A few days ago Star Wars fans were saddened by the passing of Irvin Kershner, the man who, amongst other movies, directed “The Empire Strikes Back”. Of the original three films, Fans almost universally place ESB at the top of the list as “the” best of the films. I am no different i that regard, in its writing, direction and even the performances of the actors it was by far the most dramatic, indeed Irvin Kershner proved to be a blessing for this fan... But also a curse.
Why a curse you ask, because every other Star Wars movie that followed would be measured ( if only by me) by a ESB sized yard stick... and none of the movies since has ever measured up.
It started with “Return of the Jedi”, not a bad film, but when you look at it, the film lacked the craft of ESB, the actors for the most part turned in “MEH” performances ( Though I have to go on record as saying the “So be it... Jedi” scene is still one of my favorites). Ewoks?, I believed Ugnaughts at the cloud city, however I never became a singer in the “Yub-Yub” chorus if you know what i mean... they just seemed silly, in ESB nothing seemed silly.
The curse continued into the prequels... I knew Yoda was a puppet, but while ESB played on the big screen before me, he was alive as any of the Actors, The scene where he delivers his “Luminous Beings are we..” speech can still bring goose bumps. In the prequels Yoda never lived up to that for me, I didn't want Yoda the action hero, I wanted Yoda the 900 year old font of Wisdom. I was actually a little let down that he had a lightsaber and battled in AOTC. To me ESB’s puppet seemed 10 times more alive then the CGI or animated Yoda.
The Romance of all the films combined could not match that in ESB, maybe thats a tip of the hat to writing or even acting however it was Kershner that brought it to the screen “I love you” and “I know” captured the smitten princess and the cocky smuggler to a Tee, and filmed in the Orange glow and gushing steam of the Carbinite room... it was epic. Never... and I mean Never, in any of following films did I feel the sense of Romance.
Yes the lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader was slower, less flashy then those in the prequels, but those lacked the dramatic intensity of the ESB battle. Luke was facing the man who killed his father, fighting for the lives of his friends only to find out.... there on that Vane in the Cloud City... That the man he hated, the man he despised was in fact his father, I was never to feel that intensity, that audience by in to the emotion of the scene in the Prequels.
Irvin Kershner left us the best of the Star Wars films for that I will always be thankful, he also left us with the dream of what could have and what should have been in the films that followed, a target that, in my biased opinion, has never been hit. I never knew the man, he was never in my Kitchen, but I can say a heart felt “May the Force Be With You” Irvin Kershner.