Review: Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The Empire Strikes Back - does what it says on the tin.

Perhaps the most revered of all the Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back features everything that makes the saga such a classic. Lightsabre battles, legendary lines, plot twists and great special effects all appear and work together to create a timeless movie. Timeless, that is, if George Lucas and co can ever agree on the final edition of the movie. Boasting the best box office performance of all six films (which in itself is no mean feat), The Empire Strikes Back is the penultimate instalment of the Star Wars legend.

It’s three years since the Death Star was successfully destroyed (see A New Hope) but the rebels are struggling to gain strength. We travel to an ice planet in the Hoth system where Luke (Mark Hamill) and co are working tirelessly to overcome the darkness of the universe. It’s not long before Luke’s facing mortal peril. Far from the battle fought against Darth Vader, this time his enemy is nature and his fate seems certain until he’s saved by a familiar looking rogue. The infamous AT AT Walkers make an appearance when the rebels are discovered and they must flee before the Empire takes hold. Split from Leia and Han Solo, Luke travels to Dagobah where he meets (a rather batty but brilliantly crafted) Yoda who teaches him the ways of the force.

Leia and Han’s romance slowly blossoms amidst their constant peril whilst Luke is left to battle horrifying nightmares. The danger mounts as Vader intensifies his search for the trio and bounty hunters, notably Boba Fett, are soon hot on their trail. Lies, treachery and a case of carbonite freezing ensue as the film hurtles towards its fantastic finale where Vader delivers his immortal line and deals Luke a heavy blow. Who’d want Vader as a father, after all? Not us.

The tension is building in this, the fifth instalment in the six-part saga. Originally the second movie to be released, it successfully delivered that rarest of things; a sequel that matched, if not surpassed, its predecessor. In its twists and turns The Empire Strikes Back manages to captivate audience attention time after time whilst its effects remain as engrossing as they were back in the early 80’s. Offering a hefty cliffhanger where Han’s life is in the balance and Luke must digest the news that he is the son of the most feared person in the universe, the film is filled with the promise of things to come.

Successfully tying the saga together, destiny seems to begin to come full circle when Vader chops Luke’s arm off, echoing his own loss of the same limb, adding a nice rounded touch to the proceedings that perhaps wasn’t there when it was originally released. Destined to forever be a cinema classic, The Empire Strikes Back is a film that can be watched time and time again.


Best light sabre scene: The one that takes place moments before…
Best line: ‘I am your father.’
Best character: Yoda.
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