Thursday, 20 May 2010

Thirty years ago today...

... The Empire Strikes Back received its Royal Premiere in London.

I saw it the first weekend, which must have been a few days after the premiere. I was at school at the time and, being a massive Star Wars fan, I had been anticipating its release for months, reading about the film in the pages of Starburst and Starlog. It was long before the internet and advance information on films was thin on the ground, so I knew very little going in, although I had already found out that Darth Vadar was Luke's dad because the parents of two kids in my class worked on the film and had spilled the beans months before. (I have to admit, I didn't believe them at the time.)

Empire remains my favourite of the series, and despite George Lucas' best efforts the films have never again reached the same heights of creativity, emotion and storytelling. (Having said that, there are some amazing moments in Return Of The Jedi. Just not enough.)

From the Wampa scene to the titanic battle for Hoth, from Luke's trip to Dagobah and the introduction of Yoda to that scene in the cave, from Han and Leia's burgeoning romance to Han's heartfelt utterance of "I know" just before being deep frozen, from Luke's confrontation with Vadar in the cloud city of Bespin to the downbeat ending, Empire doesn't put a foot wrong, mainly due to the terrific script by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett.

Of all the Star Wars films, this is the one I still watch repeatedly. I have it on VHS, laserdisc and DVD, and will buy the Blu-ray when it's finally released, just as long as Lucas puts out the original cut as well as the tinkered with version.

It was amusing to me to read Lucas' recent comment about the fact that he made Star Wars up as he went along, and didn't actually have it all plotted out in advance (which kind of explains why Luke and Leia snog in Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars novel Splinter Of The Mind's Eye which was published after Star Wars and before Empire). I never thought he did, but when the result was as a great as The Empire Strikes Back, what did it matter.

Last night in LA, Harrison Ford took part in an onstage interview following a screening of Empire. When the first reports of the event come in, I'll be sure to link to them.

UPDATE: Here's the always excellent Hero Complex blog's coverage of the event. Enjoy.


Hal Gracie said...

I still remember the shock at Vader's big announcement when I first saw it (aged 7). I'd bought the novelization beforehand, but luckily couldn't get through it. A mistake I made with Jedi unfortunately (although that did allow me to bluff everyone that I'd seen it before I actually had).

EMPIRE's easily the best of the Star Wars films. I love when reading about great scriptwriters and the contributions they make (I think it was Brackett who told Lucas the film wouldn't work unless he split up Luke and Han early on - which wasn't the initial plan). Hamill's work is a lot better on this one (and great in Jedi), and John Williams delivered possibly the best film score there's ever been. Wonderful.

I'm not overly optimistic about the original cuts getting a blu-ray release anytime soon, but here's hoping anyway.

J.D. said...

I too have fond memories of seeing this a child and being blown away by the revelation of Vader being Luke's father. While I agree that EMPIRE is the best of the series - sort of THE GODFATHER PART II to STAR WARS' THE GODFATHER - I do enjoy watching the first film more. There is just something about the first film that I connect to more, not to take anything away from EMPIRE of course.