The Empire Strikes Back / Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

To me The Empire Strikes Back was always the best one from the original three movies. It’s got superb action, great suspense, nice set pieces, good character development, Boba Fett, and one of the biggest and iconic plot twists in film history when Luke discovers Darth Vader is his father. There’s a lot going on any given second, and it’s admirable how they managed to make Luke’s brief time training  under Yoda feel entirely adequate and not rushed, despite only feeling like it covered maybe couple of days in total before he was  running off to Cloud City. I have to say I was a bit baffled how much like a wacky Gremlin Yoda turned out to be. Somehow I had forgotten he doubled as a comedic relief between his Jedi master scenes.

I can’t decide which is my favorite part of the movie, the battle of Hoth or the duel with Luke and Vader. Both are very exciting and well shot and performed action scenes. With the duel against Vader its very up close and personal mixed with tense cat and mouse game, and in Hoth we see the AT-AT walkers slowly advancing and destroying the rebel defenses while the rebel planes valiantly fight back and try to take the walking death machines down one by one with elaborate cable trap maneuvers, beautifully demonstrating  the epic Goliath and David dynamic between the Rebellion and the Empire. The entire middle part focusing on the Millennium Falcon trying to evade the Empire forces, diving into a meteor cloud, unwittingly landing inside a giant space monster’s insides and eventually pulling a sneaky maneuver where they attach themselves to the hull of the Star Destroyer ship as a disappearing act was also very entertaining. It keeps up the momentum well and adequately reminds you of the continuous looming threat of the Empire, so that while Luke’s chilling on a swamp planet, playing Tarzan and lifting rocks with his mind when he’s training to be a sword swinging hippie under the tutelage of an elderly goblin, the movie doesn’t grind to a total halt. Instead those scenes were a brief pause and relaxing escape from all the stress and pressure that Han and co. were experiencing when they desperately tried to fix the ship and survive the Empire’s attacks.

A thought just occurred to me: I’ve never really put much thought to Lando as a character, but when looking at him now, Billy Dee Williams actually does do a pretty good job with the limited material he’s provided. I really haven’t given him enough credit before. You get the sense he’s a bit shady,  after all he’s friends with Han, but at the same time his lovable rogue nature and loyal camaraderie does show under the surface the minute he warmly embraces Han upon his arrival. Billy Dee’s got great charisma and despite betraying Han to the Empire, he immediately sells the idea that he was remorseful and that he had tried to negotiate the best deal possible under the circumstances. Considerable effort to get that all conveyed when you’re being choked to death by an angry Wookie. And let’s not forget Lando’s choice in outfits. It  is pretty dope, especially that cloak is pimp as hell. It is a bit shame really he doesn’t get to do more in RotJ, he could have been developed more had he gone to Endor instead of Han. Oh well.

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