Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
By Mike Derderian
So where were we? Never mind, I just remembered.
It is a dark time for the rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, imperial troops have driven the rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy. Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth. The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space.
As John Willams’ music and trumpets flourish the moment, the Star Wars logo lights the dark spatial background, the above description glides over the screen in order to fill you in on the latest developments.
The short trailer at the beginning, a technique deployed by George Lucas in order to cut back on further production costs (imagine the costs if it was shot on film), provided the viewer with a brief and straight to the point smooth comeback to episode V. Unlike my column.
Released on May 1980, two years after its predecessor, The Empire Strikes Back is back with a vengeance and this time Darth Vader is really out to get them. Unlike the arid regions of planet Tatooine, the icy environment of Hoth brings in more impressive alien creatures and characters like the carnivorous Wampa and docile pet Tauntaun, which is used as a ride by the Echo Base troops at Hoth.
If you think that’s a weird place wait until you reach Dagobah, the planet on which dwells Jedi master Yoda—which in Sanskrit stands for warrior. This little green and funny creature—voiced by the master himself, Frank Oz—will become Luke’s mentor, who will teach him the ancient ways of the Jedi.
“Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression, the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny; consume you, it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice,” says Yoda to Luke, who in return answers, “Vader… Is the dark side stronger?”
In episode V, Lucas along with Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, decided to act more like a writer than a director, leaving the chair to Irvin Kershner. With Lucas as writer and producer, the new director, whom provided the voice of Darth Vader himself before James Earl Jones recorded the final version, managed to maintain the flow of the Force and the Star Wars allure in its darkest of forms.
Packed with more heart gripping action sequences, like the Imperial Walkers attack on the rebel strong hold, the Millennium Falcon’s bold dash into a field of asteroids (probably inspired the 1996 Independence Day fighter jet gateway from attacking alien fighters) and not to mention the fascinating sky city, where Vader and Skywalker finally meet face to face in a duel that will leave you with a very shocking finale.
Miniatures and stop motion camera visual effects were very much used in this sequel. So, as you watch all of the above spectacular action you’ll discover that for a film produced in the late seventies, they are as great as current CGI visual effects.
For more than two decades, people grew a cult like fondness for Lucas’ galactic epic similar to the Beatle-mania of the Sixties. Fans, especially children who eventually grew into adulthood, all over the world loved Vader’s dark side and charismatic presence (evil at its best), Luke Skywalker’s fragility, in addition to the reckless warrior lying deep in Solo; however, some of those fans took a detour by loving one of the less developed Star Wars villains known as Bobba Fett (Jeremy Belloch), the ruthless bounty hunter.
The missing link regarding this man hunter whose physical appearance and armament is no less impressive than Vader himself, was compensated in Lucas’ Star Wars 2002 prequel episode II Attack of the Clones in which we are introduced to both Bobba and his father Jango Fett, the menacing Jedi hunter. Lucas’ genius and vivid imagination allowed thousands of fans the chance to take a glimpse into Fett’s psyche that never submerged in any of the latter episodes. Now if you are awaiting further elaborations on Star Wars characters, you’ll have to wait until next week’s column.
Going back to our film, after a bold asteroid adventure and a close encounter with a giant space warm—don’t ask, go rent the film—the Millennium Falcon heads to planet Bespin, and to be more exact to Sky City, a suburban complex sustained in midair by gravity resistant engines, which is run by Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Willams), an old friend of Solo. Or is he? Little does Han, Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca, whom was given a more favorable acting space and more Wokie dialogue, know of what awaits them there.
The Empire Strikes Back is a superb revelation that will place the viewer deep into the origin of this galactic saga of fathers and sons, good and evil and Zen philosophy offered to you by Yoda. So use the Force and go to your local video store.