Earlier this week I reviewed 1977’s Star Wars, the film that started a craze that is still raging nearly five decades later, despite Disney’s best efforts to destroy the franchise. What I didn’t realize is that nearly a year to the day earlier, I’d written a review of 1981’s The Empire Strikes Back, quite possibly the greatest Star Wars film ever made—and, I would argue, just one of the best films ever set to celluloid.
Naturally, I had to do a throwback to my review of the film, which I think was my first Monday Morning Movie Review. Kind of crazy to think that I’ve been doing regular movie reviews every Monday for a year. It both seems longer and shorter than that.
The weather here in South Carolina has turned blissfully autumnal, which means we can finally partake in all manner of outdoor activities without dying of heat exposure and dehydration. The humidity has calmed itself to a bearable level, and the mornings and nights are crisp and cool.
One of my enterprising neighbors—and most dogged constituents—took advantage of the cool weather this weekend to test out an inflatable projector screen. He invited me to join his family for a private, driveway screening of the original 1977 Star Wars, later entitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Specifically, he screened the “de-specialized” version, as he called it, so there was none of the clunky 1990s CGI additions of the special editions.
In other words, it’s the way Star Wars was intended… before George Lucas changed his mind and decided to change his own films.
Over the past year or so, I’ve become far more interested in film as an artistic medium. I’ve always enjoyed going to the movies, but I’m beginning to seek out more interesting and unusual fare, particularly the classics. One reason I’m watching more films from the 1960s-1990s is because so many flicks these days are full of social justice pandering and parroting of the Leftist bromides du jour. It’s refreshing watching movies in which people act like people, and not drones from the HR or Diversity Departments.
In The Age of The Virus, we’ve been encouraged to stay home and watch TV—a commentary on our diluted sense of “sacrifice” in the twenty-first-century West. But that’s had an interesting impact on the cinema, by which I mean movie theaters. With endless content on streaming services and bigger, cheaper televisions, it seems that the old movie palaces and multiplexes are increasingly obsolete.
Regal Cinemas re-shuttered its theaters across the country after making a go at reopening. When I went to see The Empire Strikes Back and The New Mutants, there were very few people there, even during prime weekend screening times. The New Mutants was a full-freight flick, but Empire and other classics were just $5! Even then there were loads of empty seats—and that wasn’t just because of social distancing requirements. I asked a manager how he was doing and he said, “Well, at least we’ve got some people here tonight.” It does not sound good for the future of theaters.
The brouhaha over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court will provide ample blog fodder in the days ahead, but there is plenty of time to get into senatorial wrangling. Mondays should be eased into a bit, so I’m taking today to write a short review of one of the best (and probably most over-reviewed) films of all time, The Empire Strikes Back.
Growing up as a chubby kid in the 1990s, I was a huge Star Wars fan. That was long before the new trilogy retconned/soft-rebooted everything and destroyed the legacy of classic Star Wars, and even before the prequels made the flicks even more cartoonishly ridiculous. I’m not even a huge critic of the prequels—they were never going to live up to the perfection of the original trilogy—and I enjoyed some of the fun world-building and thorny trade blockades of Phantom Menace (although that’s all a bit too technocratic for a space opera). But the magic of the original trilogy is more than the sum of its parts, and it’s based on rich storytelling and exceptionally strong character development, with nearly every major character growing and evolving over the course of the three films.
That was readily apparent in Empire, which my girlfriend and I saw (for five bucks!) on the big screen Saturday evening. It has been many years since I’ve watched the original trilogy, and I’m regretting that now. Empire catches the main trio of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo at transitional points in their development: Luke at the beginning of his Jedi training with Master Yoda; Leia assuming great command responsibilities in the Rebellion while also wrestling with her feelings for Solo; and Han feeling the tug of his old life (and debts) while maturing as a man capable of great self-sacrifice for his friends.