The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Empirestrikesback

This often cited as the best of all the Star Wars movies and it’s easy to see why. Comparing TESB with ANH you can see a marked improvement in acting from all of the principal actors, most obvious in Mark Hamill’s case who went from an annoying and sometimes a bit whiny young adult to a more solemn and serious Jedi-in-training who for the first makes you actually believe he has what it takes to become one of the power players.

The action is better, the sets are better, the whole plot is better structured, everything feels like a real story and not just a fairy tale in space and overall the movie is just a lot more fun to watch than the ’77 Star Wars. The original started it all, but it’s also a movie that hasn’t aged well, and I’m not talking about special effects, but it’s utter lack of good acting or writing makes it actually a chore to get through.

Not so The Empire Strikes Back. Not that TESB is perfect, while I liked the final reveal of the movie, probably like everyone else, rewatching that scene makes it cornier every time. But for every weaker moment there are countless stronger ones. Lando is a great addition to the team, Vader feels even more menacing, the space scenes are more varied and interesting, Bespin’s cloud city is a great setting for the final part of the movie and Yoda’s and Luke’s interactions are fun to watch, as are Han Solo’s and Leia’s (and also feel more convincing here).

Despite its age it’s a highly enjoyable movie and one of the finest examples of a space opera on the big screen. The biggest problem, at least for me, is that it’s a sequel to a decidedly weaker movie. But otherwise, TESB is the one Star Wars movie that makes you go, “ah, that’s the reason everybody loves that universe“. I think without TESB’s greatness, the Star Wars franchise would have been dead in the water.

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