We're celebrating "Best Science Fiction Movie Ever" (BSFME) Week this week, and our first two contestants were The Fifth Element and Back to the Future II. Today, S. Miller makes a case for his favorite--The Empire Strikes Back.
[DISCLAIMER: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS]
The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) is easily the best sci-fi movie ever made. The movie has no weak points. The writing, action, special effects and story are all excellent. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a sci-fi movie to achieve is for all the characters to be believable. The actors are forced to dress up in ridiculous costumes and try to say made-up words as seriously as they can. (I suppose that a person could argue that this is no more difficult than actors following the writing or plot in most “romantic” comedies, but I’ll not get into that).
Han and Leia are prime examples of ESB’s excellent portrayal of the main characters. They are believable and likeable as a budding couple. They would be just as convincing in an action or romance movie with only minor changes to remove the sci-fi elements from their dialog. Few other sci-fi movies have a convincing romantic relationship; instead they force a relationship between two characters in the vague hope of appealing to the general audience.
A character that blows away the sci-fi stereotypes is Lando Calrissian. Sci-fi characters are rarely placed in such convincing moral dilemmas. Lando is faced with an impossible decision: he is offered the chance to ensure lasting security and safety of his city (and the people who live there) above the security and safety of a small group of his friends. While many fans of the series surely condemn Lando as a traitor, he faces a serious dilemma and makes the decision to put the safety of many above the safety of his friends, even though it means bending to the will of the Empire. This brings us to Darth Vader.
Darth Vader is perhaps the best character in all of sci-fi. He does not go down the road of an insane villain, screaming and shouting at everyone he meets. He’s cool and calm about his interests, and even appears to be reasonable to the point of negotiating with his enemy. While he turns out not to honor his agreement, he at least negotiated instead of walking in and enforcing his will. In this, he reminds the viewer more of a CEO of a large corporation than any sort of evil mastermind. He disposes of minions who fail him just as CEO’s fires those that miss their quarterly numbers. Of course, he is undeniably evil (I’d hate to be branded a Vader apologist), but he a far more rational and believable villain than most.
All in all, ESB is a non-stop thrill ride. It starts with action and doesn’t lose the viewers’ attention. For me the best part is the characters and their plausibility, but many will find my position to have highlighted the least important facet of the movie. As I said at the beginning, ESB has it all, a great story, fantastic writing, incredible special effects and soundtrack, and excellent characters which make it the best sci-fi movie ever made.
Oh yeah, and it doesn’t have Jar Jar Binks.