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Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

(Irvin Kershner, 1980)

most of us have seen this many times... although i watched this last night and somehow it seemed so fresh. if i taught a class on filmmaking i'd definitely have my students study this movie. maybe that's silly, i don't know what they teach in film school these days... maybe it's a lot of arthouse kinda stuff, maybe it's not. i'm not sure. but what i believe is this is a masterpiece of storytelling. this is the kind of movie i think people love to see. the first thing i noticed is the color palette. the opening act is white, taking place on Hoth. it's clean in a creative sense, brings an artistic touch, and creates a mood and atmosphere for the story. plus they totally set up the black-on-white contrast for when Lord Vader strolls into the rebel base

one guy i want to mention before i say anything else is Ralph McQuarrie. i think his storyboards and concept art are amazing, and he is one of the major heroes of bringing the Star Wars original trilogy to life. his drawings are dynamic, cinematic, and yet not overly-complicated. i love his work and could post a ton of it, but for now i'll stick with this one. R.I.P. Ralph McQuarrie, Star Wars isn't the same without you

bossman says: "Do it like this!" ↑

the other thing that happens right from the get-go is we jump right into character development and the growing relationships between Luke, Han, and Leia. the actors are at their best in this one, we love their characters, and i think Irvin Kershner's directing had a lot to do with that. as i watched, i got the sense that this movie really raised the bar for what a Star Wars movie could be. it has stellar artistry from a conceptual and directorial standpoint. it is also a character study of our three main heroes, and one that we love to revisit. the banter between Han Solo and Leia is always witty, humorous, and yet at the same time genuine. it's a really well-written love story bc it's not about the really romantic and serious stuff... it's more about the playful and fun side

now i want to talk for a minute about Darth Vader's meditation chamber. i want one of these

he has a screen inside that he appears to use primarily for communicating with his subordinates when they screw up

although i like to think Vader also has an extensive movie collection that he watches in his little egg / meditation chamber thing when the Empire has some down time. it'd be full of hundreds of strange, exotic intergalactic hits that we've never seen before. he'd sit in his little egg watching movies, he'd forget his Empire worries, he'd laugh too loud at the stupid jokes and wonder if anyone heard him, Imperial Officers would walk by and hear his strange cackles from inside his egg... the imperial officers would all whisper amongst themselves how strange their commander is. then Lord Vader would stride into the room and morph back to Dark Lord mode and be all intimidating. anyways, basically, Vader's meditation chamber is awesome and i want one

Conclusion: started thinking about the upcoming Star Wars VII, and about what the original Star Wars films are at their core... and to me these stories are the melding of excellent artistic design, fun characters and dialogue, and a genuine love and understanding for good storytelling (and great John Williams music!). the bar was set high for what a Star Wars movie could be with the 1977 and 1980 films. i'm splitting hairs when comparing those against each other bc i love them both. in Empire Strikes Back, the connections between our main characters deepen, and through that the audience's connection to the story deepens. ultimately i give a slight edge to Star Wars '77... it's the only Star Wars movie that stands completely on its own, and when i watch it i can consider the vast potential and possibilities of where they could have taken the story from there.
still, i give Empire a
10.0 / 10

Thoughts on Star Wars movies: while it's true in a sense that 'these are just movies,'... i think a Star Wars movie can be a bit more, if they are handled with care by skilled storytellers and artists who believe in and love their work. a Star Wars movie can be the consummation of all the stories and mythologies people have loved for thousands of years... presented in a fresh way to new generations... i believe all of this because it happened with Empire and Star Wars '77. i don't know if the upcoming movies from Disney, JJ Abrams, and the original cast will rediscover the magic, but it will be fun to watch them try