Happy 30th Empire Strikes Back

Brian Golden

Those who know me are familiar with my Star Wars obsession, which began at the tender age of three, so I just had to write this when I discovered that May 21, 2010 marks the 30 year anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, my favorite Star Wars flick and “the greatest sequel ever made,” according to my best friend Mr. Tozer, probably due to the fact that Boba Fett was introduced in Episode V (on Tozer’s list of “coolest things ever” Boba Fett ranks somewhere between ninjas and pirates). As to why this ranks as my favorite Lucas-produced work, please continue reading.

Luke Skywalker gets serious about this Jedi business
Throughout A New Hope (Episode IV for you not-so-geeky readers) we hear a lot about the force and how it “gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,” as stated by Obi Wan Kenobi, but we never really see any proof that the force can actually do anything (except for Luke blowing up the Death Star, but that could’ve been a lucky shot for all we know). The Empire Strikes Back addresses this as we watch Luke fetch his lightsaber using the force (which he then uses to chop off the arm of a wampa, and yes, that is the correct terminology for the snow creature that attacks Luke on Hoth), train with Master Yoda and eventually challenge the dread Sith Lord Darth Vader.

Yoda, Jedi Master
Proof that not all things are as they seem, and that big things can come in little packages, Master Yoda (an absolutely brilliant creation by Frank Oz) challenges Luke physically, mentally and perhaps most importantly, philosophically. Yoda’s screen time alone can, and should, be used as proof that while computer generated imagery is glorious and all, sometimes the “old-fashioned” ways are best (compare the CGI Yodas of Episodes I, II and III to the puppetry of Episodes V and VI and you’ll see what I mean).

“Never tell me the odds”
Following their escape off the ice planet of Hoth, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO take us on a wild ride with a pair of Star Destroyers in close pursuit. The ensuing chase is one of my all-time favorites, due primarily to the humorous yet tense dialog. Harrison Ford, as Han Solo (which almost didn’t happen originally), gives a performance that’s a perfect blend of cockiness, brashness, bravado and charm, as he and “her worshipfulness” Princess Leia add a touch of romance to the classic space opera. The subsequent betrayal and capture of the group sets up a terrific finale to the film.

Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader
Of course I saved this for last, as it is the penultimate battle between Luke and Vader. Not only does Luke show off his recent Jedi training (you must admit he stands toe to toe with Vader at the beginning) but Vader drops the bombshell of bombshells with the now-famous phrase “no, I am your father.” In my opinion this lightsaber duel was easily the best in the original trilogy (I mean, come on, Luke gets his hand cut off) and the set-up for Episode VI is perfect.

Now some may disagree with me when I state that Empire is by far the best of the Star Wars movies, and an argument could easily be made that Return of the Jedi should outrank it (I would almost agree if it weren’t for the Ewoks) but I’ll stand by my decision. It will be curious to see how much attention Episode V will receive in the weeks leading up to May 21, and I, for one, think that it’s all well deserved.

May the force be with you, always.