Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back

Featured In Issue 161, November 2011

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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Irvin Kershner
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Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS HD Lossless 6.1, DTS 5.1
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The adventure continues in Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back, and the battle to save the Galaxy rages on. Luke Skywalker (Hamill) must travel to Dagobah in search of the Jedi master Yoda (voice of Oz)—the only one who can help him to survive when the Dark Side beckons him to duel with Darth Vader (Prowse). (Gary Reber)

Special features include commentary with George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt, and Dennis Muren and commentary from archival interviews with cast and crew, including Jeremy Bulloch, Ben Burtt, Anthony Daniels, Peter Diamond, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Stuart Freeborn, Steve Gawley, Alec Guinness, Mark Hamill, Joe Johnston, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Peter Mayhew, Ralph McQuarrie, Dennis Muren, Frank Oz, Ken Ralston, Norman Reynolds, Robert Watts, and Billy Dee Williams.

Once again, the new 2.35:1 1080p AVC Blu-ray is a solid visual experience presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. Again, there are some scenes that cannot hide the age of the film, but the transfer offers excellent and quite consistent color fidelity. Sharpness and detail are great, with excellent textures and definition. Color fidelity is very good, with excellent balance with, in many cases, exceptional depth and delineation. The overall appearance is clean and pristine, with an engaging dynamic visual quality compared to previous releases. (Suzanne Hodges/Gary Reber)

Years ago, when the Special Edition of Empire was shown in theatres, the presentation that night was the best ever heard in a movie theatre. The cinema was calibrated only hours previously by THX®, and the end result was what could be described as somewhat of a religious movie-going experience. It was that good. The performance from this Blu-ray of The Empire Strikes Back is reminiscent in some ways of that result. The DTS-HS Master Audio™ Surround ES™ soundtrack here is much more effective and impactful than the ES-encoded soundtrack found on A New Hope. "Impactful" is the key word here, as this soundtrack just shines in being able to immerse and involve the listener much more transparently within the on-screen action. This is an aggressive, prominent film soundtrack that can be loud and possibly bright at times, even with Re-EQ engaged. Bass extension is tight, controlled, and very deep. LFE channel activity has that outstanding "gut-wrenching" feel as the bass digs down deep to really shake the listener to his/her core at times. When on Dagobah, the sounds of the swamp—and the many inhabitants who live there—are positioned nicely in the surround channels, which adds great atmosphere and ambiance to the presentation. Dialogue, especially when Darth Vader delivers his lines, is much more tonally accurate than in the A New Hope Blu-ray, as voices sound much more natural and realistic in their delivery. Overall soundstaging is superb, as this presentation has a majestic and very large "theatrical" sound to it. John Williams' original score is once again mesmerizing and is played back with pureness and clarity (the Imperial March theme is one of my all-time favorite pieces of movie music, and it sounds really awesome here). The lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader sounds exquisite; it's pure sonic delight with audio that is palpable, as every sensation seems to completely wash over the listening space where the listener can virtually taste the music, sound effects, drama, and the sheer power of the battle scene. It's good vs. evil at its storybook-sounding best. This Blu-ray soundtrack performance of The Empire Strikes Back sounds beautiful. (Gary Reber)