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(Review originally written at 27 October 2006)

Widely this movie is known as perhaps the best sequel ever made. However calling this movie the best sequel ever made alone is not enough. It's so much more than just a sequel and it's overall one of the best movies ever made.

Everything you could wish for is in this movie. Adventure, humor, romance, action, great characters. It's all told in a fast pace but never at the expense of the character development or story.

"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" is known and regarded as the darkest movie out of the two Star Wars trilogies. It's dark not in terms of visual style, after all Cloud City is one of the brightest cities you've ever seen in a movie, but more dark in terms of the story, characters and emotions. Basically in this story it's the evil Empire that prevails over the Rebels. Evil sides in movies are often the more interesting ones and this movie is perhaps the very best example of that. The ultimate movie villain Darth Vader is more evil than ever in this movie and doesn't even spare his own commanders.

But it's not only the dark side that makes this movie different from any other Star Wars movie. Also the storytelling is different. For instance there is no big battle at the ending and the ending is actually an open one. Instead the biggest and most exciting battle is already in the beginning of the movie; the Imperial ground attack on the Rebel base, with giant walking tanks, AT-AT's. It still is one of the best and most memorable battle sequences out of movie history. Also not in the least because it's not set in cold dark space but on the white snow planet Hoth. It makes the battle unique and therefor all the more memorable.

But don't worry the movie is not all dark and depressing, there also is room for entertainment. Luckily all the things that made "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" such a great classic and entertaining movie are still present here. The movie brings back all of the main characters and chooses the develop them even further. Especially the Han/Leia romance gets developed in a great non-formulaic way. Luke's character gets more vulnerable (especially of course after the famous classic Darth Vader revaluation sequence). He's not a real hero but more a character that struggles with his own future and past. The C-3PO and R2-D2 characters are yet again present as the comical relief of the movie. It works in a great non-distracting way, unlike perhaps was often the case in the new Star Wars trilogy. But the movie also leaves room to introduce some new big characters. Yoda is the best example of this. It was a big gamble to let a puppet play a significant role in the movie. But the character works very well and is not a laughable one. This is also really thanks to his performer and voice Frank Oz, who makes it a real character, that over the years has grown out to be one of the best known and likable characters and also thanks to Mark Hamill who's acting with Yoda also makes the character more believable and a life one, instead of simply a puppet. Also Lando Calrissian who is energetically played by Billy Dee Williams, is a new character in this movie and a welcome addition to the cast. But also of course lots of villains are introduced such as some cool Imperial officers and also Emperor Palpatine makes his first small appearance in this movie. But the most welcome new addition is Boba Fett, who is one of the coolest characters out of movie history, even though he has hardly any lines or action to do in this movie. His presence alone is good and cool enough on its own, to make a lasting impression. But it are not only the characters that make the movie entertaining. The movie also features lots of fast paced spectacular action and some well written and placed comical dialog, that are all perfectly performed by the wonderful cast, who all share some great chemistry together.

The movie is good looking with some highly convincing special effects, even by todays standards. It provides the movie with some spectacular and impressive memorable sequences. The cinematography by Peter Suschitzky sets up the perfect mood for this movie and Suschitzky is perhaps one of the most underrated cinematographers in the business at the moment, with already movies like "The Man in the Iron Mask", "Mars Attacks!", "The Vanishing" and the David Cronenberg movies "eXistenZ", "Spider" and "A History of Violence" behind his name. Also all of the characters and sets are highly convincing looking, something that was still lacking a bit at times in "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope". The musical score by John Williams is a true classic and perhaps the best or at least most memorable out of all the Star Wars soundtracks, mainly of course due to the Imperial March that can first be heard in this movie. It all combined is the reason why this movie is such a classic perfect masterpiece, that is as good as flawless, which helps to make this movie one of the best ever made.

Not just the best Star Wars movie but also one of the best movies of all time.

10/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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