Classic 80s Movie: “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back”

December 28th, 2013 by

Today’s Classic 80s Movie guest post comes from John Casu.

Movie Title: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

Year: 1980

Writers: Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. Story by George Lucas.

Lead Actors: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz and Alec Guinness.

Director: Irvin Kershner

Plot Summary: After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 80s Movie: From a cinematic perspective, for me this is the movie that ushered in the 80s.

It’s about as perfect a movie as has ever been made, masterfully combining a range of tropes: it’s a squashbuckling adventure, a romance, a war movie, a kung fu movie, a psychological thriller… But what’s really impressive is the way they’re combined so as to appeal both to children and to adults, without pandering.

While we all tend to love George Lucas’ movies and he is of course one of the greatest film-makers who ever lived, the undeniable fact is that he’s a poor screenwriter, at least with dialogue, and a director who isn’t comfortable working with actors.

For a moment, Lucas forgot all about trying to sell toys to young boys and girls, and by putting the script and direction in the hands of people with greater empathy for the acting process, he was able to produce a movie with great emotional resonance, which is what imho makes this the best Space Opera ever filmed.

Furthermore, rather than being a simple sequel, Empire raised the bar by being the first movie I can think of to tell its story in a continuous narrative across films.

From a character perspective, Empire is more fully formed than the original Star Wars or any of the sequels. Han and Leia are far more complex now, Han’s back story in particular being filled out in way more depth, while we get a full realization of just how formidable Vader is. Of course, the twist with Vader is that despite being terrifying and powerful (killing a man with his mind across a solar system), he is merely the servant of someone even more terrifying and powerful.

An alternative trailer:

My Favorite Moment In The Movie:

One of the greatest reveals in movie history:

VADER: If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
LUKE: He told me enough! It was you who killed him.
VADER: No. I am your father.

Shocked, Luke looks at Vader in utter disbelief.

LUKE: No. No. That’s not true! That’s impossible!
VADER: Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
LUKE: No! No! No!
VADER: Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It is the only way.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie:

Two pieces. First, a classic piece of improvisation:

Han Solo: [as Chewie tries to fight off the imperials and free Han] No! Stop,
Chewie, stop! Chewie! Chewie this won’t help me! Hey! Save your strength.
There’ll be another time. The Princess. You have to take care of her. You hear
me? Huh?

Leia and Han share a passionate kiss before Han is dragged towards the freezing chamber by the imperials.

Princess Leia: I love you.
Han Solo: I know.


LUKE: Oh, no. We’ll never get it out now.

Yoda stamps his foot in irritation.

YODA: So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?

Luke looks uncertainly out at the ship.

LUKE: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
YODA: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
LUKE: (focusing, quietly) All right, I’ll give it a try.
YODA: No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Luke closes his eyes and concentrates on thinking the ship out.

Slowly, the X-wing’s nose begins to rise above the water. It hovers for a moment and then slides back, disappearing once again.

LUKE: (panting heavily) I can’t. It’s too big.
YODA: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hm? Mmmm.

Luke shakes his head.

YODA: And well you should not. For my ally in the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we… (Yoda pinches
Luke’s shoulder) … not this crude matter. (a sweeping gesture) You must feel the Force around you.
(gesturing) Here, between you… me… the tree… the rock… everywhere! Yes, even between this land and that ship!
LUKE: (discouraged) You want the impossible.

Quietly Yoda turns toward the X-wing fighter. With his eyes closed and his head bowed, he raises his arm and points at the ship.

Soon, the fighter rises above the water and moves forward as Artoo beeps in terror and scoots away.

The entire X-wing moves majestically, surely, toward the shore. Yoda stands on a tree root and guides the fighter carefully down toward the beach.

Luke stares in astonishment as the fighter settles down onto the shore. He walks toward Yoda.

LUKE: I don’t… I don’t believe it.
YODA: That is why you fail.

Luke shakes his head, bewildered.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: This is the movie that really created the Lucas entertainment and toys empire, by expanding the story world and mythology of the original, making it possible for the sequels to happen. This is a far richer world than exists in the original.

There are really two things to watch out for: revisions of the story line after George painted himself into a corner in the original Star Wars; and the addition of a whole cast of characters from Boba Fett to Lando Calrissian.

Original trailer:

Thanks, John! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Tomorrow: Another Classic 80s Movie!

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