The Empire Strikes Back, is the second movie in the original trilogy of Star Wars movies. It was released in 1980 three years after the original and another three years before the conclusion of George Lucas’s groundbreaking trilogy.
When the first movie came out in 1977, director and creator George Lucas was an unknown; his biggest success up to that point had been American Graffiti, released in 1973. That first film, “A New Hope,” was released to universal acclaim and sent fans to movie theatres in record numbers, catapulting Lucas and the movie’s star trio of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher into superstardom.
Almost immediately, fans wanted to know more, so Lucas got to work on the sequel right away. No one expected that the sequel would not only compare to the original but surpass it as well. The Empire Strikes Back is a visual spectacle that still holds up today, nearly 43 years later. The story sends our heroes down a path of self-discovery masked in beautiful action sequences created with elaborate miniatures and groundbreaking visual effects. Luke Skywalker, played by Hamill, meets the fan-favourite Jedi master Yoda and learns the ways of the Jedi. Leia and Han, played by Fisher and Ford respectively, fall slowly in love as Han breaks down her walls and gets to her heart. And finally, Luke confronts the embodiment of evil in Darth Vader in what is considered one of the most iconic showdowns in the history of film.
To say that The Empire Strikes Back was a success would be an understatement. It grossed over $700 million domestically adjusted for inflation. It proved that the first movie was not just a fluke and paved the way for the continued success of the Star Wars franchise.
The Empire Strikes Back has a special place in my heart because it is the pinnacle of my favourite piece of fiction. I grew up watching and consuming everything Star Wars. I was totally engrossed by the scale of the films along with the wonderfully exhilarating and detailed mythology Lucas had created. It felt like it could be a real place out there in a galaxy far far away.
The universe felt lived in and realistic and the characters felt like real people. While their struggles were taking place on a grand galaxy-wide scale, they felt relatable as they boiled down to classic themes of family, legacy and the struggle of good versus evil. For these reasons, The Empire Strikes Back still holds up not just as the linchpin of one of the most successful trilogies of all time, but also as a standalone classic film that has defined the genre of the space opera and will continue to do so for a very long time to come.