The Empire Strikes Back the sequel that perhaps defined the sequel that upped the ante, and took the characters in a new direction with a darker path. Everything that worked about the original worked once again with the special effects, production design, and costumes being equally, if not more impressive than the original. The performances only improve with the regulars becoming only more assured in their roles with a few enjoyable additions in there as well. The story and direction go even further in this film, as the characters are challenged both in terms of the Empire's efforts, but also their own personal struggle particularly in regards to Luke. The direction here is particularly notable though as it goes one step beyond. The previous film already made the environments seem real, but this takes even further in creating a palatable atmosphere. This is especially evident in that final lightsaber duel with that ominous moment of Vadar's red weapon appearing in the darkness. Even though I still probably don't love this film in the series as much as some, I can't deny that it is exceptional film.