I had a few hours to kill on a Paris-Stockholm flight on Wednesday so I decided to watch what was probably the best of the thus-far 6 Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back. I remember very clearly standing in line outside in front of the (now defunct – converted into a Best Buy) Dadeland theater (only had one huge screen at the time having been converted from a drive-in a few years earlier at which I had seen the original Star Wars) and sitting on folding chairs like right in front of the screen blowing away my little 11-year old brain. Below is a collection of observations while I was watching this classic.
20 min before seeing Vader The movie starts out of course on Hoth at the Rebel Base. What I found fascinating is that we don’t cut to Vader on his fucking awesome looking Imperial Starship (apparently, there was some budget left over after the ill-fated Death Star) until 20 minutes into the film. And from that point, it is solid action until about minute 36 or so by my watch. It was a truly excellent start to the film in terms of building suspense. The reunion of the principal good guys: R2D2, C3PO, Luke, Leia, Chewy, and the hilarious Han was fantastic. I loved that incestuous in-your-face kiss that Leia gives Luke and the traded insults “fur ball”, “nerf farmer”, and of course “scoundrel”. All so classic and I was surprised to be honest that it aged as well as it did.
Transports did they get away? Now back to the action, the Imperial Walkers were freaking cool but it was hard to figure out how many there were. First we only see three, sometimes there seems to be a fourth or fifth, but it is a bit unclear. In the scene where Luke takes down the Walker with the grenade, there is one in the background that doesn’t move or fire its laser cannons during the entire sequence. Despite that, the battle scene was kick ass and immemorable with the harpoon idea and all. But, here’s the thing: we see one transport escape and we hear that they can’t protect all of the ships but then we are focused on the Walkers and on Vader’s capture of the base and we never actually learn if the Rebels lost some of those transports or not. We see a little later a Battlestar Galactica-style ragtag fleet with a transport or two, but they kind of leave us hanging as to how successful the escape from Vader’s minions was.
Shortest career: imperial admiral Speaking of Vader, wasn’t it crazy how he was going through admirals like Kleenex? When Admiral #2 (not worth learning their names because they only get one or two scenes before Vader chokes them) realizes that he is doomed, the looks on the guys around him were hilarious. I think that there are three that get eliminated during the film. Definitely a poor career choice. Kind of like a drummer for Spinal Tap I suppose. But is there anything more awesome than Vader in this film? He is dead fucking serious and deadly serious all the time. From that killer meditation chamber (with teeth!) to that slick solo bridge with the staff dug out into the floor on either side of the runway…a truly amazing and impressive character and set.
Yoda! The first time we see Yoda on Degobah, it is absolutely brilliant. OK, so he looks like he was created by Jim Harrison as a radiated Kermit or something especially in how he moves, but the comic scene of his rummaging through Luke’s stuff and fighting with R2 over some gross-looking sausage thing had me laughing out loud on the plane (much to the annoyance of my fellow flyers), and it was priceless. OK, so Yoda can get a little too much like a Jewish or Catholic mom with all the guilt trips and all, but still, he is an eternal character with one of the most memorable lines of my youth: “Try not, do or do not. There is no try”. Honestly, it became (and remains) a mantra for me even today.
Oooh, the first kiss and the reverse power coupling Back on the Millenium Falcon, the love is heating up between Han and Leia as they fight the empire while hanging out on space monsters camouflaged as asteroids (uh, sorry but how is there a gravitational field INSIDE the monster’s mount on an asteroid? hmmm). and who exactly is driving the Falcon under attack from a squadron of (poorly aiming) Tie-Fighters as they try to repair the Hyperdrive with the broken reverse power coupling. I loved all those scenes despite the two or three idiosyncrasies like the flimsy oxygen masks and the sort of corny “Mynocks”.
Son of skywalker… There was also those two enigmatic statements. The first was when the emperor’s hologram warned Vader about “the Son of Skywalker”. How, since Vader is (or was) Anakin Skywalker, are we talking about Luke here or are is Luke going to get someone pregnant in the JJ Abrams sequel? Also, the ghost of Obi-Wan says (or was it Yoda) “The boy (Luke) is our last hope” and Yoda (or was it Obi-Wan) says, “No, there is another”. Now, are they talking about Leia there or again about a future offspring of Luke? In any case, it was a great way of leaving a few doors open to allow the story to take on some different directions.
“Can you trust him?” “No”. Lando turns out to be a scoundrel but who makes up for his errors a bit late for the deep frozen Han. The whole end sequence was interesting. I love the character of Boba Fett. I must not be alone because I saw a rumor on Facebook yesterday that they may do a single Boba movie before re-igniting the mainline Star Wars story at book 10. That would like SO rock! But that being said, was the rear-view mirror on the Falcon busted because Boba’s ship looked pretty damn obvious as it followed them out of the garbage trail. That appartement of Lando was freaking awesome wasn’t it? There was also the kiss goodbye and the awesome exchange “I love you” (Leia) “I know” (Han). The deep frozen Solo looks a little like a microwave dinner but it is still chilling. (oops!) And what exactly was Lando doing as he leaned over the chamber just in front of Vader? Lastly, is Luke really stupid? How could he NOT have picked up Vader’s imperial cruiser and walked right into the trap? Or if he was being cocky and proud, wouldn’t he have been more susceptible to Vader’s pleas of “Luke, I’m your father!”?
OK, so there is a little nitpicking up there, but this is still in my top three or top five favorite movies of all time. It really boils down to a film about friendship and life’s learning path. Despite its many technical flaws, it succeeds because there is a very real human aspect to all the characters and, of course, because in this one unique instance in an upbeat scifi flick, the good guys are actually losing at the end.
- Inside the Battle of Hoth (kennykellogg.com)
- First “Star Wars” Spinoffs Will Focus on Boba Fett, Young Han Solo (spinoff.comicbookresources.com)
- Inside the Battle of Hoth: The Empire Strikes Out (wired.com)