No 3 - Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Director - Irvin Kersher
What is it that makes this film so awesome? It is the film where George Lucas fully understands his vision and wisely puts it into the hands of a better director. Where the cast feel more comfortable with their roles and perform them fantastically. It is a film which is wonderfully wonderfully bleak.
A New Hope is a great film and introduces ideas such as the Jedi and the lightsaber (the buzzing sound of lightsabers will always make me geekily excited) - however it isn't Empire that the full idea of the Jedi is realised. We first hear and see the Emperor (Grand Moff Tarkin having mysteriously vanished) and we begin to learn some of the other powers of the force. The audience, like Luke, is guided through this new world by Yoda. Possibly one of the greatest mentors ever put to film.
So, not only is the world richer in theology, it also becomes far richer in location. A New Hope is mainly spent inside ships or buildings, with a couple of dabbles into the desert world of Tatooine. With Empire we get instantly plunged into the ice worlds of Hoth, where we escape and hide in the swampy world of Dagoba and finally we get an entire city floating in the sky. There is no question about it, this film is expanding the Star Wars universe to make a far more exciting canvas. We also get far busier environments. From more droids in the backgrounds (always good to see a gonk) to some more excellent puppet work in creating monsters. The Tauntaun, for one being particularly impressive - and inspiration for one of the greatest pieces of merch ever.
Though, my favourite new 'monster' in Empire will always be Yoda. Lucas got outside help from the Henson company for the character and you can see the work of Jim Henson printed all over it. This is only enriched by the wonderful performance (both vocal and through puppeteering) that is given by Frank Oz. I bloody love Frank Oz.
However, Empire's biggest triumph is in the final act, giving us so many moments to scratch our heads over. From the massive plot twisting revelation (which I won't mention.... just on the off chance) to the massive down beat ending. It is an act which is littered with huge defining moments, but also beautiful smaller moments. Leia's declaration of love to Han and his reply is brilliant and is a perfect distillation of their characters.
And so as the film ends, all downbeat, I don't even mind that the story isn't concluded - thus showing that the middle film in a trilogy doesn't always really piss me off, as long as it is done correctly - let the main story of the film finish, and set up the third. Don't just end mid story.
Now. Lets go rescue Han.