• It is a myth that George Lucas can’t direct—or that he stepped aside for Empire so the more polished (talented/ or whatever adjective.) Irvin Kershner could do a better job at the helm. There’s nothing in Kershner’s filmography, before or after Empire, to suggest he had as much talented in his entire body as Lucas had in a single appendage. This isn’t a war on authorship or the auteur theory- I just see this as Lucas doing most of this from another title- producer in this case- maybe the David O. Selznick example/comparison works- but I think Lucas may deserve more credit than that even.
  • Empire is, by an eyelash, the strongest of the Star Wars films. It is a colossal achievement of narrative balancing: taking on the light with the dark (good and evil)— and the light with the heavy (amusement with drama).

In the opening on Hoth—the camera stalks behind the icicles like the old wooden boards often obstructing the frame in Kurosawa’s work

  • The wipe transitions are sublime- crisp, punctuating the electric narrative.
  • John Williams “imperial theme” adds to an already brilliant score from the original film—not to mention Lucas’ rich sound design
  • Even though this is pop art, Lucas can do better than “laser brain” and “fuzz ball” in the writing.

At the 20-minute mark there is a masterful composition. The back of Vader’s helmet is in close-up in the foreground. The star destroyer is off to the right in the background.

Set design bliss with the white and black interlocking teeth of Vader’s … office? Haha

Miniature work has rarely if ever been better than the imperial walkers- Ray Harryhausen would be impressed.

  • Yoda is a very rich character (his wisdom and pantheism) and Frank Oz deserves credit for playing him- but The set of the Dagobah System is a missed opportunity. I do love the dedication to the snakes in the frame—but this is clearly built in a lab and the studiobacklot-ed-ness of it sticks out like a sore thumb. Lucas liked control in his world-building—but he would have been better suited in the right location scouting (like Herzog often did- or his buddy Coppola in Apocalypse Now). The trees here look as fake as the one Lex is sitting on in Jurassic Park when the brachiosaurus sneezes on her. This is not a real vs. fake argument- this is good vs. bad or like I said- a missed opportunity.

The film again taps into the zeitgeist, good vs. evil, father vs. son, the stakes are high.

One of the great visuals in the entire series is the orange glow and lighting in the carbon freezing room for the epic duel. The two characters are built up so well- the big reveal and shocker (“I Am Your Father”) has been earned.

The expanse of the film’s budget is felt in all the best ways—the film seems both bigger and bolder.

The painting of the group in from of the galaxy window is repeated a few times- Kershner and Lucas must have known what they had here—the final frame of Fincher’s Fight Club comes to mind as a similar one.

  • A Masterpiece