Star Wars-Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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Released 20-Sep-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Animation & Audio-3 different menu themes, randomly chosen
THX Optimizer
Audio Commentary-George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Carrie Fisher, others
THX Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 122:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:42) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Irvin Kershner
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Mark Hamill
Harrison Ford
Carrie Fisher
Billy Dee Williams
Anthony Daniels
David Prowse
Peter Mayhew
Kenny Baker
Frank Oz
Alec Guinness
James Earl Jones
John Hollis
Jack Purvis
Case ?
RPI $89.95 Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the
Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel
forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy. Evading the
dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has
established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth. The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed
with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space...

 
    If ever there were two words that would strike a chord of excitement in the heart of a young man in the late 1970s, it would be these two words: Star Wars. From a minor sci-fi project to a box office smash to a cultural icon, Star Wars would in many ways define success in the cinematic realm. Not only was the film a box office blockbuster, it was critically acclaimed with 10 Academy Award nominations that resulted in it winning 6 as well as a Special Achievement Award for sound effects. George Lucas' vision of an epic tale of war, hope and adventure was realized, but there was more to the story than just the first film. George initially pitched to studio executives a grand tale of operatic proportions that told the tale of the fall of the Great Republic, the rise of the Evil Empire and the growing rebellion against its tyranny. It was more than the studios were willing to back, but 20th Century Fox did say yes to a shortened story. George Lucas trimmed his great epic to just one small chapter. That chapter was Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope.

    With Star Wars becoming the highest grossing film in box office history, George was able to do what he initially proposed; a complete (somewhat) telling of the tale he had originally conceived. The success of the first film also guaranteed that he would be able to further explore the technological advancements that his special effects people had developed during the making of Star Wars. But the next film would be more than just an explosion of special effects and blue screen technology, it would go deep into the heart of the story that George first envisaged, and it would be by far the darkest chapter in the tale.

The Story of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

    After the Rebel Alliance's stunning victory against the Evil Galactic Empire and the destruction of their supreme weapon, the Death Star, the Empire has struck back against the insurgents...hard. Only barely able to regroup after their dramatic victory, the rebels have fled the moon of Yavin to the Hoth system. Setting up a base on one of the system's most inhospitable worlds, an ice planet where little life exists, the rebels have established a base where they can regroup before facing the Empire again. But the Empire is not content to wait for the Rebels to show themselves again, and Darth Vader, the Lord of the Sith has sent out thousands of deep space probes to find the rebels...and Luke Skywalker.

    Three years have brought many changes to the young boy from Tatooine. No longer just a hot-shot pilot in search of adventure, Luke has matured into an intuitive squadron commander who firmly believes in the cause of the rebellion. The young Skywalker takes his place in the normal duties on the base and when we first see him he's aboard a tauntaun whilst on patrol with Han Solo. When he is injured and almost killed by a native creature, he is visited by the ghostly apparition of Obi Wan Kenobi who urges Luke to visit the Dagobah system and learn from a Jedi instructor named Yoda. After being rescued by Han Solo and returned to the Alliance's base, it becomes evident that the Empire has discovered the outpost and evacuation is almost immediate. The rebels flee Hoth under a fierce attack from Imperial forces, and after leaving the ice world, Luke and R2-D2 take a different path which is away from the intended rendezvous point and instead head to Dagobah.

    As Luke heads to the Dagobah system, Han, Chewie, Princess Leia and C-3PO have fled Hoth aboard the Millennium Falcon straight into the oncoming Imperial Starfleet. Using his unique piloting skills to evade capture, the group travel into a large asteroid field only to find more trouble there. With Imperial bombers attempting to flush out Solo and his passengers, Han again employs his unorthodox skills to elude the Empire. Discovering that an old friend is in a nearby star system, Han decides that it might be a good idea to head to the mining operation on Bespin, headed up by Lando Calrissian. Although he is not entirely trustworthy, Lando has no allegiance to the Empire and it's decided that Bespin is probably the best place to lay low and make repairs before making their way to the Alliance's rendezvous point. The initial contact with Lando at his operation seems hostile, but soon the fears of Han and Leia are put to rest when Calrissian welcomes the crew with open arms...but something is amiss.

    Meanwhile, Luke and R2 have travelled to the swamp planet of Dagobah, but instead of landing on a civilized world, they end up crash-landed on a strange planet that looks to have no intelligent life at all. With his X-Wing fighter bogged in a swamp, all seems lost until a strange creature announces that he knows the Yoda of which Luke speaks and promises to take the pair to him. When Luke begins to become impatient with the little green creature, he is mortified to learn that the object of his annoyance is in fact Yoda, the Jedi Master that he seeks. When Yoda in turn rejects Luke for further Jedi training, it's the intervention of the spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi that convinces Yoda to take on the young Skywalker as a Padawan apprentice. With an ignorant enthusiasm, Luke dedicates his attentions to those of Master Yoda. Little does he know what knowledge and responsibility will come with his Jedi training.

    With Han, Chewie, Leia and 3PO guests on Cloud City, Lando tells them of a deal, a proposition that will guard his operation from Imperial interference. Sadly, this involves turning his 'guests' over to Darth Vader for interrogation. But interrogation by Darth Vader's standards is something else entirely. The dark lord instead has Han, Chewie and Leia tortured endlessly without questioning. The intended desire: to draw the young Skywalker to his waiting grasp.

    Back on Dagobah, Luke feels the disturbance in the Force and hears the call of his friends. Yoda pleads with the young apprentice to ignore their cries and concentrate on the bigger picture, but Luke cannot stand by while his friends are made to suffer. The problem is that Luke's training is incomplete and without a solid grounding in the use of the Force, the young Padawan learner could be susceptible to influence from the Dark Side. This warning is not enough, though, and Luke and R2 leave the swamp world on the journey to find his friends.

    This is just what Lord Vader is waiting for and he prepares the mining operation for the eventual arrival of Skywalker. It is intended for the young Jedi learner to be frozen in carbonite before being taken to the Emperor by Vader where the young Skywalker can be impressed to join the Dark Side. To ensure that the carbonite freeze system works properly, Han Solo is chosen as the test subject. As Han finally declares his true feelings for the Princess, he is encased in the preserving substance. Seeing that the system works, he is handed over to bounty hunter Boba Fett who is wishing to cash in on the bounty placed by Jabba the Hutt.

    Soon Luke lands on Cloud City just as Lando (now with a change of heart) and Leia are trying to rescue Han. As Boba Fett departs with Han aboard his ship, Luke lands at the city and begins to search for Darth Vader. He doesn't have long to wait, as Vader has expected him all along. After seeing Obi Wan killed by the armoured Sith, Luke is dedicated to subduing Vader. Vader, on the other hand, is dedicated to capturing the young Jedi intact before taking him to the Emperor. Initially, Luke is able to take on Vader skill to skill, but as time wears on it becomes apparent that the Sith Lord is more than his match. When Luke loses his hand along with his light sabre, all seems lost. It's the revelation from Darth Vader that sets the young Skywalker into complete despair: the truth about the ultimate fate of his father. Unable to cope with the traumatic revelation, Luke throws himself from a railing high within the mining operation's interior to a certain death. Instead, Luke finds himself sucked into a ventilation duct that sees him jettisoned to the underbelly of the city where he hangs onto a weather vane. Calling out to Leia with the Force, she hears him and returns to the city where she, Lando, Chewie, 3PO and R2, all aboard the Millennium Falcon, find the young Skywalker, bring him aboard and continue on their escape. When R2 finds that the hyper drive has been tampered with, he fixes it just in time to evade the oncoming Imperial fleet under the direct command of Darth Vader. When the group manages to get away, Lord Vader is very disappointed and calls for his ship.

    When Luke, Leia and the crew make it to the rendezvous point they bid Lando and Chewie farewell as the two begin their travel to Tatooine to find Han. Meanwhile, Luke has just undergone reconstructive surgery and has received a robotic hand to make up for the one lost during his battle against Vader. As the Millennium Falcon travels out of sight, Luke can't help but wonder what the universe will bring him, and wonder if he will be able to face Darth Vader again.

The Birth of Empire

    On May 25, 1977, Star Wars is released in the U.S. to gargantuan box office success. Whilst George Lucas initially conceived the story in its entirety, the financial and technical reality meant that only a portion of the story could be told. With the success of Star Wars, the telling of the second part of the tale could be realized. Far more, the second film would become one of the most anticipated sequels in movie history.

    With the basic story already outlined, Lucas employs science fiction writer Leigh Brackett to write the first draft of the second film. Leigh starts the screenplay, but she passes away after a battle with cancer, but not before writing the first draft of the script. George Lucas then finishes the first draft of the screenplay before going to Lawrence Kasdan to write a final draft of the script. It was one of the first things that Kasdan wrote for the screen, but even after writing such successful films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist and Grand Canyon, his work on Empire would be remembered as probably his most popular work and it made the second film the best of the entire series.

    The original Star Wars film harked back to a bygone era of the Saturday afternoon matinees of the 40s and 50s where millions of young people went to see the latest adventures of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Tarzan and Captain Video. Star Wars was pure Saturday matinee material, but the second film went in a much darker and more mature direction. Coupled with the maturity in the actors (and the audience), this time the story would not be the pulp fun of the first. Characters would fall in love only to be torn apart. The Rebel Alliance, instead of being the victors of the day, are driven to the furthest reaches of the galaxy by the might of the Empire. And Luke Skywalker, only just awakening to the power of the Force will discover that there is much to learn and the Dark Side is very much an easy path.

    With Director Irvin Kershner at the helm and George Lucas this time acting as Executive Producer, principal photography began in March of 1978 and goes on for over 170 days, by far the longest shoot of any film in the series. Also, because of the requirement for such diverse locations as an ice world, a swamp planet and the Cloud City, principal photography took place in Norway and England as well as Oregon and California in the U.S. The budget was also increased with the second film, which at U.S.$18,000,000 was almost double that of Star Wars. A high budget for the time (and on par with the classic Raging Bull, which was made at around the same time), but much less than that for Apocalypse Now, which was made for U.S.$31,000,000. Still, Lucas' films are not always the most expensive, and the filmmaker has the uncanny knack of getting almost every dollar onto the screen. With many of the people originally attached to the first film back to do the special effects, the second film would be bigger than the first. But would it be a success? Could there be any doubt?

    On May 11, 1980, The Empire Strikes Back is launched onto the screens of America and the world, to almost universal praise. Lucas had managed to capture the awe and wonder again, whilst developing the characters in an interesting way. And by the end of this second film no one had any doubt that there would be a third. The stunning cliff-hanger of revelations in Empire meant that a third instalment would have to be made, and almost immediately the third film went into pre-production. Return of the Jedi would be released in May, 1983 to great box office success, but as much as people flocked to the final of the original trilogy it was not regarded by many as an equal to the first or the second film.

The Evolution of Empire

    When it came time for George Lucas to consider continuing the Star Wars saga, he had to do one thing first: revisit the original three and get them up to speed in terms of sound and vision before embarking on the creation of the next trilogy. The initial three films all stood as benchmarks of technical achievement in the realm of cinema, but times had changed since the films had been made. Sacrifices had been made on all three films, due to either time constraints, budgetary constraints or technical ability. Almost 15 years on George knew that the advent of the digital imaging era could enable him to go back to the first films and revise them so that they would present a more cohesive whole when compared to the new films that were in pre-production. Thus the Special Edition programme was created.

    The original prints of the film had begun to deteriorate in dramatic fashion. This was most evident with the Star Wars print, which had faded to such an extent that further neglect could have seen the film almost totally lost. The first thing to be done to the films was a complete frame by frame reimaging, recomposition and reprint. It is very hard to do an upgrade of the original film if it has deteriorated to such a state that it is almost unwatchable.
 
    After the films were remastered, the various scenes and elements that made up the film were re-evaluated. The filmmakers had done a brave thing in Empire. Since Star Wars, the filmmakers had filmed ships against blue screens and then composited the ship images on a starfield. Put the two together and you have an almost seamless blend. But they had some problems with the locations in Empire. Much of the first part of the film took place on the ice world of Hoth, a planet covered in ice and snow. White snow. Cut and paste a ship element from blue screen to a white background and you have the pasted object surrounded with an obvious black outline. The filmmakers had a nifty way of getting rid of it, however. They didn't transfer the ship images at 100% opaqueness. Instead, they transferred the ship images with a slight transparency, thus reducing the pronounced black outline around the pasted element. The downside of this was that at times the trained eye could see through the ship or object to the scene behind it. This was a slight issue, but it was far superior to the black outline alternative. With computer imaging technology available, these once translucent elements could be redone giving them a more clear and solid appearance. This was done and the Battle of Hoth never looked better.

    Another major change to the film was the entrance to and the scenes in Bespin, the Cloud City. The original had the Millennium Falcon being escorted to the city where the scene quickly cut to its landing. With CG available, the entrance scene is greatly expanded and we get a much better sense of the size and grandeur of the city. The interior shots were also expanded from the original. Despite the potential breathtaking views visible from the city, much of the interior featured solid walls without windows to the outside. As CG didn't exist (in any real extent) during the creation of the first film, the possibility of seeing any outside vistas through the windows on Cloud City was out of the question. What could have been done would have added to the budget of the film, whilst at the same time distracting the audience with obviously fake exteriors. Again, with the advent of CG, these impossible vistas could for the first time be realized and the city in the film now appears much more realistic.

    Other changes to the film included a more detailed scene between Luke and the Wampa on Hoth, a longer departure from Cloud City by Darth Vader as well as some minor changes to dialogue. There were also some additions to the film's soundtrack because of the added footage. The various changes in this second film in the trilogy were probably not as pronounced as those made to Star Wars or Return of the Jedi. The first film had a number of added and expanded scenes, from an enlarged Mos Eisley spaceport and the meeting of Han and Jabba to an impressive rebel attack on the Death Star. It also featured the now infamous 'Greedo shoots first' scene in the cantina. The third film also had wholesale changes. The song in Jabba the Hutt's palace by Sy Snootles is completely redone, the Ewok celebration at the destruction of the Death Star is changed with new music, and additional scenes from around the galaxy are included as the Empire falls to the Rebel Alliance. Of all the films in the series, The Empire Strikes Back would up until this time be the most untouched of the Special Editions. The changes made further enhanced the enjoyment of the film and helped rather than hindered the flow of the story. There were no controversial additions or omissions and instead the film stood very much as it had 17 years before.

    For those interested, below is a list of some of the obvious changes to The Empire Strikes Back in the Special Edition:

The Rebirth of Empire

    Less than 12 months before the release of the final film in the new trilogy, George Lucas has again revisited his films, and in the same vein of the original Special Edition releases, the changes here are done in order to further maintain the consistency with the newer films. Again, the changes are not wholesale and do not completely alter the mood of the film, they simply add to the cohesivity of the film as a part of a whole, just as George originally intended the saga to be. Originally there wasn't going to be a DVD release of the films any time before the release of the last film in the new trilogy, Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but the continued public outcry for the films to be released eventually reached the filmmaker and here we have, in simultaneous world-wide release, the films as a complete series. They are not the original versions and they are not even the Special Editions as released in 1997. Typical of George Lucas, what we have here is a further progression of the films as he sees them. Probably never in the history of cinema has one person been able to wield such creative power over his creation, a creation that he builds and expands upon without fear from anyone. Having paid for many of the films out of his own pocket, he has placed himself in that enviable position. Some may deride his vision and constant meddling with his creations, but it does provide what one could almost call a living series of films; films that continue to grow and evolve as the years pass. Occasionally a filmmaker will go back and do a final cut of his film, such as the Director's cut of Blade Runner or Apocalypse Now Redux. Other times a restoration job will be done to an important classic film, such as that done to Lawrence of Arabia or Spartacus. What we have with the Star Wars Saga is something else altogether. Never before has a filmmaker been so involved with the evolution of his creation that he continually goes back to improve it. Some will criticize his 'fiddling' with the classics, but understand that these films are his vision, his creation, paid for out of his pocket. They are his to do with as he chooses and it is interesting to see what someone would do if they had that sort of creative license. It just happens that George is that person and the films are amongst the most popular in cinema history.

    The latest incarnation of this popular film is is very much similar to the original Special Edition and the changes to this new version are quite slight. Many of the changes have to do with various continuity problems that many eagle-eyed film lovers have noticed over the years, such as the the rank insignia on Admiral Piett's chest being on the wrong side in some scenes, or the blue vest that Han Solo wears and then doesn't wear right before he gets frozen in carbonite. But as some of these continuity errors are fixed, others are still left intact. Leia's arms when she kisses Han are the same as always; down and then up. The burn marks on the just cut pillar just after Luke has his hand cut off are still the way they always were. Also still present at times are the some of the ship matting elements. When the film first came out, at times you could see the pasted elements against the black background and these would crawl along with the ship image as it moved across the screen. Many of these were fixed up for the Special Edition, but they aren't all gone, as you can see at 24:17. Still, not a major problem. George has not done any wholesale changes or enhancements to the film and the original feel, look and even flaws are mostly left intact. The stop motion Imperial Walkers are not made CG and Yoda is still as we've always known him, so it's pleasing that the film maintains its original feel.

    The most obvious change to this new version of Empire is the exchange between Darth Vader and the Emperor. In the original, the Emperor tells Vader that they have a new enemy, Luke Skywalker. Vader counters with the comment that Skywalker's just a boy, but the Emperor knows that the Force is strong with him. In this version, the Emperor tells Darth Vader about the son of Skywalker being a danger to the Empire while Vader proposes that perhaps he can be turned to the Dark Side. The holographic image of the Emperor is new here, with the style look of actor Ian McDiarmid clearly visible. It was unusual seeing this different image and exchange in a film that I've grown to know and love over the years, but I believe that it goes towards making the entire Star Wars Saga consistent.

    For those interested, here is a list of the major changes to this latest version of The Empire Strikes Back:

    The most obvious change to this new version of Empire is the exchange between Darth Vader and the Emperor. In the original, the Emperor tells Vader that they have a new enemy, Luke Skywalker. Vader counters with the comments Skywalker's just a boy, but the Emperor knows that the Force is strong with him. In this version, the Emperor tells Darth Vader about the son of Skywalker being a danger to the Empire while Vader proposed that perhaps he can be turned to the Dark Side. The holographic image of the Emperor is new here, with the style look of actor Ian McDiarmid clearly visible. It was unusual seeing this different image and exchange in a film that I've grown to know and love over the years, but I believe that it goes towards making the entire Star Wars saga consistent.

    For those interested, here is the dialogue between Darth Vader and the Emperor. First, here is the original dialogue:

    Vader:  What is thy bidding, my master.

    Emperor:  There is a great disturbance in the Force.

    Vader:  I have felt it.

    Emperor:  We have a new enemy; Luke Skywalker.

    Vader:  Yes, my master.

    Emperor:  He could destroy us.

    Vader:  He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

    Emperor:  The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

    Vader:  If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.

    Emperor:  Yes, yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?

    Vader:  He will join us or die, Master.

    And now,  the new dialogue:

    Vader:  What is thy bidding, my Master.

    Emperor:  There is a great disturbance in the Force.

    Vader:  I have felt it.

    Emperor:  We have a new enemy. The young Rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt that this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.

    Vader:  How is that possible?

    Emperor:  Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.

    Vader:  He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

    Emperor:  The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

    Vader:  If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.

    Emperor:  Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?

    Vader:  He will join us or die, Master.

    This passage of dialogue is the most pronounced change in the film. This, coupled with the new image of the Emperor is the part that stands out the most. I found it to be quite consistent to the context of both the original film and the saga as a whole. I've included the dialogue passage so that you can see for yourself what difference it makes.

    It is such a pleasure to finally have this and the entire series of films finally available. I'm sure that George Lucas will again at some stage revisit these films, but until then you can feel free to buy these films with confidence that they do represent value. I like many fans would like to see the original theatrical versions made available, but this is purely for nostalgic reasons. I'm very happy with what we have here, and I'm sure that I'll watch it again and again.

A footnote:
 
    As I've only recently viewed this film and listened to the commentary, there are things that perhaps I may have missed. I will continue to update this review with any important information that becomes available. I don't have access to the Extras disc as yet, but when I do finally get it, I will update this review with any important information directly pertaining to this film. In the meantime, be sure to check out BrandonV's Review of the Bonus Materials disc.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video offering here is quite good and I'm still trying to get used to seeing the film looking so good

    This film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with the appropriate 16x9 enhancement.
 
     This transfer is extremely clean with the whole film completely cleaned of nicks, flecks and dirt marks. I cannot recall seeing a single nick or fleck while watching the movie. Pristine, just as I was hoping for. The sharpness of the image is perfect and I had no issues with blur or focus at all. Shadow detail here is quite good and I was very impressed with the black level throughout. I'm so used to seeing this film on hazy VHS with a semi-watchable picture, so I'm still trying to get my head around the overall look of the image here. Quite good. I had no problems with low level noise.

    Colour's use in this film is for the most part natural, although the filmmaker has purposely used different colour schemes for the various sections of the film. White for the opening battle scenes, greens and earthy tones for the Dagobah scenes and a rainbow of colours (many based on red) for the Bespin Cloud City part of the movie. I found colour's transfer to disc to be very good. Again, I haven't seen this film look so good ever.

    This film is transferred to DVD at an average bitrate of 7.35 Mb/s. This is fairly consistent throughout the programme and is very much able to convey the film in a presentable manner. I had some fears that aliasing might be a problem here, but I was happy to see that it was very, very infrequent. I did notice it on the boxes that Luke lifts using the Force on Dagobah, and again on the underside of Cloud City when Lando and Leia rescue Luke, but these were so negligible as to be almost non-existent. I did notice some edge enhancement from time to time, and such can be seen at 82:41 around Han and Leia, but overall I didn't think that it was a huge issue. Remember that I'm looking for every flaw here, so you might not notice this as much as I have.

    I found the English Subtitles to be of limited accuracy. Some of the scenes feature severely truncated titles for the dialogue, whilst at other times the words are just wrong. The scene with Han and Leia in the corridor on Hoth is an example. When Leia is chasing Han, she calls out to him and he turns and says "Yes, your eminenceness", but the titles say "Yes, your Highness". This affects the tone and humour of the scene and you would only use these subtitles to help you if you were hard of hearing. I believe that you would miss out on too much if you had to depend on the titles alone to adequately convey the meaning of the film.

    This disc is formatted RSDL with the layer change taking place within Chapter 27 at 55:42. This is the scene right as Leia sees the Mynocks when they are inside the asteroid. Whilst the scene is relatively quiet, you can hear the audio drop out for just a fraction of a second. Some players may render this layer change unnoticeably, but I really noticed it on mine.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio here is very good with an excellent English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX sound mix available.

    There are three audio options on our disc, these being English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and 2.0 Surround options as well as a filmmaker's commentary. The 5.1 EX track runs at a reasonable rate of 448 Kb/s whilst the 2.0 surround track and the audio commentary track both run at 192 Kb/s.

    The quality of the dialogue is very good. Some films of this era (late 70s and early 80s) can feature dialogue that sounds a bit hollow and lacks dynamics. This can be distracting if you are watching such a film on a quality home theatre system. Thankfully, this film doesn't suffer from this annoying problem and the dialogue sounds as if it had been recorded yesterday. During the making of the film, there were often so many noises in the background of the set whilst filming that often the dialogue had to be redubbed. This can be seen (heard) from time to time such as at 18:56 and 46:24 which looks like obvious ADR. Not a real major problem, but I did find it noticeable from time to time.

    Audio sync is reasonably good despite the high amount of post production dubbing. I had no issues with audio sync outside the occasional obvious ADR, and all the on-screen explosions and laser fire all sounded very good and accurate to the action on screen.
 
     Music for The Empire Strikes Back comes from lauded film scorer John Williams. John (credited in his early career as Johnny Williams) had begun his scoring career in the world of television and can count Wagon Train, The Virginian, Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space (including its title theme) and The Time Tunnel amongst his earlier works. Later, more film scores would be offered to the composer and films such as How to Steal a Million, Valley of the Dolls, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno are early examples of his movie work. The last three films would be an indication as to where John Williams' career would head, for in 1975 he would compose the score for one of the most popular films ever: Jaws. This classic summer horror film about a giant shark that stalks a popular beach in New England was directed by Steven Spielberg and John's music would win him his first Academy Award for Best Original Score. It might have been the music that put him on the map, but there was much more to come from the composer.

    When George Lucas was considering what type of score would suit his film Star Wars, he had a definite style in mind. George would always write to music, and certain scenes would be conceived with certain musical pieces in mind. So when the film was filmed, a temporary soundtrack was made using existing classical music tracks. When George asked his friend Steven Spielberg about suggestions as to who might be available to score his new film, Spielberg had only one name to suggest - John Williams. Williams had come from a school of thought that film scoring should be expansive, grandiose and powerful. In this modern era of the minimalist score, music from Williams stands in stark contrast. No primal percussive and abstract music here, as Williams' music is sound made into colour painted on an aural canvas. Each note to flow from his mind to his hand to the printed music sheet to the orchestra through the cinema speakers to the listener's ear is dedicated to achieve one purpose: to draw you into the world that has been created by the filmmaker. John's music is a guide to the mood and intent of the filmmaker, and in this regard no one could do better. Composers such as James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith would do very much a similar thing, and very well at that, but John Williams is the master and very many popular themes can be attributed to him. From Jaws to Star Wars, from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Raiders of the Lost Ark and from E.T. to Jurassic Park, John's themes would become some of the most memorable ever written. None more so than his score for the Star Wars films.

    When he returned to score the next in the Star Wars trilogy, he had a new challenge ahead. His score for Star Wars had impressed a theme in the minds of people everywhere. Bill Murray was singing it on Saturday Night Live, Meco had done a disco version of it and the film's soundtrack release became the highest selling music-only soundtrack of all time. It would be a hard one to live up to, but John Williams rose to the challenge. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, the score for The Empire Strikes Back would mirror the maturity of the film. The theme of the film was darker and this was conveyed well by the composer. A new theme was introduced to the film, that being the Imperial March, and this, along with the original Star Wars theme would become the most pronounced themes in the scores of the entire series. It was a score that was very much an equal to that done for Star Wars 3 years earlier, and it would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award although this time he would go on to lose to Michael Gore for his score for Fame.

    I found the 5.1 EX track here to be quite good with a completely consistent and complimentary soundscape. I thought that the sound engineers would have had a field day with this film, but to their credit they remained calm and didn't resort to any strange or inappropriate sound effects. Enveloping is the word that comes to mind and it's this type of consistency that serves this film best. A textbook example of how to use the surrounds.

    There is a high level of LFE available on this disc, and it'll put your system through its paces if you give it a chance. From the opening scene with the Star Destroyers launching the probes into space to the closing of the shield doors on Hoth to the destruction of the shield generator...the list goes on. The sound engineers have done an excellent job with the integration of the low frequency elements into the soundtrack. If you have have a quality sub, then look out! You'll love this!

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    After the normal copyright warnings, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu. This is presented in three random themes: a Hoth theme, a Dagobah theme and a Cloud City theme. Each of these has their own introduction and style and they are totally in keeping with the type of menus established with the release of Episodes I and II on DVD. Once at the Main Menu you are offered the following options:     Selecting the Options icon offers up the following menu:     All the menus are 16x9 enhanced and feature audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 from the film's soundtrack.

Audio Commentary with George Lucas (Executive Producer), Irvin Kershner (Director), Carrie Fisher (Actor), Ben Burtt (Sound Effects) and Dennis Muren (Visual Effects)
 
     Here we get some influential people involved in the production of the film together for a chat. I got the impression that everyone wasn't in the room at the same time for the recording of this commentary, which is sad as it's the interaction between the various parties that make commentaries so good. I also question why you'd have a swag of behind the scenes people and one lone actor. I would have liked to have heard three commentaries; one for George Lucas, one for those involved in the technical aspects of the film and one for the stars of the film. Perhaps too much to ask, but I have yet to hear a commentary on a Star Wars film that I really love. Still, there are some interesting facts here and since I don't have the extras disc yet it'll do for now.
 
THX Optimizer

    This is the popular audio / visual calibration tool that is available on most THX certified discs. Selecting this icon will take the viewer to an introduction menu which will spell out the various tests that the optimizer employs and how to use them. Using this important and handy calibration tool will help the everyday DVD viewer to set up their display device to provide the best picture possible. There is also a series of audio tests that can help viewers to calibrate their home theatre system to a decent standard. The test scene here is just after Luke is taken out of the recuperation tank on Hoth. It runs for about 30 seconds.

STARWARS.COM

    This icon will take the viewer to the Star Wars official website and will provide exclusive web content, but only if you have the Interactal Player installed. I've never used the player so I cannot assess the various extras available on the website. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This release is probably the most anticipated DVD release in the history of the format. Before the advent of DVD, The Empire Strikes Back had made it's way to various home video formats with many different extras available. Many have decried the lack of the original versions being available on DVD, but when you see the list of what has come out on video up to this point, you perhaps might hold onto the hope that the original theatrical versions will be made available on DVD.

    Here is a detailed list of what various home video releases have been made of this film, many of which are the U.S. releases:

    This is a simple list of the various versions of this film that have been made available throughout the years, and it is by no means complete. If you are of the opinion that this latest release of this classic film, and indeed of the entire Trilogy, is the final word on the films then you have another thing coming. The above is a very incomplete list of titles that have been made available, but one thing is for sure: there will be more to come. I have no doubt whatsoever that after George Lucas completes Episode III, he will again revisit his original Trilogy to complete the Saga for a total and definitive package. Sure, we will all have to buy them again, but I for one don't mind. I'll be interested to see what he had done to his films and I'll be even more happy to get a complete extras package for each of the original films. It will come. I have no doubt about it.

     With the set only just on sale world-wide and few reviews yet available (the Michael D's reviews are probably the first world-wide), I can only guess as to any major Regional differences. I do believe that the Region 1 discs feature Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes in French and Spanish, but will only feature English subtitles. We only get the English audio but gain with English, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles. Until I can get more information of the various versions released world-wide, I'll call this one a draw.

Summary

    As a kid, I used to dream that I could lay in my bed at night and be able to watch my favourite film, Star Wars, any time I wanted. I used to dream that the empty section of the ceiling above my bed could project the image of the film that I held so dear. A strange wish on my part, but as I've grown and matured (somewhat) over the years, I never forgotten that desire. As time went on, and the advent of home video came to fruition, this dream came closer to a reality. Now, 27 years after the release of Star Wars and 24 years after the release of The Empire Strikes Back I now have the film in my hand. Not a cropped Pan & Scan version, not a non-16x9 VHS version and not some cheap pirate import mastered off of God knows what, but the real deal. Finally, the first legitimate release of what is the most anticipated DVD release of all time. The Star Wars Saga is now available to fans everywhere. Sure, these are not the original films as we remember them, but they more importantly are the original and continuing vision of the film's creator, Director George Lucas. No one seems to have an issue with having the enhanced and remastered versions of films such as Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia, Blade Runner and Das Boot available, but when you come to Star Wars it's a different story. The thing that made this series of films so successful is the dedication and vision of its creator, and what we have presented here is the continued vision of the creator of the films. I do believe that one day, probably a year or two after the release of the last film in the current series, Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, we will eventually see some sort of Master Edition: one with all versions of the film and every making-of documentary ever released in relation to the Star Wars films. The fact that 20th Century Fox haven't gone ahead and made this set as double disc editions as Episodes I and II (and eventually Episode III) have been is a clear indication that there will eventually be more to come. 'The DVD buying public have no patience'. My belief: 'They will learn patience'.

    The video is quite good with a clean picture that presents the film looking better than it has ever looked.

    The audio is quite good with lots of LFE and appropriate use of the surrounds.

    Except for the THX Optimizer and the weblinks (www.starwars.com) and apart from the audio commentary, there are no extras here.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts, VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, Jamo Surround 160 Rear Center, VAF LFE-07 (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

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Comments (Add)
Special Special Edition - REPLY POSTED
Quick Introductory Paragraph Note - REPLY POSTED
RE: Special Special Edition - REPLY POSTED
You seem to be missing the point... - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio) REPLY POSTED
Missing Points? - REPLY POSTED
Boycotting - REPLY POSTED
reply to JarJar, again... - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio) REPLY POSTED
To all ye fanboys - REPLY POSTED
reply to CS - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio) REPLY POSTED
You were lucky to get out of there - REPLY POSTED
The Phantom Menace - REPLY POSTED
Phantom Menace Reply - REPLY POSTED
NO 1 REVIEW - REPLY POSTED
Altered dialogue - Moff Martin (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
More on the changes to the films. - sbr (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
How do they allow the film's prints to deteriote? - REPLY POSTED
Temuera Morrison has revoiced Boba Fett overdubbing Jason Wingreen's memorable performance. - Christopher REPLY POSTED
re: Sean's reply to my "Boycotting" post - REPLY POSTED
The only film not raped by the SE, until George changes Boba Fett for DVD - grug (there is no bio.) REPLY POSTED
Amendment to my comments. - Moff Martin (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
The reply to my previous post - sbr (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
Not a purist, just a film fan - REPLY POSTED
Well said sbr - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio) REPLY POSTED
THIS IS PROBABLY THE ONLY WAY IT WILL APPEAR ON DVD - REPLY POSTED
Darth Vader to be revoiced. - REPLY POSTED
Is It Me Or - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!) REPLY POSTED
MPAA Rating Of Empire - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!) REPLY POSTED