the empire strikes back

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is almost upon us and you know what that means… it’s time to revisit the rest of the Star Wars saga for the thousandth time (give or take a few viewings). To get through the final days leading up the biggest movie geek event of the past decade, we’re dedicating each day this week to one of the other six Star Wars movies. It’s time to chat about what we love about each movie and what we don’t love. It’s time to bring up the common nitpicks and the most beloved scenes, the tiny little details we love and the the concepts that don’t get enough attention.

Consider this your invitation to use the comments section below as a catch-all for any kind of Star Wars conversation you desire. This week is for you. The fan. Enjoy it.

Previously we’ve looked back at The Phantom Menace, Attack of the ClonesRevenge of the Sith, and A New Hope. Today’s subject: The Empire Strikes Back.

Luke and Darth Vader's Duel

WHAT I LOVE

Luke and Darth Vader’s Duel

The best lightsaber duel in the Star Wars saga thus far realizes that emotions and character will always outclass chaotic choreography. Luke Skywalker is hopelessly outclassed the from the moment he confronts Darth Vader and spends the rest of the fight struggling to keep up. Meanwhile, the dark lord of the Sith toys with him, humors him, and is occasionally impressed by his gumption. This sequence is iconic for its conclusion (“No, I am your father”), but it’s great because it perfectly captures the fear of a one-on-one fight, testing our hero by throwing him against a the ultimate adversary and watching him bleed.

Han and Leia

Han and Leia’s Screwball Romance

The unspoken undercurrent of every Han and Leia scene in The Empire Strikes Back is “Just shut up and kiss already.” This hot-headed rebel leader and this lowly smuggler with a handful of valuable skills were obvious made for each other – they’re just the last ones to see it. Although they eventually realize their affection for one another, we’re first treated to their barbed repartee, which is torn straight out of a classic screwball comedy. These crazy kids could have been played by Hepburn and Grant in another era. Through all of the insults, we recognize genuine affection.

yoda empire

Every Single Thing About Yoda

You always hear a similar story from actors and celebrities who get the chance to act with the Muppets: they quickly forget that they’re talking to a puppet made of felt and soon start treating them as a real person, a fellow performer. Yoda is that level of performance taken to the next level. Frank Oz’s wizened Jedi master is one of the greatest practical effects ever conceived. It’s impossible to think of him as anything other than a living, breathing thing. His batty personality, floating between mystical monk and wacky old man, is unexpected and joyous. Here is a special effect with the rich detail of any human character.

boba fett empire strikes back

WHAT I DON’T LOVE

The Promise of Fett

Ah, Boba Fett. What are we to make of you? The most inexplicably popular character in the original trilogy has almost nothing to offer. He wears cool armor, flies a cool ship, manages to successfully track Han Solo when there other bounty hunters fail… and that’s it. If there was more to be done with this character, Return of the Jedi totally squandered it by killing him off in the most humiliating fashion possible. Boba Fett’s presence isn’t an actual problem with The Empire Strikes Back (he’s just another striking detail amongst many), but he’s certainly the easiest character to grumble about.

empire strikes back

It’s Almost Too Good

Here’s a great problem to have: The Empire Strikes Back is so good that it can’t help but make the other films in the trilogy look a little worse in comparison. The universe here feels huge and the plight of its characters feels important. The story dangles its heroes above a precipice, dooming them to pain and suffering, all while maintaining a pleasant sense of humor and charming tone. This is the cinematic space opera, perfectly realized. This is the movie that took Star Wars and transformed it from a massively popular movie into a universe that could contain thousands of novels and comic books and video games. This movie makes you resent the weaker films in the series that much more.

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