The 1st sequel to the original Star Wars
(77) and the 5th chapter in a 6-part movie series (though a 7th chapter is due in 2015). This takes place about 3 years after Star Wars
, which concluded with the rebels blowing up the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star (Luke Skywalker did the honors). Things have not been going very well for the rebellion after this triumph; the Empire's forces have chased them off their hidden base and they were forced to relocate to the icy planet of Hoth. Luke (Mark Hamill) has become something of a leader, according to the opening scrawl, and he has continued to learn a bit about the use of "The Force" - such as levitating objects, but he has no teacher. That's where Yoda comes in - this was the first appearance of the small, green Jedi Master (though chronologically his earlier appearances were in the 3 prequels).
What happens is this: Luke gets bushwhacked by a Yeti-like snow monster; after escaping, he's rescued from the cold by Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Meanwhile, Leia (Carrie Fisher) is confused over her feelings for Luke & Han - seems like a triangle has formed. Then, the Empire finds their base and attacks. The rebels have to relocate once more, but Luke, seeing a ghostly image of Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness in cameo), instead goes to the planet Dagobah with R2D2, a swamp world where Yoda hides in exile. At the same time, Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C3PO, flitting about in the suddenly unreliable Millennium Falcon, do their best to avoid the Imperial fleet, headed by Darth Vader and a number of officers whom Vader swiftly disposes of when they fail him.
Han's group, after some adventure in an asteroid belt, end up in a cloud city which is run by an old buddy of his named Lando (Billy Dee Williams). Unfortunately, Vader's forces have somehow preceded them there and Lando turns them over to save his city - I'm not sure how the Imperial troops were so quick except that it has to do with one of the bounty hunters hired by Vader, Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch). As established in the 1st film, Han owes money to a slug-like gangster named Jabba the Hut, so Fett will earn a nice bounty by delivering Han; to facilitate this, Vader has Han frozen in Carbonite. Vader's primary goal, however, is to capture Luke; he had consulted with a hologram of the Emperor and determined how important Luke is. Luke has been undergoing training with Yoda (FX puppetry & voice by Frank Oz), but senses that his friends are in trouble; against Yoda's advice, he goes to the rescue.
As many viewers would suspect, all this was simply a prelude for the main show - Luke's confrontation with Vader. And, this epic sequence does not disappoint, also containing one of the most startling, dramatic revelations in film history. But, when I first watched this film in theaters in 1980, I was disappointed in the lead up. It all seemed so frivolous and inconsequential - all the chasing and running about - and I was surprised by how little the story actually advances in this one. The structure of the script is simply less elegant than the flawless pace of the first one. It also came across as 'smaller' than the 1st Star Wars (77); it was all confined to the main characters, besides the 1st act on Hoth and then that cloud city on Bespin. The central act just seems like filler for the most part. I also wasn't as impressed by Yoda as were many fans; his profundities were not all that extraordinary, even if the mystical leanings and overall tone were aimed at a slightly older crowd.
On top of all this, I was not enamored of the characters as much as I was in the first film. The weakest one is the new one - Lando; as played by Williams, he always seems to be holding back, stiff and even clenching his teeth. I think he was miscast as the supposedly roguish gambler. The main characters from the first film are also all more awkward, less natural. The humor seems forced at times, though Ford gets better by the middle of the film. The one who shines is Anthony Daniels as C3PO - his comic timing is always on the mark. And, of course, Vader - voiced by James Earl Jones again and costumed by Dave Prowse - is commanding as ever; his scenes are the ones everyone waits for. In all, this was still an entertaining sci-fi epic, with no real conclusion because it continued in Return of the Jedi
(83). BoG's Score: 8 out of 10Empire of Trivia
: this was the highest-grossing film of 1980, much like the first Star Wars (77), but it only sold about two-thirds of the tickets of the first one; in the upgraded 1997 version, the scene with the holographic Emperor was changed to include actor Ian McDiarmid, so that it matched his appearance in Return of the Jedi