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Showing 1 - 1 of 1 Reviews for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Posted on 8/19/13 12:10 PM
A New Hope laid a fantastic ground work for the upcoming Star Wars series. It created a wondrous world, gave you deep mythology, introduced interesting characters, and dazzled with tight action. Three years later, George Lucas handed the directorial reigns to Irvin Kershner and he cranked out The Empire Strikes Back. By all accounts, this movie is phenomenal. It has a 97% rating here on Rotten Tomatoes, it's ranked at number 11 on the IMDB Top 250, and in 2010 it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant." And yet, I seem to see a different movie than everybody else. Instead of an amazing Space Opera, I see a loosely scripted, poorly paced, overly action packed movie complete with mediocre acting.
We pick up the story a few years after the end of A New Hope. Our heroes Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo are holed up in a base on the icy planet of Hoth. After copious amounts of pointless action, Luke is instructed by the spirit of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to find the creature Yoda. Luke pilots his X-wing to the swamps of Dagobah where he is found by Yoda. If Luke wants any hope of beating the sinister Darth Vader, he will have to learn from this tiny Jedi Master. So with the help of Yoda's expert teachings, Luke prepares himself for his eventual showdown with Lord Vader.
The acting is hit-or-miss. Harrison Ford is once again the brightest spot as Han Solo. He is such a fun character, without him the series would be much more of a slog. Mark Hamill is improved as Luke Skywalker. Sure some of his acting is a bit cheesy (especially at the end), but he has definitely improved in his portrayal of Luke. Carrie Fisher, on the other hand, gives essentially the same performance she gave in the last movie. It's not a wooden performance, just an unimaginative one. I guess the writers are partially at fault for that. Still, Princess Leia is definitely on the list of weak elements. The witty banter that passes between Han Solo and Princess Leia is also rather dull stuff and becomes tiresome.
But there are several great characters in this movie. Sadly, none of them are human. The droids R2-D2 and C-3PO return in all their charming, robotic glory. Their shtick could have easily gotten old, yet it doesn't. And completely stealing the movie is the Jedi Master, Yoda. He is simply adorable! At the beginning, Frank Oz gives him the crazed personality of someone who has been alone in the jungle for too long. And while this is funny and endearing, the character does get his act together. He becomes more of an old sage as the story goes along. With so many bland characters in this movie, it's a delight to have such an original creature in Yoda.
The plot is, quite frankly, dull. There doesn't seem to be enough script to get our characters from one scene to the next. Instead of propelling the story upward, The Empire Strikes Back simply takes the narrative sideways. Luke, Han, and Leia are no better off at the end of this movie than they were at the beginning. At 130 minutes, the movie feels bloated, boring, and subsequently pointless. Instead of getting invested in the story, I found myself wondering when the climax would arrive.
The action doesn't fare much better. Because the movie is so thinly plotted, Kershner opts for chunks of non character driven action. The best example of this is the extremely long opening on the planet Hoth. The action in this scene is so monotones that we cease to pay attention long before the fighting is over. Plus, I failed to find much to care about during this action scene; mostly because our main characters aren't playing important parts in the battle. I'm a strong believer in character driven action. If you look at great action movies like Lord of the Rings and The Dark Knight, our heroes are always front and center of the action. In this movie, they are relegated to the side of the parade of pointless explosions. Except for the exceptional climax between Luke and Darth Vadar, which is everything the rest of the action in this movie should have been.
The direction by Irvin Kershner looks like a direct continuation of Lucas's work on A New Hope, minus the interesting storytelling and well thought out action. If a job done 2 or 3 full notches down from the last movie is what Kershner was going for, then he succeeds masterfully.
John Williams returns for his sophomore Star Wars effort, and does another marvelous job. The Empire Strikes Back digresses from A New Hope in almost every way, with one of the few exceptions being Williams score. He provides two really quality new themes. Yoda and Darth Vader are given their own themes, and both are brilliant. The Imperial March is one of the most recognizable cues in movie history.
All in all, The Empire Strikes Back is one of the most overrated and disappointed movies I have ever seen. And yet I still can't bring myself to give it a negative rating. The moments of character development between Yoda and Luke, and the thrilling climatic duel are what make the movie for me. Other than that, I find this movie to be poorly made...glaringly so.
"Try not. Do or do not. There is no try." 6.5/10