The Force Awakens is literally only a couple of days away from releasing now and, in honour of the HUGELY anticipated return of the Star Wars franchise, I have decided to go back and revisit and re-view each of the prior films in the beloved franchise every day this week. And, continuing my Episode VII countdown today is my review of the sequel: The Empire Strikes Back.

I recently went back and reviewed the first film in the saga (you can read that here), so now we move onto the sequel that was bigger and, arguably, better than its predecessor, The Empire Strikes Back. Following on from the 1977 original was not an easy task, after it set the bar so high, but this film managed to pull it off - what seemed like almost an impossible feat - and, in fact, even managed to top the first film too, taking the world by storm and only continuing the love of Star Wars. Often regarded as not only the best Star Wars film, or the best sequel but just generally one of the best films of all time, The Empire Strikes Back demonstrates cinematic perfection; this is the industry at its best, back when unnecessary reboots or sequels didn't dominate the box office.

Picking up where we left, the rebels have now been driven by the Imperial Forces to set up base on the icy planet of Hoth. However, even there, they can't escape the Empire's shadows and Sith Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse) commands an assault on them with the Imperial AT-AT walkers. Forced to flee, our returning trio of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) all go their separate ways. Following Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness)'s orders, Luke heads to the desolate Dagobah system whilst Han and Leia get away in the Millennium Falcon, en route for the planet Bespin - to reunite with some of Han's old friends, like the slick and shifty gambler Lando Calirissian (Billy Dee Williams). Whilst Luke undergoes Jedi training, by Jedi master Yoda (Frank Oz), Han and Leia are ambushed on Bespin by the Empire and taken prisoner by Vader. Hearing about this, Luke abandons his training to confront Vader but not without some terrible consequences.

Honestly, what is there to be said about this film that hasn't already? From directing to acting to story to execution to visuals, The Empire Strikes Back excels. Where, nowadays, most sequels are unable to maintain the standard set by their predecessor, this was the film that not only maintained the standard, but, if anything, improved on it too. We open to the icy planet of Hoth and it's a display of just how stunning this film looks visually; however, not just in terms of effects, but just generally the cinematography is astonishing. From the sweeping shots of Hoth, or the Wompa's cave in which Luke is held hostage or the murky Dagobah or even the prestigious and classy Bespin, this film looks glorious and it's a credit to just how immersed we get into this world and this story because of how engrossing it looks; it's believable and stunning too!
Not only is the camera work and cinematography to be marvelled at, but the visual and practical effects are remarkable too. Not only are the shots of an intimidating Death Star soaring through the stars or the Millennium Falcon racing through the system all gorgeous but they're believable too and this is a film that looks visually magnificent. The visual effects are resounding and, even today, still feel authentic and immersive and stunning. For a film that came out in the 80s, the visuals hold up extremely well - better looking and more believable than some of the bloated, over-saturated CG bullshit that we get today which looks awful and fake and messy. The practicality of the film is commendable too, something which is becoming more redundant in films these days. Rather than CG, everything in The Empire Strikes Back was practical and it added a feel of realism to the proceedings. In comparison to the CG-saturated prequels, the original trilogy looks and feels much better and The Empire Strikes Back is the best looking film from the franchise. Also, Irvin Kershner does a superb job directing this too - taking over duties from George Lucas. His craftsmanship and vision of this world is stylish and meticulous and beautiful. Of course, Lucas' story itself is the true gem here, riveting and mesmerising.

Everything about The Empire Strikes Back is authentic, a word I don't use often but one that feels fitting in regard to this sequel and this original trilogy. The acting was wonderful, with everyone on their A-game. What made this film better than the original though was the expansion of this world and these characters. Everything was setup in 1977's Star Wars and this managed to expand it all brilliantly, introducing new systems and characters whilst improving everything that had already been established. Han, Luke, Leia and even Vader all went to much darker, more emotional places this time around and the performances from Ford, Hamill, Fisher and the rest of the cast were a lot more subdued and nuanced and raw and it added a lot to these characters. We got to see them grow; we saw them go to darker places; we got to see the emotion behind this galactic war and the mental breakdown of these characters and it's captivating and adds to the Star Wars experience. We get so invested and enthralled into each of these characters and their individual journeys and struggles and obstacles that it only makes the experience of watching this film that much better, not to mention one of cinema's most iconic lines and plot twists too - which only adds to our investment in these characters.

Continuing the epic saga that was established in 1977's Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back does everything its predecessor did well but better. Adding layer after layer of nuance and excitement to this incredible and established world, developing and further enhancing this story, this film follows up an already astounding film magnificently. From everything from acting to visuals to premise and score (John Williams stunned yet again), this was a solid and thoroughly entertaining sequel and a revolutionary, masterful piece of sci-fi filmmaking.

VERDICT:
Continuing the epic saga, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is yet another perfect film that is every bit as good as it's predecessor, if not better; a masterpiece and one of cinema's finest gems ever.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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