Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Review
The film that is usually considered everyone's favorite in the original trilogy is actually my least favorite, but it's still solid
The following review comes from my Letterboxd profile, a page where I take the time to review every movie and limited series I watch on my own. Check it out if you want to read more reviews like this.
This review is for the theatrical cut of the movie released on the 2003 limited edition DVD set of the trilogy, which I happen to own. I may review the special edition contained on that DVD at a later date, but for now, here's my review of the original theatrical cut.
I've seen segments of this film before because I had to for a study I conducted for a science research class. I have never seen the full movie in its entirety, however, so I was grateful to finally be motivated to see it this past week. Everyone says this is the best film of the original trilogy. Honestly, I disagree. I prefer A New Hope and even Return of the Jedi (discussed more in other Star Wars reviews). To me, this movie doesn't quite hit me as well as the other two. I think the character development is slightly weaker (only slightly, please don't kill me), I think that Han and Leia's romance could have been a little bit more fleshed out than it ended up being to make it feel a bit more consensual on Leia's part than it actually felt to me, and I still didn't feel like I was completely sucked into this world. However, do not misunderstand me because this movie is still really, really good.
I completely forgot to cover the musical score in the previous review I did of A New Hope. I mean, what is there to say about John Williams' truly fantastic score that hasn't been said already? The themes are fantastic, and the introduction of the Imperial theme is definitely welcome. New characters Lando and Yoda are truly a joy to watch, particularly Yoda and his quiet, funny, and wise personality with a fantastic performance and iconic voice by Frank Oz. To me, the script of this movie isn't as strong as the previous film, but there are still some really funny and really heartfelt moments in this film. The climax of this movie is, of course, fantastic. Luke and Darth Vader facing each other for the first time is a complete blast to see, and what is possibly the most famous twist/line in all of pop culture from Darth Vader (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, for some reason, please watch the films and go in without knowing it, because I wish I had the chance to watch this movie without knowing about that famous twist) is even more impactful and emotional when you see everything that built up to that twist in the first place.
I think part of the reason why people like this movie more than the other two in the trilogy (among other reasons) is because this movie feels the most modern out of the three. The lighting and cinematography, particularly in the Darth Vader/Luke climax, feels truly modern. The set is lit like I would imagine a modern-day set of that caliber to be lit. It's beautiful to look at and adds to the impact of the climax for me. This movie may not have stuck with me as the other two or as much as it has for many other people, but The Empire Strikes Back is still a fantastic piece of this trilogy and one that of course I would recommend if, like me, you have somehow never seen this movie before.
Letter Grade: A-