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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - September, 2011

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"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Following the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebels flee to the remote world of Hoth to re-group and plan their next offensive against the Empire.  Obsessed with finding Luke, Darth Vader employs thousands of probe droids to find the secret base.  He quickly succeeds and the Rebels are forced to evacuate.  Luke heads to Dagobah to train with Jedi master Yoda while Princess Leia and Han Solo, after evading the Imperial fleet, escape to Bespin in hopes of repairing their disabled ship.  While on Dagobah, Luke has a vision of Han and Leia’s capture by Vader and quickly runs to their aid.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be a trap.  Solo is frozen in carbonite and turned over to bounty hunter Boba Fett while Luke and Leia barely escape with their lives.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1980, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hr 7 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC @ 31 Mbps
  • 1080p
  • English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
  • Directed by Irvin Kershner
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I remember going to see this movie for my 14th birthday.  It’s always been my favorite of the six episodes because so much is packed into only two hours.  The action is pretty much non-stop and some major plot threads are introduced that weren’t even hinted at in Episode IV.  The amazing chemistry between the three principal actors continues here as they create one of the most famous trios in cinema history.  While there are many film connoisseur reasons not to name this the best movie of all time, it’s number one in my book.  I never tire of watching it and this Blu-ray release was a religious experience for me.  I’m not sure I was quite this excited when I saw it for the first time!  I’m sure I don’t have to convince even casual Star Wars fans to buy this Blu-ray.  It’s a must-own for any sci-fi buff.

Technical

The video quality is at a whole new level for catalog titles, especially ones that are 30 years old.  Even the icy wastelands of Hoth are vibrant with subtle shades of color and amazing depth.  Flesh tones are perfectly natural.  There is no evidence of digital scrubbing or edge enhancement.  Contrast is every bit as good as the best modern movie and detail is simply stunning.  I’m glad such care was taken in this transfer.  I never saw even the slightest speck of dirt or even the smallest artifact.  Honestly, I can’t imagine it looking better.

The sound is the real star in this Blu-ray.  Amazing is barely adequate to describe it.  I have never heard a better remix on any previous catalog title.  The use of surrounds is excellent, and the LFE channel simply rocks with every explosion or spaceship flyby.  The music sounds incredible too as John Williams’ iconic score takes you through the film from start to finish.  Like the image, this restoration raises the bar.

Extras

Special features are quite extensive and come on three Blu-ray discs.  They cover the entire set and include many hours of documentaries, interviews, deleted scenes and more.  Some of the material is new so fans will have plenty to sink their teeth into.  I’d also like to comment on the packaging which is quite elegant.  The nine discs come in a bound book with each disc on its own page with some really nice artwork.  The discs are held securely but not difficult to remove.  The package designer deserves some real praise for his or her work.