Friday, May 13, 2022

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

The fifth chronological Episode of the Star Wars franchise, second of the Original Trilogy, opens with the Rebel Alliance driven from their base on Yavin IV to the frozen planet of Hoth, with the Empire attempting to track them down, and Darth Vader particularly interested in Luke Skywalker, and given the iconic plot twist that’s been misquoted, imitated, and spoiled to death (which itself imitated a major plot twist in Frank Herbert’s Dune, played straighter in The Rise of Skywalker), it sort of brings to question why Obi-Wan, before his death, didn’t suggest that Luke not use his surname, although admittedly, Luke Skywalker is definitely a badass name.

The Empire succeeds in putting the Rebels on the run again in the battle on Hoth that follows, although it really seems they didn’t have the most intelligent designers when it came to its military technology, given the relative sluggishness of the Imperial Walkers across the snowy terrain, and there are other questionable plot decisions such as both sides of the war constantly forgetting that space is three-dimensional, with the Rebel Alliance facing the “problem” of getting past the Empire’s ships when they could have very easily just flown to another part of Hoth’s airspace and gotten away thence, given that we don’t see a whole lot of Imperial star destroyers above the planet.

The Force ghost of Ben tells Luke to find Yoda on Dagobah, mentioning that he was “the Jedi Master who instructed me,” which the prequel trilogy would contradict with Qui-Gon Jinn as Obi-Wan’s instructor then, and which the Legends timeline slightly rectified by noting that he trained under Yoda as a youngling before his apprenticeship to Qui-Gon, and the forthcoming series about Kenobi might fill in some of the holes the film series, as a whole, leaves. Luke does find Yoda on Dagobah and begins training, despite the diminutive Jedi’s insistence that training as part of the Order began at a young age.

There’s further a lack of indication as to how much time elapses during Luke’s training and Han Solo, together with Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Threepio, aboard the Millennium Falcon, being chased by the Empire, given the ship’s disabled Hyperspace drive. They do find their way to the planet of Bespin, where Han rendezvouses with his old friend Lando Calrissian, and conflicts arise that ultimately result in Han’s carbonite freezing and being taken to Jabba the Hutt by enigmatic bounty hunter Boba Fett, a fate Darth Vader wishes upon Luke to take him to Galactic Emperor Sheev Palpatine.

And I think that during Vader’s initial conversation with his Sith Master, where he’s told Luke is Anakin Skywalker’s son, replacing the holo of the monkey-faced actress with Ian McDiarmid was a cosmetic change for the better. Luke continues his training on Dagobah, and, when he receives instruction enough in the Force, senses his friends are in danger on Bespin. Yoda warns him about the “dangers” of breaking from his training to go help his friends, but given the remainder of the events in the Original Trilogy, Luke actually did better than bad by doing so, given the recruitment of Lando into the Rebellion.

John Williams’ score is also notable, beginning with the main theme during the opening crawl, which combines elements from Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and Tchaikovsky’s “Marche Slave.” Darth Vader’s theme further sounds like a sped-up version of Chopin’s funeral dirge mixed with the Mars Movement of Gustav Holst’s The Planets suite. Other notable music includes the theme of the Cloud City of Bespin, and the soundtrack as a whole is definitely memorable, with that at the end, fusing elements from themes throughout the film, led me to watch them from start to end.

Han serves as comic relief as well, given things like how he addresses Leia and terms Threepio “the professor,” Solo and the Princess forming something of a romantic relationship. Leia, though, somewhat sucks at insults, given her notable “scruffy-looking nerf herder” line, when just stopping her at “Why you stuck-up, half-witted…” would have sufficed. Regardless, it’s definitely an iconic film, just as much so as A New Hope, but certainly does have its issues, and despite many considering it infallible today, it actually got “average” reviews after its original release, and I can understand. The film has definitely aged very well, though, doesn’t scream “1980,” and is like its precursor a bucket-list movie.

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