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Logline: Darth Vadar and the Empire are on the hunt for Luke Skywalker, who is helping lead the Rebel Alliance at their new base on a remote ice planet.

Review: Very rarely are sequels better than their predecessors but The Empire Strikes Back manages to surpass A New Hope in many ways.  A New Hope is an excellent film but Empire is bigger, darker, and more polished.  Furthermore, the characters are more fully developed.

In A New Hope, George Lucas introduced moviegoers to a vast universe full of alien worlds and creatures.  In Empire, that universe is expanded.  With a screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, Empire is beautifully written and manages to take the archetypal characters from the first film and transform them into complex personalities.  The new characters, such as Yoda, Boba Fett, and Lando Calrissian are excellent additions.  All of the main cast members up their game.  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher are all excellent.  The romance between Han and Leia feels authentic and never forced.

Directed by Irvin Kershner, Empire is beautifully shot.  The way in which the film is photographed and lit is astounding.  It goes without saying that the visuals and special effects are second to none and still hold up to this day.  John Williams’ score for Empire is fantastic and introduced the infamous “Imperial March,” which is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable pieces of music in the history of film.

For a movie that clocks in at over two hours, Empire rarely takes a breather.  It is a nonstop ride from start to finish.  There are so many iconic scenes, such as the battle on Hoth, the asteroid chase, Luke’s training with Yoda on Dagobah, and Han being frozen in carbonite.  The most famous scene though, is (of course) the lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth Vadar, which ends with Vadar’s infamous reveal.  It is such a powerful scene and Vadar seems like an unstoppable force.

Like many viewers, I await the day when the original Star Wars trilogy will be released in high-definition in its unaltered, original form.  George Lucas has been tinkering with the Star Wars films since their release.  His alterations do not enhance the films but in the case of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, detract from it.  Fortunately, Empire is the least altered of the three.

The Empire Strikes Back holds the burden of being the middle chapter in a trilogy and yet, it sets up Return of the Jedi perfectly.  I cannot imagine the anticipation and excitement that viewers in 1980 must have felt after seeing Empire.  Empire is one of the best of its kind: an epic space opera full of adventure, romance, humor, and dark themes.  Simply put, it is the perfect Star Wars film.