“It is a dark time for the Rebellion…”
And so begins “The Empire Strikes Back,” the second installment of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” trilogy that begins its 20th-anniversary, special run today.
After a record-breaking three-week run of “Star Wars,” the introductory movie of the series that earned nearly $100 million in this re-release, “Empire” is scheduled to run for two weeks.
And then on March 7, the final installment, “The Return of the Jedi,” will play two weeks.
For those of you who have not yet seen the first film, this should bring you up to date in terms of plot:
In their struggle against the powerful Empire, the outgunned Rebel forces have managed to destroy the dreaded Death Star. But their celebration, which marks the end of “Star Wars,” is short-lived.
For behind the strength of the Emperor and his right hand, Darth Vader - both of whom have succumbed to the dark side of The Force - the Empire is again on the move.
And although our band of heroes - the young Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), space smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princes Leia (Carrie Fisher) - have found refuge on the ice planet of Hoth, Darth Vader’s scouts have managed to ferret them out.
So Solo and Leia, joined by Solo’s co-pilot and friend, the Wooky Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and the finicky android C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) are forced to flee the attacking Emperor’s Forces.
Watch out for pesky asteroids, vengeful money-lenders and clever bounty hunters.
Meanwhile, Luke and android R2-D2 head off to find legendary Jedi Master Yoda (voice by Frank Oz) whom Luke hopes will show him how to become a true Jedi.
By the time they all meet at Cloud City, the future of all is clear: Save yourself, rescue your friends and then battle the Empire.
That climactic battle, along with Luke’s showdown with Vader, comprises the central plot of “Return of the Jedi.”
With all the publicity that has attended the re-release of these three films, there’s little that “Star Wars” fans don’t already know.
But some of you may not be familiar with the specific changes, besides a complete refurbishing of the original negative, that Lucas and his cohorts at Industrial Light and Magic made to “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Cloud City: “Empire” features new views of this ethereal metropolis, with moving vehicles, crowd scenes and a landscape exterior view as seen from inside the city proper.
Millenium Falcon: ILM’s computer graphics give us a never-before-seen view of Solo’s spaceship entry into Cloud City.
Darth Vader: Look for a newly inserted shot of the Dark Lord’s spaceship approaching the Star Destroyer.
There are other changes, too, including some involving the early scene where Luke is threatened by the bear-like Wampa. But nothing matches the changes that Lucas made to the opening installment.
“A famous filmmaker said, ‘Films are never completed, they’re only abandoned,”’ Lucas has been quoted as saying. “Rather than living with my abandoned movie, I really wanted to go back and complete it.”
And complete it he indeed has.
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