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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.


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. 


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.


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.

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Leave your comments, rebuttals, and vehement agreements below. Don't miss any of the phuquerie--get on the mailing list. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 


  1. Congratulations on finally seeing it! Glad to see you liked it. Return of the Jedi will always be my favourite Star Wars film, but Empire sits in a respectable second.

  2. Interesting that Revenge of the Sith was your least favourite. I thought it was the best of the prequels, although I enjoyed all three. My ranking of the films:

    1. Jedi
    2. Empire
    3. Sith
    4. New Hope
    5. Clones
    6. Menace

    It'll be interesting to see how Episode VII turns out.

  3. Interesting. Why Jedi? I like it for nostalgic reasons but Empire was just so beautiful and well-made that I can't say no...I think I like Empire, Hope, Jedi, Menace, Clones, and Sith in that order. Sith is just painful and ugly and blegh and depressing, imo at least.

  4. Jedi was always my favourite, even as a kid. It's been a bit sad for me to see that it's often derided as the weakest of the original trilogy. Regardless, I had to sit here for a moment and think about exactly why Jedi is my favourite.

    Empire may have been the darkest of the original trilogy. But Jedi has, to me, the most heart to it and is the most emotionally resonant. There's a lot of touching moments, more than any of the other films. There's Luke's final moments with Yoda. There's his belief that there's still good in his father somewhere deep down, even if it seems unlikely. The valiant effort to save Han from Jabba's Palace has a camaraderie to it; the characters who once found each other annoying have all become close friends who would die for each other. It's moments like these, seeing how far the characters have come and how they've grown. Empire was the transition, but Jedi completes their arcs. Another scene I love is around the campfire when C-3PO is telling the Ewoks the story of the previous films. Or just after that when Luke and Leia are outside, discovering the truth about each other's identities, and where Luke resigns himself to his inevitable final confrontation with his father and feels he has to leave. Or the quiet moment between father and son just before the finale once Luke turns himself in; another haunting scene. Again, it's little moments like these that sell it for me.

    And there's the Emperor, a truly fantastic villain who was otherwise just a background presence up to that point. Darth Vader is at the top of his game too. Jedi also felt the most exciting and adventurous. The entire final battle especially is just spectacular. Definitely the best final act out of all of them. You have the battle on the forest moon running alongside the epic battle in space, and at the heart of it all is Luke & Vader's final lightsaber duel. And Vader's dying moments has to be one of the biggest tearjerkers ever. Gets me every time.

    To sum it up, Jedi had the most heart, spectacle, brought everything to a head, and was just a grand and beautiful finale all around.

    As for Sith, I find it interesting that it was too dark for you, as you normally have a higher tolerance for morbid things than I do. The things you disliked about it are pretty much the exact things I enjoyed. I like it because it's the darkest and most dramatic out of all the prequels. It's similar to Jedi in that I also appreciate it for being the most grand and epic of its trilogy. Yes, it is grim, but when you have the downfall of the Jedi and Anakin succumbing to the dark side, being grim was pretty much a necessity. To me, it would've been wrong to tackle this chapter of the story with the same light-heartedness as Phantom Menace. If nothing else, I respect Sith just for having the balls to take itself so seriously. It sometimes bothers me when you have morbid subjects that get trivilialized or glossed over, so I'm happy that Sith gave everything the dramatic weight it deserved.

    Not to say that you're wrong for finding it too dark or anything. Now that you've explained it, I can see why you feel that way. But Sith wasn't too dark for me. Things like Hunger Games (which I still like) and Game of Thrones always struck me as FAR darker than Sith ever was.

  5. Having seen the Star Wars movies again recently, I thought I'd chime in with another update. My list is mostly the same as before, but I'd bump Phantom Menace up to be higher than Attack of the Clones. I know a lot of people hate it, but I just find it really charming somehow. I still think it's a great movie after all this time.

    Nice to see some appreciation for Qui-Gon Jinn. He's definitely one of my favourite Star Wars characters. I feel he's a bit under-appreciated because everyone looks at that movie and thinks of Jar Jar. But Liam Neeson gives a really strong performance.

    Not really sure how I'd rank Episode 7. I definitely enjoyed it. It couldn't top Return of the Jedi for me, but I'll need to give it some time before I can determine where on the list it'd go.


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