The Lego Batman Movie

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title: The Lego Batman Movie
  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Date:  2017
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri, Conan O’Brien, Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Izzard, Channing Tatum, Mariah Carey
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music – edgy, scary music, that would make a parent or studio executive nervous. And logos, really long and dramatic logos.” – Batman

“Whoa. Let me tell you something, J-bird. Batman doesn’t do ‘ships.” – Batman
“What?” – Joker
“As in ‘relationships’. There is no ‘us’. Batman and Joker are not a thing. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone. You mean nothing to me. No one does.” – Batman

“Sir, if you don’t mind my saying, I’m a little concerned. I’ve seen you go through similar phases in 2016, and 2012, and 2008, and 2005, and 1997, and 1995, and 1992, and 1989, and that weird one in 1966. Do you want to talk about how you are feeling right now?” – Alfred
“I don’t talk about feelings, Alfred. I don’t have any. I’ve never seen one. I’m a night-stalking, crime-fighting vigilante, and a heavy metal rapping machine.” – Bruce Wayne

The Lego Batman Movie is one of the best Batman movies ever made because it gets to the core of the Batman character, and it revolves around both as a plot point and as the emotional core of the movie the fatal flaw in Batman’s character. The film is also a ton of fun, funny, packed with action, full of references to every previous version of Batman and quite a lot else besides, and one of those movies that one can enjoy over and over again. The Lego Batman Movie is funny and colorful but it is not a parody of Batman, something that also makes it a great Batman film.

The film opens with “McGuffin Airlines” flying over Gotham City in a plane loaded with a ton of weapons and bombs. Joker attacks the plane, and plants bombs that will blow-up an energy plant causing Gotham City to fall into an endless abyss. The attack itself resembles the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, while Bane’s later plan results in something akin to the No Man’s Land storyline from the comics. But Joker also, in a conversation with Batman, references the two boats from The Dark Knight and the “parade with Prince music” from Tim Burton’s Batman. In other words, within a few minutes, this movie is acknowledging its predecessors. Joker also isn’t working alone, he has a number of B-grade Batman villains, all of whom did appear in the comics at some point, and Harley Quinn helping him. Yet when Batman catches Joker he has to let him go – so he can stop the bomb Joker and his gang planted earlier. It’s when Batman catches then releases Joker that we get their conversation with Joker insisting he is Batman’s Greatest Enemy and Batman insisting he doesn’t do ‘ships with anyone.

Once he releases Joker, stops the bomb and celebrates his win, Bruce heads home. He changes into a comfy robe, eats a meal made by Alfred and heated-up in the microwave, and then watches a sad, romantic movie in his home theater. He is very alone. Bruce stands before the picture of himself with his parents at the theater and asks if they would be proud of him. At this point, Alfred arrives. Alfred is worried about Bruce, stating he’s gone through these stages before. But Bruce insists he doesn’t talk about feelings. Alfred then reminds Bruce he’s to attend a gala retirement party for Police Commissioner James Gordon. Bruce objects, but finally reluctantly agrees.

At the party, he meets Dick Grayson but doesn’t really pay much attention to the young orphan, as he also sees Barbara Gordon and has one of those “love at first sight” moments. Barbara is the new police commissioner, having already cleaned-up Gotham’s “sister-city” of Blüdhaven (and graduated from “Harvard for Police”). Barbara’s plan for Gotham? It takes a village, not a Batman, to truly reduce and eliminate crime. But Barbara also wants there to be a partnership between the police and Batman. Bruce isn’t having the no Batman idea, though he’s intrigued by Barbara. Still, Bruce, being distracted at the time, agrees to adopt young Dick Grayson, as we find out later.

Joker hangs out with Harley Quinn and his B-grade villain friends, plus a few well-known ones like Bane, Clayface, and Scarecrow. He sees a TV interview with Superman, where he’s talking about banishing Zod to the Phantom Zone. The Joker gets an idea and he and the other villains attack Gordon’s party. But once chased back outside, they all surrender. Every one of them, including Joker. Batman is confused – without crime, what is he to do? Barbara and her police department organize arresting everyone and taking them to the prison.

Batman then gets the idea of using the Phantom Zone projector to send Joker to the Phantom Zone. But when he returns to the Batcave he finds a parental lock on his computer. Alfred, who is reading, Setting Limits for Your Out-of-Control Child, tells Bruce he must raise Dick, whom he adopted last week at the orphanage. Alfred shows clear affection for Dick already and tells Bruce that he and Dick have a lot in common. But Bruce cruelly tells Alfred he “knows nothing about raising a surrogate son”. So Alfred lets Dick into the Batcave. In what becomes a running joke, Dick says, “Wow, Batman lives in Bruce Wayne’s basement?” Bruce points out that Bruce lives in Batman’s attic. But with the parental lock released, Batman makes a plan to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone projector, and he takes Dick along because he’s perfect for getting through the death traps protecting the projector that Batman himself would never be able to negotiate alone.

They arrive at the Fortress of Solitude, Batman tells Dick that all superheroes are brooding, serious people who need a quiet place of reflection and solitude, then rings the doorbell – which plays the theme to Richard Donner’s Superman film. Superman sticks his head out of the crack of the door and reluctantly lets Batman in. There is literally a party going on. The entire extended Justice League is there, celebrating the 73rd anniversary of the Justice League. Superman pretends Batman’s invitation was lost in the mail. While Batman encounters the Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, and many others in the League and gives instructions to Dick Grayson over a communicator, Dick negotiates a series of intricate death traps and successfully borrows the Phantom Zone projector. Then he and Batman leave the Fortress of Solitude for Gotham.

Batman and Dick attempt to sneak the projector into the prison and Batman, after getting caught, manages to obtain the Phantom Zone projector and use it on Joker. Barbara, very disappointed in Batman, arrests him and Dick for what they did. Meanwhile, Joker ends up in the Phantom Zone, is greeted by Phyllis the brick, and starts to prepare a long speech to the villains in the Zone about getting out to wreak havoc. The villains don’t even let him finish his speech, before agreeing. The villains include: Daleks, Sauron, Voldemort, the Wicked Witch of the West, a shark, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, those guys from The Matrix, King Kong, Medusa, Godzilla, etc. Joker releases them all after Harley Quinn gets Joker out.

The villains and Joker attack Wayne Manor and they take over the Batcave (he also assumes Bruce Wayne is Batman’s roommate).

Barbara releases Batman and Robin, and the three work together with Alfred. At Arkham, the B-class villains who are still incarcerated offer help to Batman, Robin, Barbara, and Alfred (in a 60s Batman outfit). This allows Batman to remark on the “stupidity” of the idea of getting criminals together to fight criminals. Joker turns Wayne Manor/Island into “Joker Island”.

Batman, Alfred, Robin, and Barbara are squeezed into the Batwing, but one by one their engines fail. Batman goes to the outside of the plane to fix the engines and is joined by Dick and Alfred. Flying monkeys attack and Dick falls off the plane and through the sky. Batman barely rescues him, but Alfred falls. Bruce is really upset and freaking out when Barbara flies the Batwing and rescues Alfred. Batman realizes he would have lost Alfred without Barbara and the four begin to work together. They defeat Sauron, and Godzilla leaves. The Batwing lands. But when Robin takes a picture of everyone together to celebrate, Batman looks at it and is reminded of the picture of himself with his parents when he is younger. He tricks everyone else into getting into the Scuddler and sends them off to get burritos on the edge of town. Now he is doing this to protect them, but at the same time, his friends don’t want to be “protected” they want to help. Once more, Batman wants to work alone.

Batman arrives at “Joker Island” and confronts Joker, who again brings up their “relationship”, including a heartfelt, “I hate you”, before sending Batman to the Phantom Zone. In the Phantom Zone, he meets Phyllis (the brick) who thinks he’s a villain. There’s a series of flashbacks, showing Batman in his worse light, hurting others. He agrees that if Phyllis releases him for 24 hours, he will bring back all the villains. Phyllis agrees – and emphasizes that Batman must return all the villains.

Batman gets back just in time to rescue Alfred, Barbara, and Dick – but they are all angry at him for sending them away in the first place. Batman admits he was afraid and even says he’s sorry (barely). He then shows the Babs-signal, as well as signals for Robin and Alfred to Barbara and everyone. They agree to work together again and even go to Arkham to release all the B-villains to get them to help in rounding up the villains from the Phantom Zone as well as Joker.

There’s a massive, complex, fight scene between the Gotham family and the Evil Army. At one point, Batman tells Robin, “Okay Robin, together we’re going to punch these guys so hard words describing the impact are going to spontaneously materialize out of thin air!”, which they do, in true 60s-Batman style. Voldemort is sent to the Phantom Zone. Other bad guys are sent to the Phantom Zone. Robin actually uses the shark repellant which came up earlier (another 60s reference as well). But the bombs that Joker and his evil gang have placed around Gotham City go off and, as mentioned earlier the city is cut off and heading for the abyss.

The only way to save Gotham is to “stick together using [their] heads”, they build a bridge. Batman admits his connection to Joker to save Gotham and they stick together creating a bridge. With a click, everything comes together. Citizen bridges, um, bridge the other gaps, and again with a click – Gotham is saved. Batman tells Joker, with a sunset behind them, “I hate you, Joker.”

Batman gets ready to go to the Phantom Zone. He lets Dick call him Dad and, and reveals he is Bruce Wayne. Bruce talks about what he’s learned. Bruce and Dick even hug. But when Bruce tries to send himself to the Phantom Zone he hits a wall and bounces back. Phyllis points out that Batman has changed for the better. The movie ends with a white screen (and a montage of Bruce with his new family).

The Lego Batman Movie is a great film. Yes, it’s funny and smart and references all the previous Batman films. Yes, the idea of Batman and company fighting famous movie (and television) villains from Voldemort to “British Robots” as the Daleks are called is amusing. But what makes the movie re-watchable is that it tells a very moving story. That story is of a man, finally, facing his demons and moving on. It’s a story of a man putting aside his loneliness and creating a new family. Dick Grayson is central to this story. And in the comics, Dick was introduced for three main reasons. First, narrative necessity – giving Batman a partner gives him someone to talk to, this improves the story because it becomes reliant on dialogue instead of the main character’s monologue. As well as someone to talk to, a sidekick, partner, or companion also gives the main character someone to worry about and rescue when they get in trouble, this, in turn, humanizes the main character. Second, Robin was a lighter character. After Robin was introduced in 1940, Batman introduced his famous “no kill” rule, and Robin’s Joie de Vire lightened up the Batman comic books considerably. Finally, Robin as a young character was meant to give the children reading the Batman books a character they could identify with who was their own age. In many ways, by introducing Robin, The Lego Batman Movie is the first time we’ve seen this transition in Batman on the screen. Yes, we don’t see the dark, brooding, willing to kill, stalker vigilante of circa 1938 Batman or solo adventures like Dark Victory, but by constantly referencing the entire Batman canon, The Lego Batman Movie is using a shorthand that both trusts the audience hasn’t been living in a cave for the last ten or twenty years and that they know who the Dark Knight is or was. Additionally, the film itself shows you the lonely, desperate for approval Bruce Wayne in the scenes in his mansion where he heats up the dinner Alfred made in the microwave and watches sad movies – alone.

Needless to say, The Lego Batman Movie, is one of the best Batman films ever made and I highly recommend it. And, there is a considerable about of action and humor too. It’s not grim. It just gets to the core of just who Bruce Wayne and Batman is, alongside his Bat-family of Alfred, Dick Grayson, and Barbara Gordon.

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Star Wars Return of the Jedi

  • Title:  Star Wars Return of the Jedi
  • Director:  Richard Marquand
  • Date:  1983
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Nevertheless, I’m taking Captain Solo and his friends you can either profit by this or be destroyed.  It’s your choice but I warn you not to underestimate my powers.”  — Luke

“When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not.”  — Yoda

“Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall, that is the way of  things, the way of the Force.”  — Yoda

“Anger, fear, oppression, the Dark Side are they.  Once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny.”  — Yoda

“Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of  the Force.  He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Dark Vader.  When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.  So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

Return of the Jedi again starts with a crawl updating the audience to the plot, and reminiscent of very old movie serials.  There is an impressive opening shot of a very large and long ship approaching a partially constructed Death Star.  The sequence has several impressive model shots as well, including:  two star destroyers, shuttles, and the moon with the Death Star itself.

On Tatooine, R2-D2 and C3PO are in the desert, they approach Jabba’s palace.  Inside, R2-D2 plays a message from Luke Skywalker.  He wishes to bargain for Han Solo’s life, and gives Jabba R2-D2 and C3PO as gifts (don’t worry it’s all part of the plan).  The droids are indoctrinated into Jabba’s workforce in a scene which includes shots of droids being tortured (one is having it’s feet burned with red-hot horseshoes, another is being pulled apart at the arm and hip sockets).  Jabba’s palace has an 1001 Nights aspect to it, and it’s full of music, aliens, and dancing girls.  Jabba kills his slave girl, dropping her into a pit.  A bounty hunter comes in with Chewbacca, haggling with Jabba (via C3PO’s translations) to get a higher price.  Lando is also hiding in Jabba’s palace in disguise.  Later that night, the “bounty hunter” rescues Han.  He’s frozen in Carbonite and she de-freezes him.  She’s Princess Leia.  Han is basically OK, though temporarily blind.  Jabba quickly captures Han again.  Leia is brought to be Jabba’s slave girl, and Han is imprisoned with Chewbacca.  Luke, dressed in black and cloaked, arrives.  Luke uses his Jedi mind tricks on one of Jabba’s guards, but they don’t work on Jabba.  Luke threatens Jabba for Han and Leia’s lives, but Jabba is over-confident and drops Luke in the Bantha pit.  Luke kills the Bantha monster and the Bantha Keeper is devastated.  However, Luke in unable to rescue Han at the time and the entire group is taken to Jabba’s sail barge to be taken to the desert where they will be executed by another monster – Jabba thinks.

On the barge, Luke will be forced to walk the plank – but instead he performs some very impressive gymnastics and grabs his light-sabre that R2-D2 has sent sailing into the air.  The Star Wars theme swells.  Luke fights Jabba’s creatures and rescues Han and Chewbacca, then heads to rescue Lando. Leia tries to free herself and also kills  Jabba.  Leia also rescues R2-D2.  She points the huge gun on the sail barge at the deck, set to blow.  Luke and Leia swing to safety on a smaller desert hover boat where Han, Chewbacca, and Lando await.  The two droids dive into the desert sand, and are picked up by the smaller boat.  The sail barge is destroyed.

Luke heads off to Dagobah with R2-D2.  The rest are on the Millennium Falcon heading for the alliance fleet.

Meanwhile, Darth Vader and an extremely impressive parade of troops great the Emperor.  The Emperor urges Vader to wait for Luke to seek him out and together they will turn Luke to the Dark Side.

Meanwhile, Luke visits Yoda on Dagobah.  Yoda is dying.  Luke is devastated to lose his mentor, but handles it without the anger of his younger days.  Yoda also avoids Luke’s questions, but mentions a mysterious “other”.  After Yoda’s demise, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi appears.  He confirms what Luke knows – Vader is his father … and also tells him Leia is his sister (Luke half figures this out himself).  Luke now knows he must confront Vader — but he’s convinced there is still good in his father.

Meanwhile the Alliance, including Han Solo, Lando, Chewbacca, Leia, and in the background, Wedge, as well as a full room of others goes over their plans.  A female general/diplomat reviews information received from “Bonthan spies”, then turns the meeting over to Admiral Ackbar to explain the details of the attack.  Lando will lead the fighter strike team in the Millennium Falcon which Han gives him.  Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO, and R2-D2 will go to Endor to knock out the Shield Generator.  Luke arrives just as the plans and teams are being finalized and joins Han and Leia.

On Endor, Han and Luke encounter a pair of Storm Troopers and the speeder bike chase ensues.  Leia falls off her bike.  Luke returns to Han and company.  Meanwhile, Leia meets and befriends an Ewok – a sort of primitive walking teddy bear.  Leia is nearly captured by a pair of storm-troopers but she manages to defeat them herself.

Meanwhile, on the Emperor’s ship, Vader reports that a Rebel force has landed on Endor, including Luke. The Emperor orders Vader to Endor.  Luke will come to Vader who will bring him to the Emperor.

Meanwhile, Luke, Han, and company are looking for Leia — they don’t find her, but get caught in a trap. Though they get themselves free, they are captured by Ewoks.  The Ewoks worship C3PO.

They are taken to the Ewok village.  Leia appears.  Luke uses the Force to raise C3PO’s chair and the group is set free.  Leia kisses Han.  At the feast that evening, C3PO tells the gathered Ewoks the story so far complete with sound effects.  The Ewoks look on in stunned amazement.  Luke, Han, and everyone are inducted into the Tribe.

Luke and Leia speak to each other.  First, Luke asks Leia about her mother.  He then tells her, Darth Vader is his father.  Then he tells Leia she truly is the last hope of  the alliance, she’s his sister and has the power of the Force too.  He wanders off, because he’s a danger to the main Alliance mission.  Han arrives.  Han gets a bit angry that Leia’s honest with Luke but won’t tell him what’s wrong.  Of course, Han has no idea what Luke’s just told Leia.

Luke turns himself  in to Vader.  Despite Luke insisting there’s good in Anakin Skywalker, Vader turns him over to the Emperor.

Han and his team check out the shield generator on Endor.

Lando and his space fleet make the jump to hyperspace under Ackbar’s orders.

The Ewoks lead Han and his team to the back door of the bunker.  An Ewok steals a speeder bike and draws off some of  the troops.  Unforunately when they walk into the bunker…

Vader brings Luke to the Emperor.  The Emperor gloats that Luke’s friends are walking into a trap.  The space battle attack on the death star has to break off and a space battle ensues.

Han, Leia, and Chewbacca face a legion of storm troopers.  C3PO baits the storm troopers into a trap and the Ewoks attack.  Before long an all-out battle occurs between storm troopers and Ewoks.  The Ewoks do well but many are also killed.

The Ewok battle on Endor is intercut with the battle in space between Lando’s group and the Emperor’s fighters.

The Emperor, again, gloating has the Death Star attack and destroy a rebel ship.

On Endor, R2-D2 gets hit by laser fire.  Han tries to hot wire the bunker door.  More Ewoks are killed. Lando continues to lead the fight.

The Emperor continues to goad Luke.  Luke grabs his light-sabre but Vader blocks his attack on the Emperor.

The Ewoks begin to succeed again in their battle with the Emperor’s troops.

Leia is injured as she tries to cover Han at the door.  Chewbacca commandeers an Imperial Walker.

Luke fights Vader, then stops.  Vader strikes out at Luke and Luke counters him.  Vader throws his light-sabre at Luke,

The space battle continues.

Han and Chewbacca pull one over on the Imperial troops.

Luke plays cat-and-mouse with Vader and insists he won’t fight him.  When Vader realizes Leia is Luke’s sister and says he will convert her to the Dark Side.  Luke fights back, hard, now angry.  The Emperor arrives, and Luke, looking at his own mechanical hand, and Vader’s wrist where he’s cut off his hand, stops, and tells the Emperor he’ll never turn to the Dark Side.  Luke throws aside his light-sabre.

Back on Endor, the bunker is destroyed.  In space, the attack on the Death Star commences.

The Emperor attacks Luke with lightening bolts.  Luke pleas to his father for help.  Vader grabs the Emperor and throws him into the well of a power reactor, saving Luke, but getting electrocuted in the process.

During the space battle a rebel ship hits a star destroyer and it sinks, crashing into the planet.  Luke drags Vader to an escape craft.  Vader asks Luke to remove his mask so he can look at Luke with his own eyes.

Luke escapes in the shuttle.  The Death Star is destroyed.  Han assures Leia that Luke wasn’t on the Death Star when it blew.  Leia quietly responds that she knows.  Han offers to not get in the way when Luke returns.  Leia explains Luke is her brother, then kisses Han.

Luke burns his father’s body.

Everyone reunites at the Ewok celebration.  Luke wanders off and he sees the ghosts of his father, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi before Leia brings him back to the party.

The conclusion to the Star Wars trilogy is actually quite good and satisfying.  It’s best in it’s quiet moments – Luke’s conversations with Yoda and Ben (Obi-Wan); Luke’s explaining his background to Leia; even Leia explaining to Han that Luke’s actually her brother and she’s in love with Han.  The film also uses short set pieces and in the last half-hour/forty-five minutes a lot of inter-cutting.  This stops the film from bogging down.  Yes, the film is the Hero’s Journey but it’s well executed, especially as at the time true fantasy heroes journey’s were seldom the subject of  popular entertainment films.  Luke is much more mature here, so much so, that I wondered just how long Han was stuck in Carbonite, since Luke has finished his training.  Leia also seems a bit older, and more ready to take on responsibility, though her character doesn’t grow as much as Luke or even Han.

Return of  the Jedi also has a lot of great lines.  Like all of  the Star Wars trilogy the writing is very quotable, which makes the film fun to watch.  All the leads also do a good job.  Mark Hamill is no longer playing the “whiny farm boy” but has grown and matured. Han Solo has discovered the importance of caring for people instead of just himself and Chewie.  Only Leia, though always strong, seems to have not changed much… though she does more or less propose to Han.

Recommendation:  See it, a true classic.
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Sting

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back

  • Title:  Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back
  • Director:  Irvin Kershner
  • Date:  1980
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Adventure, Action
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Julian Glover, Michael Sheard, John Razenberger
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Wars not make one great.”  — Yoda

“Do or do not.  There is no try.” — Yoda

“Size matters not.  Look at me – judge me by my size do you?  Hum?  And well you should not.  For my ally is the Force.  And a powerful ally it is.  Life creates it, makes it grow, it’s energy surrounds us and binds us.” — Yoda

“I love you.” — Leia
“I know.”  — Han

“Luke, we can destroy the Emperor, he has foreseen this.  It is your destiny.  Join me and together we can rule the Galaxy as father and son!”  — Darth Vader

Like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back opens with a crawl, describing what’s going on and remarking that it’s “a dark time for the Rebellion” despite the success of destroying the Death Star.  This proves true, as Empire can be arguably seen as the darkest of the three original trilogy Star Wars movies.  The movie itself opens with the Empire launching robotic probes to find Luke Skywalker and the rebels he leads.   One such probe lands on a glacier.

This is the ice planet Hoth, where Luke, Han, Leia, and a group of rebels, part of the Alliance, are hiding. Han and Luke are on patrol, each riding a cold-weather animal called a Taun Taun, something like a furry cross between a camel and a kangaroo.  They are finishing up their patrol, and Han tells Luke he’s headed back to the Rebel base.  Luke agrees, but mentions he wants to check out a meteor.  They agree to meet back at camp.  Han returns to the camp and tells the general that he really must leave, he has a price on his head and it won’t be lifted until he pays off Jabba the Hutt.  The general, though upset to lose Han, agrees to his leaving.  Chewbacca and C3PO work on fixing the Millennium Falcon.  Leia confronts Han about his leaving.  They still spark and fight, as in Star Wars, but it’s evident that the two have some affection for each other beneath their arguing.

Luke is attacked by an Abominable Snowman-like creature and taken to an ice cave.  He manages to escape, in part by using the force to pull his light sabre to his hand.  He wanders out into the snow, where he has a vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who urges him to go to the Dagobah System to complete his Jedi training under Yoda, a great Jedi master and teacher.  Luke then collapses from the cold.

Meanwhile, the rebels have realised that Luke is missing.  Though the general thinks it’s too late to go looking for Luke (the extreme cold makes it dangerous to be outside late at night or during blizzards) Han insists on looking for Luke anyway.  He takes his Taun Taun to search for Luke.  He finds Luke, and cuts open his own now dead Taun Taun to place Luke inside while he builds a thermal shelter.

At the rebel alliance base, the search parties have been recalled.  At the general’s insistence, Leia orders the shield doors be closed for the night.  Chewbacca cries out in mourning when the door is shut, because Han hasn’t returned.  The next day, speeder patrols are sent out to find the two.  They do find both Luke and Han and bring them to base.  Han is OK, Luke is treated for exposure and frostbite but basically he’s OK too.

Han and Chewbacca find an Imperial Probe Droid.  The rebel general decides to evacuate.

Vader orders an attack on Hoth.

Leia addresses the fighters who will escort the transports off the planet.  She ends with “good luck” and from the sound of things, they’ll need it.

The rebel speeders attack the Imperial walkers invading Hoth.  The walkers are like metal combat elephants.  Very quickly during the battle, Luke realizes their blasters can’t penetrate the armor, and advises using harpoons and tow cables around the legs of the walkers, causing them to collapse.  This does work.

The battle between the Rebel snow speeders and the Imperial walkers, though it takes place on a snowy field, is also on a very bright sunny day!

Getting back to the battle, after losing his gunner, and one successful pass leading a harpoon ship, Luke is hit and crashes into the snow.

Han rushes to the command center to check on Leia, urging her to leave.  She issues the evacuation order.  Although the rebels had some success against the walkers, over all it’s a rout.  As Han is leading Leia away, the tunnel ahead of them collapses.  He tells the rebels he’ll get her out on the Falcon, and they head back the other way.  Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO end up on the Millennium Falcon.

Vader enters the nearly empty rebel base.  The Millennium Falcon escapes.  Luke and R2-D2 get to an X-wing, but Luke heads for Dagobah, not the Alliance rendezvous.

Three star destroyers and TIE fighters chase the  Millennium Falcon.  One star destroyer actually manages to physically hit another one, leaving one to go after the Falcon.  When the hyper-drive fails, Han knows he’s in trouble.  Han and Chewbacca try to fix the ship while in flight, when they encounter an asteroid field.  Han flies into the field, because he knows the Imperial ships won’t follow him.  He impressively loops the Falcon and lands in a cave on an asteroid.

Meanwhile, Luke splash-lands on Dagobah.  R2-D2 falls into the swamp, is attacked by a creature, and is spit out.  Luke gets his camping gear together and tries to figure out what to do.  He meets Yoda, whom, at first, he doesn’t recognize — and he thinks is actually somewhat annoying.  But when Yoda takes him to his home, and has a conversation with the dead Obi Wan Kenobi – Luke realizes this is the Jedi Master he seeks.  Yoda is hesitant, but agrees to teach the young Jedi.

Meanwhile, Vader’s ships fail to find the Millennium Falcon.  Vader kneels before the Emperor for a holographic conversation.  Vader suggests “the son of  Skywalker be turned”.

Han, Chewbacca, and C3PO work on fixing the Millennium Falcon, and even Leia helps.  But something attacks the ship while they are in the cave.  They go out to investigate, and find Mymocks, some type of  bat-like creatures with suckers stuck on the ship.  Han suddenly realises he’s made a big mistake — they all get back in his ship and barely escape.  They weren’t in a cave, but a giant space worm with teeth!  Han lands the Falcon on one of  the Star Destroyers, which gives an incredible sense of  scale.  He manually detaches and floats away with the rest of  the garbage the Empire dumps before going to hyper-space.  They float away and then head for Bespin and Lando Calrissian.

Yoda starts training Luke — physical training, and exercises in using the Force.  He also tries to explain what the Force really is and how it supplies power to a Jedi.  And he warns Luke about the Dark Side of  the Force.  Yoda tells Luke, “When you are calm, at peace, passive… a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense.  Never for attack.”  They arrive at a cave, where Luke feels cold.  Yoda tells him the cave is strong with the Dark Side, and urges Luke to go in.  Luke starts to strap on his weapons, but Yoda says he won’t need them.  Luke takes them anyway.  Inside the cave, Luke sees Vader… he draws his light sabre and attacks, but when he cuts off  Vader’s head he sees his own face in the helmet.  Yoda continues Luke’s training, but he gets distracted by R2-D2.  Yoda then raises Luke’s ship out of  the swamp, something Luke was unable to do because he did not believe he could do it.

Vader, meanwhile has hired bounty hunters, including Boba Fett, to find Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon.

Yoda continues to train Luke, and urges that Luke learn control.  Luke sees a city in the clouds, and sees his friends in trouble, sensing that they are in pain.  Yoda says Luke has seen the future.  Luke asks if his friends will die.  Yoda says he doesn’t know.  Yoda also urges caution, but Luke wants to go to his friends to help them.  Yoda admits that if he goes he could help them, but if he goes he will also endanger everything his friends stand for.  Ben urges patience, and Yoda urges that Luke wait.  Patience is not Luke’s strong suit.  Luke leaves Dagobah but promises to return to finish his training.  Ben says “that boy was our last hope” but Yoda says “there is another”.

Han Solo has landed in Bespin, a mining colony in the clouds.  Lando says he’s independent, with no Imperial oversight and not part of the mining guild.  But he turns them over to Vader… saying Imperial troops arrived first and he has no choice.  Chewbacca is tortured with sound.  Han is tortured with burning heat.  When Han and Leia are reunited in a cell, Han remarks that they didn’t even ask any questions, and he can’t understand that.  Lando enters the cell, and explains they are after Skywalker.

Vader decided to test the carbon freeze unit with Captain Solo.  Chewbacca fights for Han, but Han calms him down, tells him to care for the princess (Leia).  Han and Leia kiss and for the first time, Leia tells Han she loves him.  His response is, “I know”.  Han is put in carbon freeze but survives.  Han is now a monolith in perfect hibernation.

Vader asks that the princess and the wookie (Chewbacca) be taken to his ship.  Lando’s starting to catch on that he can’t trust Vader, as his “deal” is getting worse by the second.

Luke arrives.  He and Vader clash in an epic light sabre battle.  The battle has three major set-pieces and is inter-woven with other parts of  the plot.

First Luke and Vader crash in the carbon-freeze room, and Luke extracts himself  from the freezing unit before Vader can use it on him.

Lando and his men arrest the Imperial stormtroopers.  They free Leia, Chewbacca and C3PO.  Boba Fett has frozen Han placed in his cargo hold.  C3PO meets up with R2-D2.  They try to catch up to Han Solo but see Boba Fett’s ship leave.

The film returns to Vader and Luke’s light sabre battle.  Vader encourages Luke to turn to the dark side path.  Luke is sucked out a Cloud City window.

Lando urges a city-wide evacuation, telling people they are on their own.  Lando, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C3PO make it to the Millennium Falcon despite being caught in a running laser blaster battle. The Falcon takes off.

Luke rescues himself and for the third time fights Vader.  Vader cuts off Luke’s hand and he loses his light sabre.  Vader tells Luke he’s his father.  At first, Luke doesn’t believe it, then doesn’t want to believe it.  Vader tries to convince Luke to join him, to defeat the Emperor, and to rule as father and son.  Luke escapes down a tunnel and lands on an antenna at the bottom of  Bespin.  Luke calls for Ben for help. Then he calls for Leia.  She senses him.  Leia sees Luke, the Falcon rescues him.  The hyper-drive on the Falcon re-engages thanks to R2-D2.  Chewbacca and Lando take the Millennium Falcon to search for Han.  Luke gets an artificial hand.  Luke, Leia, C3PO and R2-D2 look out a window at a galaxy and the Falcon leaving.

The Empire Strikes Back is darker than Star Wars.  Rather than a fairy tale or fantasy film like Star Wars, this film focuses on the Rebel Alliance which is in trouble, and develops the characters who learn and grow.  Luke is well on his way to truly becoming a Jedi Knight.  Han, though he still talks about leaving, is showing his loyalty to Luke and to Leia.  And Leia herself, the most experienced person of  the three in terms of leading the rebellion, is starting to feel something for Han.  There’s also the hint of  something between her and Luke.  But yes, the Empire does strike back, and our heroes are in trouble even though they escape definite capture by the end of  the film, all that is except Han Solo.

Rather than the harsh white/black/grey color palette of the first film, Empire is more colorful… from the greens of  Dagobah’s swamp to the blues of  the carbon freeze room at Bespin.  This contrasts with the darker plot of  the film.

A second thing to notice about both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, is the use of  language… specifically accents to denote groups.  The Imperial admirals, generals, and lieutenants generally all speak with British accents (and very precise ones at that).  The Rebels are generally American.  Notable exceptions are James Earl Jones as Vader’s voice, though David Prowse was in the costume, and Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi.  Although this doesn’t consciously affect the viewer, subconsciously it sets the two groups apart.  However, it was most probably an accident not a deliberate choice:  much of  the Star Wars films were filmed at English studios and many British character actors (including Peter Cushing, Julian Glover, Michael Sheard, and even Alec Guinness) were hired on site.  Of course, the film was an American film and main casting took place in the US.  Lucas (executive producer on Empire) hired people he had worked with before or that were young and new.  But I still thing the obvious class differences between the Empire and the Rebels add to the film.

Highly, highly recommended, a must see!

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars  Return of  the Jedi