Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition

1997, Movie, PG, 124 mins

Review

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Considered by many the best entry in the series, the second chapter of the STAR WARS trilogy finds the evil Darth Vader (David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones) aiding the emperor in his attempts to crush the rebellion dedicated to halting the Empire's domination of the universe. This 20th anniversary theatrical rerelease of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK features enhanced visual and sound effects. Some of the modifications are special effects nitpicking: In the opening ice-battle sequence, for example, matte lines that would probably not have bothered the average viewer have been erased. But others are more substantial. Luke Skywalker's encounter with a Wampa that has alimentary designs on his tauntaun now features a much nastier, gorier creature. In addition, the scene's background has been reshot. Later, at Lando Calrissian's Cloud City base, we get a much better look at the floating mine city. And when Lando announces that the Empire has taken control of the city, we now see a large crowd of Cloud City residents scurrying off in different directions. Though their absence in no way impairs the film, these technological enhancements add luster to an already glittering jewel.

The rebel forces are on the ice planet Hoth and the evil Empire sends troops to wipe them out. Forced to flee, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) regroup in Cloud City, which is run by the roguish Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) searches for and finds Yoda (the voice of Frank Oz), a wise little creature who teaches him the finer points of the Force. The whole thing climaxes in a showdown between Luke and Darth Vader, the revelation of some surprising plot twists, and a cliffhanger ending.

After the phenomenal success of STAR WARS, creator George Lucas retired from directing and hired veteran Kershner to direct and the great Leigh Brackett (THE BIG SLEEP, RIO BRAVO, EL DORADO, THE LONG GOODBYE) to write the screenplay with an assist from a new kid on the block, Lawrence Kasdan. Financially, Lucas could afford to push the special effects envelope even further this time. The result is a darker, richer, and more elaborate film than the original; it suffers most from being just what it is: a middle chapter with no real ending. The film's final cliffhanger may prove upsetting to youngsters, since the dark side of the Force has the upper hand, but it's dramatically correct, setting the stage for the triumphant return of Good in part three, RETURN OF THE JEDI. leave a comment

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Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition
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