The Greatest Sequel ever made
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980): After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.
Wow. It's hard to truly quantify how great this film really is. It is the definition of a perfect storm: everything bad about the first film (the dialogue, the acting) has not only been improved, but it has been perfected thanks, in part, to the fact that George Lucas took a huge step back from this film and let someone else hold the reins. Yes. This film is the greatest film of the franchise because it was the one Lucas was least involved in. He only laid the foundation for this story, (this is the only one of the 6 films that he does not have a screenplay credit on) and he did not direct this film. He merely produced it. I can only imagine the hype that surrounded this film back in the day, and had it not met expectations the entire franchise could've been dead on the spot. Fortunately, it surpassed those expectations, and in my opinion we have here the greatest sequel of all time thanks to director Irvin Kershner, writers Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, as well as the acting from Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, and especially Mark Hamill. Once again, this film is a technical masterpiece for its time, and, on top of it all, features the (in my opinion) greatest score I have ever heard in a film. So, let's review, shall we?
This film does everything right. Let's start with the acting. One of the complaints I had with the first film was the fact that none of the core three characters were able to really create an identity for themselves. While it certainly didn't exactly help that the writing wasn't the best, I still felt there was a lot to be desired from an acting perspective. However this film is an entirely different story. And this starts with Mark Hamill. Hamill has a truly knockout performance here as Luke, as he's asked to deliver a performance alongside a puppet and a ghost for most of the film. Maybe that's the key for getting great performances out of Mark....anyway, he's not the only one with a great performance. Ford and Fisher quickly discovered their identity, and each delivered iconic performances. Billy Dee Williams also joins the cast, and while he's nothing special, he's more than capable as Lando Calrissian. And, once again, there are wonderful voice performances from Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and James Earl Jones as the menacing Darth Vadar. It also helps that this time around there was some truly phenomenal dialogue for these actors to recite. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan are two of the most overlooked individuals in the history of Hollywood. They took the overall idea of Lucas and crafted the dialogue and the scenes we got here in Episode V. This film is hilarious one minute, then the next minute you find yourself in tears. These writers successfully control your emotions throughout the 124 minute film like few other films out there can. And of course Darth Vadar's reveal is one of the greatest plot twists of all time. Just saying.
But it doesn't end there. There's so much to talk about from a technical standpoint, and the thanks for this really falls on Irvin Kershner and George Lucas. First off, the locations are absolutely gorgeous. We get to see 3 different planets in this film, and each of them are diverse and interesting. They are also incredibly well-shot. But then we also have to talk about Yoda. One of the most daring endeavors ever attempted in a film to that point, the character Yoda was just a small puppet on the set that the filmmakers had to create and make us love. Besides for the ridiculous hurdle that is figuring out how to put a puppet like that on set and make him believable, he had to be well acted, and the actor who had to act alongside him had to, you know, act well too. All of this comes together between the great performance from Hamill, the great work of Kershner figuring out how to shot these scenes, as well as the wonderful voice performance of the great Frank Oz. Once again, this film could've crashed and burned and brought the entire franchise down with it had this pivotal sequence failed. Fortunately, it stands as an incredible accomplishment in the history of American cinema.
There isn't much else to say about this film. It can be viewed by itself, a quality which many sequels lack, though at the end the film successfully leaves you with wanted to know what happens next. I really have nothing bad to say about this film. While many may argue between this and The Godfather Part II over which is the greatest sequel of all time, my vote is cast. I believe it is Star Wars: Episode V. Oh and dat score. Holy crap how can I go through this review and only mention the score once. It's my favorite score in any film. Thank you, John Williams. There are about 16 songs in this film that I listen to in my spare time (I'm listening to the score as I write this review obviously) with my favorite being The Asteroid Field sequence. If the original Star Wars film didn't make this legendary composer's career, then the sequel sure did. I have no qualms with this film. A true rarity. Man how can Episode II follow this up?
The Critique: Simply put, in my opinion, Star Wars: Episode V is the greatest sequel in the history of American cinema.
The Recommendation: No. Don't watch this again. Watch it a hundred more times instead. Does that make any sense? No. But then again I have to put something in this spot, and just saying it's another must-see seems kind of boring, doesn't it?
Rewatchability: Very High
The Verdict: 10/10 The Definition of Perfect
"Like" Enter the Movies on Facebook for the latest and greatest on all things movies! OR ELSE FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A KILLER RABBIT. Sorry about this one, guys. Not my decision. He volunteered. And is just absolute dynamite!