CGB Review of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Continuing the CGB Star-Wars-A-Thon is the film that is considered by many to be the Catching Fire of the original Star Wars trilogy!

This is my review of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back!


Since the events of A New Hope, the Rebel Alliance has settled at the icy planet of Hoth after their attack on the Death Star gave away their hideout to the Galactic Empire.  Darth Vader is now obsessed with hunting down Luke Skywalker.  After a brief battle on Hoth, Luke and R2-D2 are separated from Han, Leia, Chewy and C-3PO and all of these characters must survive a series of obstacles in order to reunite with one another.

The Hits
I think Mark Hamill gives the best performance as Luke in this installment.  He brings a vulnerability and maturity to his character.  I appreciate how Luke feels much older, yet is still sympathetic and never loses his youth.
I will admit that when Lando Calrissian escorts Leia, Han and Chewy and says that he has a way to keep the Empire out of Cloud City once and for all, then opens the door to reveal Darth Vader across the dinner table, I jumped and shouted, “HOLY FRICK!”  I honestly didn’t see that coming.  That scene alone makes Darth Vader even more terrifying to me than he was in the last movie.
Let’s talk about the famous reveal (you all know what I’m talking about). John Williams’ rousing score and Mark Hamill’s committed performance sell that scene.  What intrigues me about this scene is how Luke’s tortured expression conveys the horror of being the son of someone who is so evil.  It would be like finding out that you are Hitler’s offspring.  In fact, if you watch the entire battle between them leading up to the reveal, listen to some of Darth Vader’s verbal clues.  The first line that struck me was, “Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker.”  Granted, in literature and cinema, it’s common for a villain to say something like this to disturb the protagonist and break their concentration in order to gain the upper hand in the fight.  However, once they are on the bridge, his dialogue becomes this: “Don’t let yourself be destroyed as Obi-Wan did…” To me, this line indicates a muted sympathy, as if Vader is beginning to see his connection to Luke and is forming a concern for him.  The line that follows is, “Don’t make me destroy you…”  I should also point out that once on the bridge, Darth Vader calls Luke by name twice, which is subconsciously establishing a personal connection.  It is all made clear once the reveal comes.

The Misses
In all honesty, my only gripe is that I feel so bad for C-3PO!  For the first half of this movie, everyone is a jerk to him.  I get that C-3PO is written to be a little annoying, but he’s not insufferable to put up with like Jar Jar or Lucy Punch from Bad Teacher.  Honestly, he is usually right about stuff!  I’m glad that he is written to annoy other characters and not the audience (which is the golden rule for writing annoying characters), but he never does anything to justify being treated so poorly.

I see why Empire Strikes Back is regarded as one of the great film sequels.  I will be honest: I am a fan of rivalry stories.  In real life, rivalries are horrible.  In fiction, rivalries are fascinating and complex.  Personally I love Empire Strikes Back solely because of the animosity that builds between Luke and Darth Vader.  Once we learn that these two people from opposing sides are intertwined, it makes their rivalry all the more enjoyable to behold.

Saint Mark the Evangelist, pray for us.

Enjoy this skit from How It Should Have Ended!

2 thoughts on “CGB Review of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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