Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back – Disneycember

Said to be the best in the now poorly named Star War trilogy. Are they right? Doug takes a look at The Empire Strikes Back.

About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

50 comments

  1. Empire Strikes Back is easily best movie in franchise. It’s so good. Then again it was not directed by George Lucas so that might have something to do with it.

  2. I know I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this but… Empire is actually my least favorite of the original trilogy, and New Hope is my favorite mostly because of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin (why didn’t you mention him in the last review Doug?). Mostly because Empire is a bit too dark and gritty and I find the older I get I’m more drawn to light hearted things because the real world is becomign so dark, gritty and messed up.

    On a less opinion based assesment of empire, well my problem is that is has no real beginning or ending, the rebels jsut happen to be on hoth why? umm so we can have snow? and it has no real ending since it’s more of an “the advenure continues” or “until next time” non-ending so it suffers IMO from being the middle of a trilogy. A New hope honestly feels like themost complete of all the Star Wars movies because it wasn’t planned to be a trilogy, or at least it wasn’t written to be part of a trilogy in order to work better as a stand lone and agian Il lOVE peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin especially since he’s the only non-force empire commander to not be afraid of Darth Vader and even give him orders that he obeys. I get the sense that Vader was an enforcer who was a bit childish and that Tarkin was the real leader, just below the emperor, who had a better grasp of how to lead and not just fling orders around, actually Azula from Avatar Last Airbender reminds me a lot of Darth Vader in how despite their power and authority they still act like children.

    So yeah, there’s my praise of A New Hope and my criticism of Empire Strikes Back. I do still love Empire and it’s my 3rd favorite in the series (better than the prequels) but I like Hope and Jedi more.

    • Well you have to keep in mind that Star Wars was now becoming a six-part story now. They never really intended it to be like that which is why it was originally called “Star Wars,” it was re-titled episode 4 by the time this one came out. Not to mention that since it takes place sometime after the last episode and I’m pretty sure the Rebels have more than one base. That being said I do think the last 5 minutes are a little rushed.

      I’m also with you in that this is probably my least favorite of the original trilogy but it’s mostly for nostalgia reasons. I remember when I first watched this I never liked the idea of the good guys losing in the end, or at least getting their asses handed to them. Still really love this anyways.

    • “I know I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this but… Empire is actually my least favorite of the original trilogy, and New Hope is my favorite mostly because of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin (why didn’t you mention him in the last review Doug?). Mostly because Empire is a bit too dark and gritty and I find the older I get I’m more drawn to light hearted things because the real world is becomign so dark, gritty and messed up.”

      Yep, total agreement here.

  3. Im really getting sick of the whole CGI argument. And the scene you talked about was filmed with the old TPM puppet yoda before they replaced him. I rewatched empire yesterday, still a great film. But the Yoda is not good. The character is great, but the puppet isnt.

    Also, these jabs at George Lucas are annoying.

  4. Nope. First one is better.

    I blame “Empire” for an unfortunate trend in pop culture criticism in which we equate being “dark” (a vague, mushy-brained phrase that can mean a great many things) with being smart and well-made, to the point that once charming stories ruin themselves trying to appear “dark” (Harry Potter, Superman, Star Trek) in hopes of being taken seriously. Lately, this has been translated into very literal, visual terms: Movies are color-corrected to appear washed-out, grainy, gray, and listless, for the sake of having an appropriately “dark” atmosphere (read: so that everything will look like a Greyhound station).

    The appeal of the first “Star Wars” was its sense of pulpy high adventure and the tongue-in-cheek fun of it. It had banter and lovableness and heroes swinging across chasms on ropes while the soundtrack soared. It was fun! “Empire” made everything somber and dreary by comparison. It attempted to trade pulp in for operatic melodrama, which is like doing a sequel to an Abbott & Costello movie and making it a noir thriller.

    This doesn’t mean that “Empire” is a bad movie. Unlike much of the thoughtless pop culture of today, “Empire’s” turn toward the “dark” side at least had a well-reasoned plan behind it: being the middle part of a three-part story, it had to distinguish itself both tonally and visually, and it had to create drama and suspense for a forthcoming film. When “Return of the Jedi” came around in three years, it listed back toward pulp and high-spirited adventure and reserved the “dark” moments for the plot thread that was resolving from the previous, more somber film.

    But fans didn’t come back around. Many call “Jedi” a weak movie and cite the silliness of it as its downfall. (They don’t even like the Jabba stuff, the bunch of wet blankets…). Apparently they missed the memo that silly was a great part of the order of the day in that first movie. You know, the one that changed pop culture forever.

    That style of filmmaking doesn’t appeal to some people’s sense of self-importance, though, so they reject it in favor of what is actually a much weaker and less dynamic mode, which we’ve since run into the ground over the last 30 years.

    • This sounds like the hipsterest “I reject it because it’s populare” hipster post that ever hipstered.

      • I neither said that I rejected the movie nor did I cite its popularity as a problem. I think some people have a shallow take on the movie’s style and that it’s been bad for movies and pop culture. You may disagree.

    • Great points, TamLin. As a kid, I actually disliked Empire because I felt “WHY DID LUKE AND HAN GET HURT SO BAD?”. When the THX trilogy came out on VHS in 1995, I was going through my brooding emo phase as a teen and ended up loving Empire more after rewatching it from a more grown up perspective.

      My kid self would say Jedi was the best movie because teddy bears beat the bad guys, but Empire just seems more relatable when you’re grown up.

    • Very well put TamLin. I will say however that Jedi gets a lot of flak for no good reason {The Ewoks are an alien species that just happen to be related to the Bear but have you seen their eyes? or their teeth? These aren’t cuddly little Teddy Bears! They’re Savage Hunter Gatherers with high intelligence and the ability to make war!
      Jedi is an extremely DARK Movie too! There’s nothing light about Jedi other than that the good guys win in the end! Leia is captured and forced into slavery, Han is blind and reliant on his friends to save him, Luke has to fight for his life against possibly {no definitely} the greatest movie monster ever seen on screen, a monster who’s keeper weeps at it’s demise {seriously….read the short story in Tales from Jabba’s Palace for the reasons why and tell me you didn’t tear up yourself!}.
      Then when our heroes have defeated Jabba and escaped Tatooine we find out that not only is the Rebellion facing a do or die battle for survival but also see Yoda’s death of old age {this in a movie made for KIDS!}.
      Now we get to Endor, The Emperor’s fully armed and operational Battle Station and Luke’s face off with Vader and The Emperor himself – What for me is the single greatest climax ever put to film!

      What Jedi does well is exactly the same thing as Empire AND A New Hope also did well – It gives you levity without making a hash of it or turning serious moments into comedy!
      BUT
      It’s a Dark Dark Film!

      My Top 10 Movies if you’re interested in where I’m coming from:
      1) Return of the Jedi
      2) Zulu {sometimes I place this at #1 – It’s probably a tie to be fair.}
      3) Aliens {The greatest sequel ever made.}
      4) Star Wars: A New Hope
      5) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom {I actually didn’t like this as a kid but it grew and grew on me}.
      6) Empire Strikes Back
      7) Raiders of the Lost Ark {I would have put this ahead of Temple of Doom when I was younger but over time Temple has grown on me.}.
      8) The Vikings {Odin! Odin! Send the wind to turn the tide!}
      9) Die Hard {Greatest Action Movie ever made!}
      10) Zulu Dawn {An astonishingly under-rated movie}

  5. Should this really be reviewed under Disneycember. I mean, I know that Disney holds the rights to the franchise, but they don’t even get the distribution rights for Empire Strikes Back till 2020, so isn’t it still a 20th century fox film till then?

  6. And Doug, please dont say in your prequels review that they didnt feature miniatures or real sets. Because they did.

    • If he does, I’ma be SOOOOO upset. As if CGI is automatically worse than practical effects. That logic says that a movie like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive has better effects than any of the Star Wars prequels. No. A million times no.

      And what’s worse is that no one seems to be getting at all bent out of shape over the CGI in the new Star Wars movie. Why? It’s not NEARLY as good-looking as ILM’s stuff they made for the prequels. Why don’t people complain about that?

      Oh, right, because they’re just looking for reasons to hate the prequels. And complaining about the use of CGI is as good a reason as any, RIGHT?!

      • Thats part of the reason, the other part is that the PT used more pracitcal effects than then OT. boards.theforce.net/threads/practical-effects-in-the-prequels-sets-pictures-models-etc.50017310/ If you are interested click the link, its a great thread.

        But yes, i agree with you. The complaints are annoying.

  7. Still the best of the movies, hands down.

    The Force Awakens has a lot to live up to this Friday!

  8. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say I like Empire Strikes Back the most. Of course, my favourite scene was the confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader.

  9. When Luke cuts off Vader’s head just to reveal his own face inside the mask is my favorite scene.

  10. When Darth Vader says to Boba Fett “No disintegrations.” “As you wish.” Boba Fett: instant badass.

  11. Favorite scene is the Vader/Luke duel. @roboboogie

  12. When Darth Vader tells Luke he is his father.

  13. MidnightScreeningsman2014

    Best scene: LUKE!!!! I AM YOUR FATHER!!!! – DARTH VADER
    NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!- LUKE
    Classic scene of a great film but i still actually do like the cgi yoga way better but that’s probably because I haven’t seen any of the prequels so that’s just me.

    FUn fact: that picture of George Lucas was used by mad magazine and created by one of their artist and still after the 80s they have had about 537 issues of mad magazine published to the end of this year(bet you didn’t know tht)!!’m

  14. The scene with the bounty hunters is my favorite, because it features such imaginative and memorable designs for such a short scene, the fact that they put so much effort in such a short scene is really remarkable.

  15. InfinitySorcerer625

    My Favorite Scene is when Leia tells Han “I Love You” and he replies “I Know”. It’s just a quintessential Han Solo moment

  16. The part when Han gets frozen always gives me shivers.

    I’m sorry, that was unintentional.

  17. All three of the original trilogy are 10/10 for me but unlike “everyone else” Empire is my least favourite of them!
    When the special editions came out to the cinema in the mid 90s I went to see A New Hope and Jedi 3 times each but only went to see Empire once!
    Admittedly I’ve seen all three on television and video easily 100 times but I’m fed up of this “darker = better” argument that’s so rife these days. Empire is a GREAT Movie! Don’t get me wrong here….It’s just for me not up to the incredible standards of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.

    I think the biggest issue is that it feels like the middle of the story – It’s not a story in it’s own right – and though it does a fantastic job connecting the two it just doesn’t cut it on it’s own.
    The Two Towers served the same function in Lord of the Rings and yet that is easily the best of the three parts {mainly because Fellowship was boring as hell and RotK was the mother of all anti-climaxes!} – Strangely enough in the movies yet again it’s the other way round with The Two Towers suffering the worst from book to movie syndrome and Fellowship getting a HUGE upgrade. I still thought RotK was an anticlimax I’m afraid.

    Like LotR though the original Star Wars trilogy is best seen as one Story and therefore it’s not really fair to compare the three parts to each other – As a whole it’s easily the single greatest movie experience ever created! Because unlike so many trilogies there is no weak link, no Godfather III or Alien III or Die Hard with a Vengeance or Last Crusade or Terminator 3!

    As a whole they’re not in the same League as Star Wars but ignore the Motion Picture and take 2,3,4 as the Star Trek trilogy and again for me there’s no weak link – I actually prefer Search for Spock to Wrath of Khan and Voyage Home is my favourite Trek Movie but WoK is a good movie too.
    Same with Back to the Future – 1 and 2 were great, 3 was a bit of a letdown but nowhere near as much so as Last Crusade or Jeremy Irons hamming it up in Die Hard with a Vengeance and certainly not in the same manner as the atrocious Alien 3 or overlong Chase sequence that covered the entire movie in Terminator 3!

    I can’t stand The Godfather at all but I well remember the horror at it’s release from Godfather fans once they saw it!

    • “Admittedly I’ve seen all three on television and video easily 100 times but I’m fed up of this “darker = better” argument that’s so rife these days.”

      Doug keeps using that argument.
      Then wonders how a movie like Man Of Steel came about.

      Doug, you’re great, I enjoy your show, but…

      • Actually…Up until Man of Steel I hadn’t liked or even enjoyed a single Superman movie or TV Series – I can’t stand Superman or that Dean Cain TV Series or Smallville.

        Whereas I thought Man of Steel was a decent 8/10 Movie {Not up to Dark Knight standards or Thor, Avengers, Captain America but better than the vast majority of Superhero Movies.}.

        Superman is probably my least favourite comic book hero but I liked Man of Steel a lot more than I thought I would.

        • “I thought Man of Steel was a decent 8/10 Movie”

          Doug’s review made it clear that he did not.

          Also, you’ve just outlined one of the biggest problems with it:
          They made a Superman movie to appeal to people who hate Superman. Personally, I see some kind of problem with that approach.

      • Dont forget Amazing spiderman with its bleak tone.

        I also enjoys Dougs work alot, but sometimes it gets frustrating.

  18. Favorite bit from this film? The introduction of the AT-AT walkers, because of just the sheer scale and awesomeness. I love the idea of an evil empire fighting with giant robot camels. It’s impractical yet delightful in its absurdity.

  19. One of the best touches is at the end. The Millenium Falcon gets away and you can see Admiral Piett shitting in his pants. He knows how/why he got promotes and is just waiting for the Force Choke that never comes.

  20. I still can’t decide if I like this, or return of the jedi more. You could argue empire is better because it’s a fully adult story without any kid pandering elements, namely, the ewoks. But they don’t even really bother me, Perhaps because I originally saw it as a kid.

    I just love how badass Luke is in Jedi, we really see how far he’s come since a new hope. And the final confrontation with Vader and the emperor is just so epic. Not to mention the amazing space battle at the end.

  21. Poorly named? Huh? This one is objectively the best one, yes, but yet Episode VI is my favorite. Perhaps I just like things a little brighter?

  22. “‘Empire’ had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader’s his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is, a series of down endings. All ‘Jedi’ had was a bunch of Muppets.” — Dante Hicks, Clerks

    Alright, to be honest, I enjoy the whole original trilogy. Yeah, the ewoks were silly… and hungry for human flesh, apparently — guess it’s a delicacy… but I also enjoy the antics of Leia, Han, and the rebels on Endor all throughout the shield bunker (though where in the %&#% was that generator satellite dish ’cause that was a damned big explosion!).

    Anyway, I’ll admit to enjoying “Empire” primarily for its darker vibes… and the added depth to the characters… and the sweet special effects that I enjoy even today (that asteroid field chase!), and just everything all around. Granted, it might be because I don’t mind stories where the heroes lose… so long as they get a chance to win in the end — like the sequel. It’s always darkest before the dawn, right? So by ending with the heroes at such a low point it makes one want to see them succeed all the more.

    …also the Imperial March is just awesome; though it makes me wonder if the March actually exists in-story, like did the Emperor hire someone on Coruscant to compose it?

    • It’s trendy to bash Return of the Jedi in recent years, but I think a lot of that has to do with the massive glut of dystopian future films that have become as common as tough guy cop movies in the 80s, or disaster movies in the 90s.

      I also think a lot has to do with whether you tend to be a bigger fan of Han Solo or Luke Skywalker. The Empire Strikes Back is truly Han’s biggest film where he gets to be the smooth rogue while Luke goes off to train with Yoda. The reverse is true in Return of the Jedi where Luke fulfills his destiny and completes his Hero’s Journey character arc.

      • I think a lot of the Jedi bashing stems from original fans who saw A New Hope and Empire as kids but were young adults by the time Jedi came out and forgot that these were not 18 certificate Movies!

        Also there’s the origin of the Ewoks themselves – They were meant to be Wookies, Endor was meant to be Kashyyk!
        Just look at Revenge of the Sith for how that would have turned out! Jedi dodged a bullet there!

        Revenge of the Sith btw is not a bad movie, it’s just not a good one either! Yes it’s miles better than Attack of the Clones but come on…That’s not difficult! Phantom Menace was miles better than Attack of the Clones!

      • I honestly don’t know how people can still bash Jedi after the prequel trilogy.

  23. Nice overview…here’s to hoping Doug doesn’t bash on Return of the Jedi next because it’s the trendy thing to do.

  24. First off http://channelawesome.com/rc-respect-for-george-lucas/

    The numbering came to be because after the sucess of A New Hope Lucas and his writers decided to tell the trilogy and then somewhere down the line tell a prequel that would delve into how the Empire rose to power. So while the execution wasn’t good (still far away from being as bad as so many people say) you can’t fault the prequels for having been rushed.

  25. I remember seeing bits and pieces of this one as a little kid, the stark whiteness of icy Hoth standing out in my child’s mind, and not getting why people were going to these places. But it held up enough to keep my attention. When I saw it in theatres as a teenager, it blew my mind with the mythology and analogy. When Luke has the vision in the swamp, and sees his own face in Vader’s mask it blew me away. I remember being actually creeped out and terrified. Yoda’s great, that’s Henson puppetry there, and the showdown with Darth Vader….one of the best in history. And the good guy loses! That was harsh for a kid to take! I love how they set up Luke and Leia’s actual blood connetion with her hearing him call out with the Force and how you just shelve that during Empire….but during Jedi, you think “oooh that’s why she could hear him.” I love this film. Oh and Lando! One of the greats!

  26. Is there anybody left for whom the spoiler warning is necessary on this film? It’s one of the most iconic twists in movie history, so much so that even people who have never seen it could probably tell you what it is. Like what “Rosebud” means, or what Soylent Green is made of, or where the Planet of the Apes actually is. You don’t need to have seen the movies to know the answers to all of those questions…

  27. It’s so weird how is the darkest movie in the original trilogy is also the only one where no main characters die! In fact, it actually by far has the lowest kill count of any of them! And you know what? I think it is in fact the darkest! Why do I think that? I personally thought this was the weakest entry in the original trilogy. Hey, you thought the 1989 Batman movie was the best!

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