Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Star Wars? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Directed by: Irvin Kershner | Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Written by: Ben Steiner
Analysis & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Additional Notes by: Tommy Cook
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Analyzed by Aliens – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is The Empire Strikes Back, the fifth film in the Disney franchise Star Wars, and the most critically acclaimed until Episode 12: Rise of Darth Goofy.
The film is a sequel, which means means all your favorite characters are back: Vader, Leia, TARS, this guy. Even Luke couldn’t stay away!
When Empire begins, the gang is hiding at a ski resort called Hoth. Vader is pissed that these guys are hogging all the slopes, so he attacks them with giant robot turtles. Foregoing a concentrated attack from behind, the rebels fly around erratically, then make a trip-wire out of the strongest rope in the universe.
Han and Leia escape with their sidekicks and hide inside a snake. Luke escapes to planet Dagobah with his sidekick and meets Yoda, who inexplicably pretends to act like a crazy person just to trick Luke for five minutes. Luke begins his Jedi training, which consists of wearing a backpack while doing some light exercise.
Meanwhile, Han and Leia go to the lazily-named Cloud City to get ambushed by Vader, who freezes Han in carbonite just to show he can afford it. Fun fact: actor Harrison Ford ad-libbed the line “I know” instead of using the written line “I know you are but what am I?”
Leia and the sidekicks escape with some help from the mayor [Lando], but not before Luke falls for Vader’s bait like a total Yajj noobula.
Vader disarms Luke and tries to have a heart to heart with him, but Luke bails [jumps down chute]. Classic teenager, embarrassed to be seen with his dad. The Empire Strikes Back is visually distinct from its predecessor, and not just because of the decisive lack of sidebuns. Whereas before it was mostly sand and starships, here it is predominantly snow, swamp, and clouds, with some lizard bowels thrown in for good measure.
Still, the film touches on a few of the same themes, such as humanism and nature over technology. Yoda, like Obi-Wan in Episode IV, lives a simple life on the bayou [47:22]—- the Jedi master way, but not something traditionally associated with power. When Darth Vader is in his power pod, we catch a brief glimpse of his milky white head [44:38], revealing that he does have some humanity left in him, and probably takes his helmet off for naps and showers. Later, when Luke misplaces his hand [1:50:22], he puts on a cybernetic prosthesis, symbolically moving him one step closer to his father, a hybrid of man and machine. He’s still got that squeaky voice though. Must’ve gotten that from his mother’s side.
The Dark Side of the Force, mentioned only briefly in the fourth film after having been explored at length in the first three, becomes a central conflict for Luke. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed in something called “the shadow,” the unknown dark part of human personality. Inside Yoda’s cave practice facility, Luke confronts an illusion of Darth Vader and defeats him by slicing his neck with the light-thingy.
But behind Vader’s mask, Luke sees his own face. As Jung says, “Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” Black and dense like… Vader’s helmet? Ooh, I’m getting goosebumps! Which, of course, means it’s nearly time for me to molt.
You might say that the Dark Side threatens to turn Luke’s world upside down. And indeed, Luke does spend much of the movie inverted like some sort of bat-boy. This can be related to the idea of the Hanged Man as seen in Tarot symbolism. Remember Miss Cleo? Yeah, me neither. Luke is upside down three times in the movie: in the wampa cave, training with Yoda, and trying to fix a TV antenna, and in each instance Luke uses the force [summoning his lightsaber, seeing a vision of Han and Leia in trouble, and telepathically calling Leia]. This is in line with the description of the hanged man as being in deep concentration — complete calm and assurance — rather than pain. So much for that theory, medieval executioners!
Another element that separates this film from the previous one is the addition of Yoda, a very popular character among humans and frogs alike. Yoda’s name means “warrior” in Sanskrit, and “badass” in every other language. The make-up artist Stuart Freeborn based Yoda partly on his own face and partly on the face of celebrated patent clerk Albert Einstein.
In addition to being a handsome devil, Yoda ascribes to the principles of stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy whose faithful believed emotions like fear, envy, lust, or passion arose from false judgments. The sage — a person who had attained moral and intellectual perfection — would not succumb to such trivial pursuits, despite a love for knowledge-based board games.
Empire’s most lasting impact is the line “I am your father”. Often misquoted as “Luke, I am your father,” this phrase was inescapable on Earth, especially at adoption agencies. Vader’s reveal was one of the original twist endings in Earth’s cinematic history, and therefore a source of the very first spoilers. In fact, historians believe they can trace the phrase “spoiler alert” to a ticket line outside a screening of Episode V in Pensacola, Florida. This alert lead Earth down a dangerous path, eventually culminating in a spoiler culture that left humans paralyzed with fear of checking the internet unless completely caught up with Game of Thrones. Fortunately, this all stopped when their planet exploded.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Safe travels.