Viewed – 21 October 2011 Blu-ray
The Empire Strikes Back
When I was young, discovering these movies for the first time, ‘Empire was not my favourite. I actually remember loving Return Of The Jedi most. But I suppose with more mature eyes I have grown to appreciate just why this fifth instalment in the saga is regarded by so many as the best. The rebels are hiding out on the ice planet of Hoth whilst evil lord Darth Vader is searching the galaxy for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) following the destruction of the Death Star. Luke is then told by the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) that he must seek out Yoda in order to be trained to become a Jedi.
Almost from the start, this is a movie that flows brilliantly and is very exciting. Battle sequences and locations burst with imagination and awe (the Imperial Walker assault especially), and unlike A New Hope at no time has George Lucas’ unnecessary tinkering made the movie anything less than it originally was. The acting here is particularly strong and the chemistry between Carrie Fisher & Harrison Ford can not be questioned and lends the movie much of its emotional weight. Add to this a sterling job from Mark Hamill especially during his confrontation with Vader, and this makes for a movie that is really hard to fault.
Story-wise it does suffer from that in-between feel of any trilogy, and as a plot point, just how Vader even knows about Luke Skywalker is not explained. Also compared to A New Hope this feels a much more serious and straight forward sci-fi melodrama than that of a light and fluffy fantasy. It’s perhaps the reason I didn’t take to it as a child. Yet I can now see that it really does have everything … grand action, great acting, a gripping story and well placed moments of humour and emotion – a genuine masterpiece.
The Blu-ray is a revelation. This is possibly the best looking Star Wars movie in the saga, and unquestionably ‘Empire has never looked this vibrant or detailed before … showcasing the excellent set design and gorgeous cinematography. Watching this feels like you are watching it projected in a theatre for the very first time. Yes, there’s moments of softness to the picture, but overall this is top notch. The same can be said for the sound design, with the dialogue especially clear compared to A New Hope and effects and John WIlliams’ score are all delivered brilliantly. Extras consist of deleted scenes, interviews and plenty of concept art, all on a seperate disk, whilst two commentaries, one by Lucas and co, the other compiled from archive interviews, make this a brilliant package.
Verdict: 5 /5