As you can tell by the headline, today May 21st marks the 30th anniversary of the release of The Empire Strikes Back. And while I don't remember being there on opening day, my parents took me to see while it was still in release. I was excited and couldn't wait. And we left after 5 minutes-I was only 3 years old at the time and the Wampa smacking that Tauntaun was too much. In fact I wouldn't see Empire until 6 years later when it finally showed up on HBO. At that point Star Wars had begun to slide out of the public eye yet I remember most of my friends in the neighborhood talking about it, recording it on their VCRs (yep VCRs) and watching it over and over. We bought up what few Kenner toys we could find and acted probably like the kids did in 1980.
Today looking at Empire I can still say its a great movie-in fact probably the greatest sequel ever. It could have taken the easy way like most sequels and just rehash the same story but instead it took a risk. For all the recent criticism he's received for the prequels you have to give George Lucas credit-not many would make a movie that has the bad guys win at the end, or leave the audience with no resolution at the end and instead a cliffhanger that was not going to be resolved. Today its commonplace-most films seem to end with the sequel in mind-but in 1980 and even afterwards most films didn't. Also he assembled for this entry two good writers-Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan-and director Irvin Kershner who brought something you can say is lacking in the prequels-a human touch. Its not all about effects but about the characters. That's what the original trilogy (yes even Return of the Jedi) was about.
The Force is still strong with it (yes a terrible cliche at this point but truthful). I'll leave you with some links to some other tributes-in this case a touching remembrance by Harry Knowles about seeing Empire on opening day http://www.aintitcool.com/node/45211 and a link to the first trailer-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6bvuhPyq8Q narrated by Captain Solo himself.