I first saw The Empire Strikes Back many, many years ago on a little primitive recording
device called VHS (kids, ask your parents). I'd been born smack-dab in the middle of the original
Star Wars trilogy and they soon became staples for entertainment on sick days home from school.
Since the trilogy's inception, conflicting stories on their origin have surfaced, with one explaining that creator
George Lucas had always invisioned six films (some sources say nine). Another story claimed that with the
success of the original Star Wars, that Lucas had written a sequel with an elaborate backstory
that would make the current films sequels to a yet-to-be realized first trilogy. Whatever its origin,
The Empire Strikes Back was not released as Star Wars 2, but strangely as Episode V
(with the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope later added to Star Wars).
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is easily one of the most riveting and unpredictable
sequels an original story has had. In the original 1977 film, the good guys triumph over evil with a glorious
finish to the story. The 1980 follow-up is hardly as victorious, in fact, it's quite the opposite. In
the film, Darth Vader chases down our heroes and sets a trap to lead Luke Skywalker to him. The story
is smart, action-packed, and surprising, as the climax reveals one of the greatest and most famous plot
twists in film history. The film ends with a cliffhanger that wouldn't be resolved for three more years,
in 1983, when Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi would release. This sequel is overall
much darker and more dramatic than the original story, with several sequences being a lot more intense
in nature. The characters Lucas established in Star Wars are faithfully expanded upon in the
sequel, and it's great to see what director Irvin Kershner did with them.
One thing Empire does that Star Wars didn't was further Luke along in the process
of becoming a Jedi. After watching the original trilogy, it seemed a natural progression to see Luke
get drafted by Obi-Wan in Star Wars, begin his training in Empire, and complete the transformation
in the aptly titled Return Of The Jedi. Looking back, it seems odd that if there never were any
sequels to the original 1977 film, Luke's maturation would never have been completed, and the closest we
would have come to seeing him wield that saber would have been when he was practicing against a tiny
droid. Over the years, many have paralleled traits of the "Force" to Christianity and the things
Luke learns on Dagobah from Yoda are simple life lessons Christians can apply to their faith. In fact,
some may be wondering why, when Luke fails through his disbelief, Yoda just doesn't come out and say, "Of little
faith you are!"
When The Empire Strikes Back was re-released among the original trilogy in theaters twenty years
later in 1997, George Lucas re-edited the films, adding additional footage, deleted scenes, and computerized
effects specially made for the re-releases. Reception of the changes were mixed and some of these
changes were further edited in 2004 when these films made their DVD debuts. But these films have never
looked as good as they do on DVD. The most noteworthy change Lucas made to the DVD version of The Empire Strikes Back
is in the scene where Vader meets with the Emperor via transmission for the Emperor's only appearance
in the film. The original 1980 version, as well as the 1997 re-release version, included the originally
filmed appearance of the Emperor. However, for this DVD release, Lucas had actor Ian McDiarmid, who played the sinister Emperor in
Return Of The Jedi and the prequels, film a new piece of footage for this sequence. Vader's lines
were also slightly changed for continuity purposes when linking the original trilogy with the new prequels.
The end result looks great and I'm actually really happy about this change. The only other change worth mentioning
is that bounty hunter Boba Fett's lines were all overdubbed by Temuera Morrison, who played the clone
troopers and Jango Fett in Episodes II and III. Being that Boba was proposed to be a clone of Jango in the prequels,
it seemed somewhat logical to give him Jango's voice. It helps link the films together a little bit more,
but Jason Wingreen's original voice is definitely missed.
Violence is the film's only red flag as it contains a few dismemberments as well as quite a bit of
action violence. Nowadays, a film like this might receive a PG-13 rating but it is definitely borderline.
Thankfully, the film keeps the language clean throughout and just barely winks at innuendo for the extent
of any kind of sexual content.
Overall, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is possibly the best in the
Star Wars series, following up the original with an exciting and original continuation
and serving as the perfect bridge to the original trilogy's fantastic finish in Return Of The Jedi.
At times, the film is probably too intense for younger children, so definitely take that into consideration
before letting the young ones catch up on their sci-fi cinematic history. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
is still a favorite almost twenty six years later.
If you have any questions or comments about the film before you see it (if you
decide to), feel free to
- John DiBiase
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: When the Millenium Falcon
shifts and Leia falls in Han's arms, she demands he let her go. He responds sarcastically "Don't get
excited!" to which she replies "Captain, being held by you isn't quite enough to get me excited."
Han then replies "Sorry sweetheart, I haven't got time for anything else."
Blood/Gore: Luke has some blood on his
face from being struck by a large animal; We see a snow creature eating a bloody carcass;
We see the dismembered limb of a snow creature fall to the ground and a brief shot of the animal
without the limb (just a seared mark where the arm was cut off); Han cuts open the belly of an animal
with a light saber, revealing it's non-bloody innards; We see a few cuts and scrapes on Luke's face
as it's healing; A pilot has a little bit of blood on his face while flying; In a vision that proves,
Luke faces Vader and decapitates him with his saber. We see the mask (with the head insider) lying
on the ground. The faceplate then explodes to reveal Luke's lifeless face staring back at him;
We see the back of Vader's head without his helmet on, with his skin bearing gross, deep red scarring;
Luke has some red abrasions around his eye; A character's hand is cut off and we very briefly see the
Violence: A lot of space battles that
result in ships exploding, presumably killing passengers inside; Vader uses the force to choke several
of his officers to death; a person is frozen alive in carbonite; A person is tortured with some kind
of electric shocks but remains alive; A snow creature attacks a person and that person cuts off its
arm; Han punches a person and is struck down by their guards; Chewie chokes a man but lets him go;
In a vision, Luke decapitates Vader (see above "Blood/Gore"); A droid is shot into pieces but put
together again; etc
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.