40 years old?!? "Empire" is a Silver Fox!

I'm told that I was taken to a drive-in theater and saw The Empire Strikes Back when it was new and that it was probably my first movie-going experience. Sadly, I have no memory of this. But, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its release, The Empire Strikes Back will be returning to select theaters on Friday, September 25, so fans can enjoy the second installation of the "Star Wars" franchise on the big screen. 

Simply check in with Fandango to find theaters and times near you. Although over the years the original trilogy has been re-released in theaters as a promotion for new movies and the like, this is still a special occasion, especially in times like these.

With national movie theaters trying to regain footing after closures due to the pandemic, there is still an air of uncertainty in terms of release dates and what the future holds for the industry in general. Social distancing guidelines have been put in place, but it remains to be seen just how many people will be attending theaters and how it will all work out. All the more reason to dust off a tried-and-true classic to bring audiences through the doors. However, even this 40th-anniversary release isn't without its COVID-related issues. Initially, the idea was to remaster the film and present it in 4K resolution. Unfortunately, that project had to be scrapped due to quarantine procedures, but according to comicbook.com, "The version that will be landing in theaters is reportedly a 2K scan of the film, which is still an upgrade from previous releases."

Regardless, the "Star Wars" films are a great example of movies meant to be seen on the large screen and, if nothing else, you can hear James Earl Jones say the now-famous line, "No, I am your father," through the giant surround-sound movie house speakers.  

Oh yeah, spoilers ahead, I guess, for the 40-year-old movie, if you haven't gotten around to watching it.

Darth Vader reaching out

LucasFilm

A long time ago (May, 1980) in a galaxy far, far away (well, it feels like it anyway) perhaps the most anticipated sequel of all time hit movie theaters and just may have truly kicked off the "Star Wars" legacy as we know it today. "Star Wars" mania didn't need any help getting off the ground; that happened as soon as the first movie was released in 1977.  But, if you think about it, Episode Four (as it's referred to today—back then it was just called Star Wars) could have easily been a stand-alone story, especially if it hadn't been successful. Empire left on a huge cliff-hanger; it added a great deal to the over-arching mythology and cemented the idea that there was a lot more story to tell. 

Who would have thought that 40 years later, people would still be talking about it heatedly, watching new movies and TV shows, and dressing up as characters from the films pretty regularly? Oh, right, his name is George Lucas. But even if you don't like sci-fi or haven't seen the original trilogy, it is undeniable that The Empire Strikes Back has made a giant impact on popular culture. 

Paternal twist ending aside, Empire has perhaps contributed the most to "Star Wars" lore than any of the other titles. It introduced Yoda, the unlikely Jedi Master who would guide Luke, picking up where Obi-Wan was forced to leave off. Yoda was an old-school, practical puppet in a large role in a major movie release. He was voiced and operated by none other than Frank Oz—a major player in world of "The Muppets." Yoda was also the character that dropped the bomb saying, "No, there is another." Sure, now we know that he was talking about Leia Organa, but in 1980?  What?!?

Yoda leans on a stick

LucasFilm

We got to see more of how far-reaching the Empire was in that world—that is was more than just the ships, blasters, and cool Vader and Stormtrooper suits. Whether it was the AT-ATs moving in on the Rebel base on Hoth, Vader hiring an outside crew of mercenaries to track the heroes down, or just the sight of Stormtroopers in what seemed to be an apolitical colony such as Cloud City, Empire shows the audience just how pervasive the bad guys really are and ups the stakes significantly.

Star Wars is undoubtedly for families and young audiences (George Lucas has said so in the past), but The Empire Strikes Back introduced a seriousness to the mythology that keeps people coming back for more as both they and the films age. Despite characters like the Ewoks or Jar-Jar Binks that most often keep the mood light and the kids laughing, Empire planted the seed of more mature themes and is known for its darker elements and imagery. The heroes get split up and go their separate ways for a time (that doesn't usually happen), there's some mushy love stuff ("You like me because I’m a scoundrel"), and wasn't everyone a little freaked out by the cave on Dagobah? The Empire Strikes Back adds a gravitas to a story that is still fun and campy, keeping audience members of all ages invested.  

So, whatever your favorite thing about Star Wars is, Empire is certainly worth a re-watch. It's a modern classic that has influenced not just the "Star Wars" mythos and science fiction, but movie franchises in general.  or more fun nostalgia, check out StarWars.com's list of 40 great quotes from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

WIll you be attending any of the screenings?  What's your favorite part about Empire? Do you remember seeing me at the drive-in movie in 1980? Let us know in the comments!