Why is Empire Strikes Back Still a Gold Standard in Beloved Space Saga

credit: Empire Strikes Back

Empire Strikes Back is the second Star Wars movie made behind George Lucas’s vision and the fifth sequel in the Skywalker saga. The film follows the success of the original Star Wars, later renamed to New Hope, but this time with a substantially bigger budget and more layered story and character development.

In the beginning, we find that Empire is not defeated by Death Star destruction, and mighty forces are moving on the Rebel Alliance. However, unlike New Hope, where we got a black-and-white story of good vs. evil, Empire paints a more profound picture with depth behind the main protagonists.

We got the hero of the Star Wars saga

In Empire Strikes Back, we get the fundamental notion that Luke Skywalker is the crucial Rebellion figure who can fight the Dark side. But, while he is still portrayed as good, there are cracks in his armor, and he gets a touch of restlessness, uncertainty, and jealousy.

His quest to become Jedi conflicts with his urge to help the fight against the Empire, and an unperfect hero leaves the swampy planet Dagobah when he senses Princess Leia and Han are in pain.

Better visuals and cinematic moments

George Lucas relegated the directing role to Irvin Kershner so he could have more overview of the project. He also wanted to expand the special effects company Industrial Light & Magic. The movie’s budget was around $8 million, but it grew to over $30, which was high for 1980. Luckily, it was a colossal box-office hit and earned more than $400 million.

New Hope gave the viewers until then unseen space battles, and Empire Strikes Back turned up the notch with a spectacular attack of AT-AT walkers on the Rebellion base on a frozen planet.

Space battles look as good if not better than in New Hope, and the epic lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vader is among the memorable moments in cinematography.

On top of that, between high-intensity fight scenes, space chases, and numerous locations, the Empire Strikes Back has a quote that changes the plot dramatically. Darth Vader, the vicious Sith lord, reveals to Luke, “I am your father.

There is more to Darth Vader

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We witnessed Anakin Skywalker’s transformation to the Dark side in later movies that cover the period before New Hope. Viewers saw the birth of a layered villain with another level beyond pure evil, as Vader proposes to Luke to come to the Dark Side where they could rule together. Darth Vader gets a background story, and while he stays the most feared person in the known fantasy universe, we see a crack in his robotic armor.

Best movie in franchise history

Critics proclaimed Empire Strikes Back as the best movie from the original trilogy. And while Disney is putting a considerable effort into dethroning the 1980 classic, it is still arguably the best among all Star Wars films.

We got action packed movie with plausible space and planet combat. The film developed a love story between Han Solo and Princess Leia. A darker tone and bad guys winning all the battles sparked new life into the space saga and created a perfect cliffhanger for the Return of the Jedi.

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The second Star Wars movie introduced some of the most memorable characters, like Yoda, a Jedi instructor with a unique communication style and wisdom. Screenplay included villains outside the Imperial troop’s bounty hunter Fett and Jabba the Hutt. C3PO plays his role as the on-screen narrator, and R2-D2 is once again Deux Ex Machina, managing to repair the Millenium Falcon hyperdrive in the last second, so the ship with Luke and Leia flee from Star Destroyer and TIE fighters.

Awards

Empire Strikes Back is a fan favorite for many and got critical acclaim, winning two Oscars and Grammy Awards. The second iteration of Star Wars also collected BAFTA. If we calculate the inflation over time, the movie is 13th on the list of all-time highest-grossing films in the US. In addition, it found its place on the greatest movies ever made a list and is on top of most Star Wars best to worst movies lists.

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