars
4/03/03 Mr. Do it's one in a million. great movie. so much dedicated hard work to make it great as it is. 5 stars
3/13/03 Flounder I don't know what Dan Lipian means by weak because this one is the best of the trilogy! 5 stars
3/09/03 Lipian's ass shank great movie. bar none! 5 stars
3/05/03 jack b nimble Greatest movie of all time! No one will ever make anything better 5 stars
2/18/03 stuntman there never be another movie as good as this again 5 stars
2/12/03 STEVE SEE EPISODE 2 THINK YAH ITS OK SEE THIS AND YOUWILL REMEMBER TRUE MAGIC OF FILMMAKING!!!!!! 5 stars
2/07/03 Never you mind Don't worry about it 5 stars
2/05/03 Jack Sommersby By far, the best of the series. Sheer magnificence in every frame. 5 stars
1/14/03 Kaminoan Monster W. Kung you are a moron incapable of higher mental thought processing! 5 stars
12/20/02 Jack Phillips its time to feel the force..... 5 stars
11/28/02 Ahhhhh!!!! Truly the best Star Wars, and a great film in its own right. Shames crap like ROTJl. 5 stars
11/26/02 Jameson Hey, Monster W. Kung, you are a fucking moron. Go back to China! 5 stars
11/20/02 Jack Wolverton By Far The Greatest Star Wars Movie, And One Of The Best Movies Ever Made 5 stars
11/18/02 Monster W. Kung Very overrated, just like Star Wars. 3 stars
11/07/02 Joseph Stark II This movie is exceptional on every level. The greatest movie ever made bar none! 5 stars
10/20/02 Flounder This is what sci-fi is all about. Truly the greatest fantasy-sci-fi movie ever made. 5 stars
9/06/02 Vince my girlfriend has nver seen star wars 5 stars
8/14/02 Tim clones can never compare to this movie. Original Star wars all the way. 5 stars
7/27/02 TLsmooth The greatest movie ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/25/02 murat Great film a classic a must to see.Is that guy made robocop 2? 5 stars
7/21/02 KMG I LIKED THE BASTARD GETTIN' HIS HAND LOPPED OFF 4 stars
7/11/02 Phoenix The best in the series. Perfect in every aspect. 5 stars
7/04/02 gary vidmar A great movie no doubt, but not the best. A must-see though,. 5 stars
6/14/02 Mama Vidmar My son Gary is a failure to the family. This movie was awesome! 5 stars
6/07/02 Joe Levy This undoubtedly the greatest sci-fi movie ever! No contest! 5 stars
5/22/02 P.Rodriguez The best one made. (at least until ep 3 comes out.....I hope : ) 5 stars
5/13/02 BrodieMan Best of the Trilogy. This adventure has it all ! 5 stars
4/27/02 maximal01 Darker and more serious; makes A New Hope seem bush-league. 5 stars
2/27/02 Shrike Quality Star Wars before that EP1 tripe 5 stars
2/27/02 Bront darkest movie ever, thats what makes it awesome 5 stars
1/25/02 murat A feast to movie lovers with princess bride a bit dark but you will be amazed 5 stars
1/16/02 David A. Best of the Star Wars Movies--best plot, most action, most lovable aliens. 5 stars
12/02/01 travis r. sorensen better than the original and lando is really cool and suave 5 stars
10/24/01 Connoisseur represents everything I like about star wars 5 stars
10/21/01 Mr Happy Easily the best this series has had to offer 5 stars
10/11/01 P.Rodriguez Teen Movie Critic... you're an idiot! Nuff Said. 5 stars
9/30/01 Gary This is my least favorite of the trilogy..still good though 4 stars
9/25/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Luke I...am your Father!!! god i love that line! 5 stars
9/06/01 spaceworm Mother of all spoiler alerts! The whole series owes its heft to this one. 5 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Not as good as the first, but still nice. 4 stars
7/15/01 Rampage magnificient SW movie I've seen 5 stars
7/02/01 TLsmooth my name BART. i we todd it. sofa king we todd it. 5 stars
6/30/01 Chris Best movie in the series, one of the best films of all time 5 stars
6/28/01 Steve Yoda snubbed in Best Acor catagory! 5 stars
5/22/01 R.W. Welch Not as blindingly original as Star Wars but reaaonably close. 4 stars
4/16/01 Del R Wife doesn't understand the fascination, hell, it's star wars baby! 5 stars
4/06/01 fifu the best of the triology 5 stars
4/02/01 Jesse L This film rocks! 5 stars
3/17/01 BART This is a pethetic excuse of a motion picture. 1 stars
3/02/01 J.C. The best sequel ever made! 5 stars
2/27/01 Steve in Prague FUCK YOU TEEN MOVIE CRITIC II YOU LITTLE LESBIAN CUNT!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/15/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi teen movie critic II: GET FUCKED!!! A damn-near perfect movie. 5 stars
1/24/01 Lord Raymos Best movie ever made!! Better than the original. 5 stars
1/20/01 viking the darkest of the original triliogy. 5 stars
12/27/00 Turtle The worst of the Star Wars movies. Highly, highly overrated. 4 stars
12/22/00 Destruction Worker Awesome movie.....now where's the stinkin' DVD?!? 5 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla the most intense of the three, er.. four episodes, soon, six, wow 5 stars
11/28/00 G Mark Hamill is an excellent actor in this movie! 5 stars
11/21/00 The Bill Head Mammoth film experience which improves on the first..nothing short of magnificent! 5 stars
11/14/00 The EVIL Penguin An insult to science, drama, and science fiction 1 stars
11/09/00 beavis great action, great dialogue, great effects... what more do you want? 5 stars
6/30/00 Deckard The only TRUE masterpiece in the Star Wars franchise. Thanks,Kershner! 5 stars
5/31/00 danilo greatest sequel ever made 5 stars
5/27/00 Bruce If only all sequels were this good. 5 stars
5/14/00 Olga Best of the series... but Mark Hamill can't act!!! 4 stars
5/04/00 Hi there The Force is strong in this movie. 5 stars
4/19/00 malcolm better than New Hope ... ? shah ... as if ... 4 stars
4/16/00 BB-15 By far, the best of the series. 5 stars
4/13/00 Rita Best of the Trilogy. 5 stars
4/10/00 Matthew Bartley So boring 2 stars
4/02/00 perverted pixie Yep, this one's the best. 5 stars
3/24/00 Bruce Stronger than "Star Wars" 5 stars
3/01/00 Ionicera The best one. Too bad the series had to nosedive with Return of the Jedi 5 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski WOO-HOO!!! I wanna be a Jedi, too!! 5 stars
1/19/00 Jedi15 A dark, fun, imaginiative entry into the series. 5 stars
1/09/00 John Markham Worst of the lot. No focus and no direction. 2 stars
12/23/99 bullit17 Star Wars began my love of sci-fi. ESB took it to a whole new place. 5 stars
11/12/99 Pino THE best movie ever made 5 stars
11/10/99 Gary Durso oh yeah baby!!! 5 stars
8/02/99 Physh "Kershner...brilliant man. Thank you a hellava lot for Boba Fett." 5 stars
7/05/99 Ben Leostein Rating: **** (out of ****) Category: "Excellent" 5 stars
6/15/99 Dylan This is easily the best Star Wars flick. 5 stars
6/10/99 The Bison George Lucas's license to print money continues. 5 stars
5/28/99 Bob, Lord of Evil Everyone knows this one was the best. Everyone. 5 stars
5/27/99 Allen Paulsen Good sfx 4 stars
5/10/99 Arkansas Jon The dark anchor of the trilogy. Gives us the drama AND the action. 5 stars
5/08/99 Ghost The best in the trilogy!!! GO YODA!!! 5 stars
4/30/99 Lucas jackson This was an awesome movie full of action,adventure and great acting with a great story 5 stars
4/07/99 A-Dawg IT IS SUPER RAD! It kicks all other movies in the gutter! 5 stars
3/27/99 Rob Mckechnie Is there another film similar or as good as this film? I think not. 5 stars
2/01/99 Vick Di Brecci Just another chapter in a great book. 5 stars
1/31/99 Kyp Proves that Lucas is a genius, and that Kershner is awesome :) 5 stars
1/11/99 I.P. Freeley Awesome! 5 stars
1/10/99 Dasha Long and dull. The WORST in the trilogy. 3 stars
12/15/98 Binky This one had kahoonas. 5 stars
12/13/98 Carl The best character interplay in the whole trilogy makes this the best film in the trilogy! 5 stars
12/06/98 Ryano Not only the best Star Wars film ever made, but the best FILM ever made. Probably. 5 stars
11/17/98 Jules I still watch this one at least twice a year... 5 stars
10/27/98 Silent Rob The 'exodus' chapter of The Holy Trilogy. All the stars aligned on this one! 5 stars
10/24/98 Vincent The ONLY film in the almighty trilogy that stood up to being re-released on the big screen 5 stars
10/01/98 {{{OZ}}} Pretty fucking good, so far as this trilogy goes. 5 stars
9/27/98 katherine STUPID!!!!! 1 stars
9/24/98 Jeff Hayward This was a terrible waste of money. Awful film. 1 stars
9/23/98 ARMA-FUCKN-GEDDON The single BEST movie ever made.. Star Wars comes 2nd with Jedi 5 stars
9/16/98 Trav 1980. The memories are still so vivid, and still so sweet. 5 stars
9/09/98 MikeF My pick of the 3. 5 stars
9/08/98 Swan I watch it over&over just to see Adm Piett sweat! :) 5 stars
9/08/98 Young Einstein Pretty fucking sweet. 5 stars
9/04/98 Badass Beautiful! 5 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball Not dissing this. Millions of netgeeks would hunt me and axe me. 4 stars
8/23/98 Mister Whoopee Empire good. 4 stars
8/16/98 Johny The only flick in the trilogy I can sit through 5 stars
8/16/98 {{{OZ}}} It shits on Star Wars, so it can't be all bad. 4 stars
8/16/98 bizzy han solo and leia kiss! what could make a better movie! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-May-1980 (PG)
  DVD: 12-Sep-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  07-Aug-1980




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