Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—E is For

Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back, The

      I'm going to start off by first conjuring up a sort of George Costanza-esque rant (you know, grossly irrelevant and unnecessary) by preemptively ending any debate. This film rightfully belongs in the "E" category, not the "S" or "T." Why? The Internet makes it so. Any Google search will confirm this "fact." Ah, wasn't that simple. Easiest debate I ever won, though I don't know if my latest rambling so much qualifies as a debate, as it seems right now, I'm merely talking to myself...semantics, semantics. Anyway, lets get to the good stuff.
      George Lucas, perhaps not blessed with crafting witty or even believable dialogue (except for American Graffiti, which beautifully recreated the vintage 60's look), is extraordinarily talented at imagining immense, unforgettable worlds. Case in point, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Arguably, it is the greatest episode of the initial Star Wars Trilogy, and one of the greatest science fiction films to ever grace the silver screen. Not only is it universally revered for its establishment of the social aesthetic for future generations, but quite provocatively, it remains the most morally and emotionally charged depiction of the saga.
      The Empire Strikes Back draws from several mythological stories, in addition to elements of 1930's film serials (which Lucas adored) such as Flash Gordon—which featured a city afloat in the sky. For those of you who braved through a neglected childhood (only in the sense that you were forbidden from this film), I'll briefly recap its major plot lines. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), now a seasoned space warrior, in cohorts with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), is battling the corrupt Empire, represented by the disputatious Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). And yes, the enigmatic "Force," personified by the ghost of Luke's mentor Ben 'Obi-wan' Kenobi (Alec Guinness), is boldly with them all. 
      Retreating from Vader's minions, Luke winds up, at first, on the ice Planet Hoth, and then the tropical Dagobah, where he befriends the gnomish Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz), whose all-encompassing wisdom helps Luke wage a valiant war against a multitude of perils. Before the legendary climax (Spoiler Alert! You already know), we are introduced to the seemingly duplicitous Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), who at first betrays the benevolent clan, then miraculously fights to save them. The moral of Lando's story; don't ever make a deal with a sinister force (so goes the expression, don't make a deal with the devil).  But alas, Luke and his brooding nemesis Vader, engage in an epic lightsaber duel while this profound "secret" imminently awaits our courageous hero, who has just donated his right hand to science.
      The Empire Strikes Back is not a psychologically complex cinematic experience. Rather, and more compellingly, it is an astonishing and visceral mythological journey that rekindles our childhood sense of wonder. The stories are as deeply penetrating and universally substantial as storytelling itself. 
      A quintessence of visual extravagance from beginning to end, Star Wars features a veritable wealth of wondrously distinctive sights. The trudging, elephant-like Imperial Walkers, the marvelous Cloud City, the murky planet Dagobah, the secret ice planet Hoth, probe droids, an asteroid field, the whirling, beeping R2-D2, the golden droid C-3PO, Wampa's, Jabba the Hut, the badass Boba Fett, the original owner of the Millennium Falcon, the lovable Chewbacca, Jedi Master Yoda—whose expressions are as convincing as a human's—and the dizzying heights that Luke Skywalker routinely contends with. 
      Darth Vader is one of the greatest film villains of all-time, and The Empire Strikes Back culminates with one of the greatest cliffhangers of all-time. For a while, it was hard to pass a single day without hearing an overt Star Wars reference, recalling the now legendary quote, "No [Luke], I am your father." This award-winning film (it won the Best Sound Oscar) may be the best of the Star Wars saga, for its a mighty special-effects bonanza, aided by childlike fascination and fantastical imagination. Ah, a stark reminder of why we all sadly miss the George Lucas circa his wonderful, can-do-no-wrong heyday.

*Can you believe it? The original Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back trailer. 


  1. @#$%#@! Yes. Hands down, one of my all time favorite movies. I know it's depressingly chick of me, but "I love you" "I know" still get to me. Damn, do we miss George Lucas' heyday.

  2. EMPIRE is the rare sequel that is, not only better than the first but better than the third of a trilogy (usually part III's always feel like a let-down somehow)

    Great post and true, Roland

  3. I love this movie. It still has that sort of raw 70's cheesiness, but is really well done.

  4. Have you ever seen Taff Wars? Same visual, but with fine Taff dialog (Taff being a river running through Cardiff where 2 out of three words start with F and the rest of them are said with a strong cockney accent...

    And Blogger would classify The Empire Strikes Back under T... teehee--but thanks for the take-back--I was a tween when this came out.

  5. Another pic right off my top faves list - and you're entirely correct - it's totally an "E" movie! Another aspect of this series mythic power is that it was a relative latecomer to video - man it meant something when you only had the theatrical run to see a movie like this as many times as you could! Fantastic post! Cheers!

  6. Hands down my favorite of the original (and only) trilogy. I miss this Lucas, the one who could skillfully weave a mythic story and have us all glued to our seats, hearts in our throats. I remember where I saw this for the very first time. I was allowed to go to the movies with my friends on my own. We waited in line at River Oaks Theater 5 for like three hours to get our tix in the humid rain and the theater a/c was so cold we were shivering as much from discomfort as anticipation. But all that fell by the way side when the lights went down and Williams' score started. Then that line heard round the world and the whole theater gasped, sucking out all the available oxygen. In the ensuing silence, my friend Lisa yells "Holy Shit." I choked on my Goobers.

    Great post Matt. Thanks for bringing back such a fond memory for me.

  7. I think I'm the only one who can't distinguish which one is RETURN OF THE JEDI, which one is EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, not to mention the three new prequels from the recent years :)
    The STAR WARS films were dear to me as a kid, when our national TV used to play it during summer when kids for on a school break :) Watching STAR WARS, GOONIES, BACK TO FUTURE was real fun then.

  8. Excellent post! My favorite all-time movies are the Back to the Future trilogy and original Star Wars trilogy, no questions asked. That being said, I do go back and forth between Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back as which is my favorite of the trilogy. Both are wonderful in their own way, and I absolutely love them - it's so hard to decide. :)

    Super mini-rant: I did not like the prequels at all.

  9. The Empire Strikes Back was and is a great film, no argument there.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  10. I almost used this as my 'E'..... loved by many! Glad you went with it.

  11. @ M.

    Haha, that emotion is perfectly fine! The George Lucas of his heyday is sorely missed.

    @ Roland

    Thanks! It's enormous success was definitely unmatched for a sequel (except for a handful of films, namely Godfather II, which immediately comes to mind).

  12. @ Amy

    Lol, I still love the cheesiness.

    @ Hart

    I've never seen Taff Wars, but the premise sounds fantastic. That's what YouTube is for. And, well Blogger is wrong, and I'm right, lol. Empire is an E film.

    @ Craig

    You and everyone else! This film is what makes movie going worthwhile.

    Haha, those were the days! We had to rely on long theatrical runs to watch our favorite films because it would be a heck of a long time before we would get 'em on VHS.

    And thanks!

  13. Wonderful Choice! Love Star Wars! This was probably one of my Favorite out of the whole Collection.

  14. @ Melissa

    That's great! I'm glad I could inspire such wonderful memories. I am truly jealous of everyone who was fortunate enough to watch this in the theater. You just can't recreate that magic at home. Thanks for the personal anecdote!

    @ Dezmond

    Ha, that's fine Dez. As heinous as it may sound, one of my good friends still has not seen any of the Star Wars! I've yet to convince him, either. Strange, ain't it.

  15. @ Liz

    Awesome mini-rant because I totally agree. The Prequels were awful. I love the trilogy and it is hard to distinguish, sometimes, which is my favorite. If pressed for an answer, I'd go with Empire!

    And might I add, you have great taste in film!

    @ N.R. Williams

    No argument here either. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. @ Sand Castles

    That would've been just too much of a coincidence. No, I'm kidding. I would've enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this iconic film!

    @ Roza

    Thanks! It's my favorite, but the first three are all outstandingly good, so I'm not going out on a limb too much. And thanks for stopping by!

  17. Such is the dilemma of lengthy names. Just like my last name. Does it get filed under E for Evans or W for Wynne? Darn hyphenated last name. And to think that was my husbands last name and I did not confuse it further with my maiden name.

    As long as you can find it, what's it matter.

    Great movie!


  18. I love all your reviews (short and on target) - and the movies you've chosen. I have to follow!
    Happy E Day!

  19. I'm always a bit ashamed to admit this... but I've never seen any Star Wars movie. Not one of them. I seriously think I need to remedy this because the trailer is awesome!! Looking forward to reading more of your A-Z entries! :)

  20. One of my all time favorites! Great review!

  21. I love quality films and am rather impressed by your site. I'm excited to read more of your reviews and see what other movies you mention throughout the challenge. Good to meet you!

  22. @ Sig

    Haha, thanks for understanding. Your name is great!

    @ Tara

    Thanks so much! Happy E Day right back at ya!

    @ Catherine

    No need to be ashamed. It just means you got a lot of catching up to do because you can't live your life without watching the original Star Wars Trilogy. It's a fact, Snapple-Fact says so!

  23. @ Tyrean

    No question about its greatness. Thanks!

    @ Paul

    Good stuff! And I appreciate the support. Glad to have you on board.

    I guess I have, ummm, 21 more films to go for the challenge. And then, of course, an infinite amount more to review, as I continue my movie ramblings! Such is the method to the film obsessed madness.

  24. This is great. I looked through all your A - Z entries. Only film I don't know is Source Code. Acopolypse Now is one of my all-time favourites and would you believe I'm going to Casablanca in July, lucky me. Great idea for a theme.


    Thanks for travelling to Eire.

  25. Definitely the best of all six Star Wars movies. A true classic and a sci-fi masterpiece!
    Incredible review as usual, Matty ;)

  26. I hope your "J" isn't about Java the Hut or worse... Jar Jar Biggs. What where they thinking with Jar Jar, anyway?

  27. I movie review site? I'm hooked. Loved all three original movies. Of course, this one was my least favorite, but that's just because I hated waiting to find out what would happen.

  28. This is one of my favorite movies!

  29. This has to be the best of the six Star Wars films. It is just one of those timeless classics that never get old as you watch them.

  30. @ L'Aussie

    Thanks for checking out my posts! You're going to love Casablanca. That's awesome. I wish I could say I'm going there. Beautiful.

    And no problem.

    @ Nebular

    Thanks homie! And I totally agree. It's the best of the Lucas bunch.

    @ Samantha

    Haha, no I won't subject my followers to such a sham. What were they thinking? Probably, nothing at all. It was such a half-assed idea.

  31. @ Kari

    Thanks for enjoying my content. Who doesn't like movies, right!?

    And you're the first to say that, so I applaud your individuality!

    @ Angela

    You and me both!

    @ Jaccstev

    "Timeless classic"-absolutely! The best of the whole lot of them-Yes! These kinds of films reward re-watchers like us!

  32. Ok this might actually be a surprise to you, but I have never watched any of the Star Wars! I know i know, how dare I call myself a moive fan....I am actually buying them altogether and having a star wars marathon very soon...i need the force lol

  33. That is definitely a surprise. But it's alright because not only do you own up to this fact, but you are going to soon rectify it. So, kudos to you. The Force is with you, my friend!