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Thoughts On The Empire Strikes Back
Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
He’s also Leia’s father, but he doesn’t know that yet.
In every movie after Star Wars, Vader gets another child: the man procreated like a super-religious white guy or super-famous black guy.
Vader hit that shit raw.
Anyway, Empire blah blah DARKEST SO DARK VERY DARK DARK DARK DARK blah blah.
People that think Empire is darker than Star Wars are moral monsters: nine fucking billion died on Alderaan, and another two million on the Death Star.
But Wuke got his widdle hand cut off.
An entire family smoldering on their porch: light kid’s fare; Han gets turned into a piece of art for a few months: DAAAAAARKEST ONE.
Open your damn eyes, people.
Empire is the only one of the three films to not open on Tatooine, instead choosing a different kind of completely impossible planet: ice!
Lots of stuff lives in deserts, including people: Luke’s home is just Tunisia.
People live in Tunisia.
Hoth is Finland, and not the sunny part; the thing about that location is that it can only exist if the rest of the planet it sits on isn’t like that because there is no food there – my point is that an entire planet made of ice doesn’t work, and even if it did, couldn’t support life big enough to be ridden. Hoth is dumb.
Not strategically: it’s a good place to hide, with air (although the asteroids have atmospheres in this universe) and water, but it makes no sense.
Sometimes along with the “darkest” bullshit, people will throw in a “smartest” about Empire, and do not believe that hooey: all of this movie is dumb as shit.
Don’t get me wrong: Empire makes perfect sense dramatically, narratively, thematically, symbolically, and cinematically (the film is masterfully edited, which is something I only noticed tonight) but if you think about anything that’s happening, your brain falls into your neck and someone has to heimlich it out.
It is for the best not to notice that Luke crash-lands twenty yards away from the person he’s looking for.
Although, in Luke’s defense: Obi-Wan was once again a dick with his instructions.
“Luke, you must go to the Dagobah system.”
“You don’t wanna be a bit more specific?”
“Any last name?”
“I hate you.”
Likewise, it is better not to ever think deeply at all about the precise timeline of this movie.
A thing happens.
This causes another thing to happen.
And so on until the credits: don’t worry about your bourgeoise “time.”
I hate to bring up the Prequels again, but Empire brings up a question that Star Wars didn’t: did George Lucas even watch this film when he was writing I, II, and III?
Because shit does not gibe, almost all of it to do with Yoda and the Force.
Lucas was credited with the story, but Leigh Brackett (an unbelievably prolific sci-fi writer) and Lawrence Kasdan (who was such a good writer, he convinced America that Kathleen Turner was hot) may or may not have written the script.
In this movie, the Force is something sincerely mystical and believable: it is Buddhism filtered through California and delivered by a frog-monster puppet.
Compare what Yoda says in the Prequels about fear to what he says in this film.
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
That’s from the Prequels and it’s dumb as shit; also, it’s backwards, at least according to Buddhism (which is what the Force is, kinda).
“…[A] Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.”
That’s from Empire and those words are just as good to live by as any other.
Fear is not privileged over any other negative aspect of our innate humanity (or whatever the hell Yoda is,) but grouped in with the rest of the demons all of us face down daily.
Empire Yoda isn’t saying to rid yourself of fear–an impossibility–but to make note of it, and carry on according to your principles.
Face your fear, and let it wash over you like a giant wave; and when it is gone, only you will remain.
(In addition to stealing from Flash Gordon and Kurosawa, Star Wars swiped a good deal from Dune. See: spice, desert planets, giant worm things.)
I was afraid to watch this movie, mostly for Yoda: it has been at least five or six years since I saw it.
Would the puppet hold up? Had I been ruined by CG, and now expected too much from my non-human characters? Could a grown-ass man still believe in Yoda?
Glassy eyes and all.
I did, however, notice a few of the tricks they used to sell the puppet as being far more mobile than he actually was.
When we first meet Yoda, he is perched up on one of Luke’s trunks on the right side of the screen in the master shot.
Then Yoda walks down what seems like stairs (being a puppet, Yoda is filmed from the waist up, as is traditional in the Puppet faith) and then we see him try to scamper up another one of Luke’s cases and even see him throw one of his little green legs up there; then a shot of Luke.
Now there is an entirely different Yoda puppet, one that was built specifically for this shot, on his knees rooting around in Luke’s stuff.
You didn’t see him climb up there, but your mind thinks you did.
Just seconds later is another clever movie ruse: when Artoo tries to grab the light back from Yoda, Yoda beats him with a stick.
This is another clue that the Force is Buddhism: as I have previously mentioned, Buddhist teachers still believe in beating the wrongness out of their students.
But watch again: Yoda reaches for his staff, and then there’s a quick and barely noticeable cut, and then Yoda whacks the droid a few time.
Yoda doesn’t actually have hands.
He has hand-shaped things, but they don’t do anything: he didn’t pick up his walking stick.
Your mind saw it, though.
With just two edits, a puppet has become a living character.
Movies are cool.
Vader is on a tear in Empire: two Force-choking murders, one torture, one de-handening.
Dark Lord of the Sith out there slaying fools.
He also has a new ship, which is not just a Star Destroyer, but a Super Star Destroyer; it is called the Executor.
Did they mean “executioner?”
Are you coming to fulfill the legal obligations of the deceased, Darth?
When Luke lands on Dagobah, he has more luggage than one of those rich people who used to take three-month European vacations; there are chests and trucks and all sorts of bullshit, and the question is: where in the X-Wing were all these things stored?
When Luke leaves Dagobah, Obi-Wan tells him that if he (Luke) goes to rescue Han and Leia and all, he (OW) cannot help him (Luke, again). Is this true, because of some sort of Force-ghost rules we’re not privy to, or is Obi-Wan just being a dick like always?
Han attaching the Falcon to the Destroyer and floating away with the garbage is clever, in a stupid way, but then Boba (who is a chump) puts the worst tail on them in the history of American cinema: he’s maybe a thousand yards behind them, and wouldn’t–of all times–Han and Chewie be looking in the rearview mirror?
Remember the things you weren’t supposed to think about when it came to Empire? How the Falcon got from one star system to another without hyperdrive in less than thousands and thousands of years? That’s probably number one on the list.
Another question not to ask is what the rear-facing pilot in the Snowspeeders does: sure, he shoots the harpoon gun, but–as I’ve asked–how much fucking harpooning are these people doing? None of the other films show the Rebellion engaged in harpoon-based activities. It’s almost as if the only sense it makes is visual.
Subtle touch: Vader’s entrance is always accompanied by his theme, except for in the cave on Dagobah; this is because that isn’t actually Vader.