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The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
"May the Force be with you."
Star Wars (Episode IV) was a space opera that featured state-of-the-art analog special effects, long before the advent of Computer Generated Imagery. The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) was the second in a planned movie trilogy that somehow expanded to six films. The numbers were added later after the original episode, which George Lucas ended on a note of finality in case it flopped. He needn't have worried because Star Wars became the highest grossing film in history, so he was assured the sequel and probably the trilogy.
The space scenes and other special effects were made by artists that worked for George Lucas' FX studio, Industrial Light and Magic, which was created for the first film and has since become a mainstay in the Hollywood film industry.
The story of The Empire Strikes Back, by Lucas with polishing by Leigh Brackett, takes place after the rebels have destroyed the Death Star but are still being sought by the Empire and its storm troopers under the command of the ruthless Darth Vader.
Lucas based his story on the episodic serials he used to enjoy as a boy like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, mythology and hero stories like the legend of King Arthur. More importantly, given the visual medium he chose, were probably Errol Flynn costume dramas like Robin Hood, the Sea Hawk, and Captain Blood with their breath taking, crowd pleasing action. Lucas chose Irvin Kershner to direct The Empire Strikes Back and the combination made an even better movie than the first.
The Empire Strikes Back depicts the former wetnose farm boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who has become a man and is among the rebels on the ice planet Hoth where Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are also. Darth Vader gets a signal from one of his space probes indicating Skywalker's location and launches an attack against the rebel base.
Meanwhile - there are a lot of these scene changes in the movie - Skywalker has been captured by a predator and Solo has gone looking for him both men riding those fantastic beasts that Lucas could dream up. Well, they get away or the movie would be over right there. Then Vader's attack comes. The rebels scatter and Luke and 'droid R2D2 go off to be trained by Yoda - the muppet-like critter who is a Jedi knight. Meanwhile - yeah, I know - Han Solo and Princess Leia are lovers and fleeing the pursuing storm troops.
The special FX here are top of the line for pre CGI and the critters and machines are simply eye popping. Kids born after the era of computer generated imagery probably won't be impressed, but they should be. Yoda is voiced by Frank Oz and manipulated by a puppeteer. The characters have grown in complexity and each has some ambiguities making them seem more real. Of course, the story has a lot of ways to go given the cliff hangers dropped in the final act. Something about Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker being closer than we think, but that I'm going to leave for you to see who haven't seen the movie yet.
The Fox DVD Two Disk Set (2006) has both the 1980 and 2004 versions of The Empire Strikes Back in 2.35:1 theatrical format. Disk 1 is the enhanced 2004 version with a commentary by George Lucas with comments from Irvin Kerschner and a handful of others and Disk 2 has the 1980 version, somewhat doctored by inveterate tinkerer George Lucas. The original 1980 version is non anamorphic so it won't display properly on 16x9 televisions.
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