Films to See Before You Die: #3 Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

i am your father

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

Director: Irvin Kershner

Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Frank Oz, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams

Synopsis: After the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebels were forced to evacuate their base on the Yavin moon and the Galactic Empire has pursued the Rebel Alliance across the galaxy, forcing them to establish a secret base on the remote ice planet Hoth. Sith Lord Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones) sends robotic probes in search of the base and its commander and hero, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). While Luke is patrolling near the base, he’s knocked unconscious by an indigenous predator, the Wampa, a dangerous predator. Back at the base, Luke’s good friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) announces his intention to leave the Rebels and pay the debt he owes to the gangster Jabba the Hutt, much to the displeasure of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). After Han discovers that Luke has not returned from patrol, he delays his departure and leaves the base to search for him. Meanwhile, Luke escapes the Wampa’s lair but is overcome by the cold. He sees an apparition of his late mentor, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who instructs him to receive training from Jedi Master Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) on the planet Dagobah. Han finds Luke and gives him shelter until they’re rescued the following morning by a Rebel patrol. Sometime later, when ground scans detect an object outside the base, Han and Chewy investigate, and find an Imperial probe droid that transmits the location of the Rebel base to the Imperial fleet before firing upon Chewy and being destroyed. On the command ship of Darth Vader’s massive Star Destroyer flagship, the droid’s transmission is picked up by Admiral Ozzel, who dismisses the message until Vader sees the transmission and realizes it is the Rebel base. He overrules Ozzel and orders the Imperial Fleet to the Hoth system. On the surface, the Imperial forces land their ground assault troops, making up of over a dozen four-legged AT-AT walkers beyond the energy shield and Luke leads his squadron of flying speeders into battle. However, the Imperial forces eventually overpower the Rebels and destroy the generator powering the energy shield, capturing the Rebel base. Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca flee on board the Millennium Falcon. The Falcon’s hyperdrive is revealed to be damaged and it cannot escape the Imperial blockade in space. During the confusion, they enter the nearby Hoth asteroid field, persuded by four Imperial Tie-Fighters; Han Solo pilots the Millennium Falcon deeper into the field, and the four pursuing fighters are destroyed by the flying rocks, eventually landing inside an asteroid crater to hide. Meanwhile, Luke and R2-D2 escape Hoth in Luke’s X-wing fighter. After a crash landing on the swamp planet of Dagobah, Luke meets a wizened, green little creature who reveals himself to be Yoda. After evading capture from Imperial forces Han sets a course for Cloud City, a gas mining colony on the nearby gas planet of Bespin, which is run by Han’s friend, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Before Luke is able to finish his training he sense Han and Leia have been led into a trap and are about to suffer in an attempt to lure him into a trap. Knowing that he is risking certain capture Luke cannot allow his friends to suffer on his behalf and leaves Yoda for Cloud City leading to a confrontation with Vader.

Trivia: In the asteroid scene, one of the asteroids is actually a shoe. The rumor is that George Lucas asked the SFX people to redo the scene so many times that they got annoyed and one of them threw in their shoe. Lighting for SFX was so strong that several models melted. George Lucas was so impressed by Frank Oz’s performance as Yoda that he spent thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign to try and get him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Lucas’s campaign ultimately failed because it was felt that a puppeteer wasn’t an actor.

Why I think you should see this: When it comes to science fiction films there is none greater than the original Star Wars trilogy. My personal favourite of the three is The Empire Strikes Back, which so far is the greatest sci-fi film I have ever seen. I think this movie triumphs mostly because of who is not in the director’s chair, I have always believed episodes IV and I-III suffered mostly because of Lucas’ lack of talent as a director. This used to be my favourite film before all of the special edition versions came out and instead of leaving these timeless classics alone like any sane person would he tried to “add” to perfection which is just stupid. Most everyone has seen these movies but for those who haven’t go out and rent these immediately. You can even check out the prequel trilogy which is still good but just not the same.

Films to See Before You Die: #5 Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies

Synopsis:  In 1936, Archeology Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones (Harrison Ford) narrowly escapes death in a South American temple with a gold idol – by poison dart, fall, and finally a giant boulder that chases him out the front. An old enemy, Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman), steals the idol and then orders Hovito Indians after Indy. Indy, however, escapes back to the USA, where Army Intelligence officers are waiting for him at the University where he teaches. They tell him about a flurry of Nazi archaeological activity near Cairo, which Indy determines to be the possible resting place of the Ark of the Covenant – the chest that carried the 10 Commandments. The Ark is believed to carry an incredibly powerful energy that must not fall into Nazi hands. Indiana is immediately sent overseas, stopping in Nepal to pick up an old article from his former mentor but finds his daughter Marion (Karen Allen) who cuts a deal with Indy that she will give him what he wants if he takes her with him. Then Indy arrives in Cairo and meets up with his good friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). But danger lurks everywhere in the form of Nazi thugs, and poisonous snakes in the Ark’s resting place. After Belloq, hired by the Nazis, makes off again with the Ark, Indy & Marion are determined to get it back, and they overpower the pilot of a German plane. But Indy finds himself confronted with a giant German thug, and after a frightening hand-to-hand fight Indy & Marion blow up the plane. Now the Nazis must drive the Ark to Cairo, but Indy regains control of the Ark after running the convoy off the road, one vehicle at a time. Once again the Nazis recapture the Ark and Marion, heading for a Nazi-controlled island. There, Belloq will open the Ark to demonstrate the horrific power it can unleash upon the world.

Trivia: Tom Selleck was Steven Spielberg’s second choice for the role of Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was his first, but George Lucas objected, since Ford had been in both American Graffiti and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Selleck was not able to take the role because he was committed to Magnum, P.I.. However, that series did not go into production until Raiders’ filming had already wrapped. Selleck was in fact in Hawaii waiting for the series to start as the final scenes to be filmed (the opening sequence) were being shot in Hawaii. “Magnum” did an episode called “Legend of the Lost Art” that parodied “Raiders”, complete with hat, whip, booby traps, etc.

Why I think you should see this: As I have stated before I just love Spielberg’s work and he has done so many great films but this is my all time favourite of his films. The Temple of Doom and Last Crusade are also really amazing. The most recent installment is the only one which is just not up to par with the original three. Harrison Ford is at his best in this film and Karen Allen makes for his best love interest. The opening scene is about as memorable as they come with my favourite homage having been done by the Simpsons. This is classic Spielberg so watch it again sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #11 Blade Runner


Blade Runner (1982)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Darryl Hannah, William Sanderson

Synopsis: In 2019, humans have genetically engineered Replicants, which are essentially humans who are designed for labor and entertainment purposes. They are illegal on earth, and if they make it to our planet they are to be hunted down and killed. Their is a special unit within the LAPD called Blade Runner’s whose main task is to hunt and kill any replicants that have made it to Earth. After four Nexus-6 replicants from an off world colony have made their way to Earth in a quest to expand their live span. Replicants are only given a four year life span so they do not have the chance to develop a mind of their own. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner is brought in and explained the circumstances including a recently injured former colleague of  Deckards that is in critical condition at the hospital. Deckard is given no choice in the matter and i charged with hunting down and killling the escaped replicants. The leader of the replicants Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is searching for the head of the Tyrell Corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell for advancing his life span so he interrogates employees of Tyrell which leads him to J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson). Roy realizing that he needs Sebastian alive in order to get to Tyrell instructs the youngest replicant his lover Pris (Darryl Hannah) to get friendly with Sebastian and eventually introduce the two. Meanwhile Deckard heads to the Tyrell Corporation to interview Dr. Tyrell about the recent escape where he meets Rachael (Sean Young), a replicant who believes she is actually a human. After meeting with Tyrell, Deckard follows up on a tip involving snake skin which leads him to one of the escaped replicants who tries to run from Deckard who in turn guns her down in the street. Afterwords he is attacked by the same replicant who had almost killed the other Blade Runner but before he can kill Deckard is shot by Rachael. After being introduced to Sebastian, Roy talks him into arranging a meeting with Dr. Tyrell. When Roy meets with Tyrell he is informed that there is no way that he can live longer and he responds to this by killing both Sebastian and Tyrell. Deckard lets Rachael go for saving his life but now must find the other two replicants. After finding where they are hiding Deckard kills Pris leading to a final confrontation with Roy.

Trivia: The term replicants is used nowhere in Philip K. Dick’s writing. The creatures in the source novel are called Androids or Andies. The movie abandoned these terms, fearing they would sound comical spoken on screen. Replicants came from David Webb Peoples’ daughter, Risa, who was studying microbiology and biochemistry. She introduced her father to the theory of replication – the process whereby cells are duplicated for cloning purposes.

Why I think you should see this: I have seen three different versions of Blade Runner: the theatrical cut, the directors cut and the final cut all are very interesting in their own way but my favourite version is the final cut because it is exactly that it just feels like a finished product. Harrison Ford is amazing a Deckard and Sean Young does a fine job as Rachael, Deckard’s love interest. The film would not be the cult classic/sci-fi masterpiece that it is without Rutger Hauer’s hauntingly brilliant turn as Roy Batty where he is somehow able to be both tender and vicious at the same time he was just amazing. I am cautiously optimistic about the planned Blade Runner sequel even though it will be helmed by Scott as well it just seems like one of those films that might be best left alone. If you haven’t seen this but enjoy science fiction then check this one out you will be pleasantly surprised.