Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
November 20, 2015 5:31 AM - Subscribe

After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.
posted by PigheadedGnu (95 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
The crazy thing about the original trilogy is that I have seen the movies once like 20 years ago, but thanks to cultural osmosis of parodies and references I know every last scene and most of the dialogue by heart.
posted by noia at 5:49 AM on November 20, 2015


Saw it on opening weekend in 1980 in Manhattan in a huge single screen theater after waiting in line for hours to get in. That was back when a blockbuster would open in a few theaters in a Metro area, even New York, and not spread out to the suburbs until about three weeks after that. So my sister and I had to take the train into the city early in the morning and then wait outside the theater for hours but so totally worth it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:20 AM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't remember seeing Star Wars as a kid (even though I must have), but this? Empire blew my goddamn mind and forever shaped much about me. Don't get me wrong SW is great fun, but Empire feels like something good growing into greatness.

No wonder RotJ was so disappointing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:22 AM on November 20, 2015


In college, I remember an evening when I was supposed to be studying but I was thinking about Star Wars (as one does). It occurred to me that the timeline of this movie doesn't make sense. Han & Leia leave Hoth at the same time as Luke and they go off in different directions. So Luke goes to Dagobah and meets Yoda and intercut with that storyline is the Millenium Falcon chased by Star Destroyers seemingly moments after their departure from Hoth.* They do the asteroid belt and belly of the beast thing for awhile and then sneak away to Bespin with no hyperdrive. During this time Luke is training with Yoda until he sees the vision of his friends in peril and jets off to save them, arriving just as they're leaving to face Vader etc.
It's hard to believe those concurrent stories could take the same amount of time. Either Han and Leia hid in the asteroid belt for longer than is implied and sub-light speed travel to Bespin takes a really long time, or Luke learns all his Jedi skills over a weekend.

*I contend that the sequence of shots when Han dive bombs away from the two Star Destroyers causing them to nearly crash into each other is the most awesome and epic space sequence in the series. For that brief moment, space feels very three-dimensional and vast and the ships feel huge and imposing. And Han seems like the best damn pilot in the galaxy.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:42 AM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah the timing of this film makes absolutely no sense. Either Luke learns everything in minutes, or Han and everyone hang out on that rock for months... I guess you could make a time dilation based excuse, if you wanted to.

It's funny, I remember being genuinely surprise, or at least impressed, by the twist to Planet of the Apes (I watched it when pretty young) but while I know that I wasn't spoiled for Empire's twist, I can't remember my initial reaction to it. In fact it's hard for me to recollect any of my emotional reactions to Star Wars, as they are tied very much to being sick off from school and watching them over and over.

I also had, at the time, access to the best version of the trilogy, which is with updated special effects but none of the goddamn additional scenes nonsense that Lucas added in later. As far as I'm aware, this version is now utterly inaccessible. Thanks so much Lucas you goddamn dick. I am seriously so annoyed that a version of these films that I loved at a key part of my life is utterly unavailable to me now (I don't think the VHS tapes we had exist anymore, and to be honest I wouldn't want to watch this on video now).
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:59 AM on November 20, 2015


Featuring Cliff Clavin!
posted by Chrysostom at 7:03 AM on November 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


I remember my dad taking me to see ESB at the Belle Meade Theater in Nashville when I was 6. The line wrapped all the way around the building. I got a sunburn waiting in line. It was a grand old theater with a balcony and everything. Sadly, it's been turned into a shopping center.

I am seriously so annoyed that a version of these films that I loved at a key part of my life is utterly unavailable to me now

Maybe now that Disney owns Star Wars, they might consider releasing the original theatrical cuts. In any case, ESB had the least amount of alterations done in the Special Editions. Although one of the edits that pisses me off is when R2 gets spit out by the swamp beast, they used an alternate cut of Luke saying "You were lucky to get out of there" instead of Mark Hamill's ad-libbed "You're lucky you don't taste very good." Of all the things to edit... just... WHY?!
posted by Fleebnork at 7:10 AM on November 20, 2015


They.. what?!
Why?!
Guh!

Anyway, Lucas apparently thought that this was the worst film of the Original Three.

It seems anecdotally that this is the only star wars film where the actors had much direction.
Famously Lucas' style was summed up as "Faster, more intense".
And as for Richard Marquand (director of ROTJ), Jeremy Bulloch -- who played the fearsome bounty hunter Boba Fett in both Empire and Jedi -- said . "Irvin was wonderful, because you knew, as an actor, exactly what he wanted ... [Marquand] said, 'Jeremy, you know, you were in the last one, you know what to do. Don't you?"
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:31 AM on November 20, 2015


This film has the double-twist, which is the best kind of twist IMHO. Because if another viewer says "You'll never believe the twist!!" you go in looking for the twist instead of just having fun. So it has a smaller, slightly surprising twist that isn't a big reveal, but satisfies the viewer enough so that the real twist takes them off guard. Another example of this is the murdering Munchausen's mother in The Sixth Sense.

So this film's double-twist is of course Yoda.

Tricksy Yoda is the best Yoda, and it bums me out that we never, ever see Tricksy Yoda again in the entire series. Who can possibly take the place of double-twist Yoda in the new trilogy?
posted by infinitewindow at 7:31 AM on November 20, 2015


Of course the prequels tell us that R2D2 knew that was Yoda all along and was just being a dick.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:33 AM on November 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


More on Kershner vs Lucas

"There was really only one disagreement. It was the Carbon Freeze scene when Princess Leia says, “I love you.” Han Solo’s response in the script was, “I love you, too.” I shot the line and it just didn’t seem right for the character of Han Solo. So we worked on the scene on the set. We kept trying different things and couldn’t get the right line. We were into the lunch break and I said to Harrison try it again and just do whatever comes to mind. That is when Harrison said the line, “I know.” After the take, I said to my assistant director, David Tomblin, “It’s a wrap.” David looked at me in disbelief and said something like, “Hold on, we just went to overtime. You’re not happy with that, are you?” And I said, yes, it’s the perfect Han Solo remark, and so we went to lunch. George saw the first cut and said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s not the line in the script.” I said ““I love you, too’ was not Han Solo.” Han Solo was a rebel. George felt that the audience would laugh. And I said, that’s wonderful, he is probably going to his death for all they know. We sat in the room and he thought about it. He then asked me, “Did you shoot the line in the script?” I said yes. So we agreed that we would do two preview screenings once the film was cut and set to music with the line in and then with the line out. At the first preview in San Francisco, the house broke up after Han Solo said I know. When the film was over, people came up and said that is the most wonderful line and it worked. So George decided not to have the second screening."
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:39 AM on November 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


Just constantly reminded that George Lucas fundamentally does not understand what works and what doesn't about Star Wars.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2015 [21 favorites]


Oh the theories that we spun in the early '80s! How prosaic to discover that Vader was stating a simple fact.
posted by whuppy at 8:05 AM on November 20, 2015


The other changes to ESB in the Special Edition :

- Luke screams the whole way down when he makes his jump into oblivion (what the Hell, George, honestly)
- Luke's altered line on Dagobah re Artoo's flavour profile (why?)
- Vader's appropriately terse and economical line, "bring my shuttle" is replaced with "alert my Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival", followed by an outtake from "Return of the Jedi" or something featuring Vader getting out of his shuttle in a hangar. (I look forward to the next edit that includes long sequences of ships traveling from one place to the other in real time)
- More Wampa gore (enh)
- Slightly extended establishing shots in Cloud City, plus lots more windows (kind of nice actually)

Oddly, Lucas didn't see fit to include the comedy gold that is the cut scene where Threepio tricks the Snowtroopers into a room full of hungry Wampas.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:29 AM on November 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


And oh my god Tricksy Yoda is the best Yoda. That should have been a major character thing in the prequels. Yoda acts like a senile old troll to throw people off balance. In much the same way that Obi Wan should have been shown to be an unapologetic pathological liar in the prequels.

Anakin: Did you eat my cruller?
Obi-Wan: What makes you so sure there even was a cruller, my young Padawan?
(Yoda cackles maniacally in the corner)
posted by wabbittwax at 8:42 AM on November 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Anyway, Lucas apparently thought that this was the worst film of the Original Three.

Yep, and this is basically the most concise demonstration required to show that Lucas, for all his good qualities, really did not understand what made people love Star Wars. He spent the entirety of the original trilogy production believing that even if the movies were good, they would have been a hundred times better if he hadn't been required to collaborate with others. He really, truly seems to believe that anytime any other talented creative mind diverged from how he originally envisioned something, it was both bad and a horrible imposition on his genius.

His later use of Marquand to direct ROTJ is more or less universally understood to have been driven by the fact that Marquand would just do whatever the hell he said, and not push back. We all know how that turned out (to be discussed more in the sure-to-be-upcoming ROTJ thread :))

And oh my god Tricksy Yoda is the best Yoda.

100% the god's honest truth. Tricksy Yoda is basically everything that the entirety of the Dagobah section of the movie required to avoid becoming a self-serious snoozefest of a movie. He's an incredibly wise and competent Jedi Master, and yet he's also got a hell of a sense of humor! He's serious when required, and yet a totally lovable grump when he knows Luke needs it! Goddamn, there's so much great about his performance by Frank Oz.

Even putting aside the issue of CGI, just the way Yoda was written in the prequels totally misunderstands the character. The Yoda of ESB is so much more of a lifelike figure, so much more a real person with strengths and weaknesses, and with hopes and desires, than the prequel-era Serious Yoda.

MeFi's Own Adam Savage (paging asavage) has commented on a number of occasions that one of the reasons Han Solo is so important to Star Wars is that he's almost always the only character pointing out how ridiculous the movie is. This matters so much because fundamentally, Star Wars is in fact pretty ridiculous, and without someone in the movie occasionally popping that bubble the whole thing becomes super boring and over-the-top serious (see: the whole of the prequels).

For my money, in ESB, it's basically Yoda filling that role for a large chunk of the time. If Yoda had just been a wise old human dude (like an even-older Obi-Wan), even if it had been an actor of Alec Guinness' caliber, it would have been a dire blow to the overall movie.
posted by tocts at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


ESB is also the last time we see, and more importantly, FEEL, that Vader is a truly formidable villain. His rapid executions of fucking up admirals was haunting and the battle between him and Luke is astonishing and brutal. It really felt like Luke gave everything he got in that fight, but in the end Vader was just toying with him and Luke never, ever had a chance. His only option was in choosing how he would die. That battle was epic, beautiful, moody, and holds up stunningly well even today.

Yet it's important that Luke doesn't die, because he's able to call on friends (er sister). It's a tiny thing, but means so much, because they're eventually able to beat the Empire by working together. Since Luke had an ok childhood, he was able to form and keep lasting friendships and put them before himself. He may have wanted Leia (ew ew ew ew) but he did not treat her as a possession or obsession, even when she choose another (ew ew they were sibling, ew ew).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:12 AM on November 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I contend that the sequence of shots when Han dive bombs away from the two Star Destroyers causing them to nearly crash into each other is the most awesome and epic space sequence in the series. For that brief moment, space feels very three-dimensional and vast and the ships feel huge and imposing.

It is an awesome scene, and for a while when I was a kid I had a graphic novel version (I think it was this one) and the artist depiction of the scene has a panel with the two Star Destroyers actually colliding, with a big explodey-star kind of thing on the page. I remember reading it again and again and going "wow! I don't remember the ships actually hitting!" And then I got to see ESB again and realize that they don't, it is just a close call.

Of course, as an adult, I can't help but watch that now and wonder about the general lack of safety regulations and some common sense kind of things - I mean, I get that you want to catch that ship, but going on a course that is essentially flying directly at the other Star Destroyer? Who the hell is piloting that thing? I still maintain that if the Empire had done some basic Occupational Health and Safety work, and established some better training programs and regimens for their troops, the Empire never would have fallen.

Anyways, I love ESB. I love ANH, but ESB added some needed depth and complexity to the universe and made it even more captivating. Everyone also seemed a lot more comfortable in this film; the actors seemed more at ease with their characters and the dialogue. Some bits that I think really make it work:

-The Hoth attack: amazing special effects, done against a primarily white or bright blue background at a time when you did that stuff against dark backgrounds so you could hide things easier.

-Yoda - in addition to him being trickster Yoda, as mentioned above, his training of Luke is very interesting. Luke never touches a Lightsaber while under Yoda's tutelage and only takes it to the tree against Yoda's advice. Yoda has him do a bunch of physical work, but the focus seems to be on Luke's mind - that he needs to be able to focus and control and use the Force no matter the physical circumstance or situation; that the Force is a matter of discipline and philosophy more than anything else. This, of course, culminates with Yoda hauling the X-wing from the swamp.

-Dagobah - what an environment; so different and unexpected and it feeds right into trickster Yoda.

-Vader: While he was played as a henchman in ANH, Vader takes centre stage in ESB and owns it. Menacing, cruel, vicious - he isn't a swaggering villain, but an unforgiving one. No monologues, no funny sidekicks, he's all business, ruthless and is out to crush whatever gets in his way. He becomes one of the best all-time screen villains in this film. The stakes for our heroes rise throughout this film, and it is because Vader is presented as an implacable, relentless, driven evil.

-I love the final lightsaber duel with Luke, from the lighting to the physical direction. Hamill plays Luke as nervous, but capable; and Vader - well, Vader is relentless. The first clash, in the carbon freezing chamber - Vader is almost effortless: one hand on the light saber, maneuvering Luke where he wants him and then moving to more serious efforts as the fight wears on. He wears Luke down, battering him with lightsaber strikes and thrown objects, harrying him into the bowels of Bespin for the final wear down of Luke's physical defenses so that he can deliver his emotional bomb, all in an attempt to turn Luke to his side. While the duel from TPM is a beautiful piece of choreography, this duel is so much more fascinating for the stakes - Vader isn't in it to kill, but to capture and turn Luke; and Luke learns his sharpest lessons about being a Jedi at the hands of Vader's assault: that it is about control, focus, and discipline.
posted by nubs at 10:23 AM on November 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


My asshole brother spoiled it for me and I'm still bitter.
posted by bondcliff at 10:33 AM on November 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


No disintegrations, bondcliff.
posted by nubs at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


"He's as clumsy as he is stupid" is an awesome line.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:15 AM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"He's as clumsy as he is stupid" is an awesome line.

That line made me wonder why Ozzel was an Admiral on Vader's ship if he was so stupid. Turns out he was placed there by Naval command because they had no faith in his abilities and figured placing him under Vader would keep him in line and out of trouble. After all, if Vader if your direct superior, who would be stupid enough to argue with him?

Turns out Ozzel was that stupid and repeatedly went against Vader and we know how that ended.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:27 PM on November 20, 2015


It really felt like Luke gave everything he got in that fight, but in the end Vader was just toying with him and Luke never, ever had a chance.

Actually, one of the great things about the duel is the moment, right after Vader knocks Luke down, points his saber in his face and says, "It is useless to resist," where Luke beats his blade aside, makes a couple of nice moves, and actually wounds Vader in the shoulder. This feels like that traditional moment in movie fights where the nearly defeated hero turns the tide and goes on to win, but here it's a total fake-out, perfectly timed—Luke loses his hand just as your hopes, conditioned by decades of cinematic tropes, begin to rise.
posted by The Tensor at 12:44 PM on November 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Right? That was well played. It hints that Luke does have the power to beat Vader, in time. But he's outta time and got sloppy with allowing himself to backed into a corner and using one hand.

Which, I guess was better than using two hands.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:18 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Empire.

Very few sequel titles reverberate across the cinematic spectrum as much as this one, which has in its own way become a guiding light to what a lot of people expect of the second movie of an expected trilogy. It has defined the second movie in a way that few if any other films have done. "This will be the Empire of the trilogy...." And further, there's the expectation that Empire means a darker tone and a path that will not necessarily be kind to the heroes of the story. Empire.

I don't remember when I first saw Empire, nor even my first reaction when I learned that Vader was Luke's father, those memories are lost in the myriad of times I have sat down and watched and watched and watched the movie. The movie excels, because so much of everything that is laid down in the first movie is built upon and explored. Our characters grow, the struggles of the Galactic Civil War continue for the Rebel Alliance, and the namesake Empire manages to become even more threatening, on a personal level, than in the first film. Instead of the characters fearing a planet destroying space station, we the viewers get to experience the chills of a promise fulfilled, when Vader force chokes another and there is no Tarkin to order him to stop. Tarkin is dead, but Vader grows even more immense and ominous in his quest to end the rebellion and to capture someone by the name of Skywalker.

The film opens in space with a Star Destroyer, but instead of pursuing a vehicle and pulling it inside its belly, it instead ejects multiple vehicles, probes, out into the wider space. Somewhat parallel to the escape pod that carried R2 and C-3PO, one such probe descends down toward a planet, a mirror opposite of Tatooine, the ice planet Hoth. The probe isn't concealing plans that will lead to the defeat of the empire, but a droid which will possibly spell the end of the Rebels. Shortly thereafter, we see Luke, almost knight-like on the back of his tauntaun, and hear Han's familiar voice. Time has passed, our heroes still seem to be together, and everything's okay, and then the wampa attack. Immediately, one of our heroes is attacked and his fate, a mystery. What an opening.

I won't recap the entire film, but it's a movie that is easy to recap, with one fun scene after another, flowing smoothly because of the chemistry of the actors and their characters, and the beauty of the world that Lucasfilm and ILM has created for them to inhabit.

The Characters

All our characters grow in this film, even Vader. Luke is immediately shown to have grown in his ability to use the force by his ability to pull his lightsaber to him in the wampa cave, and then obviously, through his training with Yoda. The farm boy impatience is still there, much to Yoda's irritation, and it's an impatience that will give Luke a costly lesson by the end of the film (compare Empire Luke to Jedi Luke and there's a remarkable difference). Han continues his shift from scoundrel, first by reluctantly leaving the Rebels with a mind to go take care off his problem with Jabba, compared against his departure at the end of the last film (before his last second return to save Luke), and of course, his relationship with Leia.

Leia, herself, beyond her emotional relationship with Han, is allowed to flesh out her place of authority and command within the Rebel Alliance. She's a leader and the only other person whom the general at the Hoth base truly discusses their situation with. Her leadership is undermined some by Han's insistent "rescue" but even in front of the flattering Lando Calrissian, she stands firm as her own person and takes an active role in escaping at the end. She's the one in control when the Falcon is fleeing Bespin and under her orders does it turn around to find Luke.

One reason, among many, the romance between Anakin and Padme failed to satisfy viewers in Attack of the Clones was because it was held up against the only other romance in the Star Wars cinematic universe - Leia's and Han's. One is chockfull of syrup and something perhaps best defined as if written by young teens, the other, is subtle and built upon the briefest moments of intimacy and the superb acting of the two actors involved. It's two sets of hands touching the other, lingering gazes, and two of the most powerful words in the cinematic history of romance, "I know."

Our other characters also grow. Chewbacca who in the first film is delegated more to roars and being the giant, tough character, is given the opportunity to show off his mechanical skills, be it attempting to fix the Falcon or gently attempting to put back into one piece, C-3PO. Our droids are given more time to be themselves, with C-3PO being terrified of mynocks and asteroids, and R2 fighting back and forth with Yoda. Speaking of small green Jedi Masters, Yoda fulfills the promise of puppetry in film, in part through the voicing of Frank Oz. His initial introduction, a curious and almost child-like inhabitant of Dagobah, to his reveal by his conversation with Obi-Wan is genius. It's a throwback to the mythic idea of one never knows who they will encounter on their journeys and travels, the god hidden as man, the spirit playing a fool. This Yoda is wise, and he speaks much better than the caricature of him in the Prequel Trilogy. Through him we learn much more of the Force, how it connects all living things, and most importantly, size matters not. The moment when he pinches Luke's shoulder and tells him that they are luminous beings pushes the Force deeper into the mysticism that made it an elegant background upon which the adventures of our heroes are woven.

On Cloud City, we find Lando, our first major African-American character, played exquisitely by Billy Dee Williams, who deftly slips from flatterer to leader trying to save his people against the worse odds. Capes rarely look good, but Lando makes them look like the next best accessory. There are the bounty hunters, namely Boba Fett, who is allowed the opportunity to display a genius of hunting his prey and the privilege of talking back to Darth Vader (Here's my defense of Fett for anyone curious! Lately, thanks to Lucas, he's gotten a bit of a bad rap.) And of course, there's Vader.

At a glance, Darth Vader doesn't look or feel like a character who will grow much, if at all. His villainous seems designed to trap him into a ruthless set of rules, but in Empire he displays a willingness to seek alternative methods to find Luke (bounty hunters) and lulls Lando in his capacity as Bespin city administrator into working with him in exchange for the Empire staying out of the city permanently. His callous disregard for life is heightened, given the dismissive deaths he grants officers of the Imperial Navy, and at the same time, his ability to threaten grows exponentially. Likewise, he ceases to be just the servant of the Emperor, when he tries to recruit Luke to join him, as opposed to killing him. But, perhaps the most impressive moment of Vader's development comes at the very end of the film, as he watches the Falcon inexplicably jump to hyperspace. The moment on the bridge of the super star destroyer is tense with expectation that Admiral Piett will soon join Ozzel in the craft's morgue, but instead, Vader remains quiet. It's a sign that something has changed, when the Sith Lord should have lashed out in anger at his underlings failing him once again. Instead, the father of Skywalker simply watched his son disappear.

The Settings.

The settings helped to make the movie. Hoth. Dagobah. Bespin. The asteroid field, they all represented beautiful and stark opposites to each other, granting a feeling of truly traveling through a larger galaxy. Hoth gifted us with a land battle between Rebels and the Empire and the introduction of snow speeders and AT-ATs (sorry Dak). Dagobah, incredibly built on a sound stage, complete with running water, felt like an immense jungle full of slithering and flying things. It felt like an alien Amazon, where everything seemed in constant struggle to either devour or avoid being devoured. It made Luke appear as small as Yoda. Bespin and Cloud City, a beautiful floating metropolis that felt as if it were the Utopian city in another science fiction film - and perhaps, like most Utopias, destined to fall. And then the Asteroid Field, which highlighted Han's true flying skills and inventive problem solving (the problem solving also appears in cutting open his tauntaun for Luke). They're all diverse and assist the story as it moves through those moments in the film.

The Music.

Again, John Williams brings it home, be it the soaring crescendos of the Asteroid Field to the meditative and powerful theme of Yoda demonstrating the power of the Force. The gentleness of the music accompanying the romance to the bittersweet conclusion, unwilling to offer something tragic, but not quite victorious, as the rebel fleet pulls away moments before the screen goes to black at the end of the film.

The Overall

There's just too much to talk about without threatening a thesis length paper. So many scenes visually compelling and scenes where the Falcon lives up to its namesake and soars through atmosphere and space. I know I have just really scratched the surface of so many things, and not having even talked about the specific scenes which are so iconic, such as Vader proposing an alliance with his son, offering his hand forward to Luke, who just lost his own. The lightsaber duel which lives in dreamy silhouettes at its start, as a Jedi to be faces off a Jedi who has fallen. There's the giant claw descending into the mist of the carbonite freezing pit to pull up the frozen Solo, his face frozen in agony. The peaceful eye of the storm moment, when the Rebels have lost on Hoth, but everyone knows exactly what they're doing and retreat is not a defeat, but a victory that they will survive to fight another day. So much of Empire rests on this premise that everything is unfinished, Luke's training, rescuing Han, and even the struggle of the Rebel Alliance. It's yearning crafted into celluloid.

It's Empire.
posted by Atreides at 2:36 PM on November 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Changing the "bring my shuttle" line is my least favorite Special Edition alteration. No, I'm serious.

It's like, here's something small and subtle and understated and perfect. BETTER FIX THAT
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:47 PM on November 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Am I crazy or is Chewbacca supposed to be comically incompetent in this movie? There's an early scene where something's going wrong on the Falcon and he's just screaming and flailing his arms, and later on he rebuilds C-3PO as a mangled backpack. Does Han just keep him around in case he needs someone punched?
posted by theodolite at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm out of sync with you all because I'm watching Despecialized in Machete Order (perhaps with a Phantom Edit chaser), but I watched this a couple of weeks ago and MAN, the first quarter or so really felt like it was milking it in the character-establishment department. There's a cheese factor that I never honed in on, perhaps because I never watched ANH and ESB in the same week, which I'm just going to chalk up to Lucas leaking into the mix.

On preview: yeah, Chewie is not well-served in this episode. Getting out of Bespin it seems like everybody's giving him orders.
posted by rhizome at 2:55 PM on November 20, 2015


It felt like an alien Amazon, where everything seemed in constant struggle to either devour or avoid being devoured. It made Luke appear as small as Yoda.

I never felt the struggle aspect - Dagobah felt like a wild place, teeming with life and change. Struggles, yes, but not the struggle only to devour, but the struggles of life in a place that was unchained and unmediated by technology. It was a perfect backdrop for Yoda's teachings:

"Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes."

What better place to experience a Force created by living things than a jungle like that of Dagobah, teeming with life - plants, snakes, birds, things in the water, vines. Abundant. Not a paradise, but a place of wild nature, and Luke goes from fighting it when his ship lands to being more in harmony with it as Yoda's teachings unfold. It feels a bit like a direct counter to Obi-Wan's comments about Vader: "More machine now than man, twisted and evil." I always wondered if Yoda went there because it is truly the home of his species, or if he went there because of the amazing amount of life there - a place to commune with the living force (and I know this question is answered in the Wookiepedia, but I chose not to know).

But, perhaps the most impressive moment of Vader's development comes at the very end of the film, as he watches the Falcon inexplicably jump to hyperspace

It is a great moment and because of the suit and the mask, there is no way to know what is on Vader's mind except via his behaviour. They build the entire movie towards that moment - it feels like every other scene of Vader on the bridge involves an Imperial Officer being choked to death. I'm glad they decided not to touch this in the Special Editions, because it is another moment that is subtle and understated and it needs to be. Vader came face to face with his son, might have for a brief time thought Luke was dead after he fell, and then touches his mind again on the Falcon:

"Luke."
"Father?!"
"Son. Come with me."

We can see Luke is rattled - I can recall the second time I saw Empire, and noting Luke's reactions (because I didn't want to believe Vader was his father, and the first time through I was too shocked at the reveal to remember much subsequent) and the horribly vulnerable looking Luke responding with "Father?" and his stunned look as he sits in the cockpit of the Falcon was a sickening bit of confirmation. But Vader can't be read as easily as Luke, and the choice to have him turn and walk away at that moment was very well set up, though I was too young at the time to read and understand Vader's reaction.

Anyways, the Luke/Vader duel including Luke's fall, rescue, and the Falcon's escape.
posted by nubs at 3:35 PM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite things about this movie is the use of color. Hoth is cold. Any scene on an Imperial ship is cold. Space is cold. Dagobah, despite being full of life, is cold and grey, not so much green. Cloud City is a little warmer, lots of pastel oranges, but it's up there in the wind and clouds which takes away from it a bit, and its interiors are sterile. This is a bitterly cold movie.

...except the blazing heat and light of the carbonite chamber and Vader's lightsaber.
posted by jason_steakums at 3:40 PM on November 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've always found it interesting in the original trilogy how Vader and the Emperor seem to have no idea that Yoda is still around. It's all "Obi-Wan has taught you well..." Dude you killed Obi-wan in the first movie, how do you figure he's been teaching your son since then?
posted by wabbittwax at 3:57 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not even the Cantina scene intrigued me as much as the bounty hunters scene. Who are these guys? Why isn't the movie following them? They're so cool.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:07 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember when Boba Fett came out as a mailorder-only figure. It was such a HYOOGE deal and I think maybe the movie wasn't in theaters anymore so you couldn't even reflect on the blip he was in it for?
posted by rhizome at 4:52 PM on November 20, 2015


Ok, so I've only seen these movies 80 to 100 times (combined!), and I'm finally seeing the plotholes and lack of continuity.

For example, Luke is Darth Vader's son and was kept secret from him all these years. However, he was brought back to Vader's home planet as an infant and used his same last name? And Obi-Wan changes his *first* name.

Then there's the whole question of how much time has lapsed since they left Hoth.

And during said departure from Hoth, the main base is overrun with stormtroopers, but the evac area where the fighters are taking off is free from any enemy forces?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:04 PM on November 20, 2015


I think I always just assumed that Luke was on Dagobah longer than is apparent, like he and Yoda and R2 had a few rounds of Yahtzee and stuff that we don't see.
posted by rhizome at 8:39 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It just works better if the Dagobah training and trip to Bespin took a lot longer than shown, otherwise Luke was beating himself up pretty damn hard for not being able to telekinetically lift a freaking X-Wing after a weekend of doing flips through a forest.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:47 PM on November 20, 2015


It bears pointing out, the Falcon travels from Hoth to Bespin without a functional hyperdrive. So, conceivably, it could have taken quite a while. Yoda's commentary certainly seems to imply that more training occurs than we witness.
posted by tocts at 9:04 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lando being in the same system as Hoth was one hell of a coincidence. You can kinda headcanon it away with the idea that Han's got a guy like Lando in every system, some old smuggling pal he can only half trust because of some bad blood years back, but still, Lando's the guy that owned the Falcon before! Star Wars is a weirdly small universe just in the films, before you ever got to the EU stuff that said Han also had a history with almost all of the bounty hunters.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:25 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The dialogue more or less explicitly states that the Hoth system and the Anoat system are different, and it's implied that they spend quite a bit of time getting chased around realspace by the Imperials.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:04 PM on November 20, 2015


Huh, yeah. I'm misremembering it but Wookieepedia clears that up - the Hoth, Anoat and Bespin systems are all different. They'd have to be in that ship for years going slower than light speed.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:14 PM on November 20, 2015


I remember when Boba Fett came out as a mailorder-only figure. It was such a HYOOGE deal and I think maybe the movie wasn't in theaters anymore so you couldn't even reflect on the blip he was in it for?

Actually the mail-order figure came out in 1979 before the movies release, as a promotional item. I recall one of the kids at school brought it in and we all were talking about who he could be.

There was also the issue of the non-firing missile.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:05 AM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


The dialogue more or less explicitly states that the Hoth system and the Anoat system are different, and it's implied that they spend quite a bit of time getting chased around realspace by the Imperials.


Accord to this map, Hoth and Bespin are close to each other, relatively . Dagobath is a ways off, but Luke had a functioning hyperdrive
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:27 AM on November 21, 2015


It's all "Obi-Wan has taught you well..." Dude you killed Obi-wan in the first movie, how do you figure he's been teaching your son since then?

I always figured Vader's hatred for Obi-Wan blinded him to the other pieces on the chess board. Of course Obi-Wan would be training Luke because it would be just like that leg-cutting-off fuckface to train someone to come after him. For Anakin/Vader, Obi-Wan's actions towards him are personal, and restoring balance to the universe is secondary.
posted by dry white toast at 9:54 AM on November 21, 2015


"I didn't blame anyone for the loss of my legs. Some Jedi scum took them from me on Mustafar. I achieved anyway!"
posted by wabbittwax at 10:16 AM on November 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I said in the ANH thread that Star Wars is at its best when it works in broad strokes, befitting an epic story. The high point of the epic narrative is the duel between Luke and Vader in Empire. I love the language Vader uses:

"Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You've only begun to discover your power!"
**It's great how this echoes what Obi-Wan and Yoda tell him before he leaves Dagobah**
"If only you knew the power of the Dark Side"
"Search your feelings. You know it to be true."
"You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this."


I feel like it's only in this scene, after two movies of universe-building, that the scope of what's at stake in the narrative is realized. It's like both movies are one long pull-back from the Imperial Destroyer filling up the screen over Tatooine all the way to this. Definitely the best thing about Star Wars.
posted by dry white toast at 10:17 AM on November 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


This movie is so gorgeous, immersive and affecting, with great performances and endless amazing visuals. There's such a tactile quality, you really feel that snow on Hoth and the muck of Dagobah. (This is one of those movies where the effects would be not at all improved if they made it today. Dagobah would be a big CGI nothing and Luke's X-wing would be a video game ship sinking into a fake swap. Yoda would be some little mo-cap thing and maybe they'd do the whole damn movie with greenscreen and you'd just there watching all these pixels slide around on the screen and then you'd go home and forget about it.)

And of course Vader's big reveal is one of those all-time great movie moments. Mark Hamill dares to go for the full ugly cry, and he's been mocked endlessly for it but damn if it doesn't feel like exactly the right reaction for the moment. This evil galactic tyrant you've spent years fighting cuts off your hand, then tells you he's your dad. Who the hell wouldn't howl NOOOOOOOO!, at a moment like that?

This movie seems like a real fluke in Irvin Kershner's career. You look at the guy's resume, and there aren't exactly a bunch of masterpieces on there. Not even a bunch of cult classics. He seems like kind of a journeyman director, but somehow he made this incredible thing. In hindsight it's freaky he even got the job. I mean, he went straight from The Eyes of Laura Mars to this. He was directing TV movies three years before this! But Lucas looked at him and saw something, and he said, that's the guy.

It makes me wonder if Lucas had more of a hand in the direction than we know. If Kirshner was capable of something like this, why did he never come close to it before or after? You take this movie off his resume and everything else kind of fits. This movie doesn't.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:06 PM on November 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Credit for the thrilling visuals should at least partly go to the ILM team. But don't sell Kershner short. Empire doesn't match his other credits because he would never again be given such huge toy box to play with (he did Never Say Never Again of course but it's no match for Empire). I suspect after this he wasn't particularly interested in these kinds of massive undertakings. But the big thing he brought to the party was that he understood and enjoyed working with actors. He knew how to get good performances. He's the only director in this franchise that had a real ear for good dialogue. So much of the success of this movie depended on that fact.
posted by wabbittwax at 4:09 PM on November 21, 2015


My favorite part of not just Empire but all the movies is this one perfect line, perfectly delivered by Jones, "The Force is with you young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet."
posted by ob1quixote at 10:05 PM on November 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Credit for the thrilling visuals should at least partly go to the ILM team. But don't sell Kershner short.

Completely agreed. The ILM team created a ton of amazing visuals (the whole Hoth battle is amazing, as are the wonderful space shots of the new Super Star Destroyers). However, I think you have to give Kershner (and presumably his DoP, Peter Suschitzky) a lot of credit as well.

Quite a lot of the character-driven shots are framed in ways that I think are, overall, more impressive and interesting than the original Star Wars. Sure, Ep IV has some amazing non-effects shots (e.g. Luke and the two setting suns), but Ep V constantly finds ways to use the set and the frame that are much more sophisticated. Some examples:

- Vader in his 'egg' (with it obstructing our view somewhat, feeling the claustrophobia; and then later, giving us the glimpse beneath his helmet, showing us that he's not an unstoppable machine).

- Captain Needa falling into frame, and then allowing Vader to walk into the foreground and follow him up ("Apology accepted, Captain Needa")

- The rogues' gallery of bounty hunters, many of whom we barely even see (holy crap, who are these guys?)

- The confrontation between Vader and Lando ("Perhaps you think you're being treated unfairly?")

- Basically the entire damned end lightsaber duel (so many great framing shots, so many show-don't-tell moments).

ESB is just teeming with scenes that could have been shot very flatly, and given how things went in the prequels, Lucas probably would have shot very flatly (walk and talk, shot/reverse shot style), and instead we're always given much more visual storytelling than that. We learn quite a lot about the world and the characters this way, above and beyond anything anyone says out loud.

Mark Hamill dares to go for the full ugly cry, and he's been mocked endlessly for it but damn if it doesn't feel like exactly the right reaction for the moment.

Yeah, I have sorta come full circle on this over the past ... uh ... I mean, call it 25 years at least? I can totally see why it is so mockable, and so I understand why it has been referenced so frequently in that way. However, the more I see it (just re-watched the despecialized edition on Friday with friends), the more impressed I am with it.

Where a lot of people see cheese or bad acting, I think what they're really reacting to is that it is an incredibly emotional performance, with a character literally losing all concept of 'cool' in that moment of soul-crushing agony. This is not something you see much in film, and I think many people don't really know how to process it. I think Hamill deserves a lot of credit for making that scene completely jaw-dropping (particularly in the un-fucked-with editions, where his choice to drop away into nothing in the face of it is a silent, stoic drop, versus the later-added screaming).
posted by tocts at 8:52 AM on November 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I just looked at the YouTube clip ob1quixote posted and realized that R2D2 and Darth Vader never see each other for the whole original trilogy.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:03 AM on November 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"He's as clumsy as he is stupid" is an awesome line.

"You are in command now, Admiral Piett."

God, that whole scene is awesome. Vader being a badass, "You have failed me for the last time", Piett's nervous sideways glances at his predecessor.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:38 AM on November 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, and probably my favourite little touch in this film - as the Star Destroyers blast their way through the asteroid field, an asteroid hits and destroys the bridge of one of the ships. Cut to the Executor's bridge where Vader is talking to the captains' holograms, and you see one of them silently flinch and scream and the signal cuts out.

My favorite part of not just Empire but all the movies is this one perfect line, perfectly delivered by Jones, "The Force is with you young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet."

Yes yes yes yes. And the lighting in the carbon-freezing chamber is incredible.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:56 AM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just looked at the YouTube clip ob1quixote posted and realized that R2D2 and Darth Vader never see each other for the whole original trilogy.

The only chance would have come during the Battle of Yavin and that relies on R2 looking backwards and seeing Vader before he gets fried by a blast from a TIE fighter. (I don't think Vader was on his tail at that point.)

Yes yes yes yes. And the lighting in the carbon-freezing chamber is incredible.

Almost every scene in the chamber is incredible, but then the silhouettes of Vader and Luke, that's mind exploding.

Just consider Luke's travel to that chamber. He's walking through a mostly empty city, so imagine walking down streets without people in the middle of the day, and catches a glimpse of Leia, who screams, "It's a trap!" (well before you, Adm. Ackbar!) and then his path takes on these slightly weird variations as he has to pass through a circular tube and so on, until he ends up in the chamber. He goes from the familiar to the unknown, kind of entering one more cave, like on Dagobah, to face Vader once again.

Speaking of Dagobah and caves, it seems as if Yoda's teachings imply that a lightsaber is not intrinsic to a Jedi. In our next film, Vader confirms that building one's lightsaber demonstrates a Jedi's training is complete, but...the Darkside Cave implies that the Force is ultimately what makes a Jedi. It is one's ally and it is all one needs when facing one's greatest fear. One thing that has always stood out to me about the cave scene is Vader doesn't ignite his lightsaber until Luke does. What would have happened if Luke hadn't turned his lightsaber on?
posted by Atreides at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Two things that really strike me about this movie:

1. Luke spends a lot of time upside-down in this, no matter his location. Hoth, Dagobah, Bespin. One could say his world gets turned upside-down, perhaps?

2. (nearly) Everybody loses: Leia loses Han, Luke loses his hand, Yoda and Obi-Wan lose their apprentice, Vader loses Luke, Lando loses his city. Nobody gets what they want, except Boba Fett. Which always struck me as a pretty remarkable feat of storytelling.

Finally, and this has been mentioned, but that battle between Luke and Vader. To me, that's the barometer for what is and is not Star Wars.
posted by rocketman at 7:59 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


One thing that has always stood out to me about the cave scene is Vader doesn't ignite his lightsaber until Luke does. What would have happened if Luke hadn't turned his lightsaber on?

I mean, spoiler warning and all, but that's basically the thrust of the finale of RotJ, isn't it?

The mistake Luke makes in ESB (both in the cave, and in real life) is that he sees starting a fight as the only option when confronting Vader. In RotJ, he repeats that mistake, allowing himself to be taunted by the Emperor into fighting Vader -- and during that fight, he's not only winning, but also the closest he ever gets to turning to the dark side. It is in that moment that he realizes the path he is going down (and seems to remember Yoda's statement that a Jedi's powers should be used for defense, not offense), and he refuses to keep fighting.

That's the thing that ultimately saves him (and "saves" Vader, though with the prequels added in it's a lot harder to swallow a Vader redemption): letting go of his anger and hate.

What's in the cave, Yoda? "Only what you take with you", indeed.
posted by tocts at 8:08 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


One thing that has always stood out to me about the cave scene is Vader doesn't ignite his lightsaber until Luke does. What would have happened if Luke hadn't turned his lightsaber on?

Luke is also the first to ignite his lightsaber on Bespin; Vader is still - outside of his opening line, he doesn't move until Luke turns on the lightsaber and assumes as fighting stance. Again, what would have happened if Luke doesn't do that?

it seems as if Yoda's teachings imply that a lightsaber is not intrinsic to a Jedi. In our next film, Vader confirms that building one's lightsaber demonstrates a Jedi's training is complete

Yoda - his size, his teachings, all give the impression that alliance with the Force is what matters. He is not our idea of a Jedi Master who has trained Jedi Knights for 800 years; our impression of the Jedi gets changed away from a militaristic order by Yoda. "Wars not make one great." He never discusses the lightsaber with Luke, never shows him how to use it. Similarly, the Emperor in the next film seems dismissive of lightsabers, and then shows that he doesn't need one. It becomes about dueling philosophical stances - use the Force to defend, to help; or use the Force to dominate and control; it isn't about the weapons. And note that in RotJ at his moment of triumph over Vader, Luke casts his lightsaber aside as he rejects the Emperor. "You've failed your Highness. I am a Jedi"

The prequels, on the other hand, fetishize the lightsabers beyond all reason. Yoda has one, the Emperor has one, and Count Dooku (and I love Christopher Lee, but even he can't make this line work "It is obvious that this contest cannot be decided by our knowledge of the Force, but by our skills with a lightsaber.") My worry is that the next movie is going to have a similar problem, given that there seems to be a focus on Anakin's/Luke's old lightsaber.
posted by nubs at 8:15 AM on November 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


My worry is that the next movie is going to have a similar problem, given that there seems to be a focus on Anakin's/Luke's old lightsaber.

Incidentally, and not to stray off topic here too much, but from the glimpses we've seen, it seems like the next movie actually downgrades the lightsaber and at the same time, highlights the fetishization of it in culture and in the Prequels. One particular lightsaber has an obvious importance (incidentally, the very first one we ever saw in A New Hope!), but at the same time, we see the common stormtrooper equipped to render the lightsaber from special slice-o-matic into just another weapon on the battlefield.

1. Luke spends a lot of time upside-down in this, no matter his location. Hoth, Dagobah, Bespin. One could say his world gets turned upside-down, perhaps?

Gosh, I hadn't really ever thought about it, but that's dead on. Every time he's upside down, he's also asked in one way or another to rely upon the Force. On Hoth, he uses it bring his lightsaber to him; on Dagobah, he's being asked to train in the Force (levitating objects), and on Bespin, he basically uses it as a means to reach out to Leia.

More than simply having his world turned upside down, his embracing of the Force is requiring him to upend his views and perspectives on the Force. It's not long after his upside down time on Dagobah that he's asked to lift his X-wing out of the muck (in fact, it sinking is why he loses his concentration). The fact that he fails implies he hasn't learned his lesson yet - he hasn't overcome the mindset of it being impossible. Which might be why he ends up upside down one more time.
posted by Atreides at 9:00 AM on November 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


A friend once pointed out that if you turn around the image of Luke hanging upside-down on that antenna at the bottom of Bespin, it looks like he's crucified on a cross.
posted by octothorpe at 9:33 AM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


What would have happened if Luke hadn't turned his lightsaber on?

Vader turns his lightsaber on. Make no mistake, a fight was going to happen, because Vader wanted to see what Luke was capable of us.

Otherwise, he just uses the Force to push like into the freezing unit and holds him there until he's frozen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:39 AM on November 23, 2015


Make no mistake, a fight was going to happen, because Vader wanted to see what Luke was capable of us.

A fight, yes. But what kind of fight? Vader demonstrates that he can handle Luke with or without saber; for Vader this is a contest about Luke's mental state - breaking him down for being turned to the Dark Side. I expect Vader was waiting to see what weapons Luke came to the fight with, prepared to respond in kind.

As mentioned above, part of what happens in this film is Luke (and by extension, the audience) having their perceptions challenged. Luke views the Force as a means to becoming a great warrior; Yoda challenges that as well as Luke's perception of what is possible. The duel carries that idea forward - Vader shows Luke that a fight between Force users is about more than just light sabers, and then again upends Luke's world view by the reveal of their relationship. The fight, however, could have taken on a different form and still achieved the same goal.
posted by nubs at 10:12 AM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fight, however, could have taken on a different form and still achieved the same goal.

It could even have still been a lightsaber duel, but nonetheless a very different one. By being the first to draw, Luke did exactly what Vader wanted him to, and more or less ceded control of the fight. That Vader beat him was more or less a given, at that point -- and I would argue that in doing that, Luke fails in exactly the way Yoda believed he would, in his warning to Luke to not leave Dagobah. Luke couldn't take on Vader in the way Yoda knew he would try to. The only reason the story doesn't end there is that Vader isn't actually trying to kill him, and Luke chooses to risk death to escape.

Luke makes the same mistake in RotJ, though in that case it's a little more complicated. The person whose plan he's playing into then is actually the Emperor's, not Vader's, and so while it might look like his approach was proving successful, it was anything but. He was winning the fight against Vader, and losing the fight for his soul, until the pivotal moment when he stops playing the Emperor's game.
posted by tocts at 10:18 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was just watching this with my dad yesterday and making fun of the fact that Luke is attacked not once but twice by creatures right in front of him (Sand Person in SW and wampa in ESB) and then realized Yoda explicitly calls him out on this when he says he's too focused on the horizon and not on where he is.
posted by town of cats at 10:28 AM on November 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


A fight, yes. But what kind of fight? Vader demonstrates that he can handle Luke with or without saber; for Vader this is a contest about Luke's mental state - breaking him down for being turned to the Dark Side. I expect Vader was waiting to see what weapons Luke came to the fight with, prepared to respond in kind.

This is definitely what happens near the end when Vader simply backs off and hurls pieces of debris and metal at a worn down and ragged Luke. Luke's faith is almost entirely in his lightsaber as a means of defense, but he gets pummeled because it's simply not enough.

I was just watching this with my dad yesterday and making fun of the fact that Luke is attacked not once but twice by creatures right in front of him (Sand Person in SW and wampa in ESB) and then realized Yoda explicitly calls him out on this when he says he's too focused on the horizon and not on where he is.

That's an awesome revelation.

A friend once pointed out that if you turn around the image of Luke hanging upside-down on that antenna at the bottom of Bespin, it looks like he's crucified on a cross.

Guess who also denied their father before dying on the cross? Heh.
posted by Atreides at 11:08 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This movie set up expectations for the third film that may have been impossible to meet. I mean, I can easily imagine a better version of ROTJ than the one we got, but I've never been able to image one that really pays off what the first and second films promised. Empire is creating loose ends left and right: it doesn't have to tie anything up. That "Star Wars" feeling comes from constant expansion, from the sense that all this mind-boggling stuff on the screen isn't the half of it, that just outside the frame are worlds within worlds.

I can't watch Empire without being frustrated that it's just setting me up to be massively disappointed, even while getting sucked into its impessive machinations.
posted by rikschell at 1:11 PM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, I can easily imagine a better version of ROTJ than the one we got, but I've never been able to image one that really pays off what the first and second films promised.

I feel like a good start would be that they don't get Han back from Jabba. Luke is still in over his head - I just survived Vader, I can take this giant slug! - and the plan fails with barely a shot fired as Jabba just has them outclassed on every level. They have to leave Han there in carbonite. Luke goes into the final confrontation with Vader not thinking it's his destiny and he's hot shit who can turn dad around, but scared half to death after two huge failures and only going because he's the only one who can. Lando gets an actual story for the rest of the film trying to atone. Chewie and Leia are angry and reckless after losing Han and that's what nearly blows the mission to get the shield down in time.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:32 PM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ooh and Vader does a face turn and defeats the Emperor but can't save Luke, and ends the movie recreating Kenobi's exile, living under the radar in some backwater to find and train the next generation of Jedi to not repeat his mistakes.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:37 PM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Go one better and just don't have a second Death Star at all.
posted by wabbittwax at 8:45 PM on November 23, 2015


No way. There should be two Death Stars!
posted by chrchr at 8:58 PM on November 23, 2015


Yeah, rikschell, just finished my rewatch and the conclusion was pretty much "this movie was writing checks no single sequel could cash".

FOUR Death Stars. And maybe if they all linked up they could, like, disintegrate an actual star or something
posted by town of cats at 11:45 PM on November 23, 2015


"this movie was writing checks no single sequel could cash".

I hadn't thought about it this way before, but that's another way it stays true to its movie-serial-inspired roots. Bring up as many things as possible! Leave a lot of loose ends around in case you need to write something back in later! Make some off-hand references because that's easier than trying to keep up a strict canon or maintain continuity!

That sense of expansiveness, of momentum, of things happening before and to the side of the action, is what makes the original trilogy sing for me, and why ESB is my favorite of the three. My ideal ROTJ would be one that -- among other things -- doesn't end neatly. Maybe they blow up the death star, but the Imperial Fleet actually wins the space battle and our heroes flee into the dark, starry night instead of celebrating. Maybe it goes exactly as it does, but instead of ending on a capstone celebration it ends with Luke founding a school, or striking out in search of ancient old Jedi writing. Or -- anything that gives a sense of a continuing story, even if it was one that changed in tone, our heroes having passed this test and moved on to another.
posted by cjelli at 6:45 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe it goes exactly as it does, but instead of ending on a capstone celebration it ends with Luke founding a school, or striking out in search of ancient old Jedi writing.

Or maybe it ends with Luke having turned to the dark side to defeat the emperor and save his sister.
posted by rocketman at 6:55 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Perhaps a bit less Ewok party, and a bit more:
But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:54 AM on November 24, 2015


God, that whole scene is awesome.

Watching that scene again and it reminded me of this alternative version.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:11 PM on November 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just rewatched this last night.

-Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are good actors; Han and Leia are bad actors. And just as it was courageous for Hamill to ugly-cry when faced with Luke's true parentage, it's courageous for Ford and Fisher to spend so much of this movie being shouty and juvenile and unable to break the pattern of the first five minutes of their relationship, until shit gets real and both performances suddenly become quiet and naturalistic and adult.

-"I know" is just the best line, seriously. It's smug and cocky and all that, but Ford plays it as if he's saying "I love you, too," which is brilliant. They don't have time for a conversation. Leia already knows Han loves her. What she means by that "I love you" is "I've loved you all along and now I'm sorry I lied to us both about it," and what he means by "I know" is "We're cool, you never lied to me."

-If Han and Leia were in lesser hands, they'd be intolerable to watch. "Nerf herder," Han's "no means yes" attitude, Leia futilely telling him to let go of her. It would be Attack of the Clones; the relationship develops along the same lines, and that's probably exactly what Lucas was thinking when he scripted Anakin and Padmé. Instead Ford and Fisher take their characters from the broadness of episode IV to an honest and sincere romance, while still maintaining their mythic quality, and I really do think most of the credit goes to them. (Part of it is that, even though the relationship looks like it's all about Han convincing Leia to come around to him, Han has to change too -- to realize that he loves Leia whether or not he can goad her into jumping in first.)

-Lando does a lot of story-work for a character whose appearance is so brief. He has his own arc, to start with, and he's integral to Han's -- Han realizes he's committed to the rebellion, and to Leia, when he sees how different he's become from his friend. Lando is what Han was three years ago: mercenary, apolitical, self-absorbed. And in turn, part of Lando's recognition that he can't stand aside is seeing how much Han has changed.

-Vader is just incredible in this film, and partly because his portrayal uses comedy tropes without being comedic -- the slapstick of the Imperial officers' deaths, the final punchline that he doesn't kill Piett (after a perfect rule-of-three setup). Vader is humorless, but that doesn't make him funny, as it normally would. Instead he's a sort of joy black hole, almost visibly sucking the happiness out of everyone around him.

-I like how Empire expands on the portrayal of the Imperial navy. These are not good men, but they're loyal to each other, and Vader's fanatic drive seems fundamentally alien to them.

-It's not a great film for 3PO, who has to hold the idiot ball throughout its second half -- wandering off into that corridor seems wildly out of character for him. But I do love his expository role in the carbonite scene. He translates what's going on for the littler kids, essentially, but for adult viewers his monologue just reads as a joke, 3PO always being a moment behind. It's hard for a writer to pull off that kind of double duty.

-I love the idea that droids, but not Han and Chewie, can talk to the Falcon. There's an actual AI in there somewhere, programmed five owners and six names ago, and nobody listens to it because nobody can.
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:45 AM on November 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's probably not canon, but some part of vague memory is telling me the Falcon has 3 droid AIs that bicker amongst themselves.
posted by Fleebnork at 2:36 PM on November 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


some part of vague memory is telling me the Falcon has 3 droid AIs that bicker amongst themselves

Slashfic comin' right up.
posted by rhizome at 2:58 PM on November 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I forgot to give props to Lobot. I'd much rather see a movie all about Lobot than the upcoming one about Boba Fett.
posted by rikschell at 7:13 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The recent Lando Calrissian series by Marvel featured Lobot as one of the primary characters. It's set before Lando became the administrator for Cloud City.
posted by Atreides at 7:23 AM on December 1, 2015


That is, if you want more Lobot!
posted by Atreides at 7:23 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Boba Fett AND Lobot.

He's a bald half-cyborg with a degree in municipal management! He's a heartless bounty hunter with OCD issues! Together, they solve crimes!
posted by Chrysostom at 7:35 AM on December 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'd much rather see a movie all about Lobot than the upcoming one about Boba Fett.

MUCH AGREEMENT.
posted by thesmallmachine at 9:12 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


As much as I adore this movie, one of Yoda's lines really rankles me in a way it didn't when I was a kid. "Do or do not, there is no try." Either achieve success, or all the effort you put it in doesn't even count. That is so massively screwed up, and I've seen it on bumper stickers and stuff. So to hell with you, unfinished symphonies!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:00 PM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I honestly always took that as not so much "don't ever fail", but instead as "commit to doing the thing, don't talk yourself into failure by telling yourself you're just going to try". Given that Luke's big problem in Yoda's mind is not believing in himself, I think the line works perfectly well (and doesn't have to be an indictment of imperfection).
posted by tocts at 3:32 PM on December 1, 2015 [9 favorites]






I wonder how soon the first time(s) "ESB IS THE BEST ONE" emerged after ROTJ.
posted by rhizome at 12:17 PM on December 10, 2015


That's a great question. I'm sure it was around much earlier than this, but I personally remember hearing it for the first time around the mid-90s, and it was delivered as though this opinion was a bit contrarian, even a bit shocking. I even remember the argument the guy made at the time, that "best" and "favorite" were two different things, and that Empire was objectively (ha!) the best film of the series.

Personally, while I agree that Empire is certainly the best made film of the trilogy, I don't think it's better movie than Star Wars. There's too much wheel-spinning in the first, uh, 3/4s of the film. It's very watchable, of course, but it's also slow, aimless, and occasionally even pleasantly dull until about the 80 minute mark. For me, the film only picks up once we get to Bespin.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sure Clerks (released 1994) had something to do with it. It notably had a few scenes discussing Star Wars, and explicitly made the argument (later confirmed to be Kevin Smith's personal belief) for ESB being the better movie. Oddly, though, it's in the context of a ESB vs. ROTJ debate, which would almost be unthinkable now. (A more interesting question might be, when did everyone start to collectively agree that Ewoks ruined ROTJ?)

As a side note:

Clerks is an interesting little time capsule, in this regard; it came out at a time when interest in Star Wars (as a franchise) was at its lowest point. The original trilogy was years behind it, and the prequels were at best a hopeful dream of the hardcore nerd fanbase that still cared about this thing that most of pop culture had left behind. So, to even include that kind of Star Wars banter (which now would be de rigeur even in non-nerdy shows or movies) explicitly positioned Clerks (and the people behind it) with the not-yet-post-tech-boom-arisen nerd underclass.

It's easy to lose sight of that, 20 years later, but it actually was a somewhat groundbreaking level of nerd pop culture introspection at the time.
posted by tocts at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wonder if the ewoks issue arose because you had a generation of kids who had initially loved the ewoks grow out of that adoration, or perhaps, even simply picked up the tag line because they felt appreciating the ewoks was now a no-no. That generation would definitely be the one with the earliest Internet presence.

I was kind of part of that group, where I dwelled in the EU in its various forms, and spent way too much time online talking to other similar minded folk. In that time, I remember consensus wise, most people argued about enjoying ESB and RTOJ best, but for the life of me, I don't really recall the arguments for either.
posted by Atreides at 2:39 PM on December 16, 2015


There's not a lot I can say about this movie that hasn't been said. It's my favorite of the trilogy for a myriad of reasons. It has beautiful compositions, amazing effects, thrilling battles, the most quotable lines, yes. But most of it all, it has characterization... all these characters get fleshed out and really feel like they have lives off the screen. Think of all the little moments in this movie:

* The scene where Han and Chewie are trying to repair the Falcon on Hoth.
* Luke scratching Chewie behind the ears as he says goodbye and getting a big bearhug in return.
* The Falcon briefly whirring to life before conking out, only to be revived with a well-placed thunk. (Han didn't even bat an eye when this happened because this has happened before. He's used to it.)
* The scene with Han crawling around in Falcon's machinery. "I don't know how we're going to get out of this one." [toolbox falls into workpit]
* The Star Destroyer captain recoiling in horror as his transmission abruptly flickers out.
* Han gesturing towards Threepio and Leia wordlessly flipping his power switch. This has happened before, too.
* "And no disintegrations."
* The disappointed sigh Yoda gives after Luke goes into the cave.
* I could go on, but you get the idea.

And this movie shows, it doesn't tell. It trusts the audience. And the fact that George Lucas replaced Vader's curt, seething "Bring my shuttle" with "Alert my star destroyer to prepare for my arrival" perfectly illustrates how he has forgotten how to do that, if he ever knew.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:42 PM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


The scene with Han crawling around in Falcon's machinery. "I don't know how we're going to get out of this one." [toolbox falls into workpit]

And his reaction that immediately follows: "That wasn't a laser blast, somethin' hit us!"

He knows his ship so well he can tell the difference between a laser blast and a physical impact. That's pure love.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Watching this now (the despecialized edition) and impressed once again at how incredibly well the Battle of Hoth is directed and edited. You can always tell where everyone is in relation to everyone else and the integration between the live action and the stop-action models is just amazing for 1980.
posted by octothorpe at 12:18 PM on January 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Empire Yoda is so much more fun than Prequel Yoda.
posted by octothorpe at 12:33 PM on January 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


When stuck in six hours of bad movie, be as fun, you will not, hmm?
posted by entropicamericana at 4:32 PM on January 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Watching this now (the despecialized edition) and impressed once again at how incredibly well the Battle of Hoth is directed and edited. You can always tell where everyone is in relation to everyone else and the integration between the live action and the stop-action models is just amazing for 1980.

I wonder if this is a byproduct of the whole thing being physical models, with a painted backdrop against which the Rebels are coming from the left while the AT-ATs come from the right?

Later in the movie, they aren't restricted by ground or a backdrop, so the asteroid chase is much more dynamic, and moves through three dimensions.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:55 AM on January 27, 2016


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