The Extended Play Movie Podcast #6: The Empire Strikes Back

When someone mentions the original trilogy of Star Wars, you are talking about the holy trinity of films. Having experienced them at a young age, there is something about the awesome visual and large scope of the story that takes your breath away. The Empire Strikes Back has such an impact on films and pop culture that the film itself has become a standard for which sequels are ranked. Many directors will claim their movie is their Empire which sets the bar rather high.

While many reviews, historians and pop culture “experts” claim to explain how perfect the film is, it is more than that: it is a glimpse of life caught in a “galaxy far, far away.” After the triumphant ending of the original Star Wars, Empire was our first look at life playing hardball with our heroes. Set back after set back and yet they push forward.

It begins with Luke getting whomped by the Wampa.

The rebels fleeing Hoth.

Luke having to choose between the journey to be a jedi or saving his friends.

Han being frozen.

Leia losing her love.

Luke losing his hand and discovering his true parentage.

The end of the film sets up their moment of regrouping and not leaving Han to the hands of Jabba the Hutt. This begins their moment of licking their wounds but discussing what their next move will be. Luke, at the end, has a sense of being a real leader. Putting his personal setbacks aside, he focuses on comforting Leia and getting Han back.

The film goes from a larger canvas to a smaller, more intimate story by the end. It opens with the Empire looking for young Skywalker and within the first twenty minutes you have the only space battle of the movie. It was as if the creators said, “we know what you came here for, so let’s get it out of the way.” After that, it is a personal journey for not only Luke but for his friends. Looking for escape, love and end up pulled apart and betrayed.

The story is a sharp departure from the previous film and Return of the Jedi, which is slated for three years later. It is the middle chapter of the trilogy. Life and drama impact the characters, but sets them up in a good space to overcome and be victorious in the third and final film.

While Empire Strikes Back is the darkest of all seven of the films, it is considered the best. It does a complete 180-degree turnabout from the first installment and deviated from that “more of the same” mentality that was, and is, consistent in many sequels. It was not a sequel, which is more of the same, but a continuation.

Empire Strikes Back is not only the standard, in which, sequels are ranked, but in the way trilogies should be told. Like the Nolan Batman movies, we discussed last week, Star Wars could be the trilogy that started it all. It would seem that if more trilogies knew their beginning and end mark, more people would enjoy them when they pay that ticket price.

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