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Star Wars: Episode 5 - The Empire Strikes Back


Rating: PG

Distributor: Fox Home Entertainment

Release Date: September 21, 2004
Review posted: May 18, 2005


Reviewed by Keith Helinski




It is a dark time for the Rebellion.  After a devastating attack on their ice base on the frozen planet of Hoth, the rebels are scattered by Imperial pursuit. 


Luke Skywalker seeks out on the mysterious Jedi Master Yoda in the swamps of Dagabah, while Han Solo and Princess Leia outrun the Imperial fleet to the beautiful Cloud City of Bespin.  In an attempt to covert Luke to the dark side, the evil Darth Vader lures young Skywalker into a trap.  In the midst of the fierce lightsaber duel with the Sith Lord, Luke faces a terrible truth about the Skywalker legacy.   


Part of the Star Wars Trilogy (Widescreen Edition) box set.




There is a direct reason why Empire is considered the best of the entire series.  Not just because Lucas, whom had to introduce the characters in A New Hope, can play around with them and have them go into separate paths and subplots.  Not just because it’s better with effects & the story and it is a darker toned level.  But the emotional connection to the characters.  This film, above all else – is an emotional roller coaster ride – with Luke, Leia, and Han.  And we get more depth of the space-soap-opera that holds the galaxy together.  Who knew the fate of everyone in the galaxy is determined by a dramatic back-story that you would only find on a Jerry Springer special!


There are a lot better key moments in this film, in comparison to A New Hope.  The Hoth battle sequences, the Asteroid/Falcon sequence, the whole entire sub-plot of Yoda teaching Luke the powers of the force and making the prospering Jedi grow.  And of course, the last 30 minutes of the film that has, up to this date, the darkest romantic scene in cinema history (where Han meets his doom), the lightsaber duel between Luke and Darth.  And the revealing of a secret that becomes one of pop culture’s greatest movies quote…”I am your father.” 


The added scenes include cleaned up enhanced effects, an added hologram of Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor (which, looks better in the series within but looks kind of awkward as you watch the sequence) and Temuera Morrison has re-recorded Boba Fett's minimal dialogue – to fit in with the prequel trilogy (which, we all know now – Fett was introduced in Episode 2, Attack of the Clones.)


Much like A New Hope, I don’t mind the minor changes. 


SIDENOTE: I wasn’t too keen with the whole entire Star Wars mythology after these films.  In other words, I am a nerd when it comes to the films – but I never went pass the films.  However, there was one book out of the entire book series that I got hooked on.  That book was called “Shadows of the Empire”, which is a story that takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  You think Episode Three is dark?  If “Shadows” was ever considered for a movie, we are talking a R rating.  That is how dark Shadows of the Empire is.  And quite simply, I do include it with the series, whether it be the book or the soundtrack (and yes, there was a score made up to intertwine with the book).  It is a must if you haven’t read it yet. 




Twentieth Century Fox Home Video presents Star Wars: Ep. 5 – The Empire Strikes Back in 2.35 widescreen format.   While A New Hope, you get the sense of the quality of picture.  But it’s truly in this one that you get the full effect.  The whole entire Asteroid/Falcon sequence has never looked better until this one.   And that romantic yet darkest sequence ever filmed – looks so damn good.  This is truly a film to see in widescreen format.




Twentieth Century Fox Home Video presents Star Wars: Ep. 5 – The Empire Strikes Back in English (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), and French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround). 


A New Hope had that climatic scene that sounded so sweet, like hearing it for the first time.  But it’s Empire that is truly a film that has SOUND.  From the Hoth battle front to yet again the Asteroid/Falcon sequence – and I have to admit, the last 30 minutes of the film – never sounded so great until now.  The sound quality is surly something bout Star Wars geeks, movie buffs, and movie goers will drool over!  This is groundbreaking on its own in terms of home theater entertainment.




Commentary by George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher


Much like “A NEW HOPE” commentary, we get more depth on the production and writing of the film.  Kershner reminds me a lot like Stan Lee during interviews.  He talks like him.  He has the same excitement when reviewing a scene.  And he has that same pride (without offering much depth and dirt on the production).  Lucas also adds insight – including more insight of the prequel trilogy, which is very neat.




While A New Hope is beloved for starting it up – this is what 99.9999 percent of critics, goers, buffs, and fans think as the best of the entire series.  It’s dark, romantic, and I even think better than the first film.  It’s not just a more thrilling experience but rather – an emotional roller coaster.  While A New Hope was just a timeless film, Empire is an experience to take.  This, I’m only going to theorize, this will be the most played DVD of the entire box set.




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