Confessions of a STAR WARS Virgin: Allison Watches EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK for the First Time

by     Posted 1 year, 244 days ago

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Our daily series where Allison Keene watches the Star Wars movies for the first time. Read her intro/explanation here, and here’s her Star Wars review.

Empire Strikes Back is probably one of the densest genre movies I have ever seen.  Because it embraces its role as sequel fully, the story dives right in and doesn’t need to spend more time on character development.  Even when it adds new characters (like Yoda, more on him in a minute) there’s not a ton of backstory, and yet, they seem to fit perfectly well into the world for their own purpose.  Besides, Empire seems to know now with gusto that there will be a follow-up, and the layers don’t all have to fit into a single feature.  Hit the jump for my take on Empire.

star-wars-episode-v-the-empire-strikes-backOn its own, Empire could be viewed reasonably as a stand-alone film, but not as well as A New Hope.  Its narrative density, multiple story-lines and avoidance of cliche (in fact, it became a creator of cliche) makes it an engaging experience even for veteran movie watchers.  The “Episode” title never felt more true — these were just a few more chapters in the lives of the characters, and there’s clearly more to come (or one would hope, anyway. Otherwise the ending is rather unfortunate given Han’s circumstances).

One of the two major reveals I already know relates to Luke and Leia, but had I not known that I still would have respected the decision to pair Leia and Han rather than the more obvious Luke.  Harrison Ford also gave Han a lot more personality this time around, which matched Chewie’s sudden change from his surly and indifferent portrayal in A New Hope to one where he’s crying over Han and dolling out hugs to Luke (I prefer Chewie 2.0, of course, but his now constant growly chatter grew a little old as the movie wore on).

star-wars-episode-v-the-empire-strikes-back-yodaKeeping the comic relief around both crews even when they split up (R2 with Luke and 3PO with the others) was a nice way to unite the two stories and create a small lovely little homecoming when the droids were reunited.  One of the best aspects of Star Wars, which I wasn’t exactly expecting, is how humor is never far.  Some of it is unintentional, sure (like Mark Hamill‘s “damnit I do not want you as a dad!” face), but Yoda hanging off of Luke during his training or fighting R2 (possibly my favorite of all), or 3PO complaining more or less constantly when strapped to Chewbacca are great mood lighteners.

Yoda is obviously the standout character (with his special and oft-imitated diction, and from the first moment he spoke and I shouted “Fozzie Bear!” I knew I was in the presence of Frank Oz), and he reminded me of a cross between Karate Kid‘s Mr Miyagi and Mammy from Gone with the Wind.  But I liked all of the new additions, including the Imperial Walkers (which I found kinda terrifying) and Lando, who I was convinced was Lionel Ritchie for most of the movie.  Also, the animatronic work on the Tauntauns, Yoda and the other critters as well as the graphics for the Walkers was fantastic (though maybe that’s just my nostalgia as a Muppets, Fraggle Rock and Neverending Story fan. Kids these days don’t know from what …)

star-wars-episode-v-the-empire-strikes-back-posterI’m already doubling my word count from my comments on A New Hope, and I could easily fill up a Musings and Miscellanea section with plenty of other bits (such as, I want to know more about Chewbacca and Vader and why Imperial troops look like something from the Third Reich), but suffice to say, Empire was dense and it was fun. Onward …

Bottom line: Vastly more complex than Episode IV, with more action than character building, which, whether that’s good or bad depends on your tastes. But as a sequel, really fantastic.

Episode V Roundup:

Favorite Character(s): R2D2, C-3PO, Darth Vader, Leia, Luke. Han and Chewie bother grew on me immensely. Lando is like another Han and came around in the end, I liked that.

Least Favorite Character(s): Again, everyone is generally fine by me.

A-ha! Moment: Yes, I already knew that Vader was really Anakin and therefore Luke’s father, but I still think he does too many of his own errands even if he is following his son to recruit him.  And speaking of which, why does Luke not even entertain the notion of co-ruling the galaxy? Can’t he at least sit down and hear Vader out?

Yoda-Empire-Strikes-Back-imageWTF? Moments: Yoda standing on top of or hanging off of Luke during his training cracked me up.  The Master confused me.  And, observation: the Stormtroopers’ armor doesn’t seem to do them much good …

Pop Culture Moments: George R. R. Martin totally stole Jaime and Cersei’s story from Luke and Leia, didn’t he?  At least in part.  Also that bounty hunter looked like a Battlestar Galactica cylon.  The music is another thing, it’s so well-worn into the fabric of satirical work now that hearing and realizing it’s not a joke but the original is strangely difficult.

What worked best: Leia is a really well-written badass female, and I respect that greatly.  Also, I’m not a huge fan of fight scenes, but I really liked the astroid maneuvers and discovering they had landed inside what looked like the alien hatchling from, well, Alien. Oh, and the device of us not being able to understand R2 and Chewie but everyone else being able to is fun, but it doesn’t work as well with Vader’s expressionless mask.

What didn’t work: How did Luke sneak into Lando’s floating fortress without anyone intercepting him?  They all knew he was coming, and there were plenty of escort planes to apprehend him for Vader.

Best Quotes: “I’ll see you in hell then” // “There is no try” // “I’m standing here in pieces and you’re having delusions of grandeur and … eeeep! you did it!”

If you missed my previous reviews, here’s Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, and Episode I: The Phantom Menace.  Look for Episode 2 tomorrow.

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  • Brice Gilbert

    Didn’t Vader want Luke to come in on his own as a sort of trap?

    • Thomas

      That was the point I was going to make; Vader wanted Luke to challenge him so he could reveal who he really was (it’s been a while, so it’s at least a general jist of it).

  • Mike

    Gotta admit, it’s really fun reading reactions from someone seeing these for the first time! I can’t wait to feel this way again in 2015! Was just never as fun knowing so much going into the prequels.. Thanks again for sharing this with everyone!

  • DREDD

    “What didn’t work: How did Luke sneak into Lando’s floating fortress without anyone intercepting him? They all knew he was coming, and there were plenty of escort planes to apprehend him for Vader.”

    Hmm, you must have missed the part when Leia shouts.. “Luke ITS A TRAP!” They let Luke land because Vader wanted to freeze him.

    I did like how you notices Chewies slight character change between the two films. He goes from a dog that could bite, to a dog that is loyal to the death between the films. Chewie is one of my favorite characters in movies in general. Its like theres no one under the mask. Hopefully one day we will be able to genetically create a real wookiee.

  • Stark Warts

    Favorite Character(s): Lists them all to be safe

  • reba

    how old are you girl again?

  • Sloan

    Oh Allison, your naivete on this series is whole heartedly amusing. Plus, take the weekend off and just skip episode one and two and half of the third one as well. Trust me. I wish someone had told me that ten years ago, or that i would have actually listened! Anyway, Empire is the best of them all, so either way, it’s all down hill from here

    • Anonymous

      You got that right!

    • JLC

      I’m actually one of the few who thought the prequels got worse as they went along. Episode One, Jar Jar and all, felt most like a Star Wars movie to me. The other two just became a jumble of Easter eggs and ah-ha! moments. And rather than expand the universe, they shrunk it by having every character related somehow to every other character (Boba Fett, Chewie, Jabba). Thank goodness they didn’t introduce young Han like they originally planned.

      • sloan

        well, that’s just like, your opinion man

  • Bill

    You got that right!

  • James Freud

    Need someone to take up this task that doesn’t write like a 14 year old schoolgirl.

    But I’m thinking Allison will be the last person in the world that hasn’t seen a Star Wars film.

    • Carl A.

      My girlfriend (also named Alison, but with one L) has also never seen the Star Wars movies. Neither have most of her friends. All of them are 26 and older. So it’s not that everyone in the world but Allison here have seen them. It is that everyone in your world had seen them, and now someone from the outside has entered your world.

  • Grayden

    That’s probably one of my favorite film posters of all time. It just has a classic look and feel to it.

    • abs

      Classic look because it was ‘inspired’ by the Gone with the wind poster. Notice the angle of Han and Leia is the same as Rhett and Scarlett. Obviously GWTW didn’t have tauntauns.

  • Bbomkamp

    I love that your doing this.

  • Robert Downey

    You are naive and completely utterly stupid. You appear to have all the intelligence of a ten year old girl.
    Please stop writing this trash.

    • MrNateathon

      Stop reading, simple as that.

    • mattinacan

      you’re a stupid dick

    • agent_black

      Oh Robert, you were so much more fun when you were on drugs….

  • Carl A.

    My girlfriend (also named Alison, but with one L) has also never seen the Star Wars movies. Neither have most of her friends. All of them are 26 and older. So it\’s not that everyone in the world but Allison here have seen them. It is that everyone in your world had seen them, and now someone from the outside has entered your world.

  • Old Soldier

    Alison: Imagine seeing this for the first time in the theater, seeing the ending then realizing you have to wait “THREE YEARS!!!!!!” for the next chapter. Quote Vader: “Nooooooooooooo……..!!!!”

  • Mez

    I wish my wife would give the Wars a chance like you did. This episode is my all-time fave! :D

  • Kondorr

    After watching Episode 2… please watch Genndy tartakovsky’s Clone Wars Volume I and Volume II!
    It is the 2D cartoon from Cartoon Network.
    It beautifully adds character development which lacked in ep 1 and ep 2
    and sets the stage better for ep3!

    Your review was a good read!
    Thanks and have fun!

  • thedroop

    all i wanna know is whether or not she thinks it deserves being hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time

  • Joseph M

    Oh, God. She’s about to meet the fuzzy terror that lives in the forest of Endor. Vader sent his crappiest legion of stormtroopers down, that day. And then there’s the singing…

  • JLC

    I\’m actually one of the few who thought the prequels got worse as they went along. Episode One, Jar Jar and all, felt most like a Star Wars movie to me. The other two just became a jumble of Easter eggs and ah-ha! moments. And rather than expand the universe, they shrunk it by having every character related somehow to every other character (Boba Fett, Chewie, Jabba). Thank goodness they didn\’t introduce young Han like they originally planned.

  • thrawn_2071

    That…bounty…hunter?! In all seriousness though, you’re adorable and I’m loving reading these.

  • tarek

    Allison, join me and we shall rule the galaxy as brother and (alli)son

  • happydude05

    I too am enjoying a “Star Wars virgins” take on the films but I feel like Allison is playing her reviews too safe for the purpose of not upsetting the fans. As we have all undoubtedly encountered, Star Wars fans can be some of the most out spoken and passionate critics on the planet (not to mention they dominate the internet), and I feel like Allison is trying hard not to step on anyone’s toes by not commenting on anything that hasn’t already been indoctrinated into the socially acceptable Star Wars circles.

    The fact that your “Favorite Characters” for both reviews so far are almost every lead character in the film, and your “Least Favorite Character” is nobody is a telling sign that you are treading too lightly. I feel like your first “Least Favorite Character” will be Jar Jar because even having never seen Episode I, you are undoubtedly familiar with the perception of the character in the Star Wars Universe.

    The films are great but they are far from perfect so don’t be afraid to have an opinion on something new or unique about the films, especially if you want to be just like every other Star Wars fan. We all do it!

  • Nate H

    If you have eight favorite characters (AKA every main character), then you really have no favorite characters. Make a choice! No one watches a movie and says “I loved every character that I saw onscreen equally!” Besides, no matter what you say, some Star Wars fans/fanatics will disagree (who knows, it could be me!) so don’t worry about upsetting someone and just state your real opinion.

    Here, I’ll go first. I love most of them, BUT my favorites are R2D2, Episode II and III Obi-Wan, and Lando. I can’t stand Luke in Episode IV and V, but he’s cool in VI. Leia is also really annoying until Episode VI in my opinion. I could do without her. See – it wasn’t that hard.

    Sidenote; I love the space battles but HATE the lightsaber fights in I, II, and III (Darth Vader could be defeated by a kid with a baseball bat based on his skills in the films).

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