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The Empire Strikes Back




40 years ago tonight (how is that possible!) I stood in line with friends, in a que that wrapped around the Cine Capri to see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

I think its the best Star Wars film of all time and based on those relentless online polls, most moviegoers agree.

Building on the characters, budget and scale of the first film, this second (or fifth) chapter delivers the biggest laughs, thrills and storytelling of the entire series.

Just think of all the classic moments:

Han Solo and Luke riding around Hoth on those Tauntauns, the massive AT-AT walkers coming at the rebels while Luke and team snare them with cables and Luke (and us!) meeting Yoda for the first time. Yoda may have got smoother in the later films when Frank Oz's puppet became a digital figure, but he was never better than he is here.

Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) have great chemistry, taunting each other with bad put downs that only make sense in George Lucas' world.

We start to see under Vader's mask, but the tone here is right, before the next film showed him to be some Humpty Dumpty looking portly dude and surrounded him with Ewoks, blech, dont get me started.

Every major character is given a lot to do and we meet some great new characters like Lando Calrissian, perfectly played by Billy Dee Williams, and Boba Fett the bounty hunter.

Director Irvin Kirshner nails the pace and tone, delivering a much faster ride than Lucas did with the original. It's almost impossible to deliver the middle chapter of a trilogy that leaves you hanging mid story, but he and screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado) and Leigh Brackett (The Big Sleep) nail it.

John Williams music score is almost non-stop and the non-digital effects still hold up just fine 40 years later.

Lucas put up the $18 million budget himself (that's a lot of 1980 dollars) and the film earned over $550 million, giving him independence from the studios for the rest of his life.

A massive hit and one of those rare sequels that's even better than the original, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK gets an A+ and a spot in my all-time Top 100.

To paraphrase Leia and Han before he becomes a carbonite Lego:

I love this movie.

It knows....

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