Written by Richie Pepio
During the 124 days before the release of The Last Jedi, I’m reviewing all 124 minutes of the theatrical version of The Empire Strikes Back. Join me and together we will watch Star Wars….
In Minute 20:00, The Rebels get a taste of things to come while the audience gets a full meal of Imperial proportions.
Sure, the first half of Minute 20:00 is devoted to Han and Chewie’s investigation of that floating droid creeping outside the base like some kind of deranged fan looking for an autograph.
They take it out, Leia diagnoses it as an Imperial probe droid and General Rieekan - who only minutes ago thought it was too dangerous to leave the system - is now pushing for a full-scale retreat. The Empire is on its way.
But first, how come Leia gets to be the one on headset?
Back to the Empire, the incredible special effects are nothing without John Williams' engrossing score. Although A New Hope won the 1978 Oscar for Best Original Score, The Empire Strikes Back is the crowning Kyber Crystal of all space-themed soundtracks.
Just look at him work!
Following John Williams’ creation, Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher were destined to be flanked by Stormtroopers and underscored by “The Imperial March” for any future convention entrance, awards show appearance, or attendance at a college football game for the rest of their natural lives.
But if you had to choose any song to follow you around forever, this is a good one to go out on. Star Wars has always been driven by its music, and while the Empire/Death Star had some foreboding and stage-setting motifs in 1977’s A New Hope, Williams created one of his greatest themes ever for the sequel. It’s synonymous with evil, power, and military might. And it plays for a full 30 seconds. This is basically one long recruiting commercial, and it's almost as effective as this…
Following the Alliance’s discovery that the Empire is now onto them, the scene iris wipes out to the Imperial fleet in deep space. We get our most comprehensive views of Star Destroyers, which were seen mostly from lower angles in the original Star Wars film. Now we view them from the sides, from above, and at various distances. These massive battle ships are given a complex staging, dotted by TIE Fighters (gray in the first film, now a dark navy blue), and all eclipsed by Darth Vader’s massive Super Star Destroyer, the Executer. This massive capital ship's framed at a slight angle so that we’re not exactly sure at first where its arrowhead-shape begins and ends. Contrast this to our introduction of the slapped-together ragtag Rebels at the beginning of the movie and we see the Empire as a force to be reckoned with. Will they be bested by the Rebels for two movies in a row? NO.
For more details on Darth Vader’s perfect theme, check out this musical breakdown.
Wagner’s bombastic symphonies were also a big influence on Williams, and you can hear hints of the iconic “Ride of the Valkyries” within the booming brass and billowing woodwinds.
For later scores, however, Williams influenced himself. As with Anakin’s theme for 1999’s The Phantom Menace:
It’s the perfect setup for our re-introduction to Vader. And can you believe it? This film’s been playing for a full 20 minutes. It’s called The Empire Strikes Back, and we haven’t seen them in full force yet?
Best Performance by a Human: Han Solo squinting and dodging laser.
Best Performance by a Non-human: Exploding probe droid.
Best Line: Han’s “It’s a good bet the Empire knows we’re here.”
Rating: 48 out of John Williams’ 50 Oscar nominations.
Stay tuned for Minute 21:00 where Vader shows us the view from his bridge!
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com