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Review: 'Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back' (1980) Dir. Irvin Kershner

Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels and James Earl Jones


A sequel that, as a general consensus, eclipses the original and truly ignited the power of 'Star Wars' for fans and critics alike....

The Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the all-powerful Emperor and the Sith Lord Darth Vader (Prowse /Jones), are in pursuit of young Jedi Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and the rest of the Rebel Alliance after suffering their first major defeat with the destruction of the Death Star. 

While Vader chases a small band of Luke's friends, Han Solo (Ford) and Princess Leia Organa (Fisher), across the galaxy, Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda (Oz) on the planet Dagobah as instructed by the Force Ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness).

But when the Empire captures Luke's friends on Cloud City, home of former smuggler and Han’s friend Lando Calrissian (Williams), Luke rushes to save his friends and confront Vader, leading to double crosses and haunting revelations that will change those involved forever…

Staging a sequel that is better than the much loved original is something few films manage to do, let alone do it right. But ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ continues the story and developing characters from ‘A New Hope’ and expands the threats, the excitement and the emotion to surpass ‘A New Hope’ in many ways, being a film that is far darker and more exciting and not short of iconic music, surprises and characters.

It works because we firstly care about the characters; we see and hear the evident development from whiny farm boy to Rebel hero in Skywalker, and the love/hate relationship formed between Han and Leia which leads to some wonderful battle of wits and words and ego. The film is split in two, with each set of characters taking their own exciting journey to eventually come back together for the explosive finale. 

With the expansion of a galaxy already loved by many, the introduction of more of the mighty Empire seals our love for the villains with their ingenious new weapons, ships and commanders who are wonderfully British and dastardly.

Starships are even greater in scale, and the planets we see are more rich and vibrant. We simply connect with both sides of the war we are seeing, and love everything about it as they take us with them during epic battles such as the opening classic Hoth invasion, the breath-taking asteroid field chase and the brilliantly shot lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

And again, to cap all this, the special effects are ground-breaking in style and even give modern day CGI competition for a look that is authentic and real, making it all the more believable that people, places and objects are capable of hurting, and likewise being hurt or damaged and thus proving to have more danger. You come to love the effort put into making the models, the sets, the costumes, camerawork and lighting because every scene tells a story and conveys the passion, joy, fear and hope that is needed to make this the most emotional film of the series with new characters adding depth and intrigue to the plot. 

John Williams takes us along for the ride with his sweeping score and captures every sequence perfectly without him seemingly trying – from the iconic ‘Imperial March’ to the beautiful theme for Han and Leia, his music now tells a story without the need for words.

A bold story, brilliant direction and a gripping set of heroes and villains take you into the heart of what Star Wars is all about and doesn’t let you go until the final few frames where you can finally catch your breath and await the epic conclusion…

'Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back' is a LucasFilm Ltd. production

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