(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
One Sentence Plot Summary: The fascists use their militaristic tools to get back at the rebels, and members of a prominent religious institution refusing to be honest with Luke Skywalker puts the whole galaxy in danger.
Why It’s on the List: The consensus is that after 11 movies, this is the gold standard of Star Wars films. It’s moody and darker than the previous film. There’s a rather unpleasant ending where one of our main characters loses a hand and another is frozen in carbonite (SPOILERS). John Williams has even crafted a new score that has become a theme heard around sports arenas around the country when the road team is introduced.
I don’t think I really embraced this movie when I was 12 due to this darkness. I enjoyed Return of the Jedi most for a while. I have come to see its flaws (although I don’t think they’re nearly as pronounced as some make them out to be), and A New Hope is my favorite of the original trilogy. I definitely see where Empire is strong, especially in the way Vader is impressed. Vader kills a general barely 20 minutes in and comes across more focused and determined. The mission of capturing Skywalker and going after the main cast is crucial why this film works. I also think the splitting of the cast works extremely well. Leia and Han are allowed to explore their relationship while Luke trains as a Jedi. I even love how the droids are separated and developed as individual characters instead of being the Rosenkrantz (wait, there are Jews in this?) and Guildenstern of this universe.
After watching 11 of these movies, I’ve come to the decision that the Jedi are Actually Bad. Even the Feloni corner has proven this to be true. This is why the Yoda and Luke scenes have never totally worked. I love exploring Degobah (again coming back to the idea of just how weird this universe truly is). The withholding of information by the Jedi has been the impetus for almost of the problems in these movies, and that’s why a movie like The Last Jedi is so important to me.
What I appreciate about Empire is how different it feels from A New Hope. This isn’t just a rehash, but achance to explore new worlds and dig into characters. Of course, there’s also the big revelation of Vader revealing he’s Luke’s father, a moment that I think so many directors and writers have tricked themselves into believing is what the Star Wars universe is all about. This is probably my third favorite of the movies but is one I’ve grown to appreciate over time.
*Han Solo tells Princess Leia she could use a good kiss. Woof.
*Leia kisses Luke in a very unsisterly way. Luke has an unbrotherly reaction.
MVP: Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan are the clear MVPs of this movie as the writing is so much better this time around. Han Solo especially gets a lot to chew on with memorable lines to spout from beginning to end. Despite any issues I might have with Luke Skywalker and Yoda, the actual dialogue is much smoother than Obi-Wan and Luke in A New Hope.
Best Performance: Harrison Ford again. I think he’s even sharper than he was in A New Hope and his improving of “I know” in response to Leia saying “I love you” is one of the all-time best moments of dialogue I’ve heard in any movie. I don’t know if him going into the carbonite should have been his end, but Han Solo is never as sharp as he is in these first two movies, even in his three subsequent three performances as this character.
Best Quote: “I know.” – Han Solo
Is there a sequel? Why, yes there is. Tomorrow, it’s time to discuss living teddy bears and Leia being objectified