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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Losing My Virginity: The Ultimate Missed It Review

Hello hello!

Today, I'm not going to pretend I'm even a little bit objective. This post is about finally seeing The Empire Strikes Back. 

Yes, that one.

Yes, really. I'd never seen it before. Oh, I watched A New Hope when I was, like, four? And I watched that and Return of the Jedi so often, RoTJ's VCR copy started to wear out and the protector thingy at the end fell off. I knew enough about the story to follow along, so it was fine. But Empire just never happened. I was scared of it as a kid, of the scary images and its violence and intensity, and while it's mild by modern standards, it was much more intimidating to my fragile childhood self. I was easily scared--more on that in another post.

Then, when I was ten, The Phantom Menace came out. I bought illustrated encyclopaedias of Star Wars characters from the extended universe and droids from the universe, and flipped through everything from game guides to visual dictionaries, soaking up the rich details. I saw the movie, and since I was ten and didn't understand racism yet, it rocked my world. (And really, everything except the horrible, horrible racism in those movies is awesome. The graphics are gorgeous, Qui Gon instantly reminded me of my dad, the person who got me into Star Wars...and Darth Maul was scary enough to live up to Vader's legacy. At least, to my ten-year-old self.)

The next two movies weren't as good, although Attack of the Clones definitely left an impact on my growing pubescent self--especially Natalie Portman's beauty and steadiness, whatever her character's flaws.

Even the third movie, as awful and frustrating and dark as it was, couldn't destroy my love of Star Wars and the universe. I actually own not only a mint box version of The Queen's Amulet, a goofy fluff piece about Amidala and her guards, I tracked down a bone carver to make a japor snippet for me. I found a scrap of ombre orange velvet during some fabric scavenging and kept it just because it looked like the handmaiden gowns. So, yeah. Star Wars has serious issues the prequels especially, but my love for it is instinctive and deep to this day, enough to make me buy things and lose my mind over the sequel in December.



(you can get really great, well-made japor snippets from 
this seller, by the way.)


And all of that...without having seen Empire. 

So--I won't pretend to provide analysis, because I can't. Watching it at last, after my friends nagged me for years and it had become a running joke, was like losing my virginity. I mean that in a really good way.

Visuals: 


I knew about the big scenes, but that didn't prepare me for the wonder of seeing it for the first time. From seeing all the robots I'd only glimpsed in a handbook to the magnificence of Darth Vader stomping around to the Imperial March, to the sheer gorgeous detail of the practical effects in Hoth's battles, it was a feast. The movie was shockingly pretty and stood the test of time REALLY well, mostly due to the puppets and simple effects. The delicate foreshadowing, the beauty of the Cloud City and Dagobah...people don't talk about the fact that the camera work is as stunning as the writing and sets are, but the way shots are framed and the colour composition really stands the test of time. The use of colour, of white for deception and shadows for truth, is really stunning, even now. The Big Lightsaber Fight really stands the test of time, too, and made my heart clench and stomach churn with vertigo even though I'd seen the making-of shots. 

Characters/Acting:

The unadulterated feminist/little girl synergistic squee of watching Leia be useful and also give Han Solo serious shit was overwhelming. I did not expect her to out-cool Han Solo, but, well, she did. Seeing Lando before he could be a hero, especially knowing he'd be redeemed later, was pretty compelling. Another thing about it was the pleasure of seeing young farmboy Luke (who I had a crush on as a pre-teen, I don't mind admitting) really struggle and change. I had only seen him in ANH and RoTJ--and in RoTJ, he's calm, collected, strong of will and at peace. The middle phase was another matter, and watching his development while Leia and Han struggled to work together provided a lot of wonderful tension. The grief in The Scene--"I AM YOUR FATHER" was still pretty moving, and the literal and figurative fall after was hard to watch. It was gutting, in fact.

Lando was another surprise--I knew he'd become a hero, and seeing him fail and struggle in this film was pretty amazing, the rare case of a journey that works even out of order. Vader is what can only be described as OG, a magnificent black spectre of looming failure and defeat who haunts the protags at every turn. Every actor is on point in this film, and every character's decisions and choices matter. Let it sink in.

Plot: 


Okay, this is the one area where I have a nitpick. The whole thing with Jabba having a hit out on Han, but Vader going LOL DIBS *freezie pop* for some reason, was a bit confusing. I had to ask my partner what was going on there, and he said the Emperor wanted to stay on Jabba's good side and deliver Solo...again, I'd seen both ANH and RoTJ MANY times, but that was confusing. That said, a Cracked author mentioned that they didn't understand "how Vader knew Luke was his son", but we SEE the Emperor go "yo, Vader, Anakin Skywalker's son Luke is running around", so I'm not sure how that was a "plot hole".

That being said, having the context of the prequels and sequel (and sure, the old extended universe) really enriched the interactions. Yoda and Obi Wan discussing Luke's impetuousness, Luke's transition from derpy farm boy to calm sage in the making, Han and Leia's cracking chemistry...all of the little details added up, and would add up, and it was amazing to see how this one film has pretty much defined Star Wars more than any other.

Still, with all those nuances, there's a LOT going on in this movie, and it's more packed and faster paced than the first and third, so it's not something you can slack off while watching. There are a lot of twists and turns, and it's a rewarding, unpredictable watch.


Final Verdict: 

How do you even rate a masterpiece? Sometimes a movie is so good, you don't know what to say about it. I should have been prepared for this. I still wasn't. The Empire Strikes Back is every bit as beautiful and devastating as when it was first released. I do have that Star Wars nostalgia prejudicing me, but I also have fairly fresh eyes. The classic scenes still stand up, are more moving in context and cannot lose their impact even with a thousand quotes. "Luminous beings are we--not this crude matter."

And if you'll excuse me, I need to go cry with happiness now.


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