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The Original Trilogy Strikes Back. Watching Empire Strikes Back for the First Time

Last time, I watched Star Wars: A New Hope and found an appreciation for the older movies that I didn’t know would be there, having only seen (and hated) the prequels.

I went into watching The Empire Strikes Back with slightly higher expectations, tempered by the fact that this was, after all, still Star Wars. Three of Lucas’ movies had already failed me, after all, even if the fourth turned out to be quite good against my expectations.

But could I chance another failure?

Well, heck yeah. I can hate Star Wars with impunity if need be.

As for The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back left me stunned.

It truly did. Every moment hit hard. The music hit hard. The characters hit hard. The reveal, which I already knew about, hit hard. Even the plot hit hard, and I was not expecting that.

I had a little trouble putting together this post, because I didn’t want to leave the Star Wars universe. Not with Han Solo encased in carbonite. Not with Lando and Chewie going off in the Millennium Falcon, which I’m starting to view as being a sort of… friend that can jump into hyperspace and who has their failings, but hell if they can’t kick it with a little help when it’s needed. The little ship that could.

And I didn’t want to leave with the unresolved feelings that Luke now has towards Vader. Those feelings. Why did Luke’s anguish touch me in a way that Anakin’s anguish in Revenge of the Sith never did? I mean, both of ‘em go “NOOOOOOOOO!” in possibly the most hammy way ever, and I was entirely prepared to hate the ham, but… I didn’t hate it.

I felt Luke’s “NOOOOOOOO” was earned. Not because he’d suffered more than his father, but I think it’s partly because I’m just more sympathetic to Luke, whereas I didn’t have much sympathy for Anakin even after all his limbs got chopped off and he burned in lava, and that’s saying something. I never did like the slaughterers of children. Also the acting is better. It felt like there was more build-up to the big no than there was with Anakin-now-Vader in the prequels.

yoda

The prequels have left me… a bit confused when it comes to The Empire Strikes Back. For instance:

  • Just when was Obi-Wan Kenobi (hereafter called “Ben”) as rash as Luke? I don’t think I saw that side of him in the prequels. But then again, he was older, so perhaps he was, but… I would have expected to see a more hot-headed Young Ben.
  • I thought Ben’s master was Qui-Gon Jinn, not Yoda. Did I miss something? Maybe Rash Young Ben was first taught by Yoda, and then handed off to Qui-Gon when he was less of a burden? (I would have liked to see that.)
  • Yoda here is so different from Prequel!Yoda that I’m not sure what to think about the change. Prequel!Yoda probably wouldn’t know a joke if it poked his backside, while Yoda here is very… muppety, for lack of a better word.
  • Every time I see Yoda I think about him bouncing around like a hyperactive tennis ball around Count Dooku. But I guess this Yoda wouldn’t mind that so much.

Somehow I feel like we should have a Star Wars 0.5 and maybe a Star Wars 3.5. As it is, the character changes feel too… sudden.

No, scratch that. Let’s not give people ideas about revisiting the prequels. Although that book series by Terry Brooks is intriguing me…

Han Solo is now veering firmly over into the territory of “good.” But fortunately we’ve got some of the grey back in the form of Lando Calrissian. I had no idea Lando would turn out to actually help folks, even though he was obviously in a gray area of morality. In a way, I understood Lando’s character arc, hidden though most of it was offscreen and before the plot. He grew up from being a scoundrel like Han to being respectable and responsible. The acting sold that depth so well.

lando

Man, I like Lando a lot. Are there Lando fan clubs? Can I get a stuffed Lando? Can I get Lando on a mug? Or better yet, on a rug?

But what I really want to talk about? It’s that reveal.

How can a reveal I already know about shock me this much?

Well, first, I didn’t know all the details. “Luke, I AM your father,” leaves so much context out. I admit that, in this case? The prequels did deepen the relationship between Vader and the Emperor. When the reveal was made to Vader, I understood why Vader might try to not only kill the Emperor for deceiving him about his son’s existence (and wow, wonder what happens when Vader finds out about Leia), but also tempt his son to the dark side so that they could rule together.

Vader promised the Emperor he would kill Luke if Luke refused. Instead, Vader gave Luke every single chance he could to say yes. If Luke hadn’t decided to let go of the railing, I think the conversation would still be going on.

After all that he had gone through, Vader still felt love.

That’s incredible. That’s touching. The prequels actually did flesh that out, and well.

And Vader grew up enough to know that screaming right away and trying to flail at the Emperor would get him nowhere. Of course he’d grow up. The details were probably interesting…

… Can we have a Star Wars 3.75?

vader

I wonder now if, when Lucas first plotted the prequels, if this moment was what he concentrated on. I wonder if the prequels could just have been condensed down into one movie—because I feel that’s the only part that came remotely close to working. Sometimes, anyways.

Man, C-3P0 still annoys me. Annoys me a lot. I know, I know, he has a purpose as a translator rather than as goofy sidekick who sticks his tongue into motors. But he still grates on me. Also, I don’t like his card in Star Wars: The Card Game.

Of course, there’s also that love story between Han and Leia. It’s pretty well done. I did not expect that. Subtle and nuanced even though they exude a hate-each-other-so-much-it’s-love tension. How does that even happen?

Well, it happened here.

“I love you.”

“I know.”

leia-han

Five words. Five words got across more emotion than the entire “No! It’s because I’m so in love with you” conversation. Of course, the compressed meaning in that conciseness is due to context and plot and character development.

I gotta say it. I love this movie. I see why other people love it. Heck, I’m 36, have little nostalgia for Star Wars, and I still loved this movie.

There is so much good here. Will there be as much good in Return of the Jedi, especially since I only have access to the latest digitally remastered (and then some) original trilogy movies?

I hear I’m going to see Anakin’s face again. I really hope not. Also, do the massacred kids stay in Jedi heaven or whatever it is that Ben speaks from? If so… how awkward that must all be.

Star Wars 6.5. And that’s it, I promise you.

Ava Jarvis née Arachne Jericho is a freelance writer, techie, and geek. By day she writes about high-tech topics, and by night she writes about board games at her blog, the Elemeeple.

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