This week, progressive/nerd/parent reviews of all six Star Wars films as part of the obsession with/buildup to/exploitation of the release of The Force Awakens. The reviews are in sequential order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) although I recommend a different order for first time viewers.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 0/3
Shukla Score: 0/3
Russo Score: 0/3
Well, this is awkward. The film has no LGBTQ representation, only one named person of color, and only one named woman. And I gave it five heart-eyed kittens out of five, because it would take some seriously amorous kitties to pull me away from Empire, despite the movie not passing a single diversity test. One of the most promising aspects of Disney’s efforts so far with Star Wars is the great increase in diversity. The official trailer and several of the TV spots for The Force Awakens score 3/3 on the Bechdel-Wallace and/or Shukla tests. So if nothing else, we can all look forward to a while with the galaxy far far away having a human palette that is much closer to home.
Highlights: Empire is, I think indisputably, the best Star Wars film qua film ever made. I really doubt that will change after I see The Force Awakens tonight. It might change in the next few years, though, especially with the afore mentioned improvements in diversity and the hiring of remarkable talent on both sides of the camera. But I digress (I’m excited!). Empire is a great film: it gives us a fantastic opening sequence on Hoth that supplies all the exposition on what has happened since Hope, sets up the rest of Empire, and delivers still-the-best land battle in all of Star Wars (go home, Geonosis). Then our heroes split up for some compelling adventure and character development before being brought back together (ish) for the final act. Great structure, great story, lots of good character development along the way. The highlight of the film, for me, will always be Luke’s story in general (Hoth to Dagobah to Bespin), but specifically everything from his arrival on Bespin onwards. I think it is the best part of the story and also my nostalgia really spikes starting with his X-wing’s approach to Cloud City.
A sort of anti-highlight is that of all three movies, Empire is the least-fucked-up by the “Special Edition” tinkering.
I also love how we see Vader’s leadership style at work more in this movie. We knew he would choke an Admiral in a meeting, but apparently he’ll fucking drop a guy via Skype, too. If I had more time, I would make a fake book cover for the retired-CEO-esque Darth Vader leadership and management handbook/memoir, called “In a Pinch” and with at least one review quoted on the cover about the breathtaking insights contained within.
Low points: The asteroid belt sequence, while well executed, is annoyingly unrealistic to me (these days). For one thing, asteroid belts are safe to fly through – so Vader is right not to be concerned. For another thing, what ecosystem exactly exists to support the life of a gigantic (and oh so phallic) worm-of-prey – let’s name it, “Freud” – and all the parasitic species apparently living inside Freud? Where does the moisture and air inside Freud come from, since it exists on an atmosphere-less rock? I’m just saying.
Dad edits: None. The whole movie is great, and we always have fantastic conversations re: Vader is Luke’s dad. (sorry, spoilers.) I could do without the added gore in the ice cave scene on Hoth, but it’s fine.