For Laughs: The Empire Strikes Back … as reviewed by a modern-day toxic fanboy
This is a PARODY. If today’s toxic fans were around during Episode V, a review may read like this. Enjoy with tongue firmly planted in cheek…
May 21, 1980
Today the sequel to 1977’s Star Wars was released. Let me get this out of the way first: it is a beautiful movie. The planets that Irvin Kirschner (director) and team take us to are beautifully created. From the snowy wasteland of Hoth to the swampy world of Day-go-ba (sp?) and finally to the climactic scenes on a city in the clouds, the sets truly transport you to the Galaxy Far, Far Away. The special effects are amazing and the acting is better than its predecessor. But, unfortunately, there are so many flaws with the movie, I had trouble enjoying these positives.
Below are spoilers. Turn back if you don’t want to know how this story plays out, and there are a number of "surprises."
OK, you’ve been warned.
So, let’s get straight to the story and the problems I have with it. You are hit immediately by the opening crawl and already you are scratching your head. Episode five? Wait a minute. Did I miss three other movies? And, even if Star Wars is episode four, why are we joining this story a few chapters in? What is it that they would even tell us that we didn’t already learn in the first one? But, okay, I get it, I can move on... from this one.
Let’s get to the first major problem: after being attacked by an abominable snow monster, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is stuck hanging upside down in the beast’s cave. His only chance of escape is by using his father’s lightsaber that has (conveniently) fallen onto the snowy floor just out of his reach. He closes his eyes and then magically pulls it to him just as the creature is about to turn him into a snack. He then stumbles out of the cave and passes out in the snow where – and this is where it really falls apart – Ben Kenobi appears to him as an apparition. Some fans online have said that both the lightsaber snag and Ben’s “ghost” have something to do with the Force we learned about in Star Wars, but the director and writers never bothered to establish this as something that could happen. If these things happen as a result of using the Force, the audience is left trying to figure it out for themselves. Up until now, the only thing we know about the space magic is that it helps you see things when you are holding a lightsaber and it can be harnessed to help make lucky torpedo shots. This new power is just a convenient crutch to move the story along because... Ben's "spirit" tells Luke to go see his old teacher to move the plot along … instead of helping him survive the night in the freezing Hoth temperatures.
The next issue is that, for some reason, even though she’s clearly shown signs of affection for Luke – including kissing him hard at the Rebel base – she ends up falling in love with Han Solo. They are clearly pandering to the #LeLo (Leia and Solo) shippers. I get the good girl likes bad boy motif, but it seems forced and rushed. They go from literally hating each other in the opening sequence to declaring their love for one another on the cloud city. It’s a nice idea, but it just doesn’t work.
Third, the Jedi Master who instructed Ben is, ready for this? a Muppet! Admittedly, it is a very well crafted and performed Muppet but it is clearly the voice of Fozzy Bear and Miss Piggy. It pulls you right out of the moment. On top of that, there is an attempt to make a big reveal out of this puppet being the Jedi Master that Luke is seeking but it is so obviously telegraphed in lazy writing and directing that the only one surprised is Skywalker himself. Also, apparently Jedi training is just running around a swamp with a Muppet on your back and getting fortune cookie advice from it. More to come on that.
Fourth: Bounty Hunters. Really? Clearly a ploy to sell more action figures, the bounty hunters look really cool. But, the problem is, Darth Vader hires them to find Luke Skywalker or the Millennium Falcon or something. All I know is somehow Boba Fett – the only good thing in the Holiday Special – finds Han on the cloud city. The problem I have with this is twofold: first – why would the Empire need to hire bounty hunters? They have a massive army and all the good technology. Again, it seems like an attempt to insert some toys for this Christmas. Second – if Darth Vader is hiring these covert operators, why would he have a meeting with them on the bridge of his ship in front of all his officers? It really made no sense. But, you know, toys…
Number five. They finally introduce a character of color to the story in Lando – an old “friend” of Han’s. He's played by the incomparable Billy Dee Williams, but it turns out he is a double-crossing scoundrel who sells out and turns our heroes over to the bad guys. Not cool. I don’t think it was intentional, but to make the only African American in the cast a man of questionable character seems like a poorly thought out proposition. One more test screening could've rooted out this display of insensitivity.
Finally, Darth Vader and Luke meet up for the highlight of the film: an epic lightsaber battle. And it totally works. The action is fast and intense, the sound and special effects are amazing and even some of the dialog is engaging. But, there are a few MAJOR problems, once again, with the story. Questions that come immediately to mind include: how is Luke Skywalker, a kid whose mentor died in the first movie and spent a couple days cross training on Daygoba (sp?), able to fight this Dark Lord of the Sith. Darth Vader is allegedly this great warrior, but this twenty-something Mary Sue of a character is suddenly his equal? Sure, Vader bests him by the time the battle is over, but there is no way he would last that long, never mind land a blow on Darth’s armor (doing nothing, BTW).
But, here’s the most mind-boggling part of the whole movie. After Darth cuts off Luke’s hand (convenient) and corners him, he tells the boy that he is his father! You read that right. Look, we are aware from the last movie that Luke already knows that this guy betrayed and MURDERED his father. The filmmakers tried to play it off as a big revelation, but I don’t buy that Ben would lie to Luke. What would be the point?
I won’t even go into the whole part where Leia somehow magically knows that Luke is in trouble after the battle with Vader and goes back to get him. What? Is that some other Force thing they didn’t tell us about? She doesn't even have the Force!
The movie ends with Han Solo having been captured by the bad guys and ends on a cliff hanger. Will they get Han back? What was the point of Vader lying to Luke? Will the Millenium Falcon ever get fixed? Is Lando going to cheat his friends again? I don’t go to the movies and spend my hard-earned $4.50 to have to wait for a sequel to get an ending. It’s unconscionable that I sat through two hours only to be left with an open ended story. I get setting things up for another movie (like the end of Star Wars or Grease) but to leave so many unanswered questions seems like a cop out and yet another ploy from 20th Century Fox to make me spend spend spend. If this movie does well and they make a third one, I am not sure I will give them the satisfaction unless they promise to give me these answers. I urge you all to take to your typewriters and copy machines to send letters to George Lucas and his company demanding they fix the ending and the gaping story problems. We are fans, we deserve something better.