Friday, May 25, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth.

The Evil Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…

The rebels, after their huge victory at Yavin, are once again on the run. It seems the Emperor is a little miffed about them blowing up the Death Star and has put all the forces of the Imperial Navy in Vader’s hands to hunt down Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

On Hoth Luke recieves a vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) who tells him to go to the Degobah system and learn from the legendary Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz). On arriving Luke discovers an odd little creature who turns out to be Yoda and agrees, reluctantly, to instruct Luke on the ways of the Force.

Elsewhere in the galaxy Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) relentlessly pursues the Millenium Falcon through space, an asteroid feild, and to a mining colony owned by an old friend of Han’s, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Han (Harrison Ford) is captured and frozen in carbonite (but not before giving one of the greatest lines in movie romance history!) and turned over to the bounty hunter Boba Fett, and Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are taken prisoner by the Empire and used as bait to lure Luke to a similar fate as his smuggler friend.

Sensing trouble in the Force Luke abandons his training prematurely and travels to Cloud City to rescue his friends and confront Darth Vader. Vader gives him a lesson in lightsaber fighting as the two battle through levels of the facility ending with Luke pulling back a bloody stump and Darth Vader revealing the truth about the fate of Anakin Skywalker.

There aren’t enough words to describe how much I love this film. From Luke’s training on Degobah, to Han and Leia’s stolen moments on the Falcon, to C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) getting blasted and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) getting eaten, to the first appearance of the Emperor, to Han Solo’s gruesome fate, to a great ligtsaber battle, to the revelation and realization of Darth Vader’s true face. This is terrific storytelling and a wonderful ride that hits all the right emotional buttons along the way.

With Star Wars (read the review) and then Empire George Lucas had carved out the center, and heart, of what would become six films. Though none of the other four would reach the same level of excellence, these two films would make sure you came back again, and again, for more.

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