I had thought this was going to be the 100th movie reviewed on The Legionnaire. As it turned out, that was Real Genius. Oh well. While there is certainly no comparing the mastery of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (commonly The Empire Strikes Back) to the delightful comedy of Real Genius, there is no erasing the internet. So much for grand plans. So The Empire Strikes will be the 101st film to appear on The Legionnaire. And as I had alluded to before, this is my favorite movie of all time.
When I discussed Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, I indicated then my love of Star Wars. Some might say it is an obsession, but I am going to stick with just being a super-fan. It was with the original trilogy that my love of these films was born. When I would get home from school as a young lad, and (admittedly) while shunning homework, I would pop into the VCR the tapes. Yes, the tapes. I must have wore those things out because by the time I got to high school, I would play the entirety of the films in my head when I was not paying attention in class, complete with dialog.
The Empire Strikes Back, believe it or not, was not directed by George Lucas. Thanks to Red Letter Media and the awfulness of the prequel trilogy, I have come to see the brainchild behind my favorite cinematic franchise as a bit of a hack. Instead, the second of the series to be released was directed by Irvin Kershner. Store that one in your memory banks for whenever you are again able to participate in bar trivia. While Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was a technically flawless movie, if you watch any of the dozens of making-of specials about it, you will see that the proto-Star Wars was saved in editing from being a complete disaster. It does not appear that Kershner had the same struggles.
I do not believe I have to rehash the plot of The Empire Strikes Back. Or Star Wars in general. But here is a quick(ish) recap: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the Rebel Alliance are being chased by the Empire, the latter’s forces led by the villain of all cinema villains, Darth Vader (its complicated, but played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones). Luke goes to Dagobah to train as a Jedi with Yoda (also kind of complicated, but basically Frank Oz, who, by the way, briefly appears in The Blues Brothers). Meanwhile, Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) end up on the tibanna (my spell-checker wanted to change that to Rihanna, unfortunately) gas mining colony of Bespin, run by Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). There the Empire catches up with them and Vader sets a trap that Skywalker conveniently walks into. During their subsequent duel, the big reveal comes that Darth Vader is actually Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father.
It is this last revelation that is probably The Empire Strikes Back enduring legacy. When it came out in 1980, fans were genuinely surprised when Vader told Luke the truth about the young man’s heritage. The cynic in me says that it would not have the same effect today, and given the way some people have tore apart the recent trilogy, it seems that I would be correct in my assessment. Still, I loved the sense of adventure in The Empire Strikes Back, even more so than its predecessor. The scenes of the Millennium Falcon corkscrewing through asteroid fields while evading laser blasts from Star Destroyers and TIE fighters captured my imagination at a very young age. As I got older, I found the middle installment of the original trilogy to be the more mature of the three. Yoda’s lessons on the how the Force worked and being a Jedi taught me much, philosophically, about being a good person in general. One of the lessons that resonated with me was in identifying the Dark Side, how it was “quicker, easier, more seductive.” Doing good is not always easy, but it is always right. That was how I interpreted it anyway. These notions dovetailed nicely when I began practicing my Faith again in my early twenties, and found resonance in moments like Jesus’ journey to Calvary.
If you have not seen The Empire Strikes Back, or any of the Star Wars movies, then what have you been doing with your life?! Kidding, but seriously watch them. They are movies where heroes are heroes, and villains are villains. But there is more than just a black and white, or Dark Side and Light Side, demarcation. For those who do not follow the right path, there is the opportunity for redemption, and that is something that should be celebrated. The Catholic Church celebrates that redemption during the Easter season.