The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back is the first of the Star Wars films that I remember seeing in the cinema. I was greatly impressed by it then, and over time it became my favourite of the entire series. Watching it again, I noticed a lot of the things I liked about it, but also some of the things that don’t make sense.

It has an attention to detail that many of the other films lack. Even Jedi, which came so shortly afterwards, failed to match the level of detail. Some of the small things I really like:

  • Blaster bolts cause actual damage. They blow holes in walls, which smoulder and burn, or burn holes into stormtrooper armour.
  • Lightsabers actually cut through things. The fight between Vader and Luke sees railings cut through even on long shots where it doesn’t serve any dramatic plot point, but it adds to the authenticity of the scene.
  • Lando actually uses a safety harness when going out to catch Luke.

One ‘surprising’ thing is that Luke’s ability to use telekinesis at the start of the film came out of nowhere – there was no mention of this as a force power in the previous film, but suddenly, with no training in between, he can use telekinesis to grab his lightsaber. I suppose it’s an extension of Vader’s death-clutch, but on a larger scale.

One thing that has always confused me about Empire, is how long Luke spent training on Dagobah. From the Dagobah scenes alone, I would assume he spent a few months there, at the least a few weeks.

However, the Falcon seemed to only take days to reach Bespin. No-one on the Falcon even bothers to change clothes, and the film scenes suggest to me that it takes a day or two at most. They don’t seem to spend much time on Bespin either before Luke turns up – Vader is already there by the time they arrive, and I assume they turn up, get cleaned and changed, and then go down to dinner to get captured. So there seems to be a disconnect there.

But that’s pretty much all fridge logic that doesn’t detract from the watching of the film. I’m even willing to forgive the asteroid field, which makes absolutely no astronomical sense.

Though the film is less action orientated than A New Hope, it still feels tightly scripted. There’s no unnecessary scenes between the main plot points (maybe that’s why the timing feels off between Dagobah and Bespin), and the introduction of Hoth, the rescue of Luke, the battle, the escape all flows quickly.

Empire was a massive change of tone to the previous film. But it worked, and it was an enjoyable film. I’ve seen bits of it a few times recently, and found it a bit boring, but watching it all the way through I’m back to enjoying it as a film.

Samuel Penn