In a film like The Empire Strikes Back, especially a few years on the heels of such a mind-bogglingly great film like the original Star Wars, there is something that comes immediately to mind that would at first seem to count against the film, but instead only winds up increasing the respect that it commands. In the 1977 Star Wars, there is a clear reliance on simplicity in some parts. Obviously, it is much more than a simply made science fiction film, but like I said in my review of it, there was a lot of highly effective reliance on things that were not put on screen, such as Obi Wan's description of The Force to Luke. In The Empire Strike Back, the first thing that we are treated to is the traditional scrolling text along a background of stars, depicting what has happened between the last film and this one, and reminding us of the things that were mentioned in the last film but never explained.
At first, this would almost seem to be a way to save money to get more information across to the audience without having to actually put it on screen, but this is really an ingenious way of furthering the story. The very fact that we are so willing to read all this information and forgive our inability to actually see it is a testament to the quality of the series, even at this early stage in its presentation, and we know the story so well from the first film that we are glad to see such a large change in what's happening in the films, not for a second lamenting the fact that we have obviously missed so much action. And besides that, if and when George Lucas runs out of new prequels to release, and maybe if he someday begins to run low on how many hundreds of millions of dollars he has, he could go right back and make these in-between scenes into full length films. What would he call these, if he did that? Introquels? Who cares! The names themselves would be interesting enough, and if you go back and read the stuff that introduces this film, it's obvious that there's an entire film there just waiting to be made. I guess the question of actors would be a formidable one, though.
The Empire Strikes Back is the film where we are first introduced to the great Jedi master Yoda (`Away put your weapon!'), as well as some of the most thrilling battle sequences of the entire Star Wars series, and that includes the prequels. The battle scene where the rebels fight the Imperial Walkers on the ice planet is an incredibly well-made battle scene, not only in the way that it was put together so convincingly using models, but that the machines themselves are so creatively made. Indeed, the Imperial Walkers are some of the most recognizable machines from the entire Star Wars saga, right up there with the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star.
I have just watched this film again, having already seen Episode I and Episode II, and not having seen any of the original Star Wars films for maybe 10 years (except for the original 1977 Star Wars, which I saw and reviewed a few days ago - and these aren't even the Special Edition versions!). When I first saw Yoda when watching The Empire Strikes Back again, I was really struck by how different he looked from in the newer movies. Obviously, he's completely computer generated in the new films, but here in Episode V he looks like a muppet! Even so, I would like to express my opinion that Yoda is more realistic and more interesting here as a puppet than in the newer films as a computer generated image. At least here in the older films you know that he's actually THERE, and that he's not just added into the film later.
Oh yeah, speaking of Yoda, can I just complain for a minute? What the hell was up with the Jedi training? Yes, I realize that I'm just a lowly IMDb reviewer, while The Empire Strikes Back is a part of the greatest science fiction series of all time, but would it have killed George Lucas to write in a little more creative training for Luke? The thing that struck me first about the Star Wars films when I first started watching them was how incredibly imaginative they were, but then Luke started his training. You know, when I was in high school I played football. I was a wide receiver/tight end and I hardly ever got to play because I was too tall and too skinny, but part of my workout was to carry the linemen up and down the stairs to the weight room. Some of these guys weighed 100 pounds more than me, and I still almost never saw the field, and here's Luke Skywalker. He carries Yoda around this boggy swamp and he gets to be a Jedi! What the hell!
There is also the addition of a surprisingly fitting love story. First of all, anyone who has ever read my review of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie will know that I am not the biggest fan of cramming a love story into a movie where it doesn't belong. I can't seem to write anything about Bruckheimer movies without complaining about the idiot love story, and now it's even worse because here's this movie that was made so long before, from which Bruckheimer could obviously have at least learned a LITTLE bit about how to do it right. Han Solo and Princess Leia maintain the personalities that they developed in the first Star Wars film and there is now a sort of love/hate relationship between the two of them, where neither one of them wants to admit their feelings for the other. This romantic subplot is characterized perfectly in the scene just before Solo is carbon frozen, when Leia risks approaching a cheesy romantic moment by saying `I love you' just before Han is lowered into the freezing chamber, and he saves the moment by responding, `I know.' Han Solo. Smart-ass to the last drop.
Before I end I would like to point out that the goofs that can be found on the IMDb for this film are some of the most blatant that I've ever seen in a
film. The scene where you can see someone giving a woman at the tactical maps a cue to deliver her lines is amazingly obvious, and some of the other ones, such as the stage hand swinging the light saber prop briefly into view as he switches it for an `off' prop with Luke just after he knocks Darth Vader over backwards, are just as much fun to look for. I have one question about the goofs, though. There's one where Luke looks off into the fog just after R2-D2 is eaten by the sea monster, and you can CLEARLY see a person running to the right a little ways off in the fog. Is that meant to be Luke? It seems that it's supposed to be him running in his search for R2, because you can even hear the FOOTSTEPS of the person running. I can't even IMAGINE how they could have missed THAT!!
It is, however, a testament to the quality of a film when such tremendous oversights in editing do nothing to take away from the overall quality of the film. The Empire Strikes Back remains an extremely powerful and well-made installment in the Star Wars series, not taking even a single step backwards in the sheer breathtaking adventure of the original film. It's not often that a film as good as Star Wars can be released and then followed up with a sequel that is just as great, as is clearly the case here. Star Wars was a gigantic film upon its release, and with The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas has begun the formation of one of the greatest film series' in cinematic history.