STAR WARS: EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) ****
The stunning sequel to Star Wars finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his band of Rebel freedom fighters hiding out from the evil Darth Vader on the remote ice world of Hoth. His buddy Han Solo (Harrison Ford) saves Luke’s bacon from nearly being slaughtered by a Wampa before Vader finds them and sends his badass AT-AT’s after the rebel troops. They high tail it outta there and part company with Han and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) headed to Cloud City to look up his old card shark pal Lando Calrission (Billy Dee Williams) and Luke going to the swamp world of Dagobah to train with the ancient wizened minute reptilian Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz). When Boba Fett, the baddest muthafucker in the galaxy finds Solo’s whereabouts, Vader comes a callin’ and promptly drops Solo’s ass in Carbonite. Luke, now a fledgling Jedi comes to rescue him and battles Vader, who drops the bomb on Luke with arguably the greatest moment in film history, “I am your father!”
While considered by most to be better than the original, I’d give Star Wars the slight edge in the spectacle department, but Empire’s darker tone and deeper emotional resonance make it a tough call. The special effects are impeccable and the action scenes (the Imperial Walker assault still ranks as the greatest battle scene in a Star Wars film) superbly compliment the story arc. While Lucas only executive produced and wrote the story, his presence is still felt although he would later meddle with this flawless flick in later “Special Editions” by adding new effects and changing key dialogue to make things jibe with the prequel trilogy.
Director Irvin Kershner would later direct the classic Robocop 2.