"It is a dark time for the Rebellion..."Darth Vader (David Prowse with the voice of James Earl Jones) searches obsessively for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who begins to discover his destiny under the tutelage of mystic Jedi master Yoda (a wizened puppet performed with startling expressiveness and exasperation by Muppeteer Frank Oz). Meanwhile Han Solo (Harrison Ford) has bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) hot on his heels, while the Empire's range of new techno terrors plague the gallant freedom fighters throughout.
Originally entitled The Empire Strikes Back until the prequel trilogy (1999, 2002 and 2005) began, this is the best in George Lucas's trilogy. It caps its 1977 predecessor with more Oscar winning special effects and much more personality. The romance is blossoming within the lead trio and strong new characters, such as dashing scoundrel Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) are introduced. The action rages, from the jaw-dropping ice planet Hoth (where Luke has a chilling misadventure), to the rebels fighting their first epic land battle. The battle drives on to a cliffhanger climax on Cloud City, where Han's past catches up to him at last, and main antagonist Vader reveals to Luke the shocking truth at the very heart of the Star Wars legacy. And in between these assaults Luke continues training as a Jedi knight, mastering the Force in the swamps of Dagobah under the tutelage of Yoda who is almost as quirky as he is deep and meaningful.
Effects aside the screenplay truly carries the film and really sticks in the mind, hurtling along with a spirited sense of romantic fun. One-liners become catchphrases ("I have a bad feeling about this") and scene-stealing androids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) are wonderful comic relief with some great gags and perfect comic timing, plus Daniels's stereotypical British accent coming out of a robot is hilarious.
With all these elements combined The Empire Strikes Back remains as slick and entertaining today as it was when first released three decades ago.
Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Jeremy Bulloch, Alec Guinness, Denis Lawson, Clive Revill.
Oscars: Best Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Brian Johnson, Bruce Nicholson), Best Sound Mixing (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton).
Oscar nominations: Best Art Direction (Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, Michael Ford), Best Original Score (John Williams).