Star Wars Episode V: Imperiet slår igen
When I did my review of “Episode IV: A New Hope”, I focused on my experience with Star Wars as an entity, so in many ways what I wrote back then also applies to “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”. This review will instead be a bit more movie specific. Not that I think anybody knows this one any less than “Episode IV”, but “Episode V” actually happens to be my favorite in the trilogy and so it deserves a more specific treatment.
It is always difficult to make a sequel and a sequel in a trilogy is even worse because it is “just” a bridge between the introduction and the conclusion. Any climax can only be a minor one and we are sort of done introducing the themes. For Star Wars they (and that means likely George Lucas) chose the “Lord of the Rings” approach. The party split up and get their separate tracks which eventually intersect. We meet the rebels on the ice planet Hoth just as they are being discovered by the Empire. Despite a brave defense, the rebels are overrun, but manage a timely escape. Luke and R2D2 head on to Dagobah to get trained by Yoda, while Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca and C3PO play a cat and mouse game with Vader’s imperial fleet in order to get away from Hoth.
They think they are successful in outsmarting Vader when they get to Cloud City, but Vader is one step ahead of them and has forced the local leader, Lando Calrissian, into trapping the gang. It is however not Han or Leia Vader is interested in, but Luke as he might be turned into the dark side, especially since Darth Vader has the ultimate argument: “I am your father, Luke”.
Yes, as we all know, at its heart, the Star Wars franchise is about dad-issues.
Episode V feels like a journey. A journey across the galaxy, but more so a personal development journey. Luke faces his personal coming of age rite with his training and facing Vader and Han and Leia develop as characters and develop in their relation to each other. Everybody is at a different place with themselves by the end of the movie and that is their preparation for the final act.
That does not sound particularly exciting, sort of get the pieces lined up for the final battle, but it is the getting there that is all the fun. Star Wars has never claimed to be a high brow series. Its strength is the adventure, the heroic struggle and the imagination and “Episode V” has tons of this. Fortunately, we have no cute or stupid critters, the bane of most Star Wars episodes, leaving the two droids to be the comic relief and that strikes a good balance. We also get an excellent pacing where something is happening constantly. If not outright action, then a lead up to it. There is never a boring moment. Some of the later installments fall into the traps of endless action or complex and confusing setups, but in Episode V the balance is good, and the story is not more convoluted than everybody are following it.
Maybe the fact that Lucas stepped away from the actual production and had other people direct and write the script is what makes “Episode V” work so well. Lucas is clearly the idea guy, but the acting, the dialogue and the character development feel so much smoother that in “Episode IV”.
For me, watching the trilogy is a nostalgia trip. It is my childhood experience, these are the toys I played with, and I watch the episodes uncritically, ignoring whatever flaws they might have had. I watched the theatrical version instead of the renovated one to get as close as possible to that original experience and I do not need any of the “improvements”. This is my little happy place, a bubble of joy.
I think it is quite incredible that this movie was made in 1980.