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.
1977 was quite a transitional period in my life. In May of that year, our family moved from an apartment in the city of Providence, Rhode Island to a house in Warwick, Rhode Island. I remember finishing up the last month of first grade at my public school in Providence. I would begin second grade in a Catholic school in my new city. But before that, I made new friends in the neighborhood, and was adjusting to a new house. I missed our landlords, who were an old Italian couple that treated me like a grandchild, and spoiled me rotten. I also missed my, I mean, their dog Penny. They had gotten the Collie/German Shepard mix around the time I was born. So, we grew up together. As much as I missed them, living in a new house was pretty sweet! And I had a group of cool friends. The month we moved, and began adjusting to this new life, a new, incredible, life changing movie came out – Star Wars!
I know I had seen other movies in the theater before Star Wars was released. I’m pretty sure I had seen The Apple Dumpling Gang, and probably had seen other Disney movies. But, Star Wars was the first movie I ever remember anticipating. I know for sure that I did not see Star Wars the weekend it opened, on May 25, 1977. I probably saw it during the summer. Back in those days, before movies came out on vide – hell, before there was even cable TV, a movie could be in the theater for at least a year. This was especially true for Star Wars. Star Wars actually made it easier for me to make new friends. We all had an instant connection, talking all about Star Wars, and what happened in the movie – before any of us had actually seen the movie. I still don’t know how we were able to do that, but we did. In those days before the internet, word of mouth was literally word of mouth. We knew that Obi-Wan Kenobi died, and we knew Luke Skywalker was the hero, and that Han Solo was the coolest person in the world, ever. I was friends with a couple of sisters that lived 2 houses away, and they were even into Star Wars – thanks to Princess Leia. Even though their hair was long, they wanted it even longer so they could put their hair in buns like Princess Leia. By the time they were probably able to do it, that fad had gone out of style, so I never saw them with the Princess Leia buns.
The day finally came when I was able to go and see Star Wars. Since it was the summer, I was still 6 years old. I would turn 7 in September. My life was forever changed from the moment the words “Star Wars” appeared on the screen at the same time as John Williams’ iconic score blared.
Right from the start there was some action. These guys were waiting at a corridor, with their guns at the ready. You hear clanging and banging, wondering what’s going to be coming through the door. The door gets blown up, and a firefight begins as the good guys were fighting with these white robots. I felt bad for the guys that were getting killed. And then the giant black robot named Darth Vader makes his grand entrance, lifts a guy up by his throat, and kills him. Again, I felt bad for the victim. I had already been watching Star Trek with my dad for as long as I could remember. So I was not traumatized by this science fiction violence.
And then we go to Tatooine with R2D2 and C3PO. It was cool seeing these droids. I had never seen anything like them before. This may be blasphemous, but I did get bored for a while. I think I kept asking my parents, “When are we going to see Han Solo?” I knew that once we saw him, then the action would begin.
There was a brief moment of action when Luke was attacked by the Sand People. They were freaky looking. Then this bigger, scarier creature came along making a loud noise, and chased off the Sand People. If they were scared of this thing, it must not be good. As it turns out, it was Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi that chased them off.
Then we learned about the Clone Wars (which I always wanted to learn more about), and that Darth Vader killed Luke’s father. Then we see a light saber for the first time. That snapped me out of my boredom. And then Luke finds his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru burned just as bad as that visual burned into my mind. That freaked me out a little.
And then we finally got to the moment I had been waiting for – the introduction of Han Solo. And just as it was advertised in my mind, this is when the action kicked into high gear for the rest of the movie! Just before we meet Han Solo, we see the light saber in action, as Obi-Wan cut off a bad guy’s arm.
As Obi-Wan and Luke set off to sell the land speeder, so they could get going, Han Solo ran into Greedo.
I don’t want to go into a rant about the special editions. I’m not a hater like most people. But, this is my biggest pet peeve about any of the special editions. Han not only shot first, but he was the only one to shoot! And as a 6 year old, I was perfectly good with it. Ya got that, George?!?! Let me repeat. As a 6 year old, I totally got that Greedo was a threat, and Han was a total badass, and eliminated that threat. It made me like him even more. He had an edge to him that made him even more cool.
The whole rescue of Princess Leia was really cool to me. The garbage compactor scene is classic.
And then we finally got to see a light saber battle. After seeing some great light saber battles – especially in the prequels – this battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader is pertty lame. But, back then it was really cool. But, I was sad that Obi-Wan died. To this day, I still don’t understand how his body just disappeared. I’m just as confused as Darth Vader was.
And if the shootouts, and light saber battle on the Death Star wasn’t enough, we got to see a little space battle between the Millennium Falcon and a bunch of Tie Fighters. It made me (and Luke) quickly forget about the loss of Obi-Wan.
And then we had the final space battle, to blow up the Death Star. This was so exciting to me. Again, I felt bad for the rebels who died. I was especially upset about Luke’s best friend, Biggs, being killed. We only knew him for about 2 seconds, but it was still upsetting. And what’s more upsetting is that there are some goofy things that were added in the special editions, but they left out a scene where Biggs and Luke were talking on Tatooine early in the movie. I have seen pictures, so I know something was filmed between them.
Anyway, it was still a cool battle with a great ending.
And the medal ceremony at the end was my first exposure to racism against Wookies. Luke and Han were the only ones to get medals. I already knew that they there was hatred towards droids. They weren’t even allowed in a crappy bar, so R2D2 and C3PO sure as hell weren’t going to get a medal, even though they were ones who delivered the plans of the Death Star, which led to the victory. But, poor Chewie deserved a medal as much as anybody else did there! And then the movie ended with that incredible music.
After seeing this incredible movie, I could not get enough of Star Wars or any space related movie or television show. I also collected some memorabilia. For example, here is the lunch box I got for my first year at St. Peter School:
I also had every Star Wars action figure except for Walrus Man.
I had this case to store them in:
And it was not just a case! You could flip it over, and stick the action figures on the little pegs so that they could stand up. There are some post-original Star Wars action figures in this picture.
And my action figures did not stay in the packaging. I actually played with my action figures, and didn’t just stare at them. You would never see Luke Skywalker stay like this for long:
By the way, Luke never had a yellow light saber, so I don’t know where they got that from. I don’t think there has ever been a yellow light saber in any movie period.
I never owned the Millennium Falcon, or the Tie Fighter. I did have this X-Wing Fighter though. You would push R2D2’s head, and the wings would open up. And there was a little button behind R2 and the little light bulb in the front would light up, and make a firing sound.
Besides the collection I had, and my love of science fiction/fantasy, there was something else that Star Wars did that changed my life. It jump started my creativity. It helped me make up stories in my head. Perhaps they action figures helped with that, as I could make up any story I wanted. But, eventually I was able to get my creativity out on paper by telling stories. This happened just before The Empire Strikes Back came out. And my writing is continuing to this day – talking about Star Wars. I have more to say, so the saga will continue with The Empire Strikes Back. I know May the 4th is Star Wars Day, but I’ll make up my own rules, and make this Star Wars Week. After all, I take orders from just one person: me.
May the 4th Be With You!! Here is a quote from each of the original Star Wars trilogy films.
Han Solo: Uh, everything’s under control. Situation normal.
Voice: What happened?
Han Solo: Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh… everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?
Voice: We’re sending a squad up.
Han Solo: Uh, uh… negative, negative. We had a reactor leak here now. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak, very dangerous.
Voice: Who is this? What’s your operating number?
Han Solo: Uh…
Han Solo: Boring conversation anyway. LUKE, WE’RE GONNA HAVE COMPANY!
Darth Vader: There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you. Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.
Luke: I’ll never join you!
Darth 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!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
Luke: No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!
Darth Vader: Search your feelings, you know it to be true!
Luke: No! No!
Luke: If I don’t make it back, you’re the only hope for the Alliance.
Princess Leia: Luke, don’t talk that way. You have a power I don’t understand and could never have.
Luke: You’re wrong, Leia. You have that power too. In time you’ll learn to use it as I have. The Force runs strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. And… my sister has it. Yes. It’s you, Leia.
Princess Leia: I know. Somehow, I’ve always known.