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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 10:48am | IP Logged | 1  

Brooding and introspective, or just mean?
++++++++

Depends on your definition, I suppose. EMPIRE was designed to set up a number of problems and story threads to be picked up on and/or resolved in the next film(s) (remember, there were still nine films planned, at this stage), so a lot of rocks are thrown at our heroes in order to up the stakes.

But, as noted, I don't think the film at all ends on an oppressive or hopeless note. The characters have taken their licks, but they're not done fighting by any stretch. Luke is confident and has a plan to go after Han, rather than just lying in his hospital bed, crying about everything that's happened.
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Don Zomberg
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:04am | IP Logged | 2  

I walked out of EMPIRE a sour and let-down nine year old.

'Nuff said.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:10am | IP Logged | 3  

return to the notion that EMPIRE was somehow "darker" than the original. This idea is, I think, a result of a fairly common phenomenon: we remember STAR WARS based on how we feel at the end. For the original movie, that was a clear cut happy ending. For EMPIRE, it was a grim cliffhanger.

Yet, in the first film we start with Leia's supporters being slaughtered by storm troopers, with Vader strangling her captain.* Vader orders the sending of a decoy distress signal, followed by a report that "all aboard were killed." He tortures Leia. Tarkin orders the destruction of Alderaan, population "millions". Ben is killed. A lot of rebels are killed attacking the Death Star. The entire crew of the Death Star is killed.

Not exactly light hearted froth!!

+++++++++++++


It's a matter of tone and presentation, really. I was thinking just the other day about how STAR WARS doesn't at all dwell on the destruction of Alderaan. Contrast this with Abrams' depiction of the destruction of Vulcan in NuTREK--a Big Deal which provides at least a few minutes of plot-slowing sadness from the characters.


In STAR WARS, Alderaan is blown up, and, aside from Leia protesting it, Ben feeling it, and the Falcon flying through the debris field, it's not dealt with again (aside from passing references by Ben and General Willard). This is, of course, because STAR WARS is a light and breezy popcorn movie, not an exploration of the consequences of war.


EMPIRE is different. In that it doesn't flinch away so much. Luke is attacked and bloodied in the opening scene. We see Han gut a Tauntaun to keep Luke warm, complete with closeup of the innards spilling out. Luke's gunner on Hoth is killed, and then crushed by an Imperial walker's foot. Luke beheads the ghostly image of Vader on Dagobah. A dark, running joke concerns Vader killing subordinates who fail him (which includes my favorite one-liner in the entire series--"Apology accepted, Captain Needa"). Han is tortured (although it should be noted that most of the on-screen torture was cut, which I'd argue makes the scene more effective and disturbing, since we cut to Lando and Fett listening outside just as Han begins screaming). Luke's hand is severed in plain view.


This all adds up to a film which comes much closer to pushing the boundaries of a PG rating than STAR WARS (which was nearly rated "G", but for the addition of the bloody arm on the cantina floor, and a lot of begging from Lucas and Gary Kurtz). EMPIRE may not feature as much death and destruction as STAR WARS technically does, but it lingers on what it does show, and a fair amount of the violence is directed at characters we know, rather than unseen innocents, anonymous Stormtroopers, or Rebel soldiers. The violence is more impactful, and presented in a more realistic, less kid-friendly manner, and so it resonates more in terms of "darkness".



Edited by Greg Kirkman on 16 December 2016 at 11:35am
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:13am | IP Logged | 4  

Luke is confident and has a plan to go after Han...

***

"Ok, Lando-- you go become one of Jabba's guards. Really get his trust. Take
your time, but be ready in a few days. Threepio, don't listen to this next part:
okay, Artoo? Take my light saber and get a job on Jabba's sand barge. Got it?
When I give the signal, give me back my light saber. --No, I don't know where
I'll be or where you'll be, but wing it!
Anyway, Leia, you put on a bounty hunter costume and give Chewie to Jabba
as a prisoner. This is important! Chewie? You do nothing.
But Leia, I want you to sneak into the palace at night and melt Han out of his
carbonite. No, don't fight and escape-- that's when you and Han get caught
again. Easy peasy. I figure he'll be sexually attracted to you, Leia, so try to be
cool.
In a little while, I'll show up. No, not to fight-- I'm there to get caught too.
Naturally, he'll take us to the desert sarlaac to kill us and that's when we spring
the trap! Lando will have the job of guarding us, Leia will get the bikini and kill
Jabba, I'll laser-sword a few people. How? Don't you remember? Artoo is going
to give it to me from the barge. That's the most important part-- aren't you
listening? (Be on you're on your toes, Artoo! Try to get a job as a waiter or
something). Anyway, I'll get on the barge, blast the deck, grab a skiff -- Artoo
push Threepio off the side and we'll grab you before it all blows up -- and we'll
be free. Simple.
No, I don't want any input on this perfect plan-- just remember your part and
see if you can work in a few jokes here or there. Now, let's go!"
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:24am | IP Logged | 5  

See, ROTJ sucks. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:33am | IP Logged | 6  

I don't think the film ends at all on an oppressive or hopeless note.

•••

Provided we ignore the first film pretty much in its entirety.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:38am | IP Logged | 7  

... STAR WARS is a light and breezy popcorn movie, ...

***

But that general characterization can be taken far too dismissively in contrast with EMPIRE. The original movie has a structure and pacing to its content such that hardly any moments, light and breezy or dark and burdensome, are dwelt upon overmuch. But that creates a perfect balance of elements overall. STAR WARS doesn't "flinch" from anything, to my eye. What seen in any of the films is more brutal, not just for its appalling violence but for its depth of emotion, than Luke finding his uncle and aunt's burnt corpses? And in terms of "tone and presentation," a major part of the success of STAR WARS is that the entire movie, up until the Death Star explodes, is driven by a tension immense as the opening ominous extended reveal of the Imperial Destroyer, namely, that the fate of the galaxy hangs upon a knife's edge of utter doom and despair, unless this tiny band of motley "heroes" can somehow pull off a virtual miracle.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:44am | IP Logged | 8  

I won't argue any of that. It's just that STAR WARS doesn't dwell on the death and destruction, or depict it in a particularly bloody or gruesome way. Even Owen and Beru's corpses are seen from a distance, and some fans have reported not even noticing them, upon early viewings.

The film is tense, but not grim. There's action and violence, but also a lot of humor.  The sum of it all is a war movie which is simultaneously fun, while also being appropriate for a mass audience. A perfect balance.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 12:21pm | IP Logged | 9  

...some fans have reported not even noticing them...

•••

Idiots in the audience do not change what's in the movie.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 1:01pm | IP Logged | 10  

It's just that STAR WARS doesn't dwell on the death and destruction, or depict it in a particularly bloody or gruesome way.

***

That's a fairly bloody stump Ben hacked off in the Cantina scene, but, anyway...

I don't know why EMPIRE's dwelling on the cruel, glum, and sour is a particular virtue. Many, or even most, take it as depth. However, for me it's anything but. To take the kind of perfectly balanced characters and story of STAR WARS and place in them in a new vehicle that lopsidedly abides in the grim and the gruesome does not yield greater profundity than the original achieved (or, any profundity at all). 


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Peter Martin
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 2:49pm | IP Logged | 11  

Star Wars has just as much death and destruction easily.

ESB does what it was required to do, which was expand on the original. It is more expansive. I don't think we necessarily have to see it as having any more depth. Luke deals with just as much loss in the first film.

It gives us more about the dark side, more about the force, lets us see more of the Empire, spend more time with the characters we loved from the first film. Gives us another decent character in Yoda. I don't think Lando adds all that much, though he's played by a charismatic actor and is given the potential to be interesting (which doesn't play out at all in ROTJ, unfortunately).

Star Wars does not explore a romantic storyline. This is not a criticism. just an observation that the film doesn't have that as part of its story. ESB does very much have this and I think does it very nicely. Han and Leia eventually dropping their flirtatious discord and owning up to their feelings in the face of what seems like the end is, I think, an emotional moment. I also think the film builds to that moment quite expertly and the pay-off in that moment is better than anything that came after in the series.

Williams' music plays a huge part. Once again, I don't feel the need to say the score is deeper or better than Star Wars, but he expands on the first film as well as could be hoped.
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Petter Myhr Ness
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 4:21pm | IP Logged | 12  

I was very young when I first watched ESB. ROTJ hadn't come out yet, and I was 10 when that opened. Anyways, ESB blew me away. Ask my very young self, and I would say hands down that EMPIRE is the best of the lot. This was my opinion for many years.

Of course, growing older and reflecting on things makes you change perspective. All the points that JB and others make against EMPIRE become much, much clearer. At the same time, my appreciation of the original STAR WARS has just increased with time. It truly is a remarkable piece of filmmaking - not a redundant scene in the entire movie (which is why I LOATHE the special editions!).

But I still love EMPIRE. It's hard to get over the impact it had on a young boy, how many hours of pleasure I got from watching it over and over again.

ROTJ, on the other hand... enjoyed it at the time, but never as much as the other two. Having recently re-watched the entire original trilogy, I found I truly struggled to get through it. ROTJ is, quite frankly, an incredibly dull movie.
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David Miller
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 7:40pm | IP Logged | 13  

A significant point in ESB's favor is the Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson comic book adaptation (which was my first exposure to those brilliant and legendary talents). I received the Artist Edition for a birthday present and I am basking in its glory as I type these words.
 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:25pm | IP Logged | 14  

some fans have reported not even noticing them...

•••

Idiots in the audience do not change what's in the movie.

++++++++++


Hey, I'm just reporting what I've heard. Some rational explanations for that phenomena might be really murky VHS tapes, or the lack of comprehension that some really young children have. 


It was never in doubt for me, although I do recall asking my dad, during my first(?) viewing of STAR WARS, how Luke's father could be up there in the Star Destroyer as Vader and yet also simultaneously hanging out on the farm with Luke. My dad clarified by saying that it was Luke's uncle living with him on the farm.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:26pm | IP Logged | 15  

That's a fairly bloody stump Ben hacked off in the Cantina scene, but, anyway...
++++++

Enough to secure that all-important 'PG' rating!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 11:29pm | IP Logged | 16  

A significant point in ESB's favor is the Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson comic book adaptation (which was my first exposure to those brilliant and legendary talents). I received the Artist Edition for a birthday present and I am basking in its glory as I type these words.
++++++++

Oh, man--one of the best movie-to-comic adaptations ever! You can tell that a lot of photoreference was used (or traced!), but it's still glorious.
 
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Matt Reed
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 1:58am | IP Logged | 17  

Without reading beyond JB's initial post, I'll just add that the only STAR WARS movie for me is the first.  Hands down. Without question. Do I hate or dismiss EMPIRE?  No.  I enjoy it for what it is, but also dislike it for what it is not which is a direct sequel that understands the film that came before it.  

For me, nothing will ever recapture the magic of the original '77 STAR WARS.  I think that's especially true of people who saw all of the original films in the theatre.  EMPIRE had the muscle of the original behind it.  STAR WARS was nearly a disaster that exceeded everyone's expectations.  You can't replicate that.  It's what set the entire franchise into motion.  That certainly wasn't EMPIRE.  As such, that why it remains my favorite and, quite frankly, will always BE my favorite bar none.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 7:39am | IP Logged | 18  

…the magic of the original '77 STAR WARS…

••

That's the word, all right. Emerging from the theater after that first viewing, knowing that Vader had escaped but having no sure knowledge of a sequel coming our way.

When EMPIRE came out, STAR WARS was officially a franchise. Lucas had already started tinkering with the original movie, first by adding a chapter heading and subtitle to the opening crawl (which later viewers would assume had always been there.) It's a subtle but pervasive thing, that chapter heading. STAR WARS was a on-off, but STAR WARS CHAPTER IV is part of a series. It no longer exists on its own, since viewers know there is more to the story both before and after -- with the same characters! Kind of works like the Superboy Syndrome.*

___________________

* Will Superboy escape the kryptonite death trap? Lemme just check this latest issue of SUPERMAN.....

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Mario Ribeiro
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 7:50am | IP Logged | 19  

Never cared for A New Hope's third act, so it was the one I liked the least, but the trilogy was a done deal when I started, and I see the points of the purists. I particularly like the idea of Vader being only muscle.

And then, there's a 21  year-old I know who claimed that the only reason people still talk about Star Wars is because of the pequels. I told her that wasn't true (as we know, Star Wars was already huge long before the pequels), and she said: "but those light saber fights in the original trilogy are so bad!"
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Bill Mimbu
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 9:04am | IP Logged | 20  

I remember confused comments from SW fans in Sweden or Denmark, which at the time censored violent scenes from international movie releases...

With their EMPIRE experience, Vader did not cut off Luke's hand, but Luke revealed as a cyborg or droid.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 9:19am | IP Logged | 21  

The delicacy with which some international censors address foreign movies sometimes reminds one of the sack of Rome!
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 10:47am | IP Logged | 22  


Never cared for A New Hope's third act...

You mean the one where one of the coolest spaceship battles ever seen takes place? Where they blow up a that's-no-moon!-sized battle station? And then everybody celebrates, gets cleaned up, R2 gets fixed, and our heroes get medals? The feel-goodiest parts of any of the Star Wars movies?

Yeah, phooey!


Edited by Brian Rhodes on 17 December 2016 at 10:53am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 10:56am | IP Logged | 23  

Yeah, man, the last 15 minutes of STAR WARS--particularly the medal ceremony which segues into the end credits--are ridiculously uplifting!


Anyway, kudos to Matt Reed for the lovely summation of his thoughts. And I will be eternally jealous of everyone who was there to experience the film in context, at the time of its release. I've worked very hard to understand and appreciate that context, but that's just not the same as being there.

As time has gone on, and I've studied STAR WARS in great detail, "magic" really is the word to sum it up. I am continually amazed by how it came together so perfectly against all odds. And by the staggering impact it's had on filmmaking, film marketing, and film merchandising. We are still living in its shadow, almost 40 years later. In ways both good and not.


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 17 December 2016 at 10:57am
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Bill Mimbu
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 12:45pm | IP Logged | 24  

Yeah, man, the last 15 minutes of STAR WARS--particularly the medal ceremony which segues into the end credits--are ridiculously uplifting!

***

And a number of SW critics in 1977, particularly the more intellectual science fiction-leaning ones, kept pointing out that the Rebel medal ceremony was lifted from Leni Riefenstahl's TRIUMPH OF THE WILL...

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Mario Ribeiro
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Posted: 17 December 2016 at 1:02pm | IP Logged | 25  

Oh, I don't mind the feel-goodiest scenes, but that battle was way too long and obvious. I just don't have the hots for vehicles.
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