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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Empire Strikes Back

A science fiction classic returns to the screen

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 23, 1997 -- To see "The Empire Strikes Back" again on the big screen is a real treat and it brings to mind that cliché they don't make 'em like this anymore.

It's a grand spectacle of almost operatic intensity. The special effects are top-notch, even by today's standard, and they've been punched up a little extra for this special edition release with some help from George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic effects shop.

It's a wonderful piece of writing, with that shocking scene near the end between Darth Vader (voice by Mr. Pipes himself, James Earl Jones) and the hero, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Then there's the great scene where Han Solo (Harrison Ford) bravely faces death.

Ford and Hamill, along with Carrie Fisher (who plays Princess Leia) were all young actors when this series started. Of them, only Ford has stood the test of time as a real acting talent. Billy Dee Williams, who plays Lando Calrissian, was already a veteran actor by the time he joined the cast in this film. Of course there are screen veterans like Peter Cushing and Alec Guiness in the series, too, but the heart of the cast, aside from Ford and Guiness, does not have much overall acting talent.

I think it succeeds because it is such a compelling story, based on philosopher Joseph Campbell's writings about myths. There is very good dialogue written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan (who later directed "The Big Chill"). There is also a wonderful musical score by John Williams. The film is also well directed by Irvin Kershner.

I wonder what it could have been with better actors, say Mel Gibson as Luke Skywalker and Jessica Lange as Princess Leia. If Lucas were to film this today, he probably would have found a more convincing character for Yoda than a puppet, because there are more technical options now, but the puppet works well enough.

The new release of this film has some new scenes in it, not as many as the re-release of "Star Wars," but enough to notice. There are, for instance some new scenes in the ice cave on Hoth and some additional scenes on the city in the clouds. Even if there were no additional scenes, it would still be worth seeing again. It's a great film. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)