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The Empire Strikes Back (1980)



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The Empire Strikes Back is, technically speaking, even better than the original, with more action and a lot more character building scenes (which are also extremely funny). But that's not taking into account that the breakthrough filmmaking techniques and George Lucas' fascinating world were created with the original, and Empire "merely" built upon it. In addition, the original had more closure, this entry setting the stage for Return of the Jedi. Either way, this film is a supremely entertaining masterpiece of filmmaking, capturing more of that unique magic that can only be experienced in the Star Wars universe. We're first introduced to Yoda, Lando, the Emperor, Boba Fett, and John Williams' haunting Imperial March. The plot is adorned with delightful subtleties and attention to detail, things you can watch several times over before their full meaning registers. The Empire Strikes Back is simply the best that fantasy films get.

The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition, released in 1997, contains less new footage than the Special Editions of the other two films; that's not to say it doesn't look all the more spectacular. New footage includes extra shots of the snow creature that captured Luke on the ice world of Hoth, and some gorgeous panoramic views of Cloud City, the location of Lando's outfit. The latter addition is breathtaking; the former is a curiosity, but it's hard to judge whether the scene is made more or less effective by a better done monster that's less elusive and mysterious. Nevertheless, Empire is as scintillating as it ever was, likely more so, and it's value just as raw entertainment, let alone an example of expert filmmaking, is irreplaceable.

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