The Empire Strikes Back. Back to creative influences with one of the most influential pieces of cinema in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. For that reason alone, I won’t bother to provide a summary of the plot and characters. If you haven’t seen it – I advise you to do so: you’re in for a treat. It is by far the best of all the Star Wars films. It does everything right: the settings are varied and exciting; the main characters become as interesting as they ever get; the story gets darker and sheds earlier narrative naiveties; for its day (1979) the special effects and choreography are wonderful; the soundtrack was exhilarating; all the best aspects of the first film are retained and then further built upon.
I remember the first time that I saw this movie. As a child I had entered a corner shop video store (remember them?) with a couple of friends. There was a wall-mounted television set and the lady behind the counter had just popped a VHS cassette into the video player. The Empire Strikes Back started. Two hours later I became aware of reality again. My friends and I had been so enthralled by the beginning of the movie that we had sat down on the carpet and watched the entire film while other customers mooched about us, perusing the shelves and making their rental choices. The lady behind the counter gave us a kindly and knowing smile as the three of us got to our feet. We sheepishly made a pretence of looking around the video store, before saying thank you and leaving – stepping into the brightness of the daylight outside. The experience stayed with me, as did the film. I think that from a young age the film undoubtedly inspired and influenced me creatively. Check out the 1979 trailer for the film (that seems largely made up of explosions!)
As a creative extension of my childhood interest in the film, I also remember regular trips to the supermarket to buy Star Wars figures. The myriad of new characters The Empire Strikes Back introduced really gave the impression of a universe beyond the screen. My favourites were always the rarer figures, based upon characters only really glimpsed in the background of scenes from the film. I suppose that even then I revelled in the opportunity to imaginatively fill in the blanks, contribute to the character backgrounds and add a narrative of my own.