Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back</strong> (1980)

(Fourth or Fifth Viewing, On Blu-ray, November 2018) Popular opinion has it that The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie, and even a recent look as a jaded middle-aged man (who’s happy not to be eight years old any more) does little to convince otherwise. The much-better dialogue helps a lot, but it’s impossible to discount the impact of three memorable locations (Hoth, Dagobah and Bespin) along with a sombre finale that raises the stakes for all characters. Irwin Kirshner is also a better director, and the actors understand what they’re trying to do—Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher still run circles around Mark Hamill, but the film benefits a lot from the addition of Billy Dee Williams as the truly cool Lando Carlissian. Screenwriter Leigh Brackett (a written SF legend) does her best work in spinning the Han/Leia romance carefully through a series of antagonistic interactions. The special effects are generally successful, and I’ll note that the 1997 digital enhancements seem more natural here than in the overstuffed re-edit of A New Hope. I hadn’t seen the film since its 1997 re-release in theatres and I found it much better than its immediate prequel.

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