My Favorite Movies #2 – The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back

1980

Directed by Irvin Kershner

Quick synopsis… George Lucas’s epic saga continues as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), in hopes of defeating the evil Galactic Empire, learns the ways of the Jedi from aging master Yoda. But Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is more determined than ever to capture Luke. Meanwhile, rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), cocky Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca, and droids C-3PO and R2-D2 are thrown into various stages of capture, betrayal and despair.

  • Look… I’m gonna go ahead and say SPOILER ALERT for this.
  • Only because this movie is, if nothing else, famous for one of the biggest shocking reveals in cinematic history.
  • At the same time, I think warning anyone of a spoiler for The Empire Strikes Back is kinda dumb.
  • This movie is as old as me…
  • If you don’t know the big twist that comes at the end after 40 years, that’s on you.
  • Obviously, this is a sequel and is, therefore, the middle of an ongoing story.
  • But that’s kind of how Star Wars (A New Hope) was meant to feel as well.
  • I’m pretty sure I pointed it out in my post about Star Wars, George Lucas modelled this saga after the classic serials that he grew up watching at the movies.
  • You come into these things as if they’re just the next part of the serial.
  • But, if you’ve never seen the original and don’t want to click back and read what I had to say about it, here’s what you should know…
  • Luke Skywalker, a new member of the Rebel Alliance that is fighting against the evil Galactic Empire, is the hero who destroyed the Death Star.
  • He, along with Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca, and a couple of droids, have been working with the Rebels to continue their struggle.
  • In the meantime, Darth Vader has become obsessed with locating this Skywalker kid.
  • Is it because he sensed that “The Force is strong in this one”?
  • The Rebels are hiding out on an ice ball called Hoth.
  • Because, hey, some like it Hoth.
  • I don’t think the good guys have been there too long because Luke and Han are both out looking for life signs around the perimeter.
  • Han heads back to base, but Luke spots a meteor that landed nearby and wants to check it out.
  • Instead, a life sign finds him…
  • It’s basically the Bumble from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
  • This thing wants to eat Luke, but, as luck would have it, an elf who wants to be a dentist comes along and removes all of the Bumble’s teeth!
  • Psych! Luke uses his lightsaber to cut the thing’s arm off, making his escape.
  • Back at the base, Han informs his commanding officer that he’s taking off as soon as the Millennium Falcon is ready to go.
  • He still has a price on his head from Jabba the Hutt and he needs to go pay the slug off.
  • But then they realize Luke hasn’t returned and it’s getting dark, so Han mounts his tauntaun and goes to look for his friend.
  • Delirious from exhaustion and hypothermia, Luke sees a vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi instructing him to take a trip to Dagobah to learn the ways of the Jedi from Master Yoda.
  • Han comes across Luke soon after this and they both somehow survive the night.
  • The next day, Luke is in recovery while Leia visits with him.
  • Han stops in to check on Luke and starts in on Leia about how it’s convenient that he can’t leave now so she’ll be able to spend more time with him.
  • Leia, who clearly has feelings for the scruffy looking nerf-herder, tries to throw Han off by locking lips with Luke.
  • SPOILER: Dude… that’s your brother…
  • Gross.
  • Anyway, the Empire locates the Rebel base on Hoth and soon attack.
  • As the Rebels board transports trying to high tail it out of the system, Luke and a bunch of other fighter pilots attempt to take down the Empire’s attacking AT-ATs before they can obliterate the base.
  • This portion of the film gave us what is arguably the greatest game to ever hit the Atari 2600 home console.
  • The Empire Strikes Back video game was just you in a tiny ship taking down imperial walkers… and it never ended… until you died.
  • It was super fun.
  • Every now and then, you got to “use the Force,” which meant your ship was temporarily invulnerable.
  • Kind of like when Super Mario gets a star.
  • Anyway, once Luke finishes up with the AT-ATs, he gets in his X-Wing (with R2-D2) and runs to Dagobah instead of the Rebel rendezvous point.
  • Han gets Leia off of Hoth in the Falcon along with Chewie and C-3PO, narrowly escaping Vader and his landing party.
  • Unfortunately, that hunk of space junk can’t make the jump to hyperspace.
  • So, they’re kinda stuck in the local planetary system being chased by a handful of Star Destroyers and TIE Fighters.
  • BTW… if you thought the regular Star Destroyers were huge after their introduction in the first movie, Vader’s Super Star Destroyer dwarfs those ships.
  • The story flips back and forth at this point between Luke on Dagobah and the crew of the Millennium Falcon.
  • Dagobah is, I assume, a planet of nothing but swamp.
  • Luke loses control of his X-Wing after entering the atmosphere and crashes in a pretty nasty bog.
  • He’s not sure how he’s going to find Yoda, the apparently legendary Jedi Master.
  • But then he’s approached by a little green puppet thing who is actively trying to annoy Luke.
  • The puppet dude insists he knows Yoda and drags Luke and Artoo back to his hut to provide some good old fashioned Dagobah hospitality.
  • It isn’t long before the green puppet reveals he is Master Yoda and he really doesn’t want to train Luke.
  • They both hear Obi-Wan trying to convince Yoda to help the boy.
  • But Yoda keeps saying he’s too old… he’s too impetuous… there’s just too much of his father in him…
  • Yoda finally gives in and the training begins.
  • The amount of time that Luke is with Yoda is kinda vague, but it really only seems like, at best, he’s there for a few days.
  • In that time, Luke learns how to run faster, do some awesome forward flips, parkour through the swamp, and lift rocks with his mind.
  • Luke gets tested at a Dark Side cave and it’s a test that he sure didn’t study for…
  • Just kidding…
  • In the cave, Luke has a vision in which he confronts Darth Vader and beheads the machine man.
  • But Luke isn’t prepared for Vader’s mask exploding, revealing Luke’s own face beneath the helmet.
  • What does it mean?!
  • Yoda does impart a great deal of wisdom in the short span of time that Luke is with him.
  • He really teaches him a lot about the nature of the Force.
  • But Luke just doesn’t quite get it…
  • Luke tries to raise his X-Wing out of the swamp, but can’t because it’s too big… he thinks there’s a difference between moving rocks and moving a starfighter.
  • Yoda shows him up by easily pulling the ship out of the mire.
  • Luke: “I don’t believe it!”
  • Yoda: “That is why you fail.”
  • Soon after, during another training session, Luke has a vision of the future in which he sees Han and Leia suffering at the hands of the Empire.
  • He decides to cut short his training to go and help them, even though Yoda and Obi-Wan insist that this is exactly what Vader wants from him…
  • While all of this has been going down on Dagobah, Han and the others have had their own adventures.
  • The Falcon took refuge in an asteroid field while trying to hide from Vader and his handful of Star Destroyers.
  • Vader takes a break from the chase to have a long distance pow wow with Emperor Palpatine.
  • Palpatine senses a great disturbance in the Force, referring to one Luke Skywalker.
  • Palpatine sees danger in the son of Anakin Skywalker receiving Jedi training and wants him destroyed.
  • Vader, sensing the boy’s power, makes the argument that if young Skywalker can be turned to the Dark Side, he would a powerful ally.
  • “He will join us or die.”
  • Leia and Han manage to have a fairly adorable romance building as they spend all this time together.
  • Way more believable than what we eventually got from Anakin and Padme in Attack of the Clones.
  • Han manages to make it look like they escaped and the Star Destroyers have no choice but to go about their business elsewhere.
  • But Han was just hiding out on the back of a Star Destroyer, then floated off when they dumped their garbage.
  • Once the Empire was gone, they could take their time to find a friendly port to make repairs.
  • But Han didn’t count on Boba Fett, one of the many bounty hunters that Vader hired to track down the Falcon.
  • Fett somehow deduced Han’s scheme and followed them to Bespin, where Han’s old friend, Lando Calrissian, runs a mining colony.
  • Thanks to Boba Fett, Vader and his crew arrived before the good guys and set a trap.
  • I still say Boba Fett is a chump.
  • With the help of Lando, Darth Vader plans to use Han and Leia to spring a trap for Luke, knowing he will arrive to try and help them.
  • Vader wants to freeze Luke in carbonite so he can deliver him to Palpatine without a fight.
  • He tests the carbon freezing process on Han first, then gives the frozen Han to Fett to be delivered to Jabba the Hutt.
  • Luke finally arrives and is spotted by Leia who tries to warn him it’s a trap.
  • But Luke goes to confront Vader anyway.
  • He manages to avoid the carbon freeze, and holds his own pretty well for a while.
  • But, really, as you watch their lightsaber duel, you can tell Vader is just toying with the kid.
  • Until Luke gets in a good shot and hits Vader’s arm with his saber.
  • Then the gloves are off and Vader cuts off Luke’s right hand.
  • Luke loses his hand and his father’s lightsaber as they fall down a seemingly endless air shaft.
  • Vader taunts Luke, knowing he is beaten…
  • Then he reveals a truth that Obi-Wan would never reveal.
  • “I am your father.”
  • Luke takes that news about as well as anyone would when you find out you’re the son of one of the greatest villains in pop culture history.
  • So the kid is given a choice: go into the family business and take over the galaxy or take his chances by throwing himself into the air shaft.
  • Luke takes door number two.
  • Using the Force, Luke is able to reach out to Leia, who by this time has escaped with everyone (including Lando, who switched sides) on the Millennium Falcon.
  • They turn back and save Luke and make their getaway from Bespin.
  • After they rendezvous with the rest of the Alliance, Luke gets a new mechanical hand while Lando and Chewie head out on the Falcon to find Han.
  • But that’s a story for another movie
  • And that does it for Star Wars – Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.
  • By far, this is my favorite Star Wars movie and always will be.

Next week we arrive at NUMBER ONE! Did you ever think we’d get here? I shouldn’t have to give any clues about what movie holds the top spot. At least, I shouldn’t have to if you’ve been reading my blog for any decent length of time. I feel like I mention my favorite movie of all time at least once every couple of months… maybe even more frequently than that.

So no clues… Just come back next week for the greatest movie of all time.

2 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #2 – The Empire Strikes Back

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