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A Totally Critical Rewatch of The Empire Strikes Back

So with the Force Awakens *official* release today, we all know that there’s going to be comparisons both to the prequels and the original trilogy. I have every confidence that J.J. Abram’s take on Star Wars will surpass the prequels with flying colors. Frankly, if we pretend Star Trek took place in the Star Wars universe, it would have surpassed the prequels.

But what about the originals? Return of the Jedi is widely accepted as the weakest, but I’m not interested in cheap points for J.J. Go for the throat. Take down The Empire Strikes Back, because let’s be honest, for too long it’s gotten away with raves.

So with that in mind, I rewatched Episode V with a super-critical lens, and I think my observations might shock you:

  • The rebels have technology to inhabit this freezing planet, to set up ion-canons, and to track the Empire with enough proficiency to avoid any entanglements for three years, and yet the only way to scan for life forms are to shove Han and Luke onto tauntauns?
  • If Han didn’t spend his the three year gap paying off Jabba, or at least using the money to make repairs to his clearly broken ship, what the Hell was he doing this whole time?
  • Oh right. He was schtupping Leia and trying to get her to commit to him. Minus 5 points for not showing us these sexytimes.
  • The sizzling extended fight between Han and Leia was cut.
  • What happened with this thermal heater? Did Artoo legit just melt half the base? Follow-up on this, people!
  • How does nobody actually know about Luke? They can replace his hand but can’t invest in geolocation technology for the rebels who volunteer to scout a new and dangerous territory?
  • “Deck Officer” is too meme-tastic to take seriously anymore.
  • Were Leia and Han seriously using Threepio as a passive-aggressive go-between? And they still didn’t show us any of their angry sex? Shame.
  • “Then I’ll see you in Hell” might be anachronistic. Potentially. Think on this, I will.
  • Why didn’t Luke just kill Wampa Stampa and stay in his cave til morning?
  • Who programmed Threepio to mumble things under his breath to himself? Oh right…Anakin.
  • Okay what the actual fuck is Leia’s job? People are reporting to her but what rank does she have? They refer to Han as “Commander Solo” but Leia is just “Princess Leia”. WHAT IS GOING ON?!
  • So like, dramatic movie necessity, but Ben…buddy. You had three years to relay this information. Is now the best time?
  • We were not shown Luke and Han cuddles in the shelter.
  • OMG! It’s the music used for the Ord Mantell junkyard! Criminally underused.
  • Speaking of, where is Dash Rendar, because I distinctly remember him derping around Echo Base.
  • The rebels have a tank full of healing amniotic fluid or something, but yet they still lost Luke? Yeah, I’m not over it.
  • There should be a drinking game for every time Han fishes for a compliment from Leia. He fell in love with the wrong sibling I think. Luke was ready to tie the knot.
  • Okay, now I’m just getting second-hand annoyance at everyone who thinks this movie is about Han’s commitment issues. He is like Mr. Rebel Alliance here. Every time there’s a field trip into the frozen wasteland of doom, he’s volunteering, even if he did kind of bungle probe-droid-gate.
  • I kind of feel for Ozzel. How did Vader know this was the Rebel base? The force works through the little TV thing?
  • Why is this medical droid discussing the logistics of the evacuation with Luke?
  • I also want to know who these non-fighting rebels are that get to chill on the transports.
  • Again, feeling bad for Ozzel. Weren’t the rebels alerted to the Empire’s presence from the probe droid?
  • Oh yeah, I guess the force does work through the screens. Poor Ozzel, too pure for this world.
  • I’m still not getting Leia’s authority at all. Could I see her resume?
  • Just kidding Dack is the true cinnamon roll. Nice emotional manipulation.
  • Man this battle is longer than I remember.
  • Be it known, world, that Fandomentals editor Julia used to find General Veers wildly attractive.
  • The tow cable thing is a good idea, but man did it make for annoying challenge points in Shadows of the Empire.
  • Credit where credit is due, Veers did get that shield down. Maybe Julia likes efficiency.
  • Wedge is such a mensch. Minus 7 points for his underutilization.
  • Okay seriously, I think Leia is Rieekan’s boss, because what she says, goes. Any clarification at all will do.
  • OMG Luke’s heroics are great and all, but what is it about this clear protagonist that just makes me want to sleep?
  • Really though, this is some impressive leadership. I think. It’s a losing battle so who can really tell?
  • “Sweetums, I’m so worried, are you okay?” “Dafuq you even still doing here?”
  • Also if everyone’s already evacuated who is Leia even giving commands to?
  • It kind of disturbs me that the protocol droid was just left to fend for himself because Han and Leia were using him as a medium for a fight.
  • “Someday you’re going to be wrong, and I hope I’m there to see it.” I’ve got a truckload of dramatic irony for you, dear.
  • Luke just got done fighting in a multiple hour battle and he’s saying “no” to autopilot?!
  • OMG that’s so embarrassing that those two star destroyers crashed into one another. How are those captains not getting force choked, but poor Ozzel is still dead on the floor somewhere?
  • Aw, shit Han, is the broken thing still broken?
  • If John Williams can top “Asteroid Field,” then Force Awakens will instantly be the #1 movie.
  • Did I just spend 15 minutes watching Luke roll around in some slime?
  • Aww, Vader is just being super thorough about getting in touch with his son.
  • “Sorry, sweetheart.  We haven’t got time for anything else.” Minus 134 points for not having time for anything else.
  • Remember that time we then spent another 15 minutes watching Luke whine at a puppet because he rearranged his stuff in a slightly disorderly fashion?
  • I still can’t believe the extended kiss between Han and Leia wasn’t used. I will never be over it. Never.
  • She afraid of getting her hands dirty because she can’t handle the emotional messiness and she’s scared of vulnerability. Get it??! Ugh this movie is so gross I want to slap it, just slap it in its hideous beautiful face.
  • Threepio you giant cock-blocking nerf herder. Minus all the points. No more points left.
  • “No Captain, they’re alive” Vader said about the ship he’s pursuing on the off-chance Luke is on there, which his highly focused force feels should know…oh wait, Leia. But wait then in Cloud City he doesn’t sense… Did I just find a real plot-hole?
  • Awww Vadey is even protecting his son to the Emperor. “He’s just a boy.” You cutie.
  • I’m starting to worry that all Yoda’s done for the past however many years has been make soup.
  • Jeeze Ben, way to not call in on the force intercom earlier, when Yoda was beating Artoo with a stick.
  • And now Yoda wants Luke to be afraid? I thought fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate? Oh wait, the prequels are irrelevant. Sorry.
  • I don’t get how stomachs or mynocks work, and I’m comfortable with that.
  • Wow, Yoda got right down to business. Or Han and Leia were in the cave for like…a week. But seriously Luke is already getting the crash coarse on the darkside?
  • Too bad Yoda never simulated this for Anakin.
  • THE BOUNTY HUNTERS
  • I’m wondering if it should be more disquieting how Leia’s response to almost certain doom is just sarcasm.
  • Okay seriously, did Luke master the force in 3 hours or were Han and Leia having a mini-sex filled vacation within that asteroid for like a month? And if Option B why were we not shown this?
  • Also Yoda’s “that’s why you fail” motivation is way harsh, Tai.
  • Han’s little smile when Leia says he “has his moments” is what I live for.
  • It’s really just this time around that I’m realizing how rushed Luke’s training is. Let’s just rationalize it and pretend that it took Han and Leia a long time to get to Bespin and they’re only showing us scenes out of order because otherwise, lbh, Luke’s arc would be a slogfest.
  • Lando is the world’s greatest actor. Seriously the Empire barely beat these two out, right? So he just came from negotiations probably, and is cool as a cucumber.
  • “Remember your failure in the caves?” “But I’ve learned so much since then.” Since when? LUNCH?
  • How long did Yoda know about the “other,” and at no point did he think Ben might wanna know?
  • Leia’s “then you’re as good as gone” is tragic. It’s her realizing “I’ve fucked this up haven’t I?” Which contextualizes the “I love you/I know” SO much better. Why isn’t this the entire movie?
  • Vader’s such a polite host. I’d be honored to join you too, buddy.
  • It’s so endearing that the comic relief in these films is like, Chewie fixing up Threepio because Han won’t let Lando touch him. Why did anyone think Jar-Jar’s poop jokes were the way to go?
  • Boba Fett has balls of steel for all this back-talk.
  • Did Leia get tortured again, or did Vader decide like, been there done that? And seriously, can’t sense she’s his kid because sexism?
  • I feel like Vader only running one test of carbon freeze is playing it a bit fast and loose.
  • The looks Han and Leia are giving each other make me want to vomit. How did people deal with three years in between this and Jedi’s release?
  • The “I know” isn’t Han being an ass, don’t you get it? What’s wrong with everyone?!! It’s him acknowledging that he gets where she’s been coming from, and that despite her putting up boundaries that have hurt him over the years, he’s always known where her feelings are and he accepts them and she’s finally admitting hers because she’s getting slapped with the reality of losing Han and aslkfalfjalkfjakglaga;slgjkg.
  • That being said, I forgot how funny Leia’s “it’s a trap!” was.
  • Aww and Luke walked right into it 🙁
  • I still don’t know why Lando blows up his career to help the rebels. A sense of morals? Or that an imperial Cloud City goes against everything he wants?
  • Lando dangling that “chance to save Han” was just cruel.
  • “You have learned much, young one.” Yeah, he had one hell of a weekend.
  • This fight looks shitty, or at least…slow in comparison to our ACTION movies now, but there’s actual emotional stakes. Amazing how good storytelling works.
  • Oooh that’s right, it wasn’t morals for Lando. He just hates the government. That rebel.
  • Threepio and Artoo’s reunion is maybe more touching than it should be.
  • Pop-culture has literally ruined the “No, I am your father” moment. I just see it acted out in so many other contexts now. Is this a valid criticism? A movie is so good and so popular that its thematic climax has lost its impact?
  • Oh hidey-hum, don’t mind this, it’s just Leia TAPPING INTO THE FORCE WITH NO GUIDANCE.
  • Seriously, J.J. do something with that please.
  • Why is it that all of Artoo’s fixes in the original trilogy don’t seem cheap, yet in the prequels they’re ridiculous?
  • This ending is DARK. How DARE they give us a cliffhanger when everyone knew that Jedi was already planned? Clearly this movie is the worst.

See? There’s just oh-so-much to criticize. Force Awakens can easily top this, for sure… ah who am I kidding, this is perfect. Yeah the timeline makes no fucking sense, but we can forgive it, because it’s engaging. The characters shine through, and even though Luke is a whiner, this was a much deeper examination of the force and what it means to be a jedi. It was heavy where it needed to be, yet the action kept it moving, and the few moments of levity flowed naturally around the plot, and fit with established characterizations. There was no designated person for “comic relief,” because lightness (and darkness) lies within every human’s heart. Which was maybe the point, or something.

Now for J.J. to continue with it…


Images courtesy of LucasFilm

Kylie
Written By

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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