Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: "The Empire Strikes Back" is Still the Best Film of 1980

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 81 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Running time: 124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Irvin Kershner
WRITERS: Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan (from a story by George Lucas)
PRODUCER: Gary Kurtz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitzky (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Paul Hirsch
COMPOSER: John Williams
Academy Award winner

/THRILLER with elements of romance

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness, Jeremy Bulloch, Clive Revell, Denis Lawson, Jason Wingreen (voice) and James Earl Jones (voice)

The Empire Strikes Back is a 1981 epic science fiction film and sequel to Star Wars (1977). The film continues the Star Wars saga and the adventures of Luke Skywalker, as the hero who destroyed the Death Star moves closer to his destiny.

After imperial forces destroy the rebel base on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) leaves his associates to begin his Jedi training with the wizened and tiny Jedi master Yoda (Frank Oz). Meanwhile, Darth Vader (David Prowse with James Earl Jones voice) pursues Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), et al across space to capture them and use them as his bait for trap Skywalker, with whom he’s become obsessed.

Seeking safe refuge, Solo takes his friends to the Cloud City of Bespin, a mining operation run by a rival and “old friend,” Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). But Cloud City becomes the place where friends unite and face tragedy and where young Skywalker learns a secret too horrible to believe and almost too terrible to false.

Of the three original Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back is the best film in terms of quality of filmmaking. The writing, acting, and directing are much better, and director Irvin Kershner (who is otherwise known for his work directing TV series and movies) emphasizes the drama, whereas Star Wars creator George Lucas focused on making the original film more of a fun and rollicking movie in the tradition of the old movie serials. While Kershner’s film did not have the element of surprise that Lucas’ had, his movie (although he obviously had much guidance from Lucas) is better than Lucas’ in some aspects. It’s a darker film, but is still enthralling with its razor’s edge of tension. The thrills are still there, but The Empire Strikes Back also has an atmosphere of dread hanging over it, as if bad things simply must happen to the protagonists.

It’s simply a good film, and virtually anyone who likes, or at least, doesn’t mind watching sci-fi, fantasy, or space opera films will like this. But everything aside, while the film’s subject matter may seem frivolous, the filmmakers present it in such a fashion that this is truly one of the best-made films and most fun to watch movies of the late 20th Century. I’d recommend it and sing its praises even through the roar of a thousand of dissenting voices.

10 of 10

1981 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Sound” (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, and Peter Sutton) and “Special Achievement Award” (Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson for visual effects); 2 nominations: “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, and Michael Ford) and “Best Music, Original Score” (John Williams)

1981 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (John Williams); 2 nominations: “Best Production Design/Art Direction” (Norman Reynolds) and “Best Sound” (Peter Sutton, Ben Burtt, and Bill Varney)

1981 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (John Williams)



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