Juror #8’s review published on Letterboxd:
What the heck? This got better, too? I... am in awe. The sheer action, magic, wonder, and allure in this just blows me away, as it did with A New Hope. I will say out of the gate I prefer the original Star Wars, but only narrowly... and that's what I'll be talking about in this review! Let's get into it!
Direct Examination: Things Better Than In A New Hope
Does anyone else think Mark Hamill's performance gets increasingly better throughout the original trilogy? I sure do, because I much prefer his performance here to his one in A New Hope, even though that was great too. And if I remember correctly, it gets even better in Return of the Jedi! So that was definitely an improvement over A New Hope. Another thing was the lightsaber choreography, which improved over the fight between Obi-Wan and Vader. That wasn't the best. But the two main things ESB did better than A New Hope were these: 1) Darth Vader's character. I mean, this is inevitable when he gets more screen time and has that major twist at the end, but he's just really great in this film. And 2), the score! In this, we have the Imperial March and some classic themes being played even heavier, and it is just so masterful here. I would vote for it on the favorite scores list I run, but it is in the lead by far and I like to strategize my votes. Anyway, the score is SOOOO good.
Direct Examination: Things Similar To A New Hope
This is a hefty category, so I'll be brief and only say the major, obvious things. The effects, digital and practical, are similar in quality. The performances by Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are similar, as well. I love their chemistry in both this film and the original. If not for the scene where Leia kisses Luke, their dynamic here would be even better than in the original, as the scenes involving their growing romance are very entertaining. Plus...
"I love you."
Sidebar: I couldn't think of where to put my thoughts on Yoda, so I'll just quickly state them here. He's pretty funny in this, and the amount of chuckles deriving from him were plentiful, to say the least. It is weird how much he's declined (wise in the prequels, still wise but also sorta insane here), but I attribute it to the years he's spent alone in exile, knowing that the Empire grows more and more powerful by the day.
Cross Examination: Things Worse Than In A New Hope
The things worse than in A New Hope consist of only one, but it is a big one. In fact, it is big enough for me to prefer A New Hope narrowly. The original Star Wars is one of the best-paced movies I've ever seen in my entire life. This, on the other hand, is a bit slow. I think I was mixing the two up when I said that A New Hope was slow and this had perfect pacing. Anyway, this is over two hours, and I think it could have been shorter. 100 minutes, perhaps a little longer. It just felt like each sequence, regardless of how entertaining, went on a little too long. The battle on Hoth? Great action, but doesn't know quite when to stop. The scenes on Dagobah? Entertaining enough, with great development, but way too long. Even the scenes with Han and Leia, such as the one in the Sarlacc pit, were lengthy. It seemed like it took Han forever to figure out they were inside a living creature, and I remember it being a quick one-and-done sequence. It was no such thing. So for that reason, I'd rank A New Hope higher in my Star Wars ranking than this.
The Empire Strikes Back is exceptional, just as A New Hope is. They are similarly magical and therefore are similarly phenomenal, although some parts have varying qualities-- I preferred ESB's score and its development of Darth Vader, while ANH had far superior pacing. However, they are both some of my favorite films and undoubtedly my two favorite Star Wars films, at least for now.
Final Verdict: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2, a PHENOMENAL film. Please check out my ranking of Star Wars!