Movie review: The Empire Strikes Back (40th anniversary)

By Andrew McManus - Contributing Columnist

Director: Irvin Kershner

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew

Runtime: 127 minutes

Rating: PG (sci-fi action violence)

2020 has been a year no one will forget.

We’ve seen sporting events canceled, abided by stay-at-home orders, asked to wear masks, some of us have lost loved ones.

That’s a meniscal list of the things we’ve lost or had changed this year.

However, this week, there is a BIG bright spot. We know Hollywood is slowly rolling out new releases. This week it worked out to where I was able to see one of my favorite films in theaters.

The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980 and I was born in 1988. I know you’re thinking “Wow, he’s young.” It’s not the years, it’s the miles. Obviously being a movie critic I love films. I talk daily about different movies, share gifs of funny moments in films with loved ones, and quote movies constantly. “Did we just become best friends?” “YEP!” From the list of hundreds of films I love, this is at the top. One of the first films I ever remember watching was the original Star Wars, and then of course the sequels (Yes Jar-Jar Binks is terrible.)

From there, a love was born. I looked up to Han Solo. He was cool, suave, charming, confident, and strong. I always hoped I would become even a part of that when I grew up. Those thoughts just made these films even more important to me.

I’ve watched this film in particular countless times, but never before in theaters. Throughout the years it will pop up from time to time as a retro showing. COVID-19 allowed for it to come back again. I wasn’t missing this one. I’d imagine you’ve seen this film, and if you haven’t, stop reading and go watch it. I just want to reiterate why right now this is the film you need to go see. To get away for a minute, to turn off life, and enjoy some theater popcorn with or without butter and journey into the stars.

Onto the film.

We open with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Que the famous score by John Williams. We then see text scroll and as it explains to us the current situation in the galaxy. I won’t delve too much into the plot but essentially the Rebels (Good Guys) are attempting to overthrow the Empire (Bad Guys) and are currently on an “ice planet” called Hoth hiding out from the Empire and continuing to build their forces.

What I immediately enjoyed was the cinematography that still holds up 40 years later. Obviously there have been updates to the visuals throughout the years, but this current version looks amazing on the big screen. We start with one of our protagonists Luke Skywalker (Hamill) investigating a probe droid on Hoth and getting captured by a Wampa. Imagine the abominable snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but MUCH worse.

Side note — they make Wampa rugs and ONE DAY I’ll have one.

We then cut to more of our protagonists. Han Solo (Ford) is planning to leave Hoth and go pay off Jabba the Hutt, but first he goes to look for Luke. To make matters worse, Princess Leia (Fisher) isn’t happy with him. The tension between them is immediate and one of the best aspects of this film is the back and forth between them and the complexities of their love story. She hates him, but she loves him. As this is going on Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is preparing to send troops to Hoth to decimate the Rebel Alliance and capture Luke Skywalker. He is drawn to the young Jedi for unknown reasons.

What unfolds next is an epic battle on Hoth that is one of the best put to screen. Immediately you are drawn into this struggle between good and evil. From the Hoth battle, the movie continues to surprise you, make you laugh, yell in anger, and maybe even cry.

I won’t add anymore to the plot. I hope you’ve seen this and if not — GO SEE IT! You’ll meet Yoda and if you’ve watched The Mandalorian you’ll know “Baby Yoda” is AWESOME! The best parts of this film aren’t the battles — yet they are great — it’s the overall story and themes of these films. We see good vs evil. We see love (even with anger). We see characters coming into their own. Action, humor, a love story, spaceships, and even asteroids. “Never tell me the odds!”

Most importantly, during these strange times of 2020 this film will have you leave the theater smiling.

For a little over two hours you’ll get drawn in with nostalgia and whether you reminisce about your childhood, or the first time you showed your children or grandchildren these films, you’ll leave happy. I imagine you’ll rush home and fire up Return of the Jedi. As I’ve said since we’ve been back into theaters GO support local business. Get popcorn, and drinks. Take some time and decompress from the world and enjoy one of the best films in the last 40 years. “Do or do not, there is no try.” 5 stars out of 5 #SHOPLOCAL

By Andrew McManus

Contributing Columnist

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper