If The Empire Strikes Back were released today…

[This article is satire and written in jest, but I hope it helps to make the point that some of the criticisms of Star Wars films today are untenable, unhelpful, and unfair, since The Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as maybe the greatest Star Wars film, and many of the criticisms of modern Star Wars could be made of it too.]

If The Empire Strikes Back were released today…

It would be criticized for being too different. The film has a different tone and feel from the previous one, this time taking a darker approach.

It would be criticized for disregarding the ending of the previous film. At the end of A New Hope, the Death Star has been destroyed and there’s a massive celebration for the Rebellion. Even though Darth Vader survived, it seems the heroes have won. But then the opening crawl of this movie just disregards that and explains that the Empire has the Rebellion on the run. So did the Rebel victory even matter? How can they just disregard it in the crawl?

It would be criticized for separating the main heroes. The big three heroes – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa – had impressed with their chemistry in A New Hope, and once they met in that movie, it was a shared adventure, together. But in Empire, they share just over two minutes of screentime together, comprising the scenes of Luke in the bacta tank and recovering from his wounds. That’s it. For the rest of the film, Han and Leia spend time trying to escape the Empire, while Luke trains with Yoda – and even when Luke travels to Cloud City to reunite with his friends, Han Solo isn’t with them, having been frozen in carbonite. In a two hour film, the heroes are together for just two minutes.

It would be criticized for inefficient military techniques. As the Empire launches their assault on Echo Base, they drop a bunch of AT-AT Walkers. But they drop these walkers very far away from the base, and the walkers are quite slow. Is that really the best they’ve got? And on top of that, a surface ion canon can disable a Star Destroyer? Really?

It would be criticized for an inconsistent timeline. The hyperdrive of the Millennium Falcon is broken, which prevents them from being able to flee the Empire. But Han Solo decides to go to Bespin, which is a long way, but he thinks they can make it. Without a hyperdrive, though, how long would that take? There’s no explanation of the time that passes, so it’s a plot hole.

It would be criticized for being unrealistic. As the Millennium Falcon flies through an asteroid field, it comes to rest in an asteroid. As the Empire flies past, TIE Bombers fly by and drop bombs on the asteroid. But since there’s no gravity in space, it doesn’t make any sense for these bombs to just drop right onto the asteroid. And on another note, the Falcon is running low on fuel (though Han thinks they can make it to Bespin), but why would a ship in Star Wars be in danger of running low on fuel? This doesn’t make sense.

It would be criticized for just trying to sell toys. Luke goes to train with the wise Jedi Master Yoda… who is a little green alien with eccentric behavior who talks funny. As compared to the stoic resolve and total control of Ben Kenobi, how are we supposed to believe that this guy is an even greater Jedi Master? It’s a bit far-fetched, and him being a cute little green alien was probably only included in the film to appeal to kids and sell toys.

It would be criticized for showing previously unseen aspects of the Force. Throughout the course of this film, we see many new uses of the Force: Luke calls his lightsaber to his hand; Ben Kenobi appears as a Force ghost; Luke levitates rocks; Yoda lifts the X-Wing out of the swamp; Luke calls out to Leia through the Force and she senses it. None of these things have been seen before, so it doesn’t fit with what we have already seen and learned about the Force and is just making things up new.

It would be criticized for retconing a pivotal moment of the previous movie. In A New Hope, one of the most significant and emotional moments was the death of Ben Kenobi. And while he speaks to Luke a couple more times in the film, he actually appears physically in this one. First of all, nothing we’ve seen suggests that Jedi can do this after death, but secondly, it’s just a retcon of the previous movie. George Lucas must have wanted Ben Kenobi to still provide training for Luke and thus brought him back.

It would be criticized for dragging too slowly. The middle act sees Han and Leia aboard the Falcon trying to fix it, and Luke on Dagobah training with Yoda. But aside from the occasional spike (like the Falcon fleeing the space slug or Luke’s strange cave vision), it moves at a very slow pace. It surely could have been condensed quite a bit.

It would be criticized for a parentage reveal that came out of nowhere. After Luke is defeated by Darth Vader (getting his hand chopped off), Vader says that he actually is Luke’s father. But there was nothing at all that would have suggested that previously. This was just George Lucas trying to subvert expectations and failing, because it doesn’t make sense in the context of the story. It came out of nowhere.

It would be criticized for contradicting A New Hope. Firstly, when Luke gets his hand cut off, it doesn’t start gushing blood. That’s a mistake, since in the previous film we saw someone get his arm cut off and there being plenty of blood (or Ben Kenobi, who just disappeared). So this movie doesn’t handle a lightsaber wound correctly. But more importantly, it completely contradicts what Kenobi had told Luke in A New Hope; he told young Skywalker that his father was killed by Darth Vader, but here Vader says that he is Anakin Skywalker. This doesn’t fit.

It would be criticized for production problems. The movie was over-budget, behind schedule, and saw writer changes. Should we be worried about George Lucas’s ability to make movies and handle a company?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s