Dir- Irvin Kershner
Year – 1980
Running Time – 124 Mins
Screen writing Genre – Golden Fleece (Epic)
The Empire Strikes Back is the most critically popular Star Wars film and also the one with the darkest edge. Our epic space trilogy becomes a bit smaller here and relationships and issues are worked out in place of space battles. It also features one of the best reveals of all time and was nominated for technical awards at the Oscars, Baftas and Golden Globe ceremonies. It picked up wins for sound and music.
What’s in a name?
The second Star Wars movie has a great and fitting title. It is indeed the film where the Empire takes revenge on the Rebel Alliance for the destruction of the Death Star. It hints at a more serious and dangerous film and one where the heroes may be under greater threat than before.
What makes it great?
Aside from all the Star Wars magic the thing that really sets it up as an all-time classic is the atmosphere and tone. The music plays a huge part as sinister scores sweep across the scenes building tension and creating a more sombre and down beat sound. The dramatic opening battle and the epic final light sabre dual between Luke and Vader bookend a strong piece of Sci-Fi where the characters are placed at the forefront.
The Empire Strikes Back as an (Epic) Golden Fleece Movie
It’s a fairly straightforward one here. It’s an epic journey across time and space for our hero Luke which has constant stops and bumps along the way. Friendship and companionship is the key ingredient and the group of heroes all have different skill sets to aid in the quest of our much duller main hero. The key thing to remember is that this is Luke’s film and the others are the supporting cast.
Opening Image – A Star Destroyer sends out probe droids looking for the Rebels. We see the Empire is very much still around, strong and looking for revenge.
Theme Stated – The theme throughout the film is one of companionship and friendship. Continual sacrifices and risks are taken by the main characters as the film progresses to save the friends they love.
Set-Up – We see the Rebels on Hoth trying to regroup, The Empire looking for them and the friendship between our main protagonists. The Han and Leia romance is hinted at and we see Luke showing some new Jedi powers.
Catalyst – When Luke lies in the snow and sees a vision of Ben Kenobi he is given a new direction to head in. Luke now knows what the next step is he must take.
Break into Two – The Rebels evacuate Hoth after the Empire assault and Luke heads to his new destination away from the fleet. We are now entering a new and strange world unlike what we have experienced before.
Debate – This happens later than usual but concerns Luke’s faith in his Jedi training. Numerous times he ponders on what he is doing and why he is there. The debate section keeps recurring throughout Luke’s training as he doubts his abilities, culminating in the ‘All is Lost’ Moment later on.
B Story – Hiding in the asteroid Han and Leia’s love story begins properly and they kiss before being interrupted by C3PO
Fun and Games – We have a game of follow the leader between Luke and Yoda and the Millennium Falcon crew play hide and seek with the Empire.
Midpoint – The Emperor reveals himself for the first time and the plot to convert or kill Luke gets underway. Luke gets Yoda to agree to train him and says “I’m not afraid” to which Yoda replies “You will be”. Everything just got even more serious.
Bad Guys Close In – The Falcon runs from the asteroid as it’s revealed to be a big worm thing and immediately back into danger. Luke encounters the Vader phantom in the dark hollow. Things are beginning to fall apart.
All is Lost – Luke can’t lift the X-Wing, loses faith and considers it an impossible task.
Dark Night of the Soul – Yoda lifts the X-Wing and Luke now understands the power of the force. He also senses his friends in danger.
Break into Three – We arrive in another new environment – Cloud City. All the pieces are in, or heading to the same place and we are set for our final run down to the end of the movie. C3PO is blasted to add a bit of danger and Luke runs to save his friends.
Finale – Luke fights Vader and barely escapes with his life and the big secret is revealed. The rescue mission to save Han fails and our heroes are in a bad place. As the film acts as the run in to the ‘All is Lost’ moment across the trilogy this is to be expected.
Final image – The Rebel fleet, now back together, with Luke and friends damaged but recovering. The Rebellion is preparing for the final assault and has re-gathered their strength. The ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ moment of the trilogy has now passed.