This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jaewoo Kim’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite film of all time. Sure, there are probably films that are more well-made or layered, but I don't care. Every time I watch it, this movie provides an experience. For me, this is the most captivating, entertaining, enthralling, and all around incredible film that I have ever seen. Here's why:
We start with Hoth. Believe it or not, this opening takes up a quarter of the runtime. I honestly couldn't believe it, because it felt like 10 minutes at the most. As soon as the movie starts, it does not let up. Our heroes are constantly in danger. The movie just began and Luke is literally about to get eaten. Once he's safe, the rebels get attacked. The Battle of Hoth is a great way to set the stakes. There's a scene where a fighter flies towards an AT-AT and gets blown into oblivion. The poor thing didn't even have a chance. The heroes put up a good fight, but ultimately get beaten. This is exactly what happens throughout the film. Han, Leia, and the rest of the Millennium Falcon gang never get a break. Oh, you're safe inside a cave? Actually, you're inside a giant creature. Oh, you made it to a safe mining colony? Actually, Vader is waiting for you. It creates for a thrilling time.
Luke is on a completely different journey, but it's equally as compelling. With Luke's quest, we meet Yoda, one of the best characters ever. At first, he's a quirky, yet kind of hilarious guy, but he then turns into the wise master we love him to be. Introducing Yoda as a goofball was genius, because it makes us immediately relate to Luke. Just like him, we are confused. We're not sure who this guy is and why he's interrupting us. As soon as it's revealed who he is, this movie makes us respect him a lot as well. Yoda lifting the X-wing is my favorite scene in the film. Most will probably say that it's the twist, but I knew the twist as far back as I can remember, so it probably didn't hit as hard for me as it did others (it's still great though). This scene is pure movie magic. The camera positions it on Yoda, Luke, and R2D2 as the starfighter dominates the frame. It perfectly symbolizes what Yoda is trying to convey with his "Judge me by my size, do you?" They're so small in the distance compared to the X-wing, which is right in front of us, but it doesn't matter. We see Luke bewildered by what is going on. The score is amazing. It really captures the awe and the triumph.
This movie looks stunning. Irvin Kershner's direction is incredible. Every frame is filled with beauty and detail. The art design and effects still hold up today. They really work to expand on the world of the first. The concepts of Star Wars are limitless. You can introduce almost anything and people will accept it. They really take advantage of this with things like AT-ATs and Cloud City. It gives us galaxy full of life. These worlds feel like actual places, not just locations for our heroes to visit.
The character work is also really good. Luke is fleshed out a lot more in this film and I think that the twist is genius. This guy is just some farm boy that got wrapped into this journey by luck. He wasn’t expecting to become a hero. Then, it turns out that Darth Vader, his enemy is his father? How big of a part is he in this? The way the film toys with his patience is great. He’s still hot-headed and flawed. Empire Strikes Back really uses this to its advantage. Han and Leia have amazing interactions. At first, they’re hilarious and then, it’s really tragic. The constant conflict between the two makes it so that we don’t get bored of the journey too soon. We’re not just here for the story, but what will happens to these characters. The respect they gain for each other makes sense. They’ve always appreciated the other, they’ve just never shown it. Darth Vader has some subtle, but nonetheless interesting development as well. The most clear example of this, besides him endlessly slaughtering admirals, is when he fights Luke (this fight is awesome by the way) As soon as he realizes he has a son, he forms his own motivations. When he realizes what Luke is capable of, he starts to think of extending his hand. He’s not just a servant to the Emperor and Tarkin like in the last one. He’s his own person.
This movie is a masterpiece. Every time I watch it I have a blast. Every single scene is breathtaking. From the asteroid field to the Battle of Hoth to the carbonation chamber, the movie never lets you get bored. The characters are all interesting, the stakes are high, the story is compelling, the action is thrilling, the score is beautiful, the list goes on and on. Impressive. Most impressive.