reviewed by Tom-Tom
How does one even begin to review this movie? It’s like reviewing the ABC’s or the Green Lantern oath or the Konami up up down down etc code. Star Wars is an integral part of our culture, language, idioms, and even philosophy, whatever apocryphal horrors inflicted on the franchise by its very maker, which sounds like an oxymoron and it is. I will endeavor to view it as a first-comer. Who knows what I’ll find?
The film captures you from the beginning with the 20 Century Fox fanfare and then explodes into the inimitable John Williams Star Wars theme from which the cool font heads into the distance and the written prologue scrolls up serial style from bottom to top. This alone convinces the viewer that this film is large scale and not to be taken lightly. There aren’t even credits at the beginning aside from 20th Century Fox. This is serious stuff.
Our adventure continues 3 years later after the destruction of the planet annihilating Death Star and the first major victory of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire at Yavin-4. The Rebels are now laying their heads on the Ice Planet of Hoth. Apparently systems (planets) in the galaxy far, far away generally limit themselves to one environment per customer. Luke Skywalker (Commander Skywalker if you please) is riding a tauntaun, a two legged mix between llama, kangaroo, and goat in the freezing cold. He’s in radio communication with fellow pilot Han Solo, the ex-smuggler who fired the helpful shot that save Luke at the last second on his Attack Run in the Death Star Trenches allowing the burgeoning Jedi to be to fire the thousand to one shot that blew the darn thing up. Now, they’re relegated to searching for lifeforms in a frozen tundra.
Meanwhile, the Empire is closing in on the Rebellion by sending out hundreds of unmanned probes which spout an iconic bit of gibberish that I’ve always thought sounds like “rebel base de gum phrase” although it stumps even that protocol droid “fluent in over 6 million languages” C3PO. Soon the Empire arrives with its most successful General in the entire saga, General Veers, whose four legged metal powerhouses AT-AT’S and two legged ones AT-ST’s blast through the Rebel Defenses with ease It is a fantastic scene from the excellently appropriate score by John Williams, excellent sets, and cinematography. The snowspeeders look cool and make rather famous use of their tow cables against the metal walkers while the rest of the Rebel Forces escape to a pre-determined rendezvous location.
Luke splits up with the others: Han, Princess Leia, C3PO, and Chewbacca the Wookie, taking the Astromech Droid R2D2 with him to Dagobah to meet Master Yoda, as suggested by the effervescent voice of the deceased yet here Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). The others, aboard Han’s cool ship, the Millenium Falcon flee from Star Destroyers using rather clever tactics including flying into an asteroid field. The asteroid field theme by Williams is among my favorite of all his compositions. It conveys the adventure, incredulity,suspense and fun of it perfectly.
Luke meets Yoda on a swamp planet (one system, one environment, again). Yoda is an unlikely Master, as he is a small, green Muppet with quite liberal ordering of his linguistic clauses. We (Luke) learn many things about the true nature of the Force from Yoda. Nothing definite, of course but awfully fatalistic. Luke learns how to lift things using the force while doing a handstand.
The crew of the Falcon make their way to Cloud City where they meet Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), one of the most charming and cool film characters ever. He runs a Tibanna Gas Mining Facility. He’s long left the life of a smuggler behind for more reputable life. He still shares much of the old Han from Episode IV, the looking out for Number One, parts in particular.
Cloud City is also the setting for the epic showdown between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It’s an exciting and emotional confrontation which runs counterpoint to a scuffle with a bounty hunter Boba Fett whose cool Mandalorian Armor and handy gadgets endear him to fans everywhere despite the bit part he has here. The relentless pace, the incredible info revealed about Skywalker and Vader, and the fate of Han Solo all make this film quite the masterpiece. It’s not often that sequels outshine their predecessors but The Empire Strikes Back does just that.