For as awesome as 'New Hope' is, when we think about some of the best lines and moments of 'Star Wars', I'd have to say 'Empire' takes the cake. It's loaded with great dialogue and character development that leads to some epic storytelling, combining it with some great action sequences, drama, and the introduction of some of the most popular characters in 'Star Wars' history.
The saga continues, hitting the ground running, as the Empire has located a rebel base on the frozen ice planet of Hoth. Meanwhile, on the planet, Luke (Mark Hamill) gets a vision of Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness), who was killed by Vader (James Earl Jones/David Prowse) in 'New Hope'. He tells Luke he must go to Degobah to seek out Yoda in order to continue his training.
Going back to the Empire, they launch their assault on the rebel base, providing my eyes and ears with what I still, to this day, consider my favorite 'Star Wars' action sequence. A handful of rebels escape, including Luke, who heads to Degobah with R2 (Kenny Baker). There, he meets the small creature, Yoda (Frank Oz) and continues his training. Meanwhile, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and 3PO (Anthony Daniels) end up leading a chase that leads them to Cloud City on Bespin, where we meet Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams); a man from Han's past who may or may not be trustworthy.
If you were to ask me what my favorite 'Star Wars' movie is, the answer would go to 'Empire', quite enthusiastically. I have no inner debates between it and 'New Hope', or it and 'Jedi'. As mentioned in my 'New Hope' review, I first saw this, if memory serves me correctly, as a VHS recording from TV. I'm fairly certain I saw 'Jedi' first, for reasons coming in the next review, but this was pretty much neck and neck. I almost feel like it was a back-to-back recording of those two. 'Jedi' may have been my first, but 'Empire' is where all the amazing memories are.
Starting with some of the new characters, Yoda was instantly my favorite. As a kid, I still remember having some fun with the character when he's first introduced; a typical Muppet, just goofing off, saying funny things and making me laugh. Then out of nowhere, he puts on his serious face and turns into the wise old Jedi master. It's unforgettable how much that got to me in an instant, as if the film was telling me "silly and stupid can also be wise and worldly". I still claim him as my favorite character, but I do tend to refer to this particular movie when doing so. He's never been as good a character as he is here.
For others, the bounty hunter Boba Fett worked much better. However, to this day, I don't really get it. Personally, I've always considered him to be overrated. Meanwhile, my love for Yoda is often questioned in comparison, and I can't fathom why. It's just one of those rare things about this movie that separates me from other fans. One thing most of us can agree on is the fact that Lando is kind of an asshole. Without spoiling too much, this is a character who has to redeem himself, largely taking place in the next film.
And speaking of spoilers, that brings me to the next point of appreciation. However, I can't possibly imagine Darth Vader's role as Luke's father a spoiler at this point. We're officially 40 years old here! Plus it's shown up everywhere in pop culture, and the line "No, I am your father!" (that's the real line, look it up) has gone down in cinematic history as one of the greatest movie lines of all time. Why? Well, it's a bit of a cliche at this point, but back then, it was an insane reveal. Imagine comparing it nowadays to Thanos telling Captain America he's his father. It's a big deal, and it added this whole shadow to everything, leaving the audience with that information for about three years.
There's the other reveal about Luke's twin sister, who ends up being... actually I'm not even gonna say, because she's literally the only female character from this trilogy aside from some very tertiary ones. I don't think that one ever had the same impact, especially seeing as they were already on the same side. The father reveal is something of a tragedy. Then there's the cliffhanger involving Han Solo, who gets taken away by Boba Fett, headed to Jabba the Hutt's palace to collect some bounty. Maybe that's what makes him so cool... but he still didn't do much without Vader's help. But I digress.
I recently learned something about myself, involving every twist and turn this movie has, along with the rest of the Orig Trig. My answer to "where would you time travel to?" would be to go back to see each of the films premier, and be there with everyone seeing it for the first time ever. I get the feeling that the impact of 'Empire' was pretty intense for its time. It still was when I watched it as a kid, but with that, I do give it credit for probably being the first movie to make me really feel something. Whether that's accurate or not, I'm not entirely sure, but I do give it the credit, even after 'Jedi', which I was still enjoying as just a bunch of Muppets back then, and we will take a look at next!