Monday, October 15, 2007

Number Six: The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner, 1980) [Y]

I was talking to Little Earl about this movie a while back and I remember him saying that it was overrated. To provide some background I should say that it's usually LE arguing for the critical consensus position in film--if only because he knows more about it. So I was surprised to hear him contradict so many appraisals by picking Star Wars as his favorite Star Wars film (sorry, not using your stupid episode numbering George).

Now that I've had time to think about it, I agree. Or, to be more precise, I don't think any of the movies after Star Wars could stand on their own in the way that the first movie does. All the dark stuff that happens in Empire is so neat because it adds to our understanding of Star Wars. Heck, the other five movies in the series are really just a glossary to the first--and The Empire Strikes Back is the most important part of that glossary.

The conflict in Empire comes from Luke's inability to choose which father figure to trust. Up till his showdown with Vader, Luke's life was rough but straightforward. When Vader makes his famous paternity claim, and then offers Luke the galaxy, things get a bit more complex. Luke's sphere of moral responsibility is radically expanded and he has to come to terms with several other difficult realities as well. Good people do bad things. You don't always get the girl. Sometimes your dad cuts your hand off.

Return of the Jedi is something of a disappointment after Empire because it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. I love the confrontation between Vader, the Emperor, and Luke, but everything else is a bit of a let down. Still, that confrontation is so good that the series as a whole feels like it comes to a good conclusion. What else could Return of the Jedi have addressed? Well, for one, there seems to be a problem when the only alternatives your moral system allows are complete abandonment of morality and monastic life based off of supernatural powers. Should we all go live in the desert like Obi-Wan? Should we fall in love with Natalie Portman knowing it will lead to our ruin? Should we sequester ourselves in a ranch somewhere and dedicate our efforts to the advancement of special effects techniques above all else? Then again, it wouldn't be the 80's if it could answer those questions.

11 comments:

yoggoth said...

Who is Kershner?

ninquelote said...

You should apply to start writing a critique column in the Bee.

Herr Zrbo said...

Who's Harry Crumb?

Little Earl said...

Irvin Kershner is the man who actually directed The Empire Strikes Back.

yoggoth said...

I know he was the man who actually directed The Empire Strikes Back.

But who is he?

yoggoth said...

Is that a compliment or an insult Ninquelote?

ninquelote said...

That was a compliment. I would read it.

So far I've agreed with every movie you've chosen so far, and more importantly, the reason that you chose them. I have also been impressed with your lyrical prose. You are starting to sound like a real legitimate writer.

Little Earl said...

You're in the zone, Y-man!

herr zrbo said...

Irvin Kirshner sounds like he could have voiced Kermit the Frog. He's got a strange voice, when I first watched 'Empire of Dreams' I thought they were interviewing Frank Oz, I thought 'Oh so that's who did Yoda's voice!' and then I realized it was the director. Whoops.

ninquelote said...

Who uses "So Far" twice in one sentence? Loser. This is why you don't abuse prescription drugs kids.

Little Earl said...

Yeah you gotta lay off the meth buddy.