“The Empire Strikes Back” isn’t just my favorite “Star Wars” movie — it’s my all-time favorite movie, period. It has all the features that made its predecessor “A New Hope” great, but it takes the story up a notch, with even better space battles, lightsaber duels, and one of the best-ever plot twists in a Hollywood blockbuster, Darth Vader’s big revelation to Luke Skywalker: “I am your father.”
I’ve listed “The Empire Strikes Back” as my all-time favorite movie since college, but it has actually been a few years since I last sat down to watch it. As I re-watched it yesterday, I spent some time reflecting on just why this is my favorite movie. I will not argue that it’s the greatest or most important movie ever made (though I do think you can make the case that it’s in the running for best “blockbuster” ever made). It’s not meant to shock viewers or take a stand on a political or social issue. It’s just a good, rousing space adventure that still carries emotional weight, and it’s accessible to viewers of all ages.
There are so many good moments in this movie — the battle on the ice planet of Hoth with the iconic Imperial AT-AT walkers; Luke’s training with Yoda on the swampy world of Dagobah; and Luke’s confrontation with Darth Vader in the film’s final act. While we’re used to big-budget special effects bonanzas now, the “Star Wars” films truly were groundbreaking for their time, taking audiences to a variety of exotic worlds and utilizing elaborate costumes and make-up to bring this story to life. The special effects still hold up remarkably well, especially in my favorite scene from the movie, the Millennium Falcon’s flight through the asteroid field.
I know I mentioned this in my last review, but I have to mention it again: a big part of what makes these movies so great is John Williams’ epic score. I can’t imagine these movies without his soundtrack, and “The Empire Strikes Back” is probably my favorite of the bunch. “The Imperial March” is an excellent piece of music; it’s precise, crisp, and intimidating, perfectly capturing the essence of the Empire.
One of my regrets about “The Empire Strikes Back” is that by the time I watched it, it was such a pop culture staple that all the big plot twists had long since been revealed. Nobody puts “spoiler alert!” before talking about how Darth Vader is Luke’s father. 😉 But this really is a great plot twist, and I love how it sets up the redemption story in the final film, where Luke is able to bring his father back from the dark side. We could argue that the prequels could have done a better job portraying Darth Vader’s fall from the light, but his victory over darkness in the original trilogy is still powerful. I also liked the revelation that Yoda was a Jedi master; in the original trilogy, he first comes off as eccentric and a bit senile, and Luke has no inkling he was once a powerful warrior who was capable of holding his own against the dark lords of the Sith.
“Star Wars” is actually all about not underestimating people, and celebrating unlikely heroes, which is why I think it continues to resonate with viewers. We’ve all got a little bit of Luke Skywalker in us: we want to do good, and we want to help others, but sometimes the obstacles around us feel overwhelming. But we have to keep fighting, and believing in the light. Good will overcome in the end.
Next up on the blog-a-thon is “Return of the Jedi,” the final film in the original trilogy. Then I’m keeping my fingers crossed for “The Force Awakens”!