Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Luminous beings are we

My kid has been on a real Star Wars kick lately. His favorite movie is The Empire Strikes Back, or as he calls it, "The One Where Vader Puts the Gentlemen in the Lights and Turns Him to Stone." I've watched the movie three times in as many days and I find that it wears really well, especially in comparison to other installments of the story. For one thing, it's just a beautifully shot movie. Director, Irvin Kirschner, used light and shadow to truly memorable effect. For another, it has the least sucky dialog of all six episodes. So here, without further ado, is the pretty:

"You didn't see us alone together in South Passage. She expressed her true feelings for me." I was ten in 1980 and I read the novelization of Empire till the covers fell off. I thought it was the most romantic thing ever, in large part, because it took place in a snow fort.

"Whaddya mean, Luke's missing? Tech officer! Tech Officer!"

I love this shot. Luke looks like just another stalactite. Also you can see the bones of the dead animals in Wampa's cave to the left. Years ago, I kept a Wampa and Luke in Hoth gear action figure in my freezer.

Han flags down help after spending the night in the shelter with Luke. I've always thought that must have been a long night for Han, what with Luke raving about Ben and reeking of Tauntaun guts. This screen cap shows one of my favorite things about the Frozen Planet of Hoth: Mukluks.

Who needs CGI when there is stop motion, like this? Is there a fanboy or fangirl who doesn't squeal in delight when the walker shifts its weight to take out that snow speeder.

The Millenium Falcon causes a near miss between some star destroyers. I could probably fill a whole post with just screencaps of the Falcon.

"Horizontal boosters! Alluvial Dampeners!!" Holy hydrospaners, I love this scene.

One of Vader's minions catches an unwanted eyeful of what he looks like underneath the helmet. This shot is accompanied by one of the most disturbing sound effects ever as the air gets sucked out of Vader's head can.

Luke camping on Dagoba with R2. The power generator always reminds me of a spacey Coleman lantern.

Meanwhile back on the Falcon, 3PO interrupts the Gentleman and the Lady.

This is the most difficult scene in the film to explain to a four-year-old. I have a delightfully literal action figure of Darth on which the face mask pulls off to reveal Luke's face. Really, George Lucas will make just about anything into a toy.

This is the counterpoint the stalactite shot. Mark Hamil did a lot of upside-down work in this movie.

Puppet Yoda is prettier than CGI yoda.

Oh, Cloud City set. You are so obviously an Art Deco painting. I heart that about you.

Thematically Empire is the darkest installment of the Original Trilogy, but tonally it's the lightest. Even Darth Vader is bathed in sunshine and fireworks. With the snow on Hoth, the clouds on Bespin, and the mist on Dagoba, there's very little literal darkness in this film.

Just to contradict that last caption...

"He's alive and in perfect hibernation."

I had a Burger King cup with this image on it. And a beach towel. Nothing says a day at the seaside like father and son squaring off with deadly weapons.

An absurdly beautiful piece of set that exists for no real reason. I love it.

This scene reminds me so much of the Krell interiors in Forbidden Planet, from the color scheme, to the 1950s streamline art deco architecture to the massive sense of scale with the diminutive humans walking around. I had to double check that conceptual artist, Ralph McQuarrie didn't work on Forbidden Planet.

In order of production, this is the third limb lost in the Star Wars saga. In the time line of the story it is the eleventh out of a total of twelve.

Vader is so bummed out about the fight with his son that when his minions loose the Falcon yet again, he doesn't even bother to kill any of them.

Lucas had only a guiding hand in the writing of Empire. Leigh Brackett, whoever you are, thank you.


SteveQ said...

Where do you keep finding these obscure films?!

Jennythenipper said...

Ouch! Yeah, I know. I totally went for the blockbuster. Trouble in Paradise, 39 Steps, and Barrets of Wimpole Street are all coming up this week. Don't panic, obscurity will return to the COCD.

Avalon76 said...

There's a reason that this is my favorite movie of all time. ^_^

Jennythenipper said...

Oh, Avalon, let's feel the Empire love!

I actually prefer Star Wars (1977) in many ways, but I've really been diggin' the Empire lately.

Sally said...

Those captions were utterly enjoyable to read!! I actually think "A New Hope" is my favorite, followed by "The Return of the Jedi." I rewatched this movie for the first time in years a few months ago with my roommate. It had been so long since I watched it that I'd forgotten that Luke's hand got cut off in "Empire" (in my defense, I hadn't seen it since I was... maybe 12). Anyway, my roommate had never seen the movies before and she was a little upset that I hadn't warned her. All I could say was, "oh that happens in this one! oops." heh. I love Star Wars (the original series, that is). Great post!!

Jennythenipper said...

The only SW movie where there are no limbs chopped off is The Phantom Menace. (But a dude is bi-sected with a light saber, and some people count that, but not me!)

Here's the limb count, by movie:

Star Wars (1977)
Ponda Baba (cut off by Ben Kenobi in Cantina)
Wampa (cut off by Luke)
Luke (cut off by Vader)
Vader (cut off by Luke)
Attack of the Clones:
Zam Wessell (cut off by Kenobi)
Anakin (cut off by Count Dooku)
Revenge of the Sith:
Count Dooku (both arms cut off by Anakin)
Anakin (arms and legs cut off by Kenobi)

Andi B. Goode said...

It really is a magnificent looking film. I wonder if I should watch these films again because I generally remember being a bit bored (though I do understand their appeal/importance). I like 'Return of the Jedi' for the pure, ridiculous fact that I like Ewoks. How predictable of me!
-Andi x

Jennythenipper said...

I recommend a rewatch Andi. But don't do the Special Editions. Get your mitts on the unadulterated OT. (They were sold as bonus discs on the special editions. ) Youi can pick them up on Ebay, look for keyword, "Target Limited Editions." I fear that the only SW that will ever come to Blu Ray is the crappy special editions. Do. not. want.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Yeah not psyched on the Star Wars SE coming to Blu-Ray either. Wife and I Watched Empire SE on New Years day and found that we could deal with most of the additions and the film looking very nice. The ending is od, as the Luke/Vader confrontation has a couple lines cut out. very odd choice. We went back and look at the end of the theatrical to see what was left out. I like the Forbidden Planet comparison!
Oh and looking forward to Barretts of Wimpole St! I have that on the dvr...

Jennythenipper said...

I'm a complete purist about Special Editions. I loath them. I only hope Lucas has a change of heart about them at some point and at least puts the theatrical releases in theaters again. They are lots of fun on a good home system, but they are so great in a theater. Any popularity of the Special Editions could have been had by the theatrical releases. People were just hungry to see those movies again in the theaters. I went 2-3 times to each despite hating all the changes.