The Empire Strikes Back

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THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK—or, if you want to get picky Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, was far, far away the biggest hit of 1980, its domestic rake of $290,272,000 just part of an eventual planetary hoard of at least $548,000,000. George Lucas sank $33,000,000 of his profits from the first saga into what many refer to as the best of the batch. Irwin Kershner was assigned to direct; the script, first written by Leigh Brackett (who died before production commenced), was redone by Lucas and then Lawrence Kasdan.

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Back to resist the “dark side of the Force” are Mark Hamill (facial stars from a car accident he was in integrated into the plot), Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Luke is resolute, Han & Leia bicker until it’s time to gaze longingly. Joining the fray is Billy Dee Williams as too-suave-to-be-true ‘Lando Calrissian’. More crucial is another new addition, ‘Yoda’ (inhabited by Frank Oz), dispensing 900 years of one-galaxy-fits-all swamp wisdom. We know he is to be revered because of his 18th-century European grandma- meets-Confucius sentence structuring.

Synopsis? Have you been hanging upside down in a wampa cave on Hoth? Battle, escape, chase, escape, capture, battle, escape. Training. Revelation. Resolve. Toys.

Characterizations deepen, and the sorely underrated Hamill does particularly well by it. Lando comes off like a better-coiffed version of Tim Meadows ‘Ladies Man’. The special effects, once so neat on the big, big screen, are not all that stellar revisited at home four decades later: even with more money to spray around, they don’t hold up as well as those designed for inaugural blastoff. Are we now so Darth jaded? Am I just being extra-keen to Wookie talk, or is there not more ‘dialogue’ for ‘Chewbacca’ here than in any other segment? If his growls will shut C-3PO the hell up, we’re all for it. Do Storm-troopers get any marksmanship training?

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Outdoor sequences for the ice planet ‘Hoth’ were shot in subzero conditions in Norway. The technical efforts won an Oscar for Best Sound and a special achievement statue for Visual Effects.  Nominations went up for the score and the art direction. John Williams irresistibly dramatic “Imperial March” gets full-bodied play. Though Williams extravagant music for the series is usually tagged with being influenced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s scores from the 30s, the march themes surely recall those Roman-might creations imagined by Miklos Rozsa for the 50s likes of Quo Vadis and Ben-Hur.

With, once again—Anthony Daniels, David Prowse (and James Earl Jones voice), Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew.  Alec Guinness consented ($?$$) to do a few scenes. On board also are Julian Glover, Kenneth Colley and John Ratzenberger. 124 minutes.

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