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Render unto Vader.

Aside from cleaner ships, a shuttle sequence, a meaner Wampa, and a makeover of Cloud City, The Empire Strikes Back: The Special Edition remains relatively unchanged from its 1980 cut, when the film unwittingly helped to launch the Reagan era. When Americans who saw the team who ended 1977’s A New Hope beaming in triumph now scattered, desperate, and pursued by a much more menacing Empire, the national mood sagged. With Luke Skywalker crashing twice and Han Solo as conspicuously absent from the final scenes as the hostages in Iran were from U.S. soil, the Dark Side must have seemed so much quicker, easier, and more seductive at the polls that November. It may have been easy to write it off as Morning in America, but people knew deep down that it was a dark time for the Rebellion, indeed.

The Force is with you, young Skywalker…but you are not a Jedi yet.” Today marks the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, pretty easily my most formative film, and one of the main reasons I still love going to the movies every weekend. (Two of my earliest very-vivid memories are seeing the Empire costumes on display at Harrods before the opening — who is this Boba Fett character? — and later going to see Empire near Piccadilly Circus, with a big Vader billboard overhead.)

The quote above is from my 1997 review of the Special Edition re-release, and what I said then stands. For thirty years now as of today, I’ve been aspiring to be a Jedi, Zen-master, and/or scoundrel, in the stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerfherder sense. Eh, one out of three ain’t bad.

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