Today, May 21st, is the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back. Many people, PezWitch included, do not particularly like this second installment of the series. Personally, I think it stands on its own very well for many reasons. A New Hope was a classic action adventure movie, although set in space, could have just as a easily been a WWII movie or a western. As a family, A New Hope, was the extroverted athletic oldest brother, The Empire Strikes Back was the introverted, overly serious and geeky middle child, while Return of the Jedi was the goofy little brother.
In episode one the good guys won, things did not go so well in episode two. Han Solo is betrayed by his friend Lando Calrissian, Lando is in turn betrayed by Darth Vader. Princess Leia finds love with Han, only to have him captured and turned over to Boba Fett. Luke Skywalker, finds out the girl he has been lusting after is his sister, looses his hand, finds out the most evil man in the galaxy is in fact his father AND everyone, including his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi lied to him about it. The Empire Strikes Back was in fact, a fairly respectable Greek tragedy.
The Empire Strikes Back had the best character development of the three movies, each of the three primary characters start more or less in the same place they were at the end of A New Hope. However, by the end of the movie all three had be punched to the floor and kicked in groin for good measure, they each had bottomed out and reached new lows in their lives. Each would, by the end of the third film, find new strength none of them knew they had and this inner strength and resolve came directly from having survived the events of the second movie. The Empire Strikes Back was pivotal and probably the most important of the three movies, it was where Luke, Leia and Han all grow up and become what they were meant to be.