If that comes across as a little pompous, then apologies. But also, fuck you. The Empire Strikes Back deserves every ounce of pomp heaped on it over the last 35 years, and I'm not about to change that. It's not alone in being a truly perfect sequel, but it is one of a mere handful: how so few franchises have failed to grasp its aims, its achievements and the efficiency of its setup is a complete mystery. Every character and their connections to each other are deepened, the significance of every action is weightier and everything is accomplished with cast iron confidence, despite the inherent risks: front-loading a massive sci-fi sequel with what should be its climactic battle so that the final act's focus can fall on the relationship between a father and a son is so ballsy that over three decades later, most blockbusters still daren't try anything similar. You can blame Star Wars for the dumbing down of populist cinema if you like, but The Empire Strikes Back showed the world a smarter alternative which seems to have been largely ignored. Even George Lucas can't be held responsible for that.
Even Darth Vader is briefly humanised, that awkward shot of his boiled-egg bonce revealing him to be some kind of person after all, and it's the first step into the wider world of Vader's character that ends with his heroism at Return Of The Jedi's climax. Or maybe he's just trying to having a shit in peace for once without some underling reporting their latest failure, I dunno. Second-tierers Chewie, R2-D2 and C-3PO don't get much chance to evolve - in fact 3PO is so extraneous to the plot that Brackett and Kasdan have to blow him up to get him out of the way - but in their place comes Yoda, a miracle of puppeteering that could have derailed the film entirely had it been any less perfectly accomplished.
As with the self-reflexive nature of A New Hope's David vs Goliath / Rebellion vs Empire / George Lucas vs Hollywood plot, here we see a young man learning the extent of his powers and working out how best to employ them. It's hard not to see Luke's failure at the cave as an ironic signposting of ill-advised decisions Lucas would make himself in the years to come, but for now the bearded genius is still just that. His decision to send his principal characters their separate ways at the climax is as audacious and inspired as all the others he's made up to this point, ensuring that a) the final act of his trilogy is primed and ready to unfold, and b) the green light for another film would be guaranteed by fan pressure, if nothing else. You might say, haha, that the force, right, is strong with thi- (*record scratch*)
"This is no cave"
"I love you" / "I know"100 Greatest Movie Quotes Of All Time listicle, yet "I love lamp" did. Work that one out if you can.
The carbon freeze
The Imperial MarchOh hi I'm John Williams and I've just tossed off the best piece of music in the entire history and future of cinema. Care for a mint?
What is the point of all this? I'll tell you. (short answer: no point)