Proof that a sequel can be as good as (or better than) its predecessor, The Empire Strikes Back is frequently considered the best of the original Star Wars trilogy. The 1980 film, which picks up a few years after the original movie, contains perhaps the most substantial plot developments of the three films, interweaving spiritual and romantic development and serving up a genuinely shocking cliffhanger. It also features more of the special effects that endeared Star Wars to many an audience member, further catering to its audience's growing appetite for bigger, better effects. Dark and downbeat, Empire is at its core the most human of the trilogy, allowing its characters -- generally two-dimensional in Star Wars -- to flesh out to more convincing proportions. Part of this change may be due to Irvin Kershner's directing the film; where George Lucas was a master with technology, he was not really an actor's director, and the actors here seem noticeably more at ease. The film's enormous success was proof that audiences were more than eager to see the Star Wars storyline continued in the years to come, something that still held true when the special edition of The Empire Strikes Back was released 17 years after the original version. Exhilarating and timeless, it remains one of the most compelling adventures ever brought to the screen.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review