The Empire Strikes Back (1980) [available on Disney+]

May 31, 2020 by Thor Hogan

Perhaps that’s why I’ve never shared the opinion that it’s the franchise’s best film. It’s very good, but for me it pales in comparison to its predecessor (I would argue that Rogue One is actually the best movie in the series). The initial and final thirds of Empire are wonderful—I recently bought a Hoth Ski Resort t-shirt, clear proof of my nerdom—but the middle third is quite the muddle. Except for introducing Yoda, every scene on Dagobah is dreadfully boring. It’s amazing that an entire universe was built around Luke Skywalker, the ultimate whiney and petulant character.


The passages in the Hoth asteroid belt were, at best, a mixed bag. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were such terrific actors that even George Lucas couldn’t kill their chemistry, but can someone explain to me how a giant slug creature survives in the vacuum of space (like, an actual biological explanation)?


I will hold back from a long discussion questioning the physics of how Luke spent months training on Dagobah during the same couple of days that Han and Leia were trying to escape the Hoth system (something to do with multiple dimensions I would guess).


I’m currently writing a book examining urban politics, so was struck during this re-watch of the film by Cloud City’s similarities to a contemporary gated-community. The political context of Empire, like most 1980s movies, was rooted in the Cold War (which will surely be a recurring theme in this series). But I wonder whether Lucas, who for all his faults remains an accomplished world-builder, was actually hinting at some deeper truth. Like a gated-community, the residents of Cloud City were seemingly trying to hide away from the realities of a brutal dictatorship (okay, America is more of an oligarchy/plutocracy/vetocracy). While one might try to escape to a sterile white paradise, however, you cannot truly escape the repercussions of autocratic rule. Eventually, Donald Trump (oops, I meant Darth Vader) is going to find you. And, it won’t be pretty when he does. So rather than just trying to get yours, perhaps those living in these places should stand up for what’s right. There has never been a better time.