Sunday, January 29, 2006

On a Second Viewing of "The Empire Strikes Back"

hadn't seen this bad baby since 1980 or so, surpirsingly it hold up nicely. Mark Hamill's acting hadn't quite tipped over into the "overwhelmed" category and Irwin Kershner's direction manages to gloss over George Lucas's preposterous dialogue and still get everyone's story arc done.
It suddenly hit me that no less than five characters in the film (Yoda, Vader, Chewie, C-3PO & R2D2) are naught but mixtures of costumery, actors/body builders and prime voice over artists. We take this for granted today in "Lord of the Rings" etc, but back then, Lucas made the FX into actors...even if they did have to talk like crude cartoons.
The other big revelation was Yoda's misty eyed description of the "force" could easily substitute for Dr. Wilhelm Reich's crackpot notions about "orgone energy".

Otherwise, the film is a sort of false high in every way, it throws down two or three good meaty revelations, drifts ways from the gee whiz tone of the first film in favor of something darker and sets up a myriad of lofty expectation for the sequel.
None of which Lucas was able to satisfy when it came time to trot out that two hour toy commercial called "Return of the Jedi".
My disaffection was complete back then, and its largely due to the good impression the "Empire Strikes Back" had made on me.

If there is a systemic flaw in Lucas' faux cosmology it is the late revelation that Leia is too, a potential Jedi. For all that her heritage and link to Darth Vader means all but nothing to either the Sith Lord or Young Skywalker as their confrontation unfolds...this seems strange to me.
Frankly it is loose ends like this that make me doubt "Star Wars" was ever this extended super script that Lucas wrote in film school. I think the original film hit it big and George started improvising from then on.

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