“STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH” (2005) Review

“STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH” (2005) Review

Released during the summer of 2005, “STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH” marked the sixth and final time producer-director-writer George Lucas served as creator of a “STAR WARS” movie. By an ironic twist, the movie served as the third film in terms of the series timeline.

Set three years after “STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES” and the beginning of the Clone Wars, “REVENGE OF THE SITH” begin with Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker leading a mission to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of Separatist leader and former Jedi Master Count Dooku aka Darth Tyrannus and his leading military commander, General Grievous. The rescue mission is besieged with difficulties. First, the two Jedi are forced to fight a difficult duel against Dooku and later, are briefly captured by General Grievous. But the pair prevail and return the kidnapped Palpatine to Coruscant via a crash landing skillfully executed by Anakin. The latter is reunited with his secret wife, Senator Padmé Amidala, who reveals she is pregnant. At first excited, Anakin begins to have premonitions of Padmé dying in childbirth.

Fearful of Padmé dying, Anakin seek advice from Jedi Master Yoda on how do deal with his anxieties. But Yoda’s advice leaves him unsatisfied. Even worse, Obi-Wan reveals that the Jedi Council are suspicious of Palpatine maintaining power of the Senate and asks Anakin to spy on the politician. Anakin is against the idea, due to his friendship with Palpatine and because he finds the mission dishonorable. His opinion of the Jedi Council sinks even further when Palpatine appoints Anakin as his representative on the Jedi Council . . . and the latter is denied the rank of Master. Between his anxieties over Padmé’s pregnancy and fate and loss of faith toward the Jedi Order, Anakin finds himself listening more and more to the insidious advice of Chancellor Palpatine.

Most fans of the “STAR WARS” view “REVENGE OF THE SITH” as the best film in the Prequel Trilogy. I could make assumptions on why the 2005 film is considered the best of the second trilogy, but it would be arrogant of me to do so. Unlike the Original Trilogy, it is the third and last film of this trilogy that proved to be the darkest. In fact, “REVENGE OF THE SITH” is probably the darkest film in the entire franchise . . . so far. And that is not surprising, considering that it marked the downfalls of Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic. Many fans have dumped the blame on Chancellor-turned-Emperor Palpatine for being responsible for the downfall of a Jedi Knight, a religious order and a political body. I wish I could agree with them . . . but I cannot. I would say that Palpatine exploited their weaknesses, fears and bad choices in his bid for supreme power. But he would have never had the opportunity for that grasp for power without the mistakes of the Galactic Senate, the Republic and the Jedi Order. There are some who believed that he “used the Force” to cloud his real identity and actions from the Jedi Council. I find that ridiculous . . . even for a science-fiction/fantasy tale like “STAR WARS”.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that certain fans simply cannot accept the idea that the so-called “good guys” would make such erroneous mistakes that would help lead to their downfalls. Unless said “good guys” were Anakin Skywalker and Jedi Master Mace Windu. Due to the foreknowledge of Anakin’s fate as Sith apprentice Darth Vader, many were willing to accept him capable of making serious mistakes. And due to Mace Windu’s unpopularity with many fans – especially those who are incapable of accepting Samuel L. Jackson in the role of a major member of the Jedi Order – they were willing to accept him as flawed. Yet, many of these same fans seemed unwilling to accept the flawed nature of characters like Senator Padmé Amidala and especially Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Padmé is regarded – to her great detriment – as some idealized female character. And both Obi-Wan and Yoda are highly regarded by the fans, due to their major roles in the older trilogy. In fact, I find this attitude so annoying that I am almost willing to break my earlier edit about making assumptions regarding the fans’ opinion of “REVENGE OF THE SITH”. Okay . . . I am willing to do so. I am willing to make an arrogant assumption. And here it is. I suspect that many STAR WARS fans are more acceptable of this third film, due to Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. It is the event that many had been looking forward to since the Prequel Trilogy movies first hit the movie screens back in 1999.

For me, “REVENGE OF THE SITH” was not merely about Anakin’s love of Padmé and his fear of losing her finally led to his transformation into Sith Lord Darth Vader. For me, it was also watching the last chapter in which the major characters made their final decisions that helped Chancellor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious become leader of the Galactic Empire. Watching these major characters make mistake after mistake, along with crime and crime was fascinating to watch. Even some of the most minor decisions – like Padmé Amidala’s insistence that her marriage to Anakin remain a secret – struck me as a prime example of the mistakes the characters made, due to their attachments. Most fans tend to claim that the Jedi – especially Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – harbored no attachments to anyone or anything. But I feel differently. I believe the movie made it clear that the Jedi – and all of them – were attached to the Order and were willing to do anything to maintain it, the Republic and the Order’s position within the Republic.

“REVENGE OF THE SITH” featured some very memorable scenes. I was especially impressed by the entire sequence featuring Obi-Wan and Anakin’s rescue of Palpatine from Count Dooku and General Grievous; which featured a hilarious moment with R2-D2 and was capped by a fantastic crash landing on Coruscant. Obi-Wan’s experiences on Utapau struck me as interesting . . . especially his duel with Grievous. Anakin and the clonetroopers’ attack on the Jedi Temple sent chills down my spine. So did that final confrontation between Palpatine, Mace Windu and Anakin inside the chancellor’s office. The twin duels of Anakin vs. Obi-Wan, and Yoda vs. Palpatine practically took my breath away. I was really impressed by Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen’s work in their fight scene. I have seen clips of the two actors practicing their duel . . . and yes, they are that good. However, I cannot help but wonder which scenes that the majority of the fans prefer – the two lightsaber duels or the bone-chilling Order 66 sequence that featured the destruction of many Jedi padawans, Knights and Masters. By the way, Lucas shot that sequence as a montage and I must say that his direction, along with Ben Burtt and Roger Barton’s editing, and John Williams’ score made this the most haunting sequence in the entire Saga.

The movie also featured some intimate scenes – both dramatic and comedic – that struck me as a positive addition to its story. Both Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen gave outstanding performances in many of the scenes between Palpatine and Anakin . . . especially the opera scene in which the former revealed the circumstances behind the death of the former’s master, Darth Plagueis. Both Christensen and Natalie Portman did excellent jobs in conveying the love between their characters and the lack of communication that seemed to plague the Skywalker/Amidala marriage – including one scene in which Padmé expressed her sympathy toward the Separatists. Both McDiarmid and Samuel L. Jackson were excellent in the final confrontation scene between Palpatine and Master Windu. Christensen and McGregor were outstanding in two particular scenes between Anakin and Obi-Wan. I not only enjoyed their performances in one scene in which the pair argued over Obi-Wan’s request that Anakin spy on Palpatine, but also when the Jedi Master and his former padawan exchanged their last friendly conversation before Obi-Wan’s departure for Utapau. And I must admit that I found it nice to see not only the Wookie homeworld Kashyyyk, but also Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.

As usual for any STAR WARS movie, “REVENGE OF THE SITH” featured some outstanding visual effects. If I could pinpoint the main person responsible for the movie’s visual and special effects, I would kowtow at that person’s feet. First of all, I was impressed not only by the effects used in the Battle of Coruscant opening and the crash landing that marked the sequence’s ending; but also the two duels that dominated the movie’s last half hour. The art direction team led by Peter Russell, along with cinematographer David Tattersall and the special effects team provided eye-catching scenes like those featured below that literally made me drool:

starwars3-movie-screencaps.com-107
starwars3-movie-screencaps.com-9618

Speaking of art that made me drool, I have to bring up Trisha Biggar’s costume designs. Naturally, I will not repeat myself about how much I admire her work. And I will not bring up the fact that I consider it a crime that she never received any Oscar nominations for her work. However, below are two examples of her work featured in “REVENGE OF THE SITH”:

padme-amidala-aqua-georgette-costume-gallery
senator-amidala-green-cut-velvet-costume-gallery

Was there anything about “REVENGE OF THE SITH” that I found troubling or questionable? Well . . . yes. As much as I admired the performances in the movie, there were the usual cheesy dialogue found in a STAR WARS movie. This was especially apparent in a few performances that struck me as particularly hammy. Christensen got pretty hammy in one scene in which Anakin angrily confronted Obi-Wan before their duel on Mustafar. And McGregor got a little hammy during that scene in which Obi-Wan ranted at a limbless and burning Anakin, after the duel. Even McDiarmid and Jackson engaged in a good deal of ham during the big Palpatine/Windu scene. I was a little disappointed that Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku only appeared in the movie’s first half hour. His replacement – General Grievous one-dimensional and not very interesting as a personality. I was also disappointed that Jar-Jar Binks, along with Owen and Beru Lars were all reduced to cameo appearances with no dialogue in the movie’s last montage. However, my biggest complaint featured Anakin’s early appearance on Mustafar. After killing Nute Gunray and the other Separatist leadership on Mustafar, Anakin remained on the planet; while Palpatine declared himself Emperor, Obi-Wan informed Padmé about Anakin’s new role as a Sith Lord, and both of them headed for Mustafar. Why on earth did Anakin remain on the planet for so long, after killing the Separatists? That did not make sense to me.

Despite these complaints, I cannot deny that “STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH” was a more than worthy entry in the STAR WARS. I found it outstanding, despite its flaws. The movie featured a well written, yet dark tale about the downfall of its many characters; outstanding visuals; along with excellent action and dramatic scenes. But most importantly, I also found it ironic that the movie’s dark and operatic tone ended up being more or less copied by many other film franchises in the years to come.

“STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI” (1983) Review

download

 

“STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI” (1983) Review

The third movie and sixth episode of George Lucas’ original STAR WARS saga, “STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI”, has become something of a conundrum for me. It was the first STAR WARS movie that immediately became a favorite of mine. But in the years that followed, my opinion of the film had changed. 

Directed by Richard Marquand, “RETURN OF THE JEDI” picked up a year after “STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” left off. The movie begins with the arrival of the Emperor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious and his apprentice, Darth Vader to the Empire’s new Darth Star, which had been in construction above the moon of Endor. Luke Skywalker, Jedi-in-training and Rebel Alliance pilot, finally construct a plan to rescue his friend, Han Solo, from the Tatooine gangster Jabba the Hutt. His plan nearly fails, despite help from Princess Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca and his droids C3-P0 and R2-D2. Despite the odds against them, the group of friends finally succeed in rescuing Han and killing Jabba.

Following the Tatooine rescue, Luke returns to Dagobah to finish his Jedi training with Jedi Master Yoda. However, Luke discovers Yoda on the verge of death from old age. When the old Jedi Master finally dies, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ghost appears and verifies what Luke had learned on Bespin in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” – that Darth Vader is his father, Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan insists that Luke has to kill his father in order to destroy the Sith Order, but the latter is reluctant to commit patricide. Eventually, Luke returns to the Rebel Alliance rendezvous point, and volunteers to assist his friends in their mission to destroy the the Death Star.

I was not kidding when I stated that “RETURN OF THE JEDI” was the first STAR WARS movie to become a personal favorite of mine. I disliked “A NEW HOPE” when I first saw it. It took me nearly a decade to get over my dislike and embrace it. “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” creeped me out a bit, due to its dark plot, the revelation of Darth Vader’s true identity and Han’s unhappy fate. The movie has become one of my two favorites in the franchise. But I loved “RETURN OF THE JEDI” from the beginning. By then, I finally learned to embrace Lucas’ saga. And the positive ending with no potential of a sequel made me equally happy. And yet . . . my feelings toward the movie gradually changed. Although I still maintained positive feelings toward the movie, I ceased to regard it as my personal favorite from the STAR WARSfranchise.

“RETURN OF THE JEDI” did have its problems. One, the movie featured both a second Death Star and Luke’s return to Tatooine. For me, this signalled an attempt by George Lucas to recapture some of the essence from the first movie, “A NEW HOPE”. In other words, I believe Lucas used the Death Star and Tatooine to relive the glory of the first movie for those fans who had been disappointed with “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. And there is nothing that will quickly turn me off is an artist who is willing to repeat the past for the sake of success.

Tatooine proved to be an even bigger disappointment, especially since I have never been fond of the sequence at Jabba’s palace. I never understood why it took Luke and his friends an entire year to find Han. Boba Fett had made his intentions to turn Han over to Jabba very clearly in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. So, why did it take them so long to launch a rescue? Exactly what was Luke’s rescue plan regarding Han in the first place? Not long after she arrived with Chewbacca, Leia made her own attempt to free Han from the carbonite block and failed. Had Luke intended for this to happen? Had he intended to be tossed into a pit with a Rancor? Were all of these minor incidents merely parts of Luke’s plan to finally deal with Jabba on the latter’s sail barge? If so, it was a piss-poor and convoluted plan created by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan.

“RETURN OF THE JEDI” also featured the development of Luke’s skills with the Force. Since the movie made it clear that he had not seen Yoda since he departed Dagobah in order to rescue Han, Leia and Chewbacca from Bespin; I could not help but wonder how Luke managed to develop his Force skills without the help of a tutor. I eventually learned that Luke honed his Force skills by reading a manual he had found inside Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Tatooine hut. Frankly, I find this scenario ludicrous. Luke’s conversation with Obi-Wan’s ghost on Dagobah featured one major inconsistency. Obi-Wan claimed that Owen Lars was his brother, in whose care he left Luke. Considering Obi-Wan’s unemotional response to Owen’s death in “A NEW HOPE”, I found this hard to believe and could not help but view Obi-Wan’s words as a major blooper. Especially since Obi-Wan had reacted with more emotion over Luke’s reluctance to become a Jedi and kill Darth Vader.

Many fans have complained about the cheesy acting and wooden dialogue found the Prequel Trilogy movies. These same fans have failed to notice similar flaws in the Original Trilogy movies, including “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Especially“RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Mind you, the movie did feature some first-rate performances. But none of it came from Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. I really enjoyed Ford and Fisher’s performances in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. But I feel they really dropped the ball in “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. They seemed to be phoning in their performances and the Leia/Han ended up rather wooden and unsatisfying to me. This was especially apparent in the scene in which Leia, after learning the truth about Vader’s identity, seemed too upset to answer Han’s demanding questions about her conversation with the departed Luke. Both Fisher and Ford really came off as wooden in that scene. When I had first saw “RETURN OF THE JEDI”, I despised the Ewoks. My feelings for them have somewhat tempered over the years. But I still find them rather infantile, even for a STAR WARS movie. Although I no longer dislike the Ewoks, I still find that village scene in which C3-P0 revealed the past adventures of Luke and his friends very cheesy and wince-inducing. Unlike the past two films, the camaraderie between the group seemed forced . . . and very artificial. The Ewok village scene also revealed a perplexing mystery – namely the dress worn by Leia in this image:

ewok19

For years, I have wondered why Leia would carry such a dress with her, during the mission to Endor. I eventually learned that the Ewoks created the dress for her, after she became their guest. And I could not help but wonder why they had bothered in the first place. Luke and Han did not acquire new outfits from the Ewoks after they became the latter’s guests. And how did the Ewoks create the dress so fast? Within a matter of hours?

Thankfully, “RETURN OF THE JEDI” had plenty of virtues. One of those virtues turned out to be Mark Hamill, who gave the best and probably the most skillful performance in the movie as Luke Skywalker. Unlike the previous two movies, Luke has become a more self-assured man and Force practitioner, who undergoes his greatest emotional journey in his determination to learn the complete story regarding his family’s past and help his father overcome any remaining connections to the Sith. He was ably supported by James Earl Jones (through voice) and David Prowse (through body movement), who skillfully conveyed Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker’s growing dissatisfaction with the Sith and himself.“RETURN OF THE JEDI” also marked the real debut of Ian McDiarmid’s portrayal of politician and Sith Lord Palpatine aka Darth Sidious. Although the actor achieved critical acclaim for his portrayal of Palpatine in the Prequel Trilogy movies, I must say that I was impressed by his performance in this film. McDiarmid was in his late 30s at the time, but I he did a first-rate job in portraying Palpatine as a powerful and intelligent Sith Lord and galactic leader, whose skills as a manipulator has eroded from years of complacency and arrogance. Billy Dee Williams returned as ex-smuggler Lando Calrissian, who has joined the Rebel Alliance cause. Although his portrayal of Lando did not strike me as memorable as I did in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”, I believe he did a very solid job – especially in the Battle of Endor sequence. I finally have to comment on the Jabba the Hutt character, who proved to be very memorable thanks to Larry Ward’s voiceovers and the puppeteer team supervised by David Barclay.

“RETURN OF THE JEDI” also featured some first-rate action scenes. The best, in my opinion, was the speeder bike sequence in which Luke and Leia chased a squad of Imperial stormtroopers on patrol through the Endor forest. This sequence was actually shot in the Redwood National Forest in California. The combined talents of Lucas, Marquand’s direction, Alan Hume’s photography, the ILM special effects, Ben Burtt’s sound effects (which received an Oscar nomination) and especially the editing team of Sean Barton, Marcia Lucas and Duwayne Dunham made this sequence one of the most exciting, nail biting and memorable ones in the entire saga. But there were other scenes and sequences that impressed me. Despite my dislike of the entire sequence featuring the rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, I cannot deny that the scene aboard Jabba’s sail barge proved to be entertaining. Even the ground battle between the Imperial forces and the Rebel forces (assisted by the Ewoks) proved to be not only entertaining, but also interesting. The idea of the Ewoks utilizing the natural elements of Endor to battle and defeat Imperial technology provided an interesting message on the superiority of nature. And if I must be honest, I found the destruction of this second Death Star to be more exciting than the first featured in “A NEW HOPE”.

Despite the barrage of action scenes, there were a few dramatic scenes that I found impressive. The best one proved to be the confrontation between Luke, Vader and Palpatine aboard the second Death Star. Luke and Papatine’s battle of wills over Vader’s soul not only provided some interesting performances from Hamill, Earl Jones/Prowse and McDiarmid; it also resulted in one of the most emotionally satisfying moments in the movie. Another excellent dramatic scene featured Luke’s discussion with Obi-Wan’s ghost regarding Vader’s true identity. Both Hamill and Alec Guinness gave excellent performances in the scene. It also, rather surprisingly, revealed the flawed aspect of the Jedi’s righteous nature for the very first time.

After the release of the six STAR WARS movies produced by George Lucas, I realized that I no longer regarded “RETURN OF THE JEDI” as the best in the saga. Unfortunately, I now rate it as the least most satisfying film in the saga, so far. Certain plot holes and some weak performances made it impossible for me to view it with such high esteem. Yet, I cannot say that I dislike the film. In fact, I still enjoyed it very much, thanks to a first-rate performance by Mark Hamill, who really held the movie together; some excellent action sequences and a surprising, yet satisfying twist that ended the tale of one Anakin Skywalker. Despite its flaws, “RETURN OF THE JEDI” still managed to be a very satisfying movie.

“STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” (1980) Review

936full-star-wars--episode-v----the-empire-strikes-back-screenshot

“STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” (1980) Review

From a certain point of view, I find it hard to believe that the 1980 film, “STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” has become the most critically acclaimed STAR WARS movie by the franchise’s fans. And I find it hard to believe, due to the film’s original box office performance. 

I was also surprised that “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” was released in the first place. Despite the ambiguous nature of villain Darth Vader’s fate in the 1977 film, “STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE”, I had assumed that film’s happy ending meant the story of Luke Skywalker and his friends was over. But my assumption proved to be wrong three years later. Many other filmgoers and critics also expressed surprise at the release of a second STAR WARS movie. More importantly, a surprising revelation and an ending with a cliffhanger resulted in a smaller box office for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” than either “A NEW HOPE” or the 1983 film, “STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Yet, thirty-three years later, the movie is now viewed as the most critically acclaimed – not just among the first three movies, but also among those released between 1999 and 2005.

“THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” begins three years following the events of ” A NEW HOPE”. Despite the Rebel Alliance’s major victory above the planet of Yavin and the destruction of the Galactic Empire’s Death Star, the rebellion continues to rage on. Luke Skywalker, now a wing commander at the Rebels’ base on Hoth, patrols beyond the base’s perimenter with close friend and former smuggler Han Solo. After the latter returns to base, Luke is attacked by a wampa and dragged into the latter’s cave. Meanwhile, Han receives word from Princess Leia, one of the Rebel leaders and a friend of both men, that Luke has not returned. He leaves the base to find Luke, while the latter manages to escape from the wampa’s lair. Luke stumbles into a snowstorm and before losing consciousness, receives a message from the Force spirit of his late mentor, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, to seek out another Jedi named Yoda on Dagobah for further training. Han eventually finds Luke before a Rebel patrol finds them both.

While Luke recovers from his ordeal, Leia and General Rieekan learn from Han and his Wookie companion Chewbacca have discovered an Imperial probe. They surmise that Imperial forces know the location of their base and might be on their way. The Rebel Alliance forces prepare to evacuate Hoth. But an Imperial presence on the planet served as a bigger problem for the heroes. Unbeknownst to them, Darth Vader seeks out Luke, following his discovery of the young man’s connection to the Force three years ago. Although the three friends will separate for a period of time and experience adventures of their own, Lord Vader’s hunt for Luke will result in great danger and a surprising revelation in the end.

I once came across a post on the TheForce.net – Jedi Council Forums message board that complained of the lack of a main narrative for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. A part of me could understand why this person reached such an opinion. Despite the circumstances on Hoth and the finale on the Bespin mining colony, our heroes barely spent any time together. Following the Rebel Alliance’s defeat on Hoth, Luke and R2-D2 traveled to Dagobah, where the former continued his Jedi training under Master Yoda. Meanwhile, Han and Chewbacca helped Leia and C3-P0 evade Darth Vader and Imperial forces on Hoth and in space before seeking refuge on Bespin. I believe this person failed to realize that other than Luke’s Jedi training with Yoda, most of the movie’s narrative centered on Vader’s attempts to capture Luke – the Imperial invasion of Hoth, his pursuit of the Millennium Falcon with Leia and Han aboard, and their subsequent capture on Bespin. Even Luke’s Jedi training was interrupted by visions of his friends in danger and journeyed into the trap set by Vader. And this is why I found it hard to accept this complaint about “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”.

Most fans tend to regard the movie as perfect or near perfect. Despite my feelings for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”, I cannot agree with this view. I believe that the movie has its flaws. One could find cheesy dialogue in the movie, especially from Darth Vader. He possessed an annoying penchant for constantly using the phrase “It is your destiny” in the movie’s last half hour. Some of Leia and Han’s “romantic dialogue” in the movie’s first half struck me as a bit childish and pedantic. Speaking of those two – how did they end up attracted to each other in the first place? “A NEW HOPE” ended with Han making a brief pass at Leia during the medal ceremony. But she seemed to regard him as a mere annoyance and nothing else. Three years later, both are exchanging longing glances and engaging in verbal foreplay at least ten to fifteen minutes into the story. I would have allowed this to slide if a novel or comic story had explained this sudden shift toward romance between them. But no such publication exists, as far as I know. This little romance seemed to have developed out of the blue.

There were other problems. The movie never explained the reason behind Leia’s presence at the Rebels’ Hoth base. She was, after all, a political leader; not a military one. The base already possessed a more than competent military leader in the form of General Rieekan. Watching Leia give orders to the pilots during the base’s evacuation made me realize that she really had no business interfering in the Rebels’ military command structure. It would have been a lot easier if she had been a military officer or a spy for the Alliance. “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” also failed to explain why Han was being hunted by Jabba the Hutt after three years. I thought the payment he had received for delivering Leia and the Death Star plans to Yavin was enough to settle his debt to the Tattooine gangster. Apparently not. And the movie failed to explain why. Perhaps there is a STAR WARS novel or comic book story that offered an explanation. I hope so. For years, I never understood the symbolism behind Luke’s experiences inside the Dagobah cave during his Jedi training. And I am not sure if I still do. Finally, how long did Luke’s training on Dagobah last? And how long did it take the Millennium Falcon to reach Bespin with a broken hyperdrive? LucasFilm eventually revealed that both incidents took at least three months. If so, why did the movie failed to convey this particular time span?

Thankfully, “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” more than rose above its flaws. For me, it is still one of the best science-fiction adventure films I have ever seen. I am amazed that such a complex tale arose from two simple premises – Darth Vader’s hunt for Luke Skywalker and the continuation of the latter’s Jedi training. From these simple premises, audiences were exposed to a richly detailed and action-filled narrative, thanks to George Lucas’ story, Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay (which was also credited to Leigh Brackett) and Irvin Kershner’s direction. The movie featured many exciting sequences and dramatic moments that simply enthralled me. Among my favorite action sequences were the Millennium Falcon’s escape from Hoth, Yoda’s introduction, Han’s seduction of Leia inside the giant asteroid worm, the Falcon’s escape from the worm. For me, the movie’s best sequence proved to be the last – namely those scenes on the mining colony of Bespin. I would compare this last act in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” to the Death Star sequence in “A NEW HOPE”or the Mos Espa podrace sequence in “STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE”. The Bespin sequence featured a few truly iconic moments. Well . . . if I must be honest, I would say that it featured two iconic moments – Han’s response to Leia’s declaration of love and Darth Vader’s revelation of his true identity.

Naturally, one cannot discuss a STAR WARS movie without mentioning its technical aspects. In my review of “A NEW HOPE”, I had failed to mention Ben Burtt’s outstanding sound effects. I will add that his work in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” proved to be equally outstanding. I could also say the same for the movie’s sound mixing, which earned Academy Awards for Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Greg Landaker, and Peter Sutton. Composer John Williams’ additions to his famous STAR WARS score were not only outstanding, but earned him an Academy Award nomination. Those additions included a love theme for the Leia/Han romance and the memorable “Imperial March”, which is also known as “Darth Vader’s Theme” As far as I am concerned, the tune might as well be known as the Sith Order’s theme song. The team of Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson did an outstanding job with the movie’s visual effects – especially for the Battle of Hoth sequence. I can also say the same for Peter Suschitzky’s photography. However, my favorite cinematic moment turned out to be Luke’s initial encounter with Darth Vader on Bespin. Even to this day, I experience a chill whenever I see that moment when they meet face-to-face for the first time. Although John Mollo’s costumes caught Hollywood’s attention after “A NEW HOPE” was first released (he won an Oscar for his effort), his costumes for “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” seemed like a continuation of the same. In fact, I found the costumes somewhat on the conservative side, even if they blended well with the story.

It is interesting that the performances of both Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher garnered most of the attention when “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” first came out. The Leia/Han romance was very popular with fans. Mind you, both gave very good performances. But I believe that Mark Hamill acted circles around them. And not surprising, he won a Saturn Award for his performance as Luke Skywalker in this film. Billy Dee Williams also gave a first-rate performance as the roguish smuggler-turned-colony administrator, whose charming persona hid a desperation to do anything to save the inhabitants of Bespin from Imperial annihilation. James Earl Jones and David Prowse continued their outstanding portrayal of Darth Vader aka Anakin Skywalker, with one serving as the voice and the other, the physical embodiment of the Sith Lord. Julian Glover, who later appeared in “INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE” made a brief appearance as the commander of the Imperial walkers, General Veers. Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew continued their excellent work as C3-P0, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. But I was particularly impressed by Frank Oz’s voice work as the veteran Jedi Master Yoda, and Kenneth Colley as the Imperial Admiral Piett, whose caution and competency led him to rise in the ranks and avoid Vader’s wrath for any incompetence.

Is “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” my favorite STAR WARS movie of all time? Almost. Not quite. For me, it is tied in first place with one other movie from the franchise. But after thirty-three years and in spite of its flaws, I still love it, despite its flaws. And I have give credit to not only the talented cast and crew, but also director Irwin Kershner, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and especially the man behind all of this talent, George Lucas.