Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars Watch: Star Wars Episode V -The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This is the holy mother of Star Wars movies, and it's always a funny one to watch, because I don't disagree, but it's a movie that doesn't make a lot of sense.  The Empire Strikes Back (1980) should be the measuring stick you're using when you start coming at me with plot holes in the new movie, because if you found a few there, this one is like the remains of a tattered sheet hanging on a laundry line after ten years in an Oklahoma back yard.

But I still love it.

Yes, it's beautifully, imaginatively shot, and the various worlds of the film are so fully conceived and explained so cleanly, it's a pleasure to have our heroes move from Hoth to Dagobah to an asteroid to Bespin.  The story moves at a good clip, but it forever leaves the impression that Luke became a Jedi after 2-5 days on Dagobah.  Otherwise the timeline with the Millennium Falcon makes no sense.  Were they pursued by a grumpy Darth Vader for a day?  A week?  A month?  10 years?  My assumption is that the events take place somewhere between a week and a month.  That's a long time to live inside a worm with C3P0 stifling your game.

But, heck, all that action on Hoth is pretty great, isn't it?  Even if it's maybe not entirely clear why Luke bails on a toasty ice-cave to run off into the snow to die, especially when he seems to have the upper hand on the Wampa.

The battle on Hoth is still one of the great moments in sci-fi/ fantasy cinema, and holds up astoundingly well.  Lucas didn't monkey too much with this scene, or, really much of anything in Empire.  It still feels refreshingly intact.

Watching the movie on this go-round, I was reminded of (a) how my Dad used to quote Yoda to me as indisputable wisdom, and (b) that I still take all of that to heart.  Everything from the "Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try" to "Luminous beings are we".  I wrote a lot about the movie and its impact and toys, but I didn't talk much about how the Jedi philosophy was used to get me off my ass a lot when I was a kid.

Well done, Admiral.

This movie also puts Leia front and center within the ranks of the Rebellion.  Luke and Han are important utility players a fine quarterback and receiver, but Leia is the coach and play-caller for the team.  She's getting troops organized and deployed, she's got her plans of attack and evacuation sorted and memorized and its just play calling (and it works!).  She also assumes command on Bespin once Han is put in deep freeze, Lando and Chewie falling in line.

Of course the love story has aged oddly, and I am unsure what the kids of 2015 see when they see Han's aggressive flirtation and Leia's melting frostiness.  Much like the Millennial's favorite seasonal bashing material, Baby It's Cold Outside, the context of gender relations and what was considered fun and sexy banter for one generation would now be considered sexual harassment.  I expect as the franchise ages, more things like this will pop up that we never considered problematic - just as the cast of 90% white males of Episode IV is no longer reflected in the new movie as diversification appears in far more roles, there's going to be some stuff that will forever stamp the movies as a product of their time.

but Leia-in-snowsuit is forever
I will also give Lucas some credit for the prequels.  Luke really does have a temper on him, and as a Skywalker trait, it's a bit watered down, certainly, from where Anakin goes - but it's there, and it makes Yoda's concern about training him all the more prescient.

It's also fun to realize what a big F-U Luke's decision to take out an AT-AT really is.  I mean, he could just run for it, but, no.  That AT-AT just shot him down and stomped on his (decidedly whiny) gunner.  So, hats off to Luke for not just letting that go.

Lando arrives entirely too late in this movie, but I'm still glad he's there.  If we get those proposed "Young Han Solo" movies, I kind of hope it's a Han/ Chewie/ Lando tri-fecta.

Anyway, I already wrote plenty about this movie, but it's also still everything I said it was in that prior post.


mcsteans said...

Luke taking out the AT-AT may be my favorite Luke moment of the entire series.

And I don't care if it makes me a bad feminist to say so, but everything Han-Leia owns this movie for me. They are fabulous.

Now I really want to watch Jedi. Maybe tonight? :)

The League said...

Whatever you want, your highness.