This saga of my Star Wars story continues. Three years earlier, Star Wars changed my life, as I wrote yesterday. As much as I loved Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back instantly became my favorite movie, and remains one of my favorite movies of all time.
After Star Wars, I saw some more movies in the theater, such as Superman: The Movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and The Black Hole
: The Film. I was so excited to find out that The Empire Strikes Back was coming out. We got to see the gang in some new adventures! I can’t remember what I did 5 minutes ago, but I remember exactly where I was sitting in our local 1-screen theater when I watched this classic movie. And once again, I don’t think we saw this the weekend it came out (May 21, 1980). But, I don’t think we waited halfway through the summer this time. Here are some highlights I remember upon my initial viewing.
Instead of being on a desert, this time we were on a planet of snow and ice. Either that, or this was a Rhode Island winter. We see Luke riding on a funny looking animal called a Tauntaun. Then we see Luke knocked off that funny looking animal called a Tauntaun. The abominable snowman known as a Wampa has Luke hanging upside down from the ceiling of an ice cave, and we see Luke’s lightsaber in the snow, just out of reach. For the first time in this saga, we see The Force being used as Luke uses telekinesis to get the light saber. He cuts himself down, and chops the arm off of the Wampa just as Obi-Wan did to that guy in the cantina in the last movie.
Luke runs out of the cave and falls down. Just as he is about to pass out, we, along with Luke, see Obi-Wan appear. He tells Luke to go to Dagoba to see Yoda. Han goes out and finds Luke. Han’s tauntaun dies (I hope!), then one of the more memorable scenes happens when Han uses Luke light saber to cut open the tauntaun’s stomach, and all it’s guts come oozing out. We learn that the tauntaun smelled even worse on the inside than it did on the outside. It was just the beginning of the movie, and there was already a lot of graphic violence. And as a 9 year old boy, this was totally awesome!
Luke recovers, and Leia makes out with him in order to make Han jealous. At the time, it wasn’t gross. But now that we all know the overall storyline, this is more gross than a chopped off arm or tauntaun guts.
We had seen some light saber action. Now, we get to see some shooting action as Han and Chewbacca come across a probe droid. Han shot it and it blew up. I remember him saying that he didn’t hit it too hard, but he could have fooled me! It looked like he got it pretty good.
Then we get to the awesome battle with the snow walkers. I loved these new ships that the rebels were using! They carried two people – the pilot and a gunner. They couldn’t shoot through the armor of the snow walkers. But, they conveniently had magnetic cables that they were able to shoot, and wrap around the walkers’ legs so they could trip and fall. Luke’s gunner got shot and killed, and his ship crashed right in the path of one of the giant walkers. Luke took his sweet ole time getting out of the ship. He got out of the way just in time, as his ship and gunner got squished. Luke was able to us a magnetic cable to pull himself up to the belly of the walker, cut open the bottom, and throw a grenade inside, blowing it up.
Meanwhile Han, Chewie, Leia, and C3PO escaped in the Millennium Falcon as the base got overtaken. Instead of regular storm troopers, we got to see these really cool looking snow troopers. Then Luke and R2D2 escaped in Luke’s X-Wing fighter, and he went off to Dagobah to find Yoda.
For the second time this movie, Luke crashes yet another ship. I thought he was supposed to be a good pilot! This time he crashed in a swamp. Then we meet Yoda, whose voice sounded like Grover and Miss Piggy. Yoda was a cute little green puppet…until Luke said that he’s not afraid. Then Yoda freaked me out when he said “Oh, you will be. You will be.”
While all this was going on, the Millennium Falcon gang were busy avoiding and fighting Tie Fighters and Star Destroyers. Han flies into an asteroid field where we learn to never tell him the odds. They land inside a giant asteroid so they can hide, repair the ship, and develop a love story between Han and Leia. Then we find out that they were inside a giant creatures mouth. They got the hell out of Dodge.
Meanwhile Luke was training with Yoda on his back – both literally and figuratively. As a 9 year old, I was getting bored…until Luke felt some kind of evil coming from a giant tree. Yoda told him to go in, and not bring his light saber. Both Luke and I said, “Screw you, Yoda!” I wanted to see some light saber action! And we got it, when we finally get the battle we were waiting for…Luke vs. Darth Vader! Whoa! What’s up with this super-slow-mo crap!?! Geez, Luke chopped Darth Vader’s head off in now time! OK, that was weird! The front of the mask blew up, and it was Luke’s head inside. That wasn’t really Darth Vader! What a rip-off!
Meanwhile, the Millennium Falcon arrives at Cloud City, where we meet Han’s cool, smooth friend, Lando Calrissian. They all go to have dinner, minus C3PO as he got shot, and ended up in a bunch of pieces. When they arrived for dinner, they were greeted by Darth Vader!
Lando had betrayed his friend, and Han, Leia, Chewie, and C3PO were prisoners.
Luke sensed that his friends were in trouble, so he left while in the middle of training, much to the chagrin of Yoda and ghost Obi-Wan Kenobi. When Luke left, Obi-Wan said that Luke was their last hope. Then Yoda said, “No. There is another.” This got by me the first time I saw the movie. But, rumors started circulating about Luke and Leia being brother and sister, and it was due to that quote.
Now, Han is put in carbonite just before Luke arrives. Luke shows up when Han is being taken away by Boba Fett. I’m not sure if Luke made a clean landing, or if he had crashed into Cloud City. He had been 0 for 2 in his ship landings so far up to this point, so who knows? And Boba Fett got away! That wasn’t supposed to happen!
Then we finally get the big showdown between Luke and Darth Vader, and I loved it! It was so much better than the Obi-Wan/Vader fight, and better than the lame fake fight earlier. Darth Vader chopped Luke’s hand off, which went down a bottomless pit along with his light saber. Man, there are a lot of dismemberings and decapitations in this series! Next, we have movie history when Darth Vader informs Luke that he is Luke’s father. And if you get your Star Wars history from Tommy Boy, then you are wrong. Vader NEVER says, “Luke, I am your father.” Here is the real quote:
VADER: If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
LUKE: He told me enough! He told me you killed him.
VADER: No. I am your father.
Instead of accepting this, Luke jumps off the ledge…and ends up going on the most awesome slide ever!
Luke gets rescued by Leia and Lando. The movie ends with Luke getting a fake hand, and Han Solo is still missing. And Darth Vader, one of the most evil people in movie history, may or may not be Luke’s father. Personally, I thought Vader was full of shit. But we’ll see in the next movie whether he was telling the truth or not.
Despite the downer ending, I absolutely loved this movie! I had seen it many, many times in that dollar theater, which was walking distance for me.
My toy playing days were beginning to come to an end. I did get Luke in a flight suit , a snow trooper, and the Hoth Playset was the last Star Wars toy I ever got.
For my birthday this year, I would get Kiss Unmasked and a tape player. For Christmas, I would get AC/DC’s Back in Black. So I went from toys to music, as well as handheld video games. However, a year or 2 earlier, I started collecting baseball cards and football cards. When The Empire Strikes Back came out, Topps came out with The Empire Strikes Back cards. I went crazy collecting as many as I could. Here are a few that I had. Do any of these look familiar to you?
The Empire Strikes Back has always been my favorite of any of the Star Wars movies. There was a lot of action, and the story was incredible. This movie kept us talking for the next 3 years, wondering if Luke and Leia were brother and sister, and if Darth Vader was really Luke’s father. The internet breaks now when a teaser trailer for the new Star Wars is released. I can’t even imagine the discussion and debates that would have going on if the internet was around in 1980! I got some wonderful feedback yesterday with the original Star Wars post. Please give me your thoughts and memories about The Empire Strikes Back.