Empire Strikes Back is one of my all-time favorite movies (if not
number one), and even with its special effects shortcomings, it still
holds up today just as well as it did in 1980, and it's easily the best
Star Wars movie. I could see someone making a misguided case for the
first one being the best, but they'd be wrong. I can at least understand
where they're coming from though, because the first one is a very close
second best. But for every one of you who thinks that Return of the
Jedi is the better film, I will punch a baby Ewok in the face. I'm not
saying Jedi is bad by any stretch, but it ain't no Empire.
Now, I could focus on huge things that everybody already knows about as
for why it's the best movie in the series, things like how it has the best
land battle in all the movies, or how it also has the best lightsaber duel
(yes, the choreography was better in the prequels, but since I didn't care
who lived or died or got their hand cut off, no amount of prancing around
is going to make those duels better than Empire's). And don't even
mention Boba Fucking Fett to me, because he stopped being cool the second
he was accidentally killed by a blind man with a stick. But I'm not
going to list those obvious things, because everybody already knows about
all that shit. Also, I'm not going to bother with the little technical
flaws and goofs like the potato in the asteroid field, Luke bouncing on
the trampoline in Cloud City, or C-3PO's head almost knocking a light off
the Millennium Falcon. You can look those up on any number of other
websites. Instead, I'm going to focus on the little moments and details
that have really stood out for me after years of repeated viewings. They
may not be the most exciting parts of the movie, but these are the little
things that make me smile every time I see them.
Yoda has one
perfect moment where he seemingly snaps into a brief psychotic episode and
gets really creepy all of a sudden. After Yoda tells Luke about all the
shit he's going to have to face down the road as a Jedi, Luke responds by
puffing out his chest and proudly declaring "I'm not afraid!" At
this point, Yoda's eyes narrow slightly, he leans forward, and like some
previously-thought-harmless little old lady who suddenly pulls out a
blood-stained axe, he says in a very quiet, almost delighted voice "Goooood.
You will be. You will be." And then the scene changes! Presumably
seconds before his head starts spinning around and he sprays green vomit
all over the place. And as a child, all I could think was, "Holy shit!
Is Yoda a bad guy? Is he insane? Is he going to kill Luke?" Yoda never
does anything else remotely like that throughout the rest of the series,
so this really stands out as a bizarre "what the fuck!?" moment.
Luke's 'Upset' Face!
City, Luke has plenty of reason to be kind of upset. His duel with Vader
didn't quite go so well as he just got his ass handed to him, his friends
have just been captured, he's just had his hand cut off, he's cornered out
on a narrow platform hanging above a yawning abyss, and then Vader drops
the "I'm your daddy" bomb on him. All of these things would add up
to a pretty bad day, and they all happen to Luke in a matter of minutes,
so he's understandably a bit traumatized by it all. Which causes him to
make the BEST FACE EVER. Luke looks like some kind of horrible
botox disaster as he breaks down and totally freaks out about all the shit
that's just happened to him. No one can replicate that face. It's
dangerous to even try.
scene where the Imperials are chasing the Millennium Falcon through the
asteroid field, Darth Vader is talking to a few Star Destroyer captains
over a holographic comm signal. We see one Star Destroyer get hit in the
bridge by an asteroid, and the next moment one of the three captains
raises his arms up, like he's going to block the asteroid or bat it away,
and then he disappears, but Vader is so cold he doesn't even seem to
notice or care. For years I only had the pan-and-scan version of the movie
taped off of television, so I never saw this guy perish off to the side,
but now I can see him die in the glory of widescreen!
On Hoth, the Rebels have
subjugated a race of bipedal space goats to carry their asses around
(though why you would choose to ride something that poops when you have
plenty of speeders and other vehicles available is beyond me. I know they
were having trouble "adapting them to the cold" but they obviously got
SOME of them working! Imagine the Hoth battle with AT-ATs vs. Tauntauns if
they hadn't...). I always liked the tauntauns because not only did they
look kind of cool, but they made the best noises. As a child, I was quite
surprised to discover that among their normal grunts and bleets, they make
one particular "robble-robble!" noise that sounds remarkably like
the Hamburglar from all those old McDonalds commercials, who they're too
P.C. to actually show anymore. I've heard other people make that
connection too, so I know I'm not the only one hearing it.
Gets Things Done!
mysterious aide Lobot on Cloud City never talks, and he wears these
strange electronic earmuffs that don't seem like they'd do much to protect
against the cold of the high atmospheric altitudes he spends most of his
time in. But this guy gets things done! He never need say a word, he just
points and the guys on Cloud City know exactly what to do. Lobot never
smiles—he doesn't have TIME to smile! And he's omnipresent—he's in
practically every scene on Cloud City. Just when you think he's not there,
you'll spot him hiding behind the potted plant in the corner. Such is the
way of Lobot.
Tech Gets Uncomfortable!
kills Admiral Ozzel for being a fuckup and alerting the Rebels to the
Imperial presence by coming out of hyperspace too close to Hoth, and he
doesn't even give him the common courtesy of killing him in person.
Rather, Vader kills him over the comm view screen and you see him gasping
and choking to death, even though he's god knows how far away on that
insanely huge Super Star Destroyer. My favorite part of this scene is the
technician in the background who glances nervously back toward the
monitor, where he can no doubt see an angry Darth Vader holding his hand
up and pinching the air. I can't help but wonder what must be going
through that technician's head. I mean, the guy's probably never even
gotten close enough to have /seen/ Darth Vader before, and now all of a
sudden he's on the monitor behind him choking this admiral to death. He's
probably pissing himself hoping to god that Vader doesn't notice the
growing stain in his trousers.
Dinner With Vader!
finds out that Lando Calrissian has betrayed him when, thinking they're
going to have dinner and catch up on old times, Lando opens the door to
the dining room, only to reveal Darth Vader and a battalion of Imperial
Stormtroopers waiting for them. Han fires a couple shots at Vader, but
then Vader force pulls the gun out of his hand, sits back down, and says "We
would be honored if you would join us". As a kid, I couldn't help but
imagine that they actually sat down and shared an extremely awkward meal
together, with Han Solo begrudgingly asking Vader to pass the potatoes,
and with a wave of Vader's hand, the potatoes mystically float over next
to Han's plate. I mean, there's food already set on the table and
everything. There's just such a big unknown gap in the story here, where
we don't know what the hell happened between our heroes and
villains from the time that door closed to the next time we seen Han as a
Don't Need Their Scum!
exchange between Admiral Piett and a deck officer on Vader's Star
Destroyer that I find really amusing. After Vader has invited a motley
bunch of bounty hunters on board the ship, Admiral Piett leans over to
some random ensign or whomever and declares, "Bounty hunters! We don't
need their scum!" and Ensign Nobody just shoots back the most neutral
response he possibly can, by just replying with "Yes, sir" and then
turning back to his work. This is pretty much as close as he can come to
saying "fuck off" or "I really don't give a shit" without
being outright insubordinate, but it's obvious the guy is really
uncomfortable with the Admiral bitching and complaining about Vader's bad
ideas while Darth Vader is stomping around just a few feet above them.
It's just such a noncommittal response that it makes me smile every time I
view the scene.
Ugnaughts Play Keep Away!
Wars film introduces a different midget race (it's a rule or something),
and Empire's race were the ugly little pig guys on Cloud City
called Ugnaughts. There's a great scene after C-3PO has been blown to
pieces and Chewbacca has been charged with putting him back together. He
finally finds where all the parts have gotten to just before he's about to
be smelted down into liquid, but the Ugnaughts in the room play a cruel
game of keep away with Threepio's head, forcing Chewie to run around the
room in frustration chasing after his friend's most vital part. There's
just something funny about the idea of Chewbacca, who has been seen as
such an intimidating and strong figure up to this point, being picked on
by a bunch of midget space pig bullies.
"I'll See You in Hell!"
Solo learns that Luke hasn't come back in from his patrol on Hoth and he's
stuck outside in the freezing cold, Han tells an Echo Base officer that
he's going to go out to look for his friend. The officer warns him that
his tauntaun will freeze before he reaches the first marker, and Han
replies "Then I'll see you in Hell!" and kicks his tauntaun into first
gear. Mentioning such an Earth-specific concept like "Hell" seems really
out-of-place in a Star Wars movie (especially when no religion other than
the Force is ever mentioned), and it's always stuck out in my mind every
time he says it. But he says it in such a totally dickish way that it
never fails to make me grin, even though it does seem oddly out of place.
So there you
go. Hopefully I've pointed out a few things you may not have noticed
before, and now you have an excuse to go back and take a closer look at
this classic film. If you enjoyed this and would like to see me take on
the other Star Wars films (or just classic 80s movies in general), let me
know, and I'll see what I can do.